Five days in Paris: Part 2

Saturday 9th February – Monday 11th February 2019

After two days of exploring Paris by myself, spent wandering around museums and eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it (I’d had a great time), Saturday arrived and with it came my friends. I’d had a lovely time solo but I was looking forward to seeing them – I just had a few other things I wanted to do first.

Day Three

As nice as my Airbnb was, the walls were a little thin so I woke up earlier than I normally would want to on a Saturday. This was no bad thing on this occasion, however, as I had a to do list and only a few hours to get it done. I packed my stuff, grabbed my bag and headed out for breakfast. I hopped on the metro and hopped off at Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

My destination was Café de Flore – a Parisian institution. The cafe dates back to the 1880s and is known to attract celebrities as part of its clientele. It was busy when I arrived but they were able to squeeze little old me onto a table by the door. The menu was expensive so I decided just to order a pot of tea and a croissant with butter and jam. The waiter looked at me with confusion, jam and butter with a croissant? He didn’t understand. “What flavour jam would you like, eggplant?” He smirked. I could feel the judgment but I appreciated the sarcasm and as a solo diner it was nice to have some jokey chat. After some discussion, it turned out he was less confused about the jam part and more about the salted butter I had ordered (although that didn’t explain his eggplant quip). I assured him it was a very good combination and, indeed, it was.

Again I could have happily spent a while sitting with my book in Café de Flore but I had a schedule. There was another macaron I wanted to try nearby and my light breakfast meant I had still had room to fit it in. Pierre Hermé wasn’t far away so I walked over for dessert. I did intend just to buy one or two but as the guy behind the counter ran me through the flavours – and was holding a box that would fit four – I splashed out. Apparently rose, litchi & raspberry and chocolate & passionfruit were two of the most popular flavours, so I ordered one of each of these, along with a vanilla and a lemon & grapefruit.

Pierre Hermé on Rue Bonaparte is around the corner from the Place Saint-Sulpice. I found myself a bench and started my macarons (which I finished over the course of the morning – they were the perfect exploring/shopping snack). I can’t say I was a massive fan of the chocolate & passionfruit or the lemon & grapefruit but the vanilla was nice and the rose, litchi & raspberry turned out to be quite possibly my favourite macaron ever.

The Place Saint-Sulpice is home to the Church of Saint-Sulpice, which seemed pretty impressive from the outside so I decided to take a look at the inside. This turned out to be a beautiful Roman Catholic church and, after the Notre Dame, the second biggest church in Paris. After I had a quick look around here, I hit the streets again. I’d read that the area of Saint Germain was a good area for vintage clothes shopping – something I thought it was important to look into further.

I had a Google and found a recommendation for the Kilo Shop, where you can buy a kilo of clothes for a set price. I arrived to find a shop completely and utterly stuffed with second hand clothes but, although I did spend a while looking around, I left empty handed. I did debate a kimono but I don’t wear the one I already own often enough as it is.

Next stop was Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop on the banks of the River Seine, near Notre Dame. I expected to find piles and piles of old books hidden in the dark corners of a book store with lots of twists and turns. My expectations turned out to be both right and wrong. The bookshop has a separate entrance for the rare books section and the first floor is also filled with old leather bound books. The ground floor does indeed have twists and turns and books spilling out of every corner, however the books here were less old and more books you would find in Waterstones. I have no doubt I could have found something I wanted to read here but the place had almost as many people crammed in as it had books which made perusing difficult. So once again I left empty handed, which my already waning wallet appreciated.

It was now time to head to the hotel – Hotel Saint Jacques – I would be staying in for the next couple of nights so that I could dump my stuff and freshen up before meeting my friends. I got there a bit ahead of check-in time but thankfully a room was already ready and I was allowed to go up. The hotel was a cute boutique hotel which certainly felt very Parisian. I quickly showered using the world’s most powerful shower (which soaked the bathroom), during which time my roommate arrived.

We were meant to all be meeting for lunch in a nearby restaurant called Louis Vins. My friend had a reservation for 2pm, however, inexplicably, she arrived to find the restaurant closed. Instead we met in another nearby – open – restaurant called L’Annexe. Since there was quite a big group of us, and we didn’t have a reservation, we had to wait a little while to get seated. When we did, I ordered the duck and it was delicious.

