Last week I went all romantic and whisked Lee away for a night in Paris as a half-birthday present. I was poorly for his actual birthday back in January so it was nice to get to celebrate properly with him!
So yeah, 24 hours in Paris.
Technically, it was 20 hours and 45 minutes, but who’s counting?
A year ago I would’ve felt there was no point in going for that little amount of time – “We’ll never get to see all the things you’re supposed to see and do all the things you’re supposed to do in Paris in ONLY 24 hours!” – but it was seriously the best experience!
We took the whole trip at a much slower pace and I managed to stay chilled out the entire time – not easy in 34 degree heat, riding a French Boris Bike along Boulevard Beaumarchais… But we’ll get to that later!
The trip was a surprise, so Lee only knew that we were going somewhere and he needed Thursday and Friday off work. I’d booked the Eurostar tickets back in April for an incredible price – only £27 each – and had been biting my tongue for months, so by Monday last week I was desperate to tell him!
But I didn’t!
Instead, I gave him a bunch of almost-hints.
Two Cambridge bloggers, who I went punting with a couple of weeks ago, just happened to be in Paris around then, and sharing the loveliest photos on their Instagram pages (@eleanorcos and @punsonaplate) – which I was showing Lee, and saying lots of “oooh, look how pretty Paris is!”
I know. Subtle.
On Thursday morning I demanded that we go and get croissants from the Norfolk Street Bakery before heading to the station to begin our trip… Once safely aboard the train I told Lee where we were going, and essentially earned all the Wife Points ever.
We arrived in Kings Cross and had a wander around KERB, which is the equivalent of Cambridge’s FoodPark, and sat in the sun with some drinks, just enjoying being together! The weather was fab, and we had plenty of time before our train, so we could get nice and relaxed before heading onwards.
TOP TIP #1 – Leave extra time. If something goes wrong then you’ll be glad of it, and if you’re early… you can go on an adventure in the meantime! No one ever regrets a bonus adventure.
We found a super sunny spot around the corner from Kings Cross with grass and a water-feature-slash-pond-thing, and most importantly, a pop up bar – Vini Italiani! If you’re in London with half an hour to spare – go and investigate! It was so cosmopolitan, I almost forgot we were in the centre of London!!
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of our Eurostar journey, so lets fast forward to the fun part. The Paris part!
We arrived just before 7pm and headed straight for the hotel to check in before going exploring.
Read “exploring” as “hunting for Parisian carbs for dinner”…
TOP TIP #2 – don’t get a taxi if you can walk instead! Three reasons. It’s better for you; you’ll see more, and; it’s much quicker than sitting in traffic!
Our hotel was Hotel Panache, which I booked through Mr & Mrs Smith.
Like all big cities, there are hundreds of hotels in Paris and you never know exactly what you’re going to get with any of them, especially when you’re searching online! Mr & Mrs Smith has a collection of approved boutique hotels that someone else has already decided is a good choice, and the prices are the same as booking direct AND you get a little treat just for booking through them, so it’s a total winner in my book. We got a little box of French choccies!
I swear this isn’t a sponsored post, I just think it’s fab! It made my life so much easier!
Our plan for the evening was simple.
Walk, eat, Eiffel Tower, bed.
We walked about 5km from the hotel, in the vague direction of the Eiffel Tower, planning to stop in a restaurant somewhere nearby and have some dinner.
TOP TIP #3 – Go off the beaten track! We found a tiny bistro between two office buildings with only 4 outdoor tables, that was packed with locals, where we had amazing service and even better wine!
TOP TIP #4 – “Poulpe” looks like “Poulet” but is octopus, not chicken. Enough said.
Paris’ streets are magical at night. I don’t know what it is, but you have to experience it.
And if you get lost, look up, and follow the lights to the Eiffel Tower. It’s the ideal landmark!
Some people really don’t like the light show, but we found a nice comfy spot on the grass to sit and watch it. It’s not very long – 5 minutes at the top of every hour, from sunset until 1am. My favourite part was just as it started, when the whole crowd drew a breath and a moment of silence descended. Everyone was suddenly there, together, no matter who you were, or where you were from.
We woke up on Friday morning to 25 degree heat (at 8am!) and the knowledge that it was only going to get hotter, so we hustled out to door and up to Montemartre via croissants and cafes au lait.
It seems that wherever we go, Lee and I will always visit a church. And those churches are always at the top of a hill. The Sacre-Coeur was no different! It was the most beautiful day, and by the time we’d hauled ourselves up all of the steps (reminder to self: do more cardio) we were happy to find the church cool and quiet inside.
I think what I like the most about big fancy churches like this one or the one we visited in Marseille, is that you almost always find yourself in a moment of mindfulness, without even trying.
I lost my wonderful Grandpa just over a year ago, and I automatically find myself thinking of him when I’m in a place like this. After leaving the church, Lee and I spent a few minutes just sitting on the steps, looking at the panoramic view of Paris and listening to some beautiful harp music being played by a street performer a few steps away.
It was unbelievably peaceful.
So, we kicked it up a few notches by hiring some bikes (it works like London’s Boris Bikes, but the process is way more complicated, and the deposit for each bike is €150) and cycling down to Place des Vosges via Place de la Bastille.
TOP TIP #5 – Take a route with cycle lanes! Paris has excellent cycle lanes which are sort of on the pavement, but clearly separate from pedestrians, although they have to cross the cycle lane to cross the roads, so keep an eye out!
We found a cute little bistro (again, slightly out of the main tourist areas), Le Petit Celestin, and ate lunch outside in what was now over 30 degree heat and not a single cloud in the sky.
We essentially had Bikram lunch.
By this time, we only had a couple of hours left in the City of Love, so we took a leisurely walk along the river, past some shady hammocks and swings with a view of Notre Dame, and headed back to the hotel to collect our luggage and head for Gare du Nord and home!
Although we didn’t “visit” many sights, or tick of lots of things from the guidebooks, but I feel like this style of travelling – without a list, I mean – is perfect for me. We really experienced the city itself. We were looking around at everything as we wandered, not just looking out for the next landmark.
We’ll be doing it again, and I’d definitely recommend a one night trip to Paris to anyone else!