Yesterday was Bastille Day, a national holiday in France which commemorates the storming of the Bastille Prison, an event which led directly to the events of the French Revolution. I spent it in a decidedly non-revolutionary manner, reading up on the history of L'Hexagone with Alistair Horne's in-depth tome, The Seven Ages of Paris, and dipping into the Surrealist-tinged faux-guidebook Paris Out Of Hand.
To further underline the Francophile spirit, I'll be sharing what I got up to on my trip to Paris last week over the next few posts. I'm a seasoned Paris visitor - as a Londoner it's too easy to hop on board the Eurostar, especially when the prices can be as low as £69 return - but Scottish Alex had never been properly, so we made sure to squeeze as many sights as possible into our three days! Here's what we got up to on our premier jour (first day) à Paris.
We arrived at the Gare du Nord at about midday Paris time after a huge delay on the Eurostar. Usually there are two operating tunnels (in addition to the service tunnel) going under the Channel, but on the morning we travelled they had to shut one. We were actually lucky to be able to go through with only an hour delay - those on trains after us had to be evacuated and the trains for the next morning were cancelled.
We were fortunate to be staying in an AirBnB-rented apartment within about twenty minutes' walk of Gare du Nord, so it didn't take us long to trundle our suitcases to the flat.
Alex and I just loved this little apartment. It's located on the edge of the 2nd arrondissement, a mere wander from the Marais, and about five seconds away from rue Montorgueil, a market street known for its amazing food shops. It was just the perfect size for a couple spending a few days in the city.
Oh, and the bed was the most comfortable thing ever!
Our host, Caroline, was sweet enough to furnish the place with a little posy, basic groceries in the fridge and biscuits sablés au beurre - my favourite!
I'd highly recommend staying here if you're a foodie visiting Paris for a short stay who likes being able to walk everywhere. You can find the apartment listed on AirBnB here.
After settling in and unpacking, A and I headed out for déjeuner. A was keen on grabbing a bagel but after a bit of bullying from me, he went for something more traditional: a good old croque monsieur. Yes, I'm a food control freak, and I apologise.
I went for mozzarella and tomato sandwiched between olive bread, and we munched happily next to the Canal St. Martin.
The Canal St Martin is where Amélie skips stones in Amélie, and it's a lovely place to stroll and chat, even if parts of it are in need of a little face lift.
After lunch we headed north to Montmartre to try and see views of the city from Sacré-Cœur before the heavens opened. The weather men had forecast heavy rain for the duration of our stay, and sadly this time they were spot on.
Oh Paris, you broody thing, you.
We joined in with the rest of the tourists and took a Montmartre selfie. Zero shame. On A's wrist is a painful reminder to not allow people to catch you out in a tourist scam. A couple of men grabbed us by the arms and started putting these bracelets on our wrists despite protestations from us, and then forced us to pay for them. I only gave them €2, but we still felt harassed. It's probably best to approach Sacré-Cœur from Abbesses station or from the steps to the far right and left of the hill to avoid these sorts of literal tourist traps.
Sacré-Cœur is actually a lot more peaceful - and prettier - from the side streets, where there are far fewer tourists to be found.
Getting these types of shots, unencumbered by other tourists, would be unimaginable round the front of the church.
There's also scope for relaxation and beautifully framed views of the church from Parc de la Turlure, a sweet little green space with a waterfall fountain that you'll find just behind Sacré-Cœur.
Feeling tired already from lots of walking along the canal and up the steep hill of Montmartre, we headed home via Monoprix to buy some food for our stay. That's just one of the joys of AirBnB - as well as saving on accommodation and being able to stay in a lovely little apartment that feels like home, you can also buy local produce and make your own meals, thereby saving lots more money!
I'm getting hungry just looking at our haul. Those Bonne Maman flans were completely delicious. Vive la France - especially French cuisine!
Being Paris in July, it was a very humid summer evening. We opened the windows and cooked dinner to the strains of Maurice Chevalier, Edith Piaf and Debussy.
Alex was in charge of the main meal while I pulled together a quick and easy salad of chopped cucumber, beef tomato, iceberg lettuce and torn brie seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and a vinaigrette.
À table! (Dinner is served!) With wine, of course - it's Paris.
Alex cooked a Carbonara of sorts, rendered decidedly un-Italian with the addition of spinach, sautéed mushrooms and sour cream.
Exhausted from our 5.30 AM start, we fell into bed and set our alarms for the next morning. Our plans for the next day? Heading right into the heart of the city...