We love our Belgium home and our life here but there is simply nothing like a short break in France to restore the soul, create romance, feed our imagination and indulge us foodaholics: particularly a trip to Paris. Budget flights from Brussels to Paris, are often at really cheap rates, so why not hop on that plane for a special few days away.
There are so many elements which come together in Paris to make it incredibly special. The real way to experience the city is to rent an apartment and feel like a real Parisian. It’s usually cheaper too. That isn’t to say that you can’t get this feeling when staying in a hotel but it just isn’t the same. There is nothing like coming back to a stash of ripe brie with your day’s freshly made baguette and a good bottle of red.
A favourite area to stay right now is Le Marais (3rd and 4th arrondissements) on the right bank: very vibrant and traditionally a bourgeois area. Old narrow streets with most of the area being built in the 16 and 17 centuries and now a protected area. Clean and safe, this is one of the most fashionable districts and close to the best museums in Paris, also full of trendy cafes, restaurants and funky boutiques. The real old Paris.
It is inevitable wherever you are located in Paris that there will be at least one boulangerie and patisserie within a short stroll. If you don’t want to make your own breakfast, then small cafes are everywhere to get your morning coffee and watch Parisian world go by. If you fancy something a bit more strenuous, get up at the crack of dawn for a visit to the biggest food market in the world (at Rungis in the 5th) where the selection of fresh meat, veg, cheeses and local produce from around France is all available. Don’t head for the supermarkets, go for the specialist shops, where the produce is often cheaper and certainly very high quality.
You simply can’t avoid the food! Restaurants come in all shapes and forms from budget to top end. One area with a great choice is the Quartier Latin. Numerous crepe stands for a great late night snack. Look for the prix fixe menus for excellent value. Vegetarians will find the going hard to discover a restaurant which suits. France doesn’t have many veggie options and Paris is no exception. Remember, when dropping into a bar for a drink, it’s always cheaper if you stand at the bar rather than take a table. Tables are usually close together so Parisians have learned to keep their voices down and you’ll likely get a hard stare if you are talking loudly.
The city is truly beautiful and very people-friendly, far more so than London.The key seems to be that you can forget about everything when in Paris and just revel in the splendour and grace.The architecture provides an elegance which is rare in most capital cities and something to truly behold. Everything melds together perfectly, whether it is a picnic in the Tuileries gardens, strolling along the streets window-shopping or a visit to the serene and magnificent Musee de Louvre. Paris has something for everyone.
Places to visit
The Louvre, absolutely vast and the biggest museum in the world. Of course you’ll want to catch the Mona Lisa but there is much more to see here. Most Paris museums are closed on mondays but the Louvre is an exception, closing on Tuesdays. Free entry on the first Sunday of each month but expect long queues.
Jardin des Tuileries, once a garden for the royal residence, dating from the 16th Century, and a great place to people watch or have a picnic in gardens which have made lazing round in the park an art-form
Notre Dame Cathedral, where entrance is free but you will have to pay to visit the tower, which is worth the climb for the view
Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, don’t miss the beating heart of Paris
Eiffel Tower, pay the couple of euros extra to take the elevator to the very top. You’ll be humbled by the amazing view across all of the French capital
The Seine, not forgetting to check out the Paris Plage (beach) running for some 3 kms along the banks of the river Seine!. This summer beach is by the Isle St Louis / the northern quay in July and August. The place for a romantic walk or for catching a boat for dinner along the river
Getting around is easy. The metro is quick and simple to follow, plenty of buses too. Metro tickets are cheap and it is best to pay for a carnet (book) of ten tickets, which is only about 12 euros. The best way of all is to take some time and simply walk around Paris, exploring the wide avenues and little backstreets. You’ll never really get lost in the city, just keep an eye on the Eiffel Tower and you’ll soon orientate yourself
A place you probably won’t have heard of but really worth it is Les Frigos, in the 2nd. It is between Gare d’Austerlitz and the river Seine. Extraordinary shopping in disused industrial warehouses which are now occupied by artisans.
If you are looking for some great designer clothing, then head for ‘Reciproque’ on rue de la Pompe in the 16th. This is a string of shops on both sides of the avenue with tons of designer stuff, some with 70% discount. Paris really is a mecca for high fashion connoisseurs. Top quality shoes and leather can be round on rue de Cherche-Midi and rue de Grenelle (in the 6th). For a really joyful shopping experience the flea markets are a must. The main ones are all round the city gate in the 18th and offer great bargains. Why not bring some beautiful antique back for your