Mr G turned forty last month. With his big birthday approaching I’d been faced with a dilemma – what to buy the man who has no interest in the material possessions typically given as milestones birthday gifts? Well, for someone like Mr G who has wanderlust and likes a bit of luxury, it was an easy choice. A fabulous, birthday trip to Paris would be right up his boulevard.
A long love affair with Paris begins
Twenty-two years ago I went on my first foreign holiday (and flight) to Paris. As a flying phobic it convinced me that ninety minutes of terror was a small price to pay to stay in touch with my new love – the City of Light.
When I met Mr G, I couldn’t wait to introduce him to Paris. Would he love it like I did? Six months after we met I found out. He did – phew.
L’Hotel – 5 star accommodation for a special celebration
I wanted a hotel with wow factor for this special trip and I found one – L’Hotel.
L’Hotel is a five-star boutique hotel, located on a quiet Left Bank street. It’s a stone’s throw from the centre of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is packed with cafes, galleries and designer shops.
Oscar Wilde spent the last two years of his life living in the hotel. He died in it on 30 November 1900. The wallpaper was not to his taste.
My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.
Oscar Wilde isn’t the only famous name linked to L’Hotel. Over the years it’s attracted a plethora of Celebrities, including Johnny Depp (my favourite man after Mr G), Daniel Craig, Elizabeth Taylor and Salvador Dali.
Day 1 in Paris
A frightfully British welcome and some Bolly
Arriving at L’Hotel late-afternoon, we were given a warm welcome and offered tea. It felt frightfully British to be drinking tea in Paris.
Tea sipped like a couple of dandies, we were eager to see our room.
L’Hotel’s twenty rooms circle an incredible atrium. Each room is decorated individually – corporate blandness isn’t something you’ll find.
Our room was fabulously opulent – we loved it. Think subdued lighting, embroidered wallpaper, heavy satin drapes, gilt and antique furniture.
There was a chilled bottle of Bollinger waiting for us too (a surprise from my Mum).
We were in Paris for a long weekend and the champagne was flowing – yippee.
Hello Paris my old friend
When we left the hotel for dinner, I finally got to reacquaint myself with the streets of Paris. It’d been three years and I’d missed the place like crazy.
We found a nice little Italian in the neighbourhood and had pizza for dinner. Later, we stopped at an ice cream shop for cones. Al fresco pudding in January – why not?
We rounded off the night with a nightcap back at the hotel bar. I had a cocktail made with whisky, tobacco liqueur, chocolate bitters and black pepper. It was called ‘Into the Wilde’ – it should have been called ‘Off to the Land of Nod’ as I slept like a baby after drinking it.
Day 2 in Paris
Our second day in Paris dawned and we headed downstairs for breakfast. It’s not every day you get to eat breakfast in the plush surroundings of a Michelin starred restaurant.
A perfect start to the day
L’Hotel has a pool and Hammam in what was once a basement wine cellar. We weren’t going to miss the opportunity to use it. Especially since guests can enjoy private use free of charge.
We spent a relaxing hour there, moving between the pool and steam room. We felt like A listers.
By 9:30am we were ready to explore Paris on foot. In a quest to get lots of exercise, we’d decided to shun the Metro for the entire trip.
Musée du Louvre
The Louvre was our first stop of the day.
The Louvre is the world’s largest and most visited art museum. I’ve visited loads over the years and every time I subconsciously follow the same route through the museum like a homing pigeon.
Five minutes after arriving I’d navigated us (unintentionally) to ‘The Winged Victory of Samothrace’ a 2nd century BC statue of the Greek goddess Nike. The folds of fabric on her skin are exquisite and it’s easy to see why she’s one of the world’s most celebrated sculptures.
After Nike we visited an enigmatic little lady called ‘La Gioconda’ or ‘Mona Lisa’. You may have heard of her? When da Vinci painted the portrait between 1503 and 1506 he could never have imagined how famous it’d become.
Each visit to the Louvre leaves me with a serious crick in my neck from staring at the unbelievably ornate ceilings.
I always stop to say hello to this guy, as I LOVE mummies.
A couple of hours of gallery stomping usually does me.
Some of my favourite photo stops in Paris
Paris is a visual feast of a city and one of my favourite places to photograph.
We planned to bank as many steps as possible, before our good intentions went out of the window over a boozy lunch.
Our pursuit of steps was temporarily derailed when the lure of crepes and coffee overpowered me. No trip to Paris would be complete without enjoying at least one Nutella crepe.
Crepe scoffed we went back to pounding the pavement, stopping frequently to take photos.
I will never cease to be awestruck by Paris.
We wandered through a blissfully quiet Jardin des Tuileries. A joy, minus the thronging crowds of summer.
We skirted the River Seine, before crossing the ornate Pont Alexandre III to the Left Bank.
The Esplanade des Invalides was packed with vintage cars attending a rally.
The peep of car horns would have been enough to waken Napoleon from his slumber inside the Dôme des Invalides (the beautiful gold roofed building below).
With hunger kicking in, it was time to eat – again.
French favourite for lunch
We found a bistro near the Eiffel Tower and grabbed a ‘watching the world go by’ table by the window.
When in Paris Mr G likes to embrace his flamboyant side by drinking pink pints of Monaco (beer, lemonade and Grenadine). I play it safe with wine.
I love a French bistro lunch, as French Onion Soup is one of my favourite dishes. What’s not to love about soup with giant cheese slathered croutons floating in it.
