Our visit to Paris in November was mostly for my husband’s birthday and since the 24th (the day of his birthday) fell on a Saturday, I decided to treat him while at the same time, I would be able to satisfy my lust for Paris and gather info for my blog. This time as with our last visit in March, we were staying in the Grands Boulevards in the 2nd arrondissement. A district of Paris in the right bank with it’s large boulevards and covered passages, its theatres and lively entertainment, I needed to discover this part of Paris in greater detail. I’m sure it will take me another visit to really have the time to spend in each of Paris’ covered passages so I’m planning a couple of solo trips to Paris next year to discover more. My first solo trip will be in late January 2019 so watch this space for more, which part this time? you’ll have to wait and see.
Unfortunately, we arrived in Paris on a day of riots, anti-fuel tax protesters protesting about the rise in fuel prices were wreaking havoc on the Champs-Élysées and surrounding districts. Police had to use water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protestors who were rallying against rising fuel prices on Saturday, the day we arrived. Café’s, shops and vehicles were set alight, the aftermath was clear that evening as we were going to our restaurant, scary stuff!
It didn’t take away from enjoying the city, it takes more than a riot to spoil my fun. I’d heard so much about the Hotel des Grands Boulevards, an upcoming hotel group by the guys behind the Experimental Group with bars and hotels across Paris, London and a new ski lodge in Verbier. It’s a contemporary, quirky and vibrant hotel but not to the point of being soulless or clinical, here at the Grands Boulevards, it’s all about style and retro touches, subdued lighting giving off a very sexy aura, read my review here. We were welcomed and made to feel very much at home, did I tell you about the intoxicating aroma circling the reception and lobby? It took us a while to figure it out, the Experimental Group have created a spicy winter candle that’s perfect for the festive season, gentle wafts of this delicious scent permeate the reception and lobby. Did I buy one? Much to my husband’s shock at the 45-euro price tag, I reassure him that that’s perfectly normal for a luxury candle, well of course I bought one, it burns in the evening at home above my fireplace, it’s perfect for the festive season.
As we pass through the lobby, I can’t help but notice a unique theme running through the hotel, arches and large light bulb-style lights. We’re shown the Shell Bar where we’ll have a drink no doubt later in the evening. Then the stunning courtyard, it looks like you’re in a greenhouse-type orangery, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here and there’s a stunning central bar where you can enjoy drinks any time of the day, it’s the hub of the hotel.
Were had a Superior room booked which was amazing, it’s all in my blog post. Outside the terrace, a march was taking place, this time a very peaceful and colourful one, we were told it was Women Against Male Abuse and Violence and I fully support that…
After we discovered our room and made use of the cool Nespresso machine, we headed out to see more of the Paris’ covered passages mostly located in the 2nd and neighbouring 9th arrondissements. I have some personal favourites, Passage des Panoramas and Galerie Vivienne. The covered passages are very historic dating back to 19th century and each have their own unique charm. It’s what makes the 2nd arrondissement so interesting and for me, very special. The passages of Paris have the most unusual and quirky shops you rarely find in London for example, second hand books to stamps and a shop dedicated to the humble walking stick.
Inside the passage Joufroy is the Musée Grévin, a French Madame Tussaud’s, you can quite easily spend half a day wandering around all of them and I really recommend that you do. Trying to capture good photos of the passages is a near on impossibility as they’re always so busy so I suggest perhaps an early morning visit but bear in mind that many close just after 5:00pm. We wanted to have lunch at Canard & Champagne but unfortunately, they close around 2:30pm and open again for dinner at 7:00pm. Try and take an early Eurostar so that you can come straight here first with your luggage, that way you can enjoy lunch here. Canard & Champagne is located within Passage des Panoramas, you can find the entrance on Boulevard Poissonnière less that 5 minutes from the Hotel des Grands Boulevards.
