After a whirlwind trip to Liverpool I booked another weekend away with a different group of girlfriends – my last one before the big South African holiday – to Paris. Having never experienced the Christmas markets in France I was quite excited to compare them to the German ones, and a friend of mine had a bunch of tips she wanted to make use of after her brother lived in the city for two years.
This would be my sixth time to Paris – I’d certainly experienced a lot on the first five trips and yet somehow I wanted to go back and explore again. I’ve been in happy relationships, in toxic relationships, with family, with my high school and with friends in this city. I’ve seen every museum on the lonely planet list, walked all the shopping strips, done every view point except for the Arc De Triumph and seen every part of history and popular culture reference I could find. Not to mention the three trips I’ve now done to Versaille, one of which I picnicked on the lake rather than going inside and discovered a completely different way of enjoying the gardens than the usual snap-happy walk around before dashing for the train back to Paris.
But in a city like Paris there’s always something more to do and see, much like London or Berlin – and on this weekend I got to experience some of the best and worst of the most popular tourist destination in the world.
We arrived on the Friday night to a fantastic apartment (thanks airbnb), and with my train leaving in the day I had a few hours to explore the area before the others arrived. We were all tired and took to bed early in order to prepare for a big Saturday of ticking things off our bucket list.
First up was jazz brunch at Le Reservoir – a friend had heard great things about it and we weren’t disappointed. For around 27 euro you got an all-you-can-eat and drink buffet, with fantastic pastries, meats, cheeses and seafood, while the singer for the day crooned songs ranging from 1970s disco to current hip hop hits as though he had written them himself. Everyone was dancing around by the end, which by the way was 4 hours after we got there – it was a great serving of breakfast and lunch in one.
Then we headed for Galleries Lafayette which had a beautiful view of the city from the top – I had missed this very time I visited the shopping centre in the past, and it was totally free to go up there! Simply taking the escalators to the top floor, we took some time to take in the sights of the city, then headed for our next stop – the macaroon shop Laduree.
On Boulevard Hausmann, the dessert restaurant was more than devine. It had a price tag to match the elegance – with a hot chocolate costing 8 euro and a macaroon at least 2.50 – but the hot chocolate at least was definitely worth it, more of spooning melted chocolate into your mouth than the sense of the word ‘drink’, and only half of us got through our treats. When the sugar rush kicked in, we made our way to Zero de Conduite – the bar with cocktail baby bottles where you have to draw what you want to order and make the waiter guess. It was slightly odd, but I loved it, and although they were pricey at 18 euro you could refill for much cheaper.
With the added sugar from our drinks in our systems, we skipped through the cold to the Christmas market on the Champs Elysee to fill up on vin chaud. The markets were really expensive compared to Germany, but I suppose that is no surprise on such fine real estate, and baked camembert with a glass or two from the champagne bars was a welcome addition to the stalls.
We made our way up the street slowly, taking in the atmosphere and not really feeling the cold, and while we were supposed to head out to the nightclubs, we decided it would be much more Parisian to just go to a small dark bar and spend hours drinking red wine and eating cheese. It was definitely a good choice after a busy day.
Sunday brought what not to do – we thought it would be a brilliant idea to book a ticket up the Eiffel Tower. The weather was predictably foggy at such a time of year and as we climbed higher and higher, it got colder and colder – the below photo was about the entire time I spent at the top before running to the lift to get down and somewhere I could feel my hands and feet again.
But climbing the Eiffel Tower isn’t great anyway – when you take in the view of Paris it’s missing the one thing that makes it, well, Paris – and it’s probably not something I will bother to do again.
After getting down, I had a sprint to make my train home, and snaring some chips from the convenience store on the way my dinner certainly wasn’t up to the scratch of the jazz brunch the day before. Still, when I arrived home my first comments to my boyfriend were that we need to go back – I haven’t seen the catacombs and want to explore the cafes more and still haven’t been inside Notre Dame.
One day I’m sure I’ll be making a seventh trip!