Instead of a having a birthday party, my eldest daughter Phoebe wanted to do something different this year. So as a very special birthday treat, Phoebe and I had some wonderful one-on-one time together in Paris! I have never done anything like this with any of my children and having some time just the two of us was so lovely. Phoebe loves art and has always wanted to go to Paris, and I haven’t been since James and I got engaged there nearly 13 years ago! So we were both very excited to make some new memories together and reminisce about some of my earlier ones!
We went during the Easter holidays by Eurostar; leaving early on a Thursday and returning late Friday night. My top tip for Eurostar is to book well in advance to get the best price as they really do vary, especially outside of term time. The journey itself was very easy and relaxing. However there were two things to note: the internet connection on the train was not good enough to watch a film, so download something before you travel, and the lounge areas both ways were too busy to find a seat.
I didn’t have a clue where or what to book for a hotel, but after lots of internet searching, I came across Hotel Terese. This wonderful boutique hotel wasn’t too expensive and had a brilliant central location, with the Louvre just a 5-minute walk away. We loved the welcoming atmosphere of Hotel Terese and found the staff friendly and helpful.
Places to eat & drink:-
Of course, the food was a fabulous part of our trip and we were recommended a lot of places to try.
Our hotel recommended Bistrot Richelieu for dinner, which is a wonderful French bistro. After an action-packed day and walking over 24,000 steps, we were too tired to go far for dinner and this place was on the same road as Hotel Terese. Bistrot Richelieu had all the classics you would expect, and we loved the steak frites!
The following day we had a late lunch/ early dinner at H.A.N.D., which was also just down the road from our hotel. It has a small menu, but the food was delicious, and it is a great spot for some food at any time of the day.
We made a special stop for the most fabulous hot chocolate. Angelina, has been open since 1903 and describes itself as a “Parisian institution”. It is very popular so you will have to queue, but it is well worth it. The hot chocolate is incredibly rich, like liquid chocolate and they have sumptuous looking pastries and a savoury menu. There is a little shop which is great for buying gifts and you can also get takeaway here if you need to avoid the queue.
Since we were only in Paris for a short stay, there are lots of places that we were recommended that I would love to try.
At the Louvre, we were impressed by the look of Le Café Marly, which had also been suggested to us. Although the reviews on TripAdvisor are a bit mixed, sitting under the arcades of the Louvre looked fabulous and it is somewhere I would love to sit and soak up the atmosphere there.
Another place that came highly recommended that we didn’t make it to is Windo Skybar. On the 34th floor of the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile Hotel, 140 metres up in the sky, Windo Skybar has incredible views over Paris. There is a Happy Hour Monday to Wednesday 5pm to 8pm and although you cannot make reservations, it is firmly on my list for next time.
Here is a list of inexpensive French restaurants in Paris that were also mentioned to me:
1. L’As du Fallafel which is famous for its falafel sandwiches and has loads of great reviews.
2. Le Bouillon Chartier a traditional, no-frills brasserie.
3. Le Comptoir du Relais a cosy bistro with a traditional French menu.
4. Chez Gladines which serves hearty Basque cuisine.
5. Au Pied de Cochon a classic French brasserie open 24/7.
6. La Cantine de Belleville a casual, trendy spot for French comfort food.
7. Robert et Louise traditional, rustic French cuisine with hearty portions.
8. La Buvette Gastrothèque a small Parisian wine bar with crafted small plates and larger platters.
9. Breizh Café which serves crepes with innovative fillings.
Things to do:-
Phoebe was really keen to see as many of Paris’ famous sites as possible so we jammed a lot into our short stay! On the first day, we tried to get a bus to the Eiffel Tower, but there were strikes and stationary traffic so walked for over an hour to get there and exhausted ourselves. The following day, we got a bus to have a tour. We had a great experience with Toot Bus which allows you to hop on and off for different periods of time. Because we were pushed for time, we did the whole bus tour in about two hours and sat upstairs with headphones which showed us all the major sites. I would do the same in another visit and use this ticket to get around Paris and see things more slowly. There are other companies that offer a similar experience (Big Bus Tours is slightly more expensive) and you can just get on and pay without booking in advance and their buses come regularly every 10-15 minutes, making it a great way to see the city and get in some of those must-see sites, such as the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Champs-Élysées and many more!
Since Phoebe is such an art lover, I was sure to book tickets to the Louvre Museum. This was a good move because the queue to get in was very long and even with pre-booked tickets, we had to wait about 20 minutes. We went straight to see the Mona Lisa, where we didn’t have to wait too long and were able to stand right in front of her, which was a fabulous experience.
Of course, in such a short trip it was impossible to see everything. If we were to do this again, I would go for two nights and would love to see some of these things that we missed:
· Tuileries Gardens a former royal garden and the first public park in Paris.
· Moulin Rouge to watch the world-famous Parisian cabaret show.
· Palais Garnier to visit the incredible interiors of the home of Parisian opera.
· Galarie Lafayette for chic Parisian shopping under an incredible steel and glass dome.
· Sacre Coeur and Montmartre to wander the atmospheric streets and sit outside one of the many restaurants of the area.
· Catacombs of Paris and see the labyrinth of underground Paris.
· Colonnes de Buren to visit the iconic artworks tucked away in the middle of Palais-Royal.
We didn’t have loads of time for shopping and only managed a few fun bits. Some tacky gift shops for souvenirs presents for Phoebe’s siblings and cousins were a must! We also went to Monoprix, which is great for fashion and not too expensive. They had some great clothes for adults and children and we really loved their baby stuff. Phoebe picked out some great bargains that were very French in style, so it was definitely worth a visit. We also visited the Samaritaine department store, which is stunning. It is very expensive, but a wonderful place for a browse. We ran out of time for Les Halles, which has great shopping and is close to the Louvre; a few people recommended this to me, so it will have to wait until next time.
Quite a few people I know who had recently visited Paris, warned me that they had felt unsafe there. Neither Phoebe nor I ever felt this; we did stay in a very nice area and were vigilant of our bags, purses and phones. Parisians do not have a reputation of being the friendliest, but everyone we met was super helpful and we got by fine with my non-existent French!
The traffic was absolutely terrible! We ended up doing a lot of walking because my maps often told us that it would be slower by car and at the Eurostar station, there was also a huge queue for taxis.
Phoebe was really keen to put a keyring onto one of the bridges as a special memory. If you want to do the same, it is a good idea to bring your own engraved key ring. My lovely husband kindly gave us one that he had had engraved. Although most of the bridges now have glass sides and all the locks have been removed, we did find a bridge to leave our keyring. I’m sure in time, ours will be removed too, but hopefully we will be able to get back there again to see it and be reminded of our very special mother-daughter trip.
Overall, we had the most wonderful time and I totally recommend going to Paris. We made so many happy memories and packed a lot into a short time. If you would like to see more, please watch my vlog on Paris; I vloged the while time we were there, and you can see everything that we got up to on my YouTube channel.
Let me know below or by email if you have any questions about any of our Paris trip. I hope you get the chance to get there soon!