A Perfect Weekend in Paris: New Sights

When Alessio is tired, he gets grumpy. I am exactly the same, so it’s a very good job we are rarely ever tired at the same time. I was exhausted after our first night, so I slept straight away and woke up like a daisy. Alessio did not. He had to be prized out of bed and was grizzly.

Our first task was to visit a food market. I may have dropped the ball with this one. We went to Passy Couvert Market, which turned out to be lovely and made us salivate but there was nothing in the way of breakfast. As a result, Alessio dragged me through it quicker than the time it took me to write this sentence.

IMG_3045

Instead we found a little boulangerie and took some bits, for me a nice, soft madeleine and a financier, and for Alessio a huge indescribable object which was really an oversized, glorified pain au chocolat.

IMG_3047IMG_3048

Passy was a busy area for us to walk around, with a lovely set of steps leading us down to a lush garden.

IMG_3058IMG_3068IMG_3073

We strolled around for a while before heading onwards by metro to Ile-du-St. Louis.Ile-du-St. Louis is quite small, and very quiet, but it was a nice part of town to stroll around before moving onwards to the popular Marais.

IMG_3106.JPG

IMG_3108.JPG

Le Marais, like St Germain was a place I had never been to before, despite how much it was well on the tourist track. It was nice and the architecture was beautiful. We visited a church around Rue Saint Antoine, as I like to find churches to light candles for my Mum and this one was beautiful.

IMG_3127.JPG

The part I particularly enjoyed was Rue des Rosiers.

IMG_3159

Unlike the rest of sleepy Paris on this Sunday, Rue des Rosiers was bright and alert, with queues snaking out of the cafés for metres. This district has a lot of kosher bakeries and Jewish owned shops, whose owners rest for Shabat on Saturday, not Sunday.

IMG_3164.JPG

I took a baguette from a gorgeous bakery, and Alessio took a schnitzel baguette from a restaurant where the customers were queueing outside.

IMG_3163

Before we could arrive at Place des Vosges, after several scorching days in both London and Paris, it began to rain. The weather remained warm, but all of Paris sought shelter. Dashing under awning after awning, we made it to the Place des Vosges and we took the time to circle under the sheltered walkways until the rain stopped after a few minutes, and the sun came out, hotter than the last time.

IMG_3138.JPG

From here, we began an aimless walk around the area, eventually concluding in us walking to the Pompidou museum, and onwards through the second arrondisment to see Les Passages Couverts.

IMG_3186.JPG

It was becoming too hot to keep walking like this, and my head was hurting. We decided to return to the room for a little rest stop, and a famous argument. It wouldn’t be a blog post on Trashgirl on Tour without us arguing at least once now, would it?

Being a Sunday in France, I was very aware that finding a restaurant that was open, good and available for walk-ins would not be a simple task. I woke up a little earlier from my nap to some time perusing the open restaurants to see which ones would be open for us to dine. Alessio began rushing me and telling me to hurry up finding the restaurant before they all closed. So I handed him my phone and told him to find the restaurant, and do it quickly. He couldn’t. Exactly.

IMG_3202.JPG

St. Germain seemed to have the most open restaurants, and since I was apparently on a timer, we went there and found a relatively decent restaurant where I took a ravioli quattro formaggi in tomato and basil sauce, and Alessio took a pizza with parma ham. We shared for the most part, and although my plan was to quit being pescatarian in Paris, I am still yet to eat meat because none of the meat dishes have felt worth it yet. In Asia I joked that the way we would break up with each other was to tell the other person we’d become vegetarian. Suddenly, after what I thought was a pleasant meal, Alessio became cold and untalkative.

I prized it out of him that the problem was I has spent the whole time on my phone. After making such a big deal out of finding a nice restaurant and arguing over that, I had spent the whole time on my phone. The whole time? Surely not, I remember only picking it up to show him a friend. I didn’t even have wifi. Unfortunately, my reflex is to laugh in situations where I’m being held accountable for being a dick, and this annoyed him further. I had to sincerely apologise if there was any chance of Parisian sex tonight. And to be a good person. I was sincerely sorry. I do hate when people spend all their time on the phone when we go for a nice day. He was right.