Now that we were fed, we spent a couple of hours just walking around Paris. We went by Notre Dame but the queue was long and several of us had been inside before so we kept on walking. We walked up to the Louvre (but again only viewed it from the outside) and the very modern and non-Parisian-looking Pompidou Centre. Eventually we ended up back at the hotel.

I had a power nap and we all later left for dinner at Chez Jenny, a brasserie with old-style decor serving Alsatian cuisine. We arrived a little late and most of the group was already there. It took a while to actually get served. I ordered the steak and it was good but not amazing. I figured, in France, my steak would come rarer than I ordered, so ordered “medium” instead of “medium rare”. My steak surprisingly came out on the more well done side of medium, with the outside a bit too well done. My assumption was wrong. I ordered some profiteroles for dessert because they were there but didn’t actually need them. I left stuffed.

We went on to find a nearby bar. We did have an initial destination in mind but it was a club that would take about 45 minutes to get in so we passed. We kept wandering and found a random wine bar with a fake llama in the window. There was only one other group of people in there and it looked like it was closing but they gestured us in. Inside it felt a bit weird – especially when the other group left. The place seemed new and like they were still unpacking and putting the furniture together – so we weren’t allowed to sit in the back which felt less like a bar and more like a furniture concept store. The barman did give us a recommendation for somewhere we could dance: La Boîte à Frissons – a gay bar within walking distance.

We didn’t have to queue for long to get in but we did have to pay €10 once we did. We walked in to a soundtrack of classic disco / pop tunes so we went to drop our stuff in the cloakroom, ordered a round of drinks and stepped onto the dance floor. The moment we did, the music changed from English language songs to French tunes. Had we had a couple more drinks and not been weighed down by food, perhaps we would have been more in the mood but as it was, we couldn’t really get into dancing to tunes we didn’t know. As the night went on, a couple of recognisable songs came on – like Sia and Ariana Grande and, as we went to get our coats, a bit of Enrique Iglesias. We had been to-ing and fro-ing with the idea of going to Disneyland the next day but to-ing won the day so bed seemed like the best idea.

Day Four

We agreed to meet at 9.30am to head to Disneyland. Getting up after a 3.30am bedtime was painful but we managed it. The weather had started to rain but we decided to go no matter what. The journey was an easy one. We caught the metro one stop and then the train from Châtelet – Les Halles to Gare de Marne la Vallée Chessy which would drop us right by the entrance to the parks.

There are two parks at Disneyland Paris: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. I’ve already been to Disneyland Paris twice and know from experience that the best rollercoaster is in the studios but since Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is in the main park and several of my friends, including the birthday girl, had not been at all, we of course had to go to the main one. The website had told us day tickets for one park would be about €56, however we arrived to find that this price was only available online up to 24 hours in advance. We’d have to pay €84. That was a lot more than we had been expecting but we were there now, it was my friend’s 30th and we really wanted to go so we paid. We did end up with fast track tickets so that was something.

Given that it was off-season and the weather was precarious (it did keep raining) the park wasn’t nearly as busy as it had been on my previous summer visits. We didn’t have to queue for long at all to get in and, once we did, I dragged the group straight to Space Mountain (which is now – Disney having bought Star Wars since my last visit – Hyperspace Mountain). We would have had to queue for 45 minutes if we had all wanted to ride together but since we weren’t fussed (it’s not like you can really strike up a conversation on a rollercoaster), we joined the much shorter single riders queue which was only around 15-20 minutes. We were off to a great start.

Next we went to some kind of 3D Disney orchestra show which was entertaining and meant I could kick off my already sodden suede boots.  We tried out a Snow White ride which basically just consisted of a car that took you around some movie scene sets and which finished with waving figures of Snow White and her Prince Charming, who looked just realistic enough that I thought he might be some evil villain who had been cursed and condemned to a life as a Disney mannequin. His eyes seemed to scream for help anyway. We also went on the carousel for nostalgia value and the tea cups, which were actually faster than I remembered (although this might be because last time I went on them I was with my Dad who could not get them to spin for love nor money).

