Saturday 26 July 2014

France, Paris - Summer 2014

Fries, Wine and Kissing
Tuesday, 22 July

The old romantic in me had me booking a short city break in Paris for me and my girlfriend.  It's a sort of Happy Birthday/Happy Anniversary/Sorry I'm Buggering of to China kind of thing.  It's weird to think that in less than two weeks time I will be sitting in my new apartment, halfway around the world.  It's a sad turn of events but excitement is still out shining at the moment.

I have been to Paris once before, and on realising that in my head I had mistaken the Blackpool tower for the Eiffel Tower I figure my memory of Paris is somewhat hazy.  Back then it was a trip to Disney Land and my only memory of that was not being able to ride on Space Mountain because I was vertically challenged.  So a second trip to Paris, now an adult and with a girlfriend?!  Oh how I have grown up!  We stayed at Hotel la Villa Glamour which was a very comfortable stay and located perfectly next to a metro.  After freshening up we caught the metro to Montmartre - home of Becky's favourite film Amelie.  We drank wine and ate in "Cafe Des 2 Moulins" which is popular because of its presence in the film.  Of course this does increase its prices a little but we were happily satisfied drinking giant glasses of red wine in happy hour and eating Steak Tartar; not quite the national dish but is iconically French!  Montmarte by night is what should come to mind when you think of Paris.  Quietly bustling cobbled streets lined with wine drinkers sitting outside glowing restaurants - It's lovely.  We saw the night through sitting on steps in front of the Sacre Coeur taking in the views, drinking beer and listening to buskers.  Not a bad first night in Paris.

Today our first port of call was to collect our ParisPasses.  For 115 euros this gave us 2 days worth of queue jumps and entries to the majority of the museums and sites of Paris and included free underground transport, boat and open top tour bus.  I have no idea whether it is worth it but I will keep track of my savings and let you know.  With our pass in hand we joined a guided tour of the very impressive "Palais Garnier (opera house)".  Sadly, the opera house does not perform over the summer period but the tour was fantastic and genuinely interesting.  That's a lot from somebody who probably doesn't really care much for opera.  

Paris is great to just potter about in; there is something to look at, eat, drink and play in every nook and cranny.  We found a cosy creperie feeding locals called "Creperie St Eustache" which served simple, delicious crepes with no bells or whistles.  I would definitely seek it out again if I were in Paris.  We took the open top tour bus to the Eiffel Tower and unintentionally spent the rest of our day there.  For a start, we were surprised to realise that the ParisPass didn't actually give us anything towards the Eiffel Tower.  A queue jump would have been ace.  But nothing.  We queued to get the tickets, then queued to get the lift 3 quarters of the way up and then queued once more to get to the very top.  Was it worth it?  It's like going to Iceland and not seeing the Northern Lights.  Oh wait, I did do that...  well you just can't go home having not done it!  And it means I can now add an item to my list and then cross it off (Because that's how "to do" lists work right?!) which is drink Champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower!  The views were amazing and the fact that we had to queue for so long to get to the very top meant we got to appreciate the views in both sunlight and starlight.  Every cloud and all that jazz.   We ate Foie Gras for dinner which is a French delicacy of fattened goose liver.  It's produced controversially as it involves force feeding the geese to fatten them up.  It's not the best quality of life I'm sure but it does make a mild, unique and buttery tasting offal.  Not to say it's worth it.  I don't know what I think about it.  Let me sleep on it and I'll tell you in the morning.   

A good year and great legs
Thursday, 24 July

No that's not Becky.  Well it is but it's not what I'm referring too!  Yesterday was a beautiful day to be in Paris.  We made the most of our ParisPass and spent the morning climbing the Arc de Triomphe; cruising the Seine river; marvelling at Notre Dame Cathedral, nosing in quirky Museums and the piece de resistance - wine tasting in an old wine cellar.  If I were to recommend one thing to do in Paris, it would be a wine tasting class with O Chateau.  The ParisPass gave us a free wine tasting session, however, much to our pointless dismay was fully booked.  Insistent that we could not leave Paris without a spot of wine tasting we upgraded to a 2 hour "Tour de France of Wine" for 55 Euros in which the ParisPass gave us 20 euros off.  Man what a mistake going for the standard wine tasting would have been.  We passed the sorry people in the bar with their 3 glasses of wine as we went downstairs to a cellar for our 6 glasses (I jest it looked lovely but nothing in comparison to what we got!).  We joined a small group of novice wine drinkers and were educated in wine by a charismatic young man who owned the business.  We were treated to one Champagne, two white wines and three reds.  Servings were more than generous and empty glasses were quickly topped back up.  We paid 15 euros extra for a cheese board and bread was readily available.  Though potentially slightly swayed by the copious consumption of wine, I have to say that the cheese board was the God damn best frickin selection of cheese I had ever eaten.  Ever in my life.  I entered with little knowledge or interest in wine but left with a genuine fascination.  However short lived that may be.   
The Louvre has a completely different slant to it when visited post wine tasting.  We pretty much broke even with our ParisPass and the Louvre was our last "freebie".  We saw everything (lies) in there in just half an hour! Even with time for a Mona Lisa selfie.  Ok so we probably didn't do the Louvre much justice and many would scoff at the idea of being in and out in half an hour (or a Mona Lisa selfie!) but in the end it's just stuff that doesn't interest me very much.  It is clearly, and with good reason, a well loved attraction by millions.  Just not by me.  We decided to spend the rest of our final evening in Montemarte; our agreed favourite place in Paris.  Dinner of Snails, Confit de Cannard and Crepe Suzette screamed out we were tourists.  And of course we drank wine, lots of wine, but none of that cheap crap.  Good legs, a smell of roasted winter orchids and a hint of Apricot dew...  :o)