We went home via the Champs Elysées again, taking time to snap a couples selfie and pretend we didn’t just spend the whole evening falling out. It set the tone for the rest of the evening, where we indulged in the Paris romantic spirit.

That cancelled out the bad mood, and we headed to bed in order to wake up fresh for our final morning.

It was an early start because not only did we need to eat a good, delicious breakfast but we also needed to visit the Parc de Belleville upon a recommendation. Our breakfast would be at Des Gateaux et du Pain, a restaurant that came highly recommended for croissants. When we arrived, we discovered it was sadly shut for another hour. We had to choose between pastries and Parc de Belleville, and of course, I chose pastries.

It was so worth it. I can now say I’m not sure I’ve had a good croissant until now. The perfect balance of flaky, crisp and chewy, whilst also definitely being filling.

IMG_3210IMG_3218

We had a lot of time to kill, so we found a Richart patisserie to pick up some macarons, and then headed towards the coach terminal.

IMG_3221.JPG

At Pére Lachaise we realised we still had enough time to rush to Parc du Belleville, so we did, we admired the views over Paris and headed back to Gallieni with enough time to board our smelly, but less eventful coach back to London.

And so we concluded our trip in beautiful Paris. The city of love, history, culture and food. Despite the beauty, something ate at my core. In some of the wealthiest districts, the reality of the refugee crisis couldn’t be more apparent.  Walking down the Champs Elysées, you will see rough sleepers begging. Many of them are families with a husband, wife and toddlers. These are toddlers who have to sleep on the street and beg for meals because of the disastrous situation in their country. We gave money, but I know in the end even €50 in Paris is probably not enough to fully nourish a family of four with small children, when you don’t have a bed or kitchen. I don’t know what can be done, I don’t even know if it is within my power to help in the smallest way, but it’s harsh and brought home just how lucky I am – however, there but for the grace of God go I.

I will return home with the memory of what a beautiful place Paris always is, but also the more heartbreaking memory of how many families are really struggling.

Advertisements

A Perfect Parisian Weekend: Day 1

After spending too long in one place without adventuring, I start to get cabin fever. I become antsy and begin to check flights and destinations. This is even more accurate now I don’t work weekends or Bank Holidays anymore. When Alessio and I had a rare shared weekend together, there was no question. We were spending three days in Paris.

Being a bank holiday, the prices had shot up for flights and the Eurostar, but we managed to find a Eurolines bus for around £100. Thanks to an error, our journey may work out cheaper. You see once we boarded the bus on the Friday night, it took over an hour to actually leave because the door wouldn’t shut. As a student, I supplemented my retail salary by writing strongly worded emails to National Express (a sister company of Eurolines) and getting my transport fares back. 

Our bus stopped at the Port of Dover, and I realised this was Alessio’s first time crossing the channel.

I’ll pause the blog for a minute to describe a reverie. I dreamt a few weeks ago that Alessio, a good friend of mine and I were crossing a border to catch a plane and they had brought with them a few joints. They realised they couldn’t cross the border with them, so they hid the joints behind vegetables in the supermarket, like you might do the last pack of muffins so no one else can take them. But the police found the joints and arrested my friend, Alessio and eventually me, because I knew they were carrying joints.

Now. Back to the blog. Like a genius, Alessio had brought with him some herbal relief and only alerted me to this fact when we arrived at the Calais border.

“They have advanced security now.” I noted.

He stuffed it down the side of the chair. A nightmare come true.

We passed customs unarrested, but then the gendarmerie boarded the bus and Alessio slipped it into his mouth like a true mule.

Both our friend, who I was texting, and I remarked that the substance would be better forced up a different orifice.

