Whilst returning to Normandy for Christmas was lovely, it is far too quiet and secluded for a city girl like me to spend more than a week there. After saying our thanks and goodbyes to J’s family, we departed for Paris by train, a c.2 hour journey away.
We arrived in the mid-afternoon and immediately headed out to the Marais area to catch the last of the sun’s rays for the day. Passing by the Pompidou Centre, a building which I’m always fascinated by but have yet to brave the long queues to enter, we headed in search for a comforting meal on a cold winter’s day.
We ended up stopping at Tata Burger, a gay burger joint with some brilliantly named and great tasting burgers on offer.
There was no doubt that we were indeed at Le Marais (known for bring the center of LGBT culture in Paris) as we exited the restaurant to be faced with a boulangerie selling magic baguettes. 🙂
Feeling heavy and full from our burgers, we decided to brave the cold and walk towards the River Seine, to cross over to the south bank. We walked by the Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville (the City Hall), stopping for a while to watch the recreational ice skaters. We then continued on to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, which was, as usual, surrounded by throngs of tourists.
Unused to the cold temperatures, we soon sought refuge at Odette, a little cafe within the line of sight of the Notre Dame cathedral. Famous for their choux a la creme pastries in a wide range of flavours, we gratefully settled down into our seats and proceeded to taste our way through 3 little choux pastries each and a cup of coffee.
With the sunlight fading, we stepped out onto the Paris streets again, and took the metro to the Champs Elysees as we wanted to buy a couple of advanced tickets to the Louvre Museum. Upon exiting the station, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the entire area had been decked out in christmas decorations, with quite a number of christmas market stalls open, selling food and crafts by the Concorde end of the Champs Elysees.
After buying our tickets from an extremely crowded FNAC, and heading up to catch a glimpse of the Arc du Triomphe, we decided to make one last stop for the day at the Eiffel Tower. Though I’ve visited Paris many, many times, I never seem to tire of seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night (not during the day mind you, which just doesn’t do it justice!). A tip for first-timers: be sure to get off at Trocadero for the best full frontal view of the Tower, before making the short walk up towards it for a close up.
We set off slowly, deciding to stroll through and revisit some of the best sites that Paris has to offer. Starting from the Place de la Bastille, we walked past the July Column (Colonne de Juillet) which commemorates the July Revolution in 1830. Just a short stroll away lies the Places des Vosges, a square in Le Marais which over the years, has been the home of many famous figures in French history, including Victor Hugo (whose house is now a museum).
Today being Monday meant that pretty much all of the museums in Le Marais were shut. I was keen for a good walk though, so I made the round past the key tourist sites of interest (including the Carnavalet Museum, Picasso National Museum and the Museum of French History) to admire the buildings whilst trying not to regret the fact that I wouldn’t be able to check out the interiors.
Whilst we were in the area, we made sure to walk through the Rue des Rosiers, famed for their Jewish falafel sandwiches (some of the queues were crazy long!).
From there, we headed towards the river and crossed the bridge to Île Saint-Louis where I just had one thing on my mind – Berthilon ice cream! If you’ve never been, please do yourselves a favour and try some of the world renowed ice cream here. The tarte tatin looked ridiculously good as well…
Feeling a little heavy after 3 scoops of ice cream (yes, greedy I know…), we decided to walk some of it off in the Jardin des Palais Royal. Rather shockingly, despite its central location, this was the first time I have taken a walk through these serene gardens. Winter isn’t the best time to visit of course, so I will need to come back in spring when colours and life must abound.
The other famous garden, the Tuileries Gardens, are just a short walk away across the Rue de Rivoli. We lingered here for a while, enjoying the setting sun and beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower against the gorgeous colours.
Heading towards Place de la Concorde, we soon came across the big ferris wheel of Paris, or La Grande Roue de Paris. This was clearly a popular attraction, with long queues despite the cold.
It was still a little too early for dinner, so we continued walking through the Madeleine and Opera areas, intending to window shop through Galeries Lafayette (an upmarket Franch department store). We arrived to find it jam packed with locals and tourists alike, and so, gave up after about 15 minutes or so of browsing through the food hall.
Dinner was a warm and cheesy affair of fondue and raclette in the Latin Quarter, just the ticket after a good day of walking on a cold winter’s day.