There is always a risk, I think, in returning to a place you loved so much the first time: the risk that perhaps you remembered things too favourably, or upon one’s return the clichés of the place seem true. It is with utmost certainty, however, that I can say my second time in Paris resulted in an even deeper love for the city.
Ilaria blogged about her highlights a few of weeks ago -and how she fell for the city of lights. Now it is my turn to share my highlights of our four days in Paris:
Our Walking Tours
Officially, we did two walking tours: The Taste of the Marais, and the free Paris highlights tour led by Sandeman. I have a growing appreciation for walking tours – I find it fascinating to hear bits and pieces of information (whether it be history, food or random facts of knowledge-related) whilst walking past historic structures or significant places.
We arranged a food tour for the day we arrived, which turned out to be one of our best decisions of the holiday. I doubt there is a better way to appreciate French culture than eating it; we savoured the most wonderful cheeses, terrines, rillettes, charcuterie and baguettes on our tour of Le Marias. Each shop was filled with its own character, talkative owners and specialties; a reminder to me to continue in the quest for finding those specialty shops that exist here in Jo’burg.
After two hours of collecting our delights, we were led into a small wine shop for our tasting. The wine shop, a specialist in box wine, may have caused my inner (and sometimes, very outer) wine snob to cringe initially but Bibovino is about creating good-quality, drinking wine that doesn’t spoil (like opening a bottle would do). This idea is actually exceptionally clever and one I hope adopted by our own wine industry.
The tour ended at the Jacques Genin chocolate shop, where we tasted delectable truffles, caramels and pates de fruits. And while I enjoyed the sweet ending, it was the cheese that was my favourite part of the tour – we tasted cow, sheep, goat varietals from very young to very-aged. Our guide was a young Irish girl, Clare, who expertly took us through the tasting notes of each cheese and gave us a bit more insight into the cheese industry. In case you weren’t aware, the French take their cheese very seriously!
The sunny afternoon gave way to a gentle evening light as we wandered the quaint streets of the area, before spotting a low, red door: the entrance to a cute cocktail bar called the “Little Red Door”. We ended our first evening in Paris with a couple of cocktails, a few laughs and toast to the trip ahead. It was the perfect reunion with Paris.
Grand Boulevards (8th Arrondisment) and Our Hotel
You may have read my disappointment about the serviced apartment I stayed at in Sydney last year, and thankfully I managed to pick a winning hotel for this trip. Being slightly OCD in selecting a hotel (preferably no carpets being one of the requirements) I have managed to develop a “talent” for choosing the right hotel, for the right price. This time, however I outdid even my expectations!
The Madeline La Roblin – located in the heart of the 8th arrondisemont – was the perfect base for our Paris leg of the trip. Our room was surprisingly spacious – Parisian hotel rooms are notoriously cramped – clean, and very comfortable. I don’t know how else to describe 165 euros a night for 4 star accommodation as anything else but a bargain. Every time we returned to the hotel (despite getting lost more than a couple of times), I felt a massive sense of respite from the hustle and bustle of our days and could not wait to rest my head – and feet – on the soft bed.
The area was an experience in itself; surrounded by every high-end boutique imaginable, wide boulevards and beautiful arcades – it was the quintessential experience of Paris. We were close enough to walk to the famous Printemps department store, right by a metro station (these smelly beasts will become your best friend in the city) and while we could scarcely afford more than a cup of coffee from the cafes around the hotel, the location was an absolute dream making every part of Paris accessible to us.
Laduree Afternoon Tea
My love for desserts extends to sweet nibbles like macaroons and I have yet to try one better than the Laduree version. What I had not done on my previous trip was visit one of the tea rooms, thus I made sure this was included on our to-do list.
Paris – being the sprawling city it is resulted in us continually running out of time to get through to all the things we had wanted to do. Thankfully, on our last day Ilaria insisted we had to visit the tea house – and given our walking tour of Paris had taken place in a sharp, cold wind this was the ideal way to end our afternoon.
The décor of the tearoom elicits a sense of opulence – gilded walls, silver teapots, embellished crockery – I almost felt as if my sparkly Supergas were out of place against the traditional elements of the room.
With the help of our excellent (and very friendly) waiter I experienced the most delicious tea I have ever tasted in my life. The Marie Antoinette blend is described as a “delicious black tea mixed with essential oils of subtle citrus fruit, rose and jasmine flowers flavor, scattered with small pieces of dried fruit and honey” . It was the flawless accompaniment to the macaroon and other citrus meringue dessert we ordered. We relished each moment of that afternoon. Yes, London, New York and Dubai have Laudree too but there is nothing quite like visiting the tea room in the city it is famous for!
As a memento, we both purchased a box of the Marie Antoinette tea to bring home. I have not yet opened the box – I guess I am waiting for the right opportunity to relieve the tea experience (and to find a beautiful teapot the tea demands).
Four days in Paris went by too quickly – after two visits there are things I still want to see, do and experience. I feel this dull ache every time I think of Paris: the light green of the spring leaves, the cobbled streets and narrow lanes across the city, the confident style of the Parisian woman who I so admire; the list of all the things my eyes devoured in Paris is endless.
As Henry Miller said: “When Spring comes to Paris the humblest moral alive must feel that he dwells in paradise”.