We found a minimal queue at the Indiana Jones rollercoaster but as my friend and I climbed aboard we were told that the ride was closed while they fixed some kind of issue. We were given tickets so we could walk right through to the head of the queue when it opened again. By this point, we were starving so we weren’t sorry to go and find food instead. We found a nearby pizza place which charged a lot of money for some average pizza with some actually not bad garlic bread and by the time we finished the ride was open again. This time, we managed to get on and stay on until our ride was over.

We didn’t end up using our fast track tickets to our full advantage. These tickets didn’t just let you join a shorter line as and when you fancied, you had to go to the ride and get a ticket which would give you a time slot and then you could come back and join the shorter queue. What we should have done is figure out which rides had fast track and gone to get various tickets for these (the park isn’t that big) all in advance but as it was we just did this for a couple: Thunder Mountain (a decent rollercoaster) and a Buzz Lightyear laser game, which my friend and I probably would have enjoyed a lot more if the laser guns in our car weren’t broken.

Sadly due to the weather, the afternoon parade was cancelled and there weren’t really many Disney characters wandering around (I only spotted Donald Duck). I also realised the rides in Disney are not that great for non-kids. The rollercoasters are fun but not the best rollercoasters you’ll ever go on and several rides just involve cars that take you through different staged scenes (much like the Snow White ride, Pirates of Caribbean was also like this). I also found “It’s A Small World” super creepy. It was boat that took you through rooms and rooms of brightly coloured figures, set in scenes from different countries. Just like the Snow White prince, I got “I’m trapped, send help” vibes from them.

Although the experience might not have been the same as my childhood trips, when I came in the summer, stayed for a few days, watched the parades and climbed over other small children in order to get autographs from the Disney characters, it was still pretty magical because, at the end of the day, it’s Disney. I also got to do something I hadn’t done before. At 7pm, when the park closed, there was a fireworks show over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, with scenes from the movies displayed on the castle to a Disney soundtrack. It was at this point the heavens completely opened and we were drenched but we still stayed until the end. Well, almost to the end.

I had worried that trying to catch a train back to Paris when the show was over would be a horrendous experience given that everyone left in the park would be leaving at the same time. However, that turned out not to be the case. I guess a lot of people were staying nearby, thank God. Still, given how wet and cold we were, it was still a sad and soggy train ride back into the city, which we spent trying to distract ourselves by playing I Spy.

The plan had initially been to go out for dinner that night but we cold and once I had my wet shoes off, I couldn’t face putting them back on again. Instead, my roommate and I shamefully ordered the second McDonalds of my trip. We didn’t even walk the few minutes down the road to get it. Paris has Deliveroo so all I had to go was go down to reception in my pyjamas and socks pick it up from the nice man who brought it to us. We then climbed into bed and watched Sleeping Beauty. No regrets.

Day Five

My last day in Paris was spent just with my roommate. The majority of our group had left Paris by now and the birthday girl was spending her last day with her boyfriend. As it was, the two of us checked out and walked about a half hour in the direction of Angelina – a tea house, near the Louvre, which is renowned for its hot chocolate.

The interior was extravagant, with a large painting on one wall and a big mirror on the other. The hot chocolate was ridiculously rich and definitely worth the walk. I once again over ordered. I wanted something savoury but couldn’t leave without something sweet (and my hot chocolate didn’t count). I had a cheese croissant filled with multiple types of cheese and a macaron. Because, Paris. The macaron I was given was huge and although it was also vanilla, I didn’t like it as much as the smaller one I’d had at Angelina’s Versailles branch. It was a bit much but I had to do the market research to know that.

After Angelina, my friend and I just wandered. We walked passed the Place de Concorde, found an umbrella covered avenue at Le Village Royal, spotted the Ritz at Place Vendôme (along with the Vendôme Column), caught sight of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and explored the impressive Madeleine Church. We finished our explorings with a walk down the Champs Elysees (and had a look in Sephora because apparently everyone gets a Sephora other than England). Thankfully, before I started shopping and spending more money that I didn’t have, we realised it was time to go. We picked our stuff up from the hotel and headed to the Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar home.

Read about the rest of my trip:

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