“No.” He replied.

After the first and last crime of our trip, we boarded the ferry to Calais and watched the sunrise over the white cliffs. In no time, it was back to the bus where I fell straight to sleep, waking up to the scorching Paris sun five hours later.


Our hotel was in the luxurious Kléber district, situated a stones throw away from both the Arc du Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. We headed to the Eiffel Tower first, oohing and aahing mostly at the absurd queues to visit the top, before grabbing a huge, crispy baguette and venturing onwards to St. Germain.


I don’t recall ever visiting St. Germain before, an ultimately very touristic area but still charming.


 It was a nice place to stroll around before making a move towards the Latin Quarter and Parc du Luxembourg.

Parc du Luxembourg was especially very nice and peaceful, with the surrounding wine shops keeping Alessio very happy.


Next on the list was Ile de Cité. Famous for Notre Dame, the Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle. Notre Dame is beautiful, and great for pretending you’re Count Frollo, but Sainte Chapelle is breathtaking.


We queued for 20 minutes, and at the door had to pay €10 rather than €18 because we couldn’t prove I was under 25. Alessio was already in a mood because he had decided the cashier was una stronza, and upon entering Sainte Chapelle we did a little deflated “…oh.” It didn’t look like the pictures at all. Where were the high ceilings? The majestic stained glass? 


Ale was the first to say it.

“It’s a bit…shit. I knew it.”

“Yeah.” I said, sadly. “We might as well go up those stairs and get our money’s worth.”

“I’m going to stay here for ten hours to get my money’s worth.” Alessio replied, stomping up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs, we shut up.

“Aaaaaaaaaah.”

There it was. An actual thing of beauty.


 

We headed outside where Alessio attempted to decipher the biblical stories depicted on the stones. The creation story, the story of “Adamo ed Eva”, The Ten Commandments and more Biblical stories to delight the former Altar Boy turned rebel.

We took a guidebook to decipher the stained glass but with my non-Christian upbringing and Alessio’s excommunication, we really struggled


“Ok. Now let’s head for some sin.” 

Le Pigalle.

Debauchery, sex, the Moulin Rouge… the only thing Alessio remembered from his schoolboy visit to Paris.


From Le Pigalle, you can walk to Montmartre. Now, I know it’s touristy. I know it’s very “done”. But I love it. Like Portobello Road in London, Coney Island in New York, or fresh white bread, everyone knows it’s there, everyone’s done it, but I will always have a space in my heart for it.


Montmartre hangs on a massive hill, with small kooky shops selling tourist tat or overpriced disappointing restaurants all the way up.


At the very top of the hill is Sacre Coeur, a church from which the view – on a quiet day, is astounding. Weaving our way back through the tourists and far enough down the hill for the food to be reasonably priced and reasonably edible, we found a small restaurant where we could eat dessert al fresco. Yes, only dessert. We’re in France.



 Alessio’s bottle of wine took him the better part of an hour to sink, so we were there for a while before heading back to the hotel a woman named “Lola” tried to entice us into a strip club. 

She cornered us outside a Tabac store in the Pigalle, offering us “couples fun”. Being polite and very British, I nodded and politely accepted a business card.

“No, just come and SEE INSIDE!” She insisted.

Where was the strength of character and refusal I had so strongly in Asia? We meekly tagged along behind her and looked around the rather non-descript nightclub. There were only a few giveaways, such as the poles and velour curtains around the private show areas.

“For couples too! Not just men.”

“Let us eat some dinner first, and we’ll think about it!”
“We have crêpes here!”

“Lola, they mean real food.” Her colleague replied.

We ducked out the door, trying to look inconspicuous to the passersby and determined to find real food.

Instead we took the metro to Charles de Gaulle-Etoile to see the Arc de Triomphe, took a quick stroll down a small section of the Champs Elysées and then took to bed for the night, our legs throbbing and my eyes resisting any attempt to stay awake.