My 40th Birthday Trip to Paris was Full of Surprises!

As I left off in my last post, I was waiting to find out where Thomas was taking me for my 40th birthday week away. As the title suggests, it was indeed Paris, on what would be my first visit to the French capital. I’ve visited France a few times in the past, namely to the Loire Valley wine region, plus the cities of Nantes and Limoges (home of the cow!).

Day 1 – Eurostar and Another Surprise

The Eurostar is a great way to travel, easy check-in, comfortable seats, and just over 2 hours from London Pancras to Paris.

The area we’re staying in is a local neighbourhood Port de Bangolet, to the East of the city centre (20th ARR). There were lots of patisseries & cafes nearby, and a metro stop just at the end of our street. Our accommodation was a lovely little maisonette that Thomas booked via Air B&B.

That evening we headed over to the Latin Quarter for a pre-dinner drink at Le Chouffe bar, a place that had been recommended by my friend Mark. It was nestled in between a number of restaurants and bars on the quaint Rue Du Pot De Fer (5th ARR). I got another surprise about 5 minutes after sitting down with a beer, Mark only turned up! Along with Thomas, this had been planned for months, I had no idea but it was brilliant to have him joining us.

After we finished our beers we headed a few doors down to La Petite Provence. It served French food and had some vegetarian options for Thomas and Mark, although my meat choices seemed better than their dishes based on their feedback. My French Onion Soup was delicious. Made with Beef stock, topped with melted cheese. The Rabbit Stew was ok, it could have done with more seasoning but was pleasant enough. It wasn’t the best food we ate that week but for just under €20 for 3 courses the value was good. We had a night cap across the street at Le Bar de Fer with a few Aperol Spritzes. It was a fairly busy warm evening as we grabbed an outside table feeling full and relaxed.

Day 2 – Le Marais, Notre Dame, Macarons, Wine, Cards, Rain & Delicious Food in Avron!

The following day we met Mark late morning over at the Republique metro, which was just a few stops across from where we were staying. I have to say that I was impressed by the metro system in Paris, it was fast, reliable, and not too expense for a capital city. A book of 10 tickets were just 15 euros, one ticket takes you on one journey throughout the city. Over the five days we bought 3 books in total, so spent 45 euros between us, including getting to from and back to the Eurostar.

After stopping for an obligatory coffee, we walked about ten minutes to the La Marais area. My friend Kathleen used to live not far from Paris and it was an area she recommended visiting. it was a nice area lined with bars, patisseries, shops and restaurants. We stopped for our first macarons of the trip, one of my favorite desserts, grabbing a box as we continuing walking. A few blocks later we came across le Marche des Enfants Rouge (Market of the Red Children). It’s the oldest covered market in Paris. Its curious name refers to the nearby Hospice des Enfant-Rouges where orphans wore red clothing. As were not hungry enough yet for food we enjoyed wandering around wishing that we were! We were however ready for a glass of vin rouge, so stopped at a cafe bar across the way.

From here we walked 20 minutes or so over to Notre Dame. Despite the fire that engulfed the building earlier this year, the 11th century Gothic cathedral still looked impressive. Rain looked imminent, and we were ready for lunch, so we stopped off at cafe bar about ten minutes walk over the river away from Notre Dame (avoiding the higher tourist prices), and enjoyed some cheeses and bread, with some wine to wash it down.

That evening was Mark’s last night in Paris. We met himat his nearest metro station, Avron, and found a lovely place for our evening meal, Les Enfantes de la Balle. We enjoyed some Belgian beers and I had a delicious platter of Tomato Gazpacho, Salmon Quiche, Goat’s Cheese Mousse on crusty bread, Samosas and Onion Bajis. Thomas and Mark also enjoyed their Falafel burgers. Afterwards we popped across the road to Cafe Lino for a night cap.

Day 3 – Turning 40, More Delicious Food, Tourist Sites & Live Music

After a lazy morning, lunch was at Mama Shelter, a quirky hotel restaurant just a 10 minute walk from us. Then we had a coffee afterwards on their rooftop, possibly the coolest rooftop bar I’ve been to.

Pere Lachaise cemetery was just next door and it was recommended that we visit. It’s truly a sight, full of insanely huge tombs. A few famous people are buried here including Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.

From here we then visited possibly the two main tourist sites: the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. They have to be done but I like to do them as quickly as possible! It was very busy.

We had a walk along the Seine river before getting the metro up to Pigalle. My good friend Emily had recommended an amazing local French eatery. As we weren’t quite ready for food we stopped at a nearby bar and enjoyed a few drinks, well it was my birthday!

We were warned about the long queues outside the eatery but that they go down pretty fast. We were lucky and only had to wait a few minutes. By the time we left the queue was around the building and the dinning area jam packed!

Our food was definitely the best we’d had so far in Paris. The service was quick and efficient but without feeling as though you were being rushed. We ordered a bottle of French red wine before sharing starters of fresh Bread, Creamed Cucumber, Tomato with French Dressing & Leeks with Walnuts. The flavours were simple but tasty and fresh. Loving Black Pudding back in the UK I opted for the French version with mashed potatoes. It tastes different, a bit less peppery but equally as tasty. Thomas opted for Mac n’ Cheese which came with wilted Spinach. For desserts we shared a Lemon tart and Chocolate Profiteroles, both were delicious. The final bill came to under €50, an absolute steal!

We finished the evening at a local bar L’Oasis 244, for an open mic night mixing with the locals!! We were given a warm welcome, and a mixture of French folk-protest songs, generic rock songs, and one guy’s interesting take on the Sex Pistols!

Day 4 – Macaron Making Class, Sacre Coeur & Ethiopian Food

On our last full day in Paris, I had another surprise in store for me. We started with a  lazy morning after our late night at L’Oasis, then around midday we headed out to the Clignancourt area of the city to find out what my surprise from Thomas was. I had a strong feeling it would be something food related, and as we turned down Rue Baudelique, I saw the sign for a cooking school! We were both enroled onto a Macaron making class. We had a great time with Chef Patrick with our small class of eight people and realising why macarons are expensive, due to how intricate they are too make. Afterwards we took our macarons and ate them in a nearby park, they were delicious. The cooking school hosts a number of cooking classes including food market trips. Check out their website for more details and prices

Nearby to us was Sacre-Coeur Basilica, so on a full stomach of macarons I decided to walk up the hundreds of steps to the church, then a further few hundred up to the top of the tower. It was worth the pain though for the amazing views of Paris at the top.

We decided to grab some dinner en-route back to our place that evening, and came across an Ethiopian place just down the road from where we were staying. Injera bread is something I’ve tried in Leeds before. Think of a flatter, longer crumpet style bread, with a slightly sour taste. We both immediately saw this on the menu, topped with various curries, chutneys, dips and salads, so we had to go for this. It was all washed down with some Ethiopian beer.

We really did enjoyed our few days in Paris. On the whole, it was much more of a laid back city than I had expected, possibly because we spent more time in local neighborhoods away from the main tourist sights.

x The Messy Cook x

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