Twelve Hours in Paris


I really don’t need any excuse to visit Paris. It is one of my favourite cities for a myriad of reasons – the river running through its heart, the gruffness of locals, the architecture, the history, the food – I could go on forever and I’ve mentioned it in various posts on the blog before, both here and here.

However, when I saw that I was running low on some French pharmacy supplies and a fantastically low fare cropped up thanks to Eurostar and @London on Instagram I couldn’t miss the opportunity.  I booked for a day trip with hubby in mid-December, catching the 7:01 train from St Pancras and heading back from Gare du Nord at 19:15.

Arriving a little after 10:00 we headed direct to the Metro. I tried to use one of my carnet tickets from a previous visit and it wasn’t accepted by the turnstile. Frustrated, we headed to the ticket machine to purchase more but noticed a man nearby trying to get our attention and say something in French. As a Londoner, I instantly adopted my commuter bitch-face; a cross between “don’t dare talk to me” and “I’m not interested mate, naff off,” thinking he was hassling for attention or money or something. I can’t tell you how utterly mortified I was to hear him say in English that our tickets weren’t working because public transport was free today due to the high levels of pollution in the city! I mean, honestly, I went full Brit and died, dead. Once I realised my mistake I practically chased after him with apologies and mercis, completely red-faced and mortified. Boo hiss to city fumes, yay hurrah to a freebie! London should follow suit and adopt this immediately. 

I’d had breakfast on the train and possibly a light snack before I left the house, but my first stop was my favourite breakfast/brunch place Holybelly. We queued (you always queue here) but not for long and got straight to ordering the Savoury Stack with a cup of London Fog to wash it all down. 

Pancakes with fried eggs, bacon, homemade bourbon butter and maple syrup. WORTH IT.

Despite knowing I’d have to lug my purchases around all day, the next stop was City Pharma, the best pharmacy in all of Paris. You get bargains, attitude, advice, squished and poor from all the things purchased in one two-storey shop. I won’t remind myself of the small fortune I spent there but let’s just say I went way over budget, like WAY, but ensured I bought enough to tide me over to mid-May so it was totally worth it. *eyebrow* 

Purchases included favourites like Nuxe hand cream, lip balm and perfume; a huge bottle of Bioderma body cream and hand lotions; cans and mini cans of Caudalie grape water spritz; blotting paper, Vichy Aqualia day cream and a few small gifty things for family for Christmas. I think that was mainly it!

Walking back in the warm sunshine along the Boulevard Saint-Germain we took our time, popping into a cute vintage/retro shop that had me having many a flashback to my childhood and stroking the soft antique furs on coats and stoles. I have a personal rule to never wear anything I wouldn’t eat – cows/sheep/pigs/rabbit are fine as it were, but fox/bear/mink aren’t.

I saw signs for Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge – the museum of the Middle Ages, a place I’ve walked past so many times and always wanted to go in. In the spirit of adventure we walked around the block to the entrance, through security (this is now sadly implemented in most public buildings) and into a darling little courtyard. 


Walking inside I’m left wondering why I’ve never been here before – the space transforms into a tardis of antiquities and the most beautiful light. I’m annoyed I didn’t take more photos. Rooms were so varied with lofty ceilings all in stone downstairs to cosy darkened wood galleries upstairs. 

The chapel

My other reason for visiting was to see the exquisite tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn. I’d read about these beautiful C16 wool and silk hangings in history books before and love the romance of them being lost and then found in a castle. There are six in total, much larger than I had expected, filling the room from floor to ceiling. They depict the five senses with the sixth, À mon seul désir unconfirmed but thought to be a comment on how humans are the only species with unique desires. 

Ornate wooden carvings on benches

À mon seul désir

By this time my tummy was grumbling for a very late lunch and I almost sprinted to my other must-stop for food, Cafe St Regis. I’ve spoken about the lovely vibe in this place before; I’ve even eaten here alone and felt perfectly comfortable just people watching and resting, whilst filling my belly with delicious food and a Sweet Home Alabama
Needing to walk off our feast and with a few hours of crisp sunny weather left, we ambled along the banks of the Seine like the tourists we were!

Notre Dame

Conciergerie

The dome of the Pantheon visible in the setting sun


I never tire of going through the courtyards of the Louvre. Take away the throng of the crowds, imagine the courtiers who have waked across these cobblestones. I wish I had glasses to view the past. 

