We figured that we’d better make the trip across the canal to the ‘City of Love’ at some point. After all, it is only two hours on the Eurostar and we didn’t want to be called ‘lackadaisical’… So after work one friday we found ourselves on the platform, being whisked away for the weekend to another of Europe’s treasures.
I had not taken the chance to brush up on the key french phrases, so I felt unarmed and vulnerable in a city which I had heard did not take kindly to ignorant tourists. My fall back plan was to just start sprouting ‘g’day’ if all else failed so the citizens of France would take pity on this poor flailing Aussie who was clearly out of her depth! However, I needn’t have worried as we had planned to meet the delightful Emma Froggatt the next day who was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. She acted as tour guide and interpreter extraordinaire – move over Frommers, make way for Froggatts!
Night one in Paris was characterised by crepes, berets, a lovely Brasserie called ‘La Bullion Chartier’, a thousand and one cafes spilling on to the sidewalk, and grand sweeping boulevards. I enjoyed the sophistication of the French language and commiserated that I was such a bogan with no class or style. Paris is broken up in to 20 arrondissements (areas), of which I could find no rhyme or reason, and was later informed by Miss Froggatt that they spiral outwards like an escargot (see what I did there?!). Anyway, I had little idea where I was at any given time so this knowledge unfortunately went to waste.
I have to say that I was more than thrilled to have my first taste of France, and awoke ambitiously early for a croissant and fromage. Our accommodation was a little room above a restaurant and the lovely owner had left us some French wine. I very nearly downed this for breakfast, but refrained just in time. We headed out to meet our tour guide extrodinaire and within minutes we had conquered the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) and were nestled into a cosy cafe. Que pleased smile no. 1 from Joel. Emma knew her coffee haunts, and French pasteries intimitely…. Joel’s new favourite person – I had to take a backseat. Therefore I trailed in their wake around the city peeking down side alleys, pursuing quintessentially French scenes for my powershot, and laughing at the Parisian ladies strutting out on to the sidewalk with confidence money couldn’t buy.
Emma showed us more than I thought could fit in one day, you would have thought she was working on commission. We conquered the old Jewish quarter of the Marais with it’s vintage shops, cute cafes, and falafels (oh my word…never knew falafel could be so favourable!). Together we sauntered through the Notre Dame, counted the locks on the Pont de l’Archeveche, marvelled at the beauty of the Seine bordered by thousands of Parisian balconies, perused Shakespeare & Co, and danced our way through the Latin Quarter. We purchased tea on the delightful Rue Mouffetard and actually drank tea in the cheery ambience of the Mosque. I made Emma say things in French to quench my fascination, then repeat them just for fun. I have to say – I thought she sounded like a pro and I may or may not have been in awe of her.
As the evening approached we established a joint mission to break into the French clique and dine with the locals. It was then that Emma had to muster the best French she could manage to argue with the ‘bitchy’ waiters for a table. It was an epic battle and I’m sad to report that we lost, but Emma didn’t go down without a fight! Suffice to say my awe increased substantially. We consoled ourselves with a ‘when in Rome/Paris’ moment of consquering escargots and downed a bottle of French wine until we convinced ourselves we were actually the victors in this situation. The rest of the evening was spent strolling around the back streets and basically subsituting ourselves in ‘One Night in Paris’ to great effect.
You cannot visit Paris without taking in the view from the Tour de Eiffel. I find it hilarious that it was once a temporary exhibit (a pretty substantial one at that!) hated by the Parisians. Now it is a global icon of love and romance. We did not climb the tower empty handed, no, we were armed with a gigantic and scrumptious caramel macaroon which caused marital disharmony for a brief momet (refer to video for proof)! According to our estimations, we couldn’t be more French if we tried. Aside from this, the view was magnificent and we did not regret being big fat tourists for a second – it simply had to be done.
Perhaps our most triumphant moment was the mastering of the Velib system (french for bike). If we could only figure out where those darn docking stations were, it would have been a smooth excecution. As it was, we spent ten minutes of every half hour slot frantically locating docking stations to avoid the fee for exceeding thirty minutes. Despite the ensuing panic we had a quintessentially French time cruising past the Louve and through Jardin des Tuliers, up Champs-Élysées (wisely avoiding the chaotic roundabout that circles the Arc de Triumph) and in to Saint-Germain-des-Prés minus the baguette in the basket. Aha, but this was for a reason as we had the inside scoop on Eggs & Co for a brunch date to remember. It was a worthy Parisian experience, complete down to the moment when they accidentally served me orange juice with my bunch – realised their error – and removed my orange juice after I had already started, only to dispose of it. Ummm….okaaaay then! I cast my mind back to the bitchy waiter and thought to myself that the French dining industry was a law unto itself.
Froggatt Tours had not yet concluded for the weekend, and we were whisked away to Emma’s local haunt – Chez Prune in Canal St Martin. This may have been Joel’s second highlight – one euro espressos at the bar. You guessed it, I just busied myself documenting ‘the experience’, and whilst Emma and Joel were lost in caffeinated bliss I observed the varied crowd of socialites gathered in groups around multiple bottles of wine and cheese. Maybe I could do with some of this Parisian life after all? Whilst the two coffee seekers were buzzing from their second espresso we put the energy to good use and climbed the well-trodden staircase up to the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. Not only was the view a delight, but I found myself mesmerised by the artwork that was splashed across the roof above the altar. I wish I was allowed to take a picture, but upon reflection I know it must have touched some part of me as the image is alive in my mind, as bright as the day I sat on the pew taking it all in.
We wound our way down the cobbled streets past artists working on their easels, poking our heads in to more boutiquey, arty and vintage shops to find ourselves surprisingly (please note the sarcasm) at another coffee shop. I sound resentful, but it was actually really cool – Kooko Borra, owned by some New Zealanders. I would recommend it if it wasn’t for the fact that this stop very nearly cost us our return Eurostar to London. It was with red faces and a lack of breath that we presented our passports to be stamped at the terminal. We made it with under 3mins to spare. Joel wiped his brow, most certainly with thankfulness that he did not need to endure the subsequent wrath which would have been unleashed upon his pursuit of good coffee. As it was, we merrily gazed out the window and congratulated each other on a weekend very well spent indeed! Merci!