Paris is a global centre for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Beyond such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, the city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques. With 10 different airlines flying to Paris from the UK it is easily accessible making it the perfect weekend getaway destination. We had never visited so decided it was time we spent a weekend and discovered what the city had to offer.
The first decision was to pick a hotel and with over 600 to choose from in the centre of the city, that choice alone was no mean feat. We prefer “Boutique Hotels” with character and charm rather than large “branded chain” hotels which we find to be rather bland and dull – we started the task of trawling through http://www.booking.com. As we were flying into Charles de Gaulle airport on a Friday we also wanted a hotel that was on the Metro that we could access direct from the airport via the train. We booked the Hotel Le Relais Des Halles, and were not disappointed with our choice. It is a small luxury hotel where the staff are warm and welcoming, there’s a great choice for breakfast, the rooms were perfect and the décor was stylish and offer an elegance in true Parisian style that was in keeping with the building. It is in the Halles district of the city, and is a 5 minute walk for Halles Metro that you can find within the Halles shopping centre that has an abundance of shops cafes etc. It is also well situated for cafes, bars, restaurants and only a 15 minute walk from Notre Dame Cathedral. We would definitely recommend it and it will be our choice when we return to Paris on our next visit. https://www.hotel-relais-des-halles.com/en/chambres.
A weekend in Paris only allows you to see a snippet of what the city has to offer. Rather than try and ram everything into our visit we decided what we really wanted to see and do. So our list consisted of a visit the palace of Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Catherdral, a cruise on the Siene and a drive up the Champs-Élysées to circumnavigate the arc de Triomphe roundabout. Other than sites we planned to eat snails in an ethnic Parisian restaurant and sample fine French cuisine in a Michelin star restaurant.
The Palace of Versailles has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1979, it was formally Louis XIII’s old hunting pavilion and was then transformed and extended by his son, Louis XIV, when he installed the Court and government there in 1682. Today the Palace contains 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 m2. The rooms of the Palace are now devoted to housing collections of paintings and sculptures representing great figures and important events marking the history of France. You can also visit the gardens and estate of Marie Antoinette which encompasses the Grand and Petit Trianon as well as its own gardens.
The Palace of Versailles is 10 miles South West of Paris and can be reached by train or bus from the city. We decided to take a taxi as we wanted to drive the Champs-Élysées, and experience the Arc de Triomphe roundabout, they say the rule is to give way to the traffic on the right – all we can say is it was an experience and we were glad we were in a taxi.
We were fortunate that we were able to see the Notre Dame Cathedral before it was devastated by a terrible fire in April 2019. One of the easiest ways to see the city is to use the Batobus. It has nine stops along the Seine River giving you easy access to the most beautiful sights in Paris including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. You can hop on and hop at your leisure on any of their river boats with a day pass. It is also a perfect way to enjoy the relaxing ride on the water as you visit the city’s must-see spots. https://www.batobus.com/en/discover-batobus.
Paris is famous for its food and café culture and its art of preparing and serving rich or delicate dishes of wonderful appetising food from not only the regions of France but from all corners of the world. There are 114 Michelin star restaurants in the city, as well as many traditional French restaurants and an abundance of restaurants serving international cuisine.
L’Escargot Montorguiel Restaurant is a Parisian institution. It has been a restaurant for over 200 years and is classified as a monument of France. With its crafted wooden ceiling and its sand blasted windows it offers a hushed and trendy atmosphere. In addition to its architecture, this restaurant is also famous for its cuisine, which honours French specialities where the famous gastropods are insuperable. You can also enjoy classics like Duck with Orange, Beef Bourguignon and Frogs legs. We had the slow cooked Lamb Shoulder which was a delight to the taste buds. A must when you are in Paris. How do you pick just one restaurant to dine in from the 114 Michelin Starred available – I guess that’s what “google” is for and it took us to Anne-Sophie Pic. She is the daughter of Chef Jacques Pic, and granddaughter of Chef Andre Pic, who first gained Maison Pic the family restaurant its three Michelin stars in 1934. However, Anne-Sophie initially decided not to follow in their footsteps and instead trained in management. Only later she found herself drawn back to the restaurant for her “passion”. So in 1922 at the age of 23 she returned to Maison Pic to train under her father who unfortunately died just three months later. In 1995, the restaurant lost its third Michelin star, for which she felt she had lost “her father’s star”. In 1997, Anne took control of the restaurant and in 2007, she regained Maison Pic’s three Michelin stars.
We then discovered her Paris restaurant La Dame de Pic was within walking distance of our hotel so we booked a table for the Saturday evening. From the moment we arrived we were spoiled. Her vision is for you to discover her universe and using her culinary imagination, offer her guests a taste of Valence. So she has created a place with a gentle and feminine setting offering a place to forget the bustle of the city, somewhere to relax and enjoy her culinary delights. We choose the set Gourmandize Menu, which was a wonderful way to experience her delightful cuisine and with the sommelier pairing it with an excellent wine it was truly a dining experience.
So our overall assessment of Paris – is it is a city you could never tire of visiting and would want to return to as often as you possibly could.