With twilight came the time for us to make our way back to Gare du Nord for the train home, via the boulangerie to stock up on baguettes, tartes and macarons for dinner. Only 14.5km walked too which meant my legs and feet weren’t in bits by the end of the day.  A perfect Parisian trip!

Watching the sun setting over the Tuileries.

Curiosity killed… in Paris! Part deux

If you’re reading this before reading part one, do that and then settle yourself in.

I left our little tale at the Musee D’Orsay, the stunning museum of art and sculpture on the Left Bank of the Seine and headed off to another pantheon of culture, the Opera Garnier.  

I’ve photographed and walked past this beautiful building a bajillion (ok, maybe four) times before and always wanted to go inside. I had just seen an amazing model of the opera house at the Musee D’Orsay.

Cross section of the Opera Garnier – look at all those rooms!

Look at all the pulleys for the set changes, the depth and levels of the building itself and is that an ornate “green room” behind the stage for the artists to repose in?

I was lucky to find there were no queues and easily bought my ticket from the machine. Stepping through the darkened lobby I started to sing tunes in my head from Phantom of the Opera based on the novel by Gaston Leroux.

So pretty! Now where did that man with the white mask go…?

If you love beautifully ornate and opulent buildings then this place is a must visit. The auditorium was closed to the public as rehearsals were taking place for an upcoming production, but there were little viewing screens that you could look out of.

 

the grand staircase

  

beautiful lights on the staircase

  

some dude ruins the stunning grand foyer!

  

inside one of the interior cupolas

  

a gorgeous ballet costume on display

 

The afternoon was starting to pass quickly and I headed off to my next must-stop, the infamous City Pharma. A recent follower to the gospel of Caroline Hirons (wipes are for bums, not for your face!) there were a few things I was interested in getting. You can’t go more than a street without seeing a glowing green cross. French pharmacies are everywhere and rightly so, they are bastions of know-how in skin care and Parisian women are gorgeous. Based near St Germain des Pres on Rue du Four, I quickly found it by the amount of happy customers rushing out laden with plastic bags of product. It’s a happening spot. Arriving after four pm on a Friday it was HEAVING. Narrow aisles, filled with product, were almost impassable. Many pardon and excusez-moi were said. How many pharmacies do you know that you can’t open boxes, take photos or have security guards on every other aisle?

If you want a deal on your beauty basics, then you have to go. I was on a budget and could have spent a tonne more. (I mean, I actually put stuff back! What craziness is this?!)

This is what I bought:

Total spend of €27.77 and I reckon I saved about £17 on my purchases-definitely worth it! It’ll be my first stop whenever I go back, hopefully earlier in the day to avoid the hordes of women. Oh, and if one of the knowledgeable employees in white coats approaches and asks if you need help, then get them to help you. They know their stuff. I’ll write a separate post on how I get on with my beauty purchases.

My tummy was starting to rumble and hubby was nearly finished for the day at the trade show. We decided to rendezvous at one of our favourite cafes on Ile St Louis. The walk took me down Boulevard St Germain. I was reminded why I really like the buzz on that side of the river, it just feels more friendly. I took in some more sights and waited for my date.

 

I thank Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for knowing about this place 😉

  

spot the three couples

The first time I came to Cafe St Regis I was in serious need of a food pick-me-up and loved the atmosphere within its understated walls. There’s always a cross section of society seated at the tables…last time there was a nun drinking a beer. I love sitting somewhere and hearing different languages being spoken. The mix of locals and tourists keeps service prompt yet leisurely, we are on the continent after all. I recommend this place wholeheartedly!

always a cosy atmosphere

  

I was watching my sugar intake so instead of nutella, I had lemon and sugar!

  
 
You can’t go to France without having a crepe or two. Maybe three. Plus I started my nectar d’abricot addiction, oops! Satiated we made our way back to the hotel feeling happy but knackered. I looked at my health tracker and realised that I had walked 17kms, no wonder! A quick rest up and turnaround for a late dinner at a nearby restaurant brought the day to an exhausted end, ready for the visit to the trade show the following day. 

In the next post… A day at the biggest trade show I’ve ever seen – Maison et Objet.