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Published: March 14th 2011
Aaah, Paris fashion week, the ultimate event for fashionistas worldwide. Surely the streets will be teeming with stilettos and designer bags. So, why are we surrounded by dark coats and sneakers?
It has taken us the four years we’ve been living in the UK to finally take the plunge with the best value Eurostar tickets we can find and take the hop, skip and a platform change across the channel to Paris!
Our hotel is filled with Parisian chic decor and no sooner have we dropped off our bags than we’re out in to the city streets in search of Paris’ most iconic landmark. Stopping only for a quick galette in Montparnasse, we wind our way this way and that until finally the tip of the Eiffel Tower comes in to view. We quicken our pace and soon find ourselves face to face with a vision we’ve seen so many times in films and pictures. It takes our breath away.
After taking the obligatory happy snaps and doing our best to avoid the touts, we realise it’s time for us to brave the metro to meet our Toulousian turned Parisian friend for dinner.
After getting slightly lost
In the city of lights at night...
while negotiating the metro line connections, we exit the subway to find ourselves in the midst of Paris’ busy shopping precinct. Fabien directs us inside the La Fayette where we find one of the most magnificent department store interiors we’ve ever seen.
We’re then led back out in to the street and towards the Opera house. The front of it is absolutely stunning. We keep moving swiftly along and soon find ourselves in front of The Ritz under a blue sky turning pink. We turn a few more corners and a moment later the Louvre comes in to view. Standing in front of the pyramid we can see the Arc de Triomphe in front of us and to the left, a glittering Eiffel Tower as the lights of Paris glow around us. It’s more fabulous than we could have ever imagined.
Moving on, we head towards the River Seine and step on to the Ponts Des Arts (bridge) which we soon discover is covered in locks clicked in to place by lovers from around the globe. From here we can see the sparkling lights reflected in the water and a view of the top of Notre Dame beyond.
Wow- this is Paris!
Our dinner reservation is imminent so we hot tail it towards the north of the city where Fabien has found us a fantastic recommendation for the evening. We relish having an interpreter to help us make sense of the menu and choose as many authentic (and slightly quirky) French dishes as we can (think tuna tartare, braised beef with sweet potato and lychee mash and dessert of melting chocolate pot with...pepper ice cream!). It’s one of the tastiest meals of our lives and accompanied by great company and fantastic French red wine from the south west (of course).
We’ve chosen to come to Paris on this particular weekend, not to sit in the front row at a Paris Fashion Week show, but because it’s the first Sunday of the month, which in Paris means free entry to the Louvre! We’re determined to miss the queues and are up early and in line 30mins before it opens. We plan our route directly towards the Mona Lisa, barely noticing as we whizz past the hundreds of priceless paintings and sculptures along the way. She is as poignant as we had expected and we linger a while
as there aren’t many others viewing her this early in the morning.
Having seen what we’d come to find, we take our time viewing some other key exhibits until the museum cafe opens. We’re one of the first in and find a prime position by the window looking out on to the gardens and monuments extending in front of the famous museum.
Having enjoyed our morning coffee and croissant, we venture back around to some of the older artifacts from Egypt, Iran and even the Pacific Islands before leaving the Louvre and heading towards the River Seine in search of Notre Dame. We’d seen a replica of the famous gothic cathedral in Ho Chi Minh city years ago but nothing beats the real thing.
We’re not far from the Latin Quarter by this stage and find a sweet little Lonely Planet recommendation for lunch. Free range roast chicken and duck with orange are two of the standout specials. The dishes arrive promptly courtesy of some friendly wait staff who kindly oblige us in English, and the flavour of the dishes is incredible.
We’re hoping the queue will die down at Musee d’Orsay before we get there
A head with an appetite for trees.
Pacific Island Sculpture, The Lourve
so we really take our time wandering the streets along the river soaking up the atmosphere of this wonderful city.
Unfortunately, we arrive earlier than expected and the line is still rather long (as, like the Louvre, it’s free today) but we join it anyway. While waiting, we spot a couple who may well have come from Paris Fashion Week given their stand out attire among the uniform of black coats and sneakers. Hmm..perhaps we’re getting closer. The d’Orsay Museum is housed inside a wonderfully restored old train station making the paintings and sculptures not the only beautiful sight on show. We find works from grand masters such as Van Gogh (including his self portrait) and Monet among others. It’s an enjoyable visit and much less overwhelming than the monstrous Louvre.
On the way back to our hotel, we find a popular looking patisserie and treat ourselves to a slice of quiche and an eclair. So French- so tasty!
Monday is our last day in the city and we find ourselves pulled back towards the Eiffel Tower for another look and a climb! We skip the queue waiting for the lift and go straight for the stairs.
Arc de Triomphe
and that (!) roundabout...
It’s a great feeling thinking that we’re climbing the Eiffel Tower and the view from the second platform is fantastic. It’s still early and we’re starving so when we spot a cafe we agree it’s time for a fuel stop. After all, where better to enjoy our morning coffee and croissant than atop Paris’ most iconic landmark?
Before we make the journey back down, we can’t help but admire the Arc de Triomphe. It must be our next port of call!
Exiting the metro station we find ourselves face to face with not only the historic arch itself but the famous roundabout surrounding it. Apparently right of way is given to those entering and we see first hand as cars mid circuit, stop to allow others to join and cut across as many lanes as they can before carrying on! Lachlan soon decides Paris is not a city he’s keen to drive in any time soon.
The Arc de Triomphe sits conveniently at one end of the Champs-Elysees so we make our way down the famous street and soon realise what we’ve been missing. So this is where the high end Parisians shop! We’re impressed by one
fashion house after the other until we spot Louis Vuitton. Not just a shop, but an entire building! Surely, this is where the Fashion Week attendees come to between shows.
We’re told that from here west is the wealthy part of Paris Sooo....we head east on the metro to none other than a local flea market. If you’re going to explore a city why not see it all? We emerge to a sight in stark contrast from where we’ve come. Following the locals with their shopping carts, we find row upon row of stalls selling everything from leather bags and shoes to French antiques. Ariana picks up a pair of Converse- perfect for travelling she decides- when we look up and spot a giant Carreforre sign.
Given that we’re returning to England by train we can’t resist purchasing some French wine to bring back with us. And some bread, cheese and pastries for the journey home as well! Oh my!
Back in the city centre we stop by a local restaurant and order the special recommended by the friendly waiter. Sausage from Aveyron served with with a special cheesy mash synonymous with the region. It’s brilliant and
just what we were looking for.
We collect our luggage and take our last metro journey back to Gare du Nord. Once through customs, we get our first real confirmation that it is currently Paris Fashion Week. Apart from the odd dark coat and sneaker wearing tourist and a complete Argentine rugby club, the departure hall is full of models, fashion journalists and bloggers. Styled to the nines, attached to copies of French Vogue or a Blackberry and chatting excitedly about the shows, these folk have clearly had a very different visit to Paris these past few days. Ariana is impressed as she sidles past a model at least a foot taller than her on the way down to the platform. So that’s what a catwalk model looks like! A group of editors carrying designer luggage pushes past to make their way to the first class lounge. We’re not sure where these people have been all weekend- certainly not at the flea market!
Our weekend in Paris was just fabulous and well worth the wait. Forget the cliches- Parisians aren’t rude and don’t get about in berets. The city is as beautiful as they say and the food is to die for. Next time however we will go in search of the chic Parisian fashion which the city is famous for... (either that or hang out with Southerns at the rugby - if Lachlan has his way).
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