From there, we made our way to Galerie Vivienne, unfortunately it is still being renovated but even that couldn’t hide the obvious beauty of this covered passage. I’ve heard stories that people are not happy with the proposed works since it wouldn’t be in keeping with the original features of the gallery. It’s being referred to as “destructive renovation” the glass roof will be difficult for the shop keepers and traders to deal with, I assume because of the greenhouse effect, the gallery will get quite hot during the day. In fact, a petition has been set up to preserve the identity of the Galerie Vivienne and I agree, the authenticity of the gallery must be preserved and not just Vivienne but all the covered passages in Paris. With that in mind, I really do hope it will be sympathetically updated. The mosaic floor is simply stunning, look up and you’ll see fabulous lighting and chandeliers and I love the light yellow-cream coloured theme of this gallery.
Right at the exit of Galerie Vivienne is Bistro Vivienne, with its outdoor seating, those familiar check Paris chairs that I’m obsessed with, I feel right at home. We sit down to have a much-needed bite to eat, Mr LmP chooses his favourite French Onion Soup while I greedily devour a whole block of foie gras, yes, it’s naughty I know, we make no apologies, we both adore this French delicacy.
As the sun begins to set, outdoor heaters are on, we enjoy our late lunch and Sancerre wine and feel lucky that we are in Paris again – my Paris stories, my Paris life, a new journey through Paris every time I come here. With the evening beckoning, we decide to go back to the hotel, unfortunately google maps seemed to take us the wrong way and before we knew it, we were full circle back at Bistro Vivienne. Since my husband’s favourite football team were playing, a big match seeing Spurs meet Chelsea, I understand the urgency of returning to the hotel so that he could sit at one of the many “pubs” to watch the footie and his beloved Spurs play with a beer while I got ready, it was his birthday after all however could we find a cab?
We couldn’t understand why we couldn’t find a cab, the many times we’ve been to Paris, we’ve always been able to hail a cab but there wasn’t a green light free, all the cabs’ red lights were on meaning they were taken. It dawned on us that it was because of the fuel protest, available cabs were all taken ferrying people around and some were understandably not working that evening. We booked an uber however with Mr LmP’s mobile running out of battery, we managed to secure a booking only for the phone to die just as the Uber driver phoned, were we ever going to make it back to the hotel? It was by now 6:30pm, tempers were were well and truly frayed, we found a taxi rank opposite Opera Garnier, the queue wasn’t too bad so we made it back by 6:45pm and Mr LmP caught some of the football so that restored the equilibrium.
I don’t think I ever got ready for a night out as quick as I did which was a shame as I enjoy the slow pace of getting ready maybe enjoying a glass of bubbly. The hotel had very kindly offered two complimentary cocktails at the Shell Bar and we wanted to take advantage before dinner. The restaurant was booked for 9:00pm, the cab for 8:35pm so we basically had 25 minutes to enjoy our cocktails 🙁 I always prefer to have at least an hour at the hotel bar. Shell Bar has a cool hip vibe with many people coming from outside to enjoy the Experimental Club’s innovative cocktails. In fact, about a 9 minute walk from the hotel is the Experimental Cocktail Club Bar which we just didn’t have time to visit, another reason to come back to the Hotel des Grands Boulevards. The devastation from the earlier rioting was clear to see on practically every street corner near the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe, it was very upsetting to see but we made it to the restaurant a little bit late but it was expected given the circumstances. The restaurant was full, a testament to the resilience of Paris and its tourists.
Dinner was booked at L’Ami Jean, a neo-bistro recommended to me by an American food blogger I follow, Wendy Lyn from Paris is my kitchen, I’d been warned that the restaurant is small and everyone is packed in like sardines. Conversation flows and it’s noisy with a good homely vibe. The kitchen is open for all to view and watch talented restaurant owner and chef Stephane Jego create the most delicious and inventive Basque food. The tasting menu is Chef’s speciality where he gets to create the menu on the day depending on his mood and what produce he can get hold of. There are signature dishes such as the wild hare with pomme puree which was part of our tasting menu and his speciality rice pudding but not just any rice pudding, we were completely blown away. By the end of the evening, the restaurant still full at 12 midnight, we left or waddled just about able to walk and stuffed to the brim. I was very happy with my restaurant choice, this is exactly the sort of place my husband wanted to dine in, unpretentious surroundings, the food does that talking, it was his birthday after all, it was all about him today.
Paris Stories 25th November to follow…….Love Helen x
All photo’s are my own, ramblings are my own too!