Mr G loves a croque madame, so everyone’s a winner when it comes to a French bistro lunch.
Lots more photos and way more steps
After lunch we pottered along to the Champs de Mars to snap the Eiffel Tower.
Hating heights I’ve never climbed the tower, but I frequently use it as a photo prop.
Later, en route back to the hotel we stopped at Laduree to buy some macaroons.
Laduree make the most incredible macaroons you will ever taste.
They’re to die for.
Dinner and cocktails
That evening we ate at a little Chinese restaurant on the Rue de la Harpe. It’s our go to place for good home cooked Chinese food when we’re in town.
Dinner was walked off with a stroll to take in the stunning City of Light in all its glory.
We ended the day with cocktails and pink champagne back at the hotel.
Ahhhh, the good life.
Day 3 in Paris
We planned to spend our last full day in Paris walking some more, eating some more and taking in some more culture.
I’ve always felt most at home in Paris hanging around the narrow streets of the Latin Quarter and Marais.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
There’s one building that draws me more than any other too – Notre Dame Cathedral. I always visit when I’m in town. I’m not religious, but there’s something very special about Notre Dame. History oozes from every stone.
A potter around Le Marais and a cake stop
We always play a game called ‘spot the Westie’ on Wee White Dug free trips. My eyesight is terrible until it comes to Westies, then it’s hawk like.
Even 20/20 vision Mr G struggled to spot the Westie in the scene below. Not me though, I’d have recognised that Westie swagger from twice the distance.
Can you spot it?
It’s years since I’ve visited Paris in January, but there’s a lot to be said for shunning tourist season.
It was so nice to be able to walk around the city taking photos, without people getting in the way.
Paris is where I first saw street art. I can remember thinking how progressive it was that they allowed it.
The Marais and Beaubourg are my favourite parts of town for a street art trail. I always get super excited when I discover a new Clet Abraham street sign, or a Gregos face peering at me.
You can work up quite an appetite on a Paris street art hunt, so it’s fortunate that the city has many options when it comes to elevenses.
We bolstered our flagging energy levels in Place des Vosges (Paris’s prettiest square) with almond croissants, mille-feuille and coffee – absolutely heavenly.
We stuck with modern art and visited the Pompidou Centre after polishing off our sweet treats.
The Pompidou Centre houses the city’s modern art collection. Built in the 1960s, the building itself is a work of modern art. It’s inside out, and has all of the pipe work you’d expect to be hidden away, on the exterior.
Inside, it soon becomes apparent that Picasso was a prolific creator of art that pretty much all looked the same.
I like modern art, but I don’t love it, so after a while I found myself muttering “not another bloody Picasso.”
Being a quirky, inside out building the Pompidou Centre has a corridor connecting galleries, that runs along the outside of the building.
It’s high up and a tad scary, plus it feels weird being outside the building looking in, but it offers a stunning view of the city, so it’s worth visiting the Pompidou Centre for this reason alone.
French favourites for lunch (again)
Museum visit done, we meandered back to the Left Bank for lunch.
We repeated our lunch order of the day before, but this time we enjoyed a ‘watch the world go by’ view of the Boulevard Saint Michel.
Lunch was followed by more photo snapping.
And a wee stop at an English pub called the Bombardier, to rest our weary feet and relax for a while.
The Bombardier happens to be opposite the iconic steps from the movie ‘Midnight in Paris’ – one of my favourites. Mr G waited patiently, but sadly there was no sign of Hemingway or Fitzgerald.
And repeat – dinner and cocktails
Our last evening in Paris was spent as our previous two had been, eating (another wee Italian), pottering around Saint-Germain-des-Prés and drinking cocktails and pink champagne back at the hotel bar.
This was a life I could easily get used to.
Day 4 in Paris – Au revoir
Day four in Paris dawned and it was time to leave the city – nooooooo. We’d be reunited with our beloved boy again though – woooooo.
We still had a full morning left, so we decided to make the most of it and treat ourselves to breakfast at Les Deux Magots, a Paris institution and favourite cafe of ours.
The cafe was once the haunt of illustrious names such as John Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a tourist trap. It’s always full of French people when I visit. Yes, tourists love it too, but why wouldn’t they with its history. It’s a charming old Parisian cafe and a visit is like stepping back in time to a bygone era.
After breakfast we still had time for one last museum visit.
The Musee D’Orsay houses an incredible collection of paintings, many of which are famous the world over. It’s where you’ll find the likes of Renoir, Monet and Van Gough.
Two minutes in the door and I was overcome with emotion viewing a Renoir. I could feel my eyes brimming with tears, as I stared in awe at the beautiful light captured in the painting.
Picasso may bore me to tears, but Renoir moves me to tears.
See, I’m not a philistine.
Musee D’Orsay is my favourite art museum in Paris, as it’s where the art I love best hangs. I’ll never tire of gazing at Degas’s ballerinas or Monet’s water lilies.
Plus, Musee D’Orsay houses some Charles Rennie MacIntosh furniture, so there’s a wee corner of Scotland in there too.
The museum building is almost as impressive as the artwork on display. It was once a railway station and has retained many original features, including the huge station clocks and high glass ceilings. It’s a truly beautiful museum space.
Far too quickly our incredible weekend in Paris was over. I felt a familiar twinge of sadness as I said goodbye.
Until next time, Paris mon amour ………..