It was a daunting prospect, travelling to Paris on my own but I knew it had to eventually happen. With my first solo trip fast approaching, I was getting more and more nervous by the day, but did I have to be? I really want to do a separate post on what it’s like being a solo traveller, so I’ll keep this one brief, I really didn’t have to be nervous at all. I was meeting friends that I had made on Instagram and I think that this had subconsciously put me into a bit of a panic. I’m not great about meeting new people as I think I am quite a shy person, so I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the whole trip but at the same time, very excited.
When I first put this trip together, I was planning to stay in the 10th arrondissement simply because I wanted to walk from the Gare du Nord to the hotel stupidly nervous about getting into a cab on my own. Plus, the fact that I’d be discovering a new arrondissement would be fun. The 10th where the Hotel Whistler is located (this was the hotel I had picked if I stayed in this district) is an upcoming area, its key feature is the Canal Saint Martin, but I soon put that to bed when I realised, I could explore more of the Marais. I know the Marais quite well by now and I figured if I stayed another one or two times, I’d be able to continue my “24 Hours in Paris” category. Failing dismally to add to this category so far – I’ve only featured the Latin Quarter but with another opportunity to stay in the Marais this August, I’ll have plenty to write about and share with you all the gems of the Marais neighbourhood.
The journey to Paris on the Eurostar is always pleasant, with the train coming to a stall, I was super excited, but I also felt quite weird without my partner-in-crime. I joined the queue outside the station and patiently waited my turn for a cab. I was about to brave getting into a cab on my own! Sure, it was simple enough and I was OK, I text everyone at home and said “I’m good, I’ve arrived, I did it and got in a cab” like it was some massive achievement, lots of sarcastic messages were firing back at me and I realised how pathetic I sounded. But for me, it was a massive achievement, it felt good.
I got to my destination little more than a 10-minute cab ride later, my hotel, The Hotel de la Bretonnerie on rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie. I was a guest of the hotel having been invited to stay and review. I was so excited to be staying in the Marais again, it’s an area with so much charm and history with its narrow streets and cobbled alleyways, museums and little cafés and boutiques and I couldn’t wait to get “stuck-in”. I had a time plan and I was firmly going to stick to it so a quick luggage drop off and a few photo’s later, I was off to be begin my solo adventure. I notice how central the hotel is, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Marias which is just so convenient and in close proximity to everything I want to see and visit.
It’s a lovely warm and charming little hotel full of character and vibrancy thanks to its crimson colour theme running throughout the hotel. This included my room which was so romantic with a four poster-like bed surrounded by gorgeous drapes.
Prior to leaving the hotel, I charge my phone for 10 minutes while texting my friend Alix from the blog A Hedgehog Travels and a Hedgehog in the Kitchen, more on Alix and her husband Hugo later. Armed with a map courtesy of the hotel and my mobile acting as my Satnav, I make my way to Café des Musées on rue de Turenne for lunch. It’s a bistro I’ve long admired and wanted to eat in, I noticed it when I was in the Marias in October 2017.
Apparently, they make the best beef bourguignon with pommes puree but because it’s quite filling, I decided to have a starter instead. You’ll probably be shocked to know that I love foie gras and I have it as many times as I can when I’m in Paris. You might all have your opinions about this popular French delicacy, and I make no apologies that I enjoy it and so that’s what I had for lunch! I will definitely come to Café des Musées again just to try their beef bourguignon, might it be too winter a dish to eat in August? We’ll wait and see.
After my delicious foie gras, I make my way to the first museum on my list, the Musée Cognacq-Jay on Rue Elzévir also home to the Musée Picasso which I visited in November. The Cognacq-Jay brings together the works of the 18th century acquired between 1900 and 1927 by Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay. Upon his death, Ernest Cognacq bequeathed his collections to the City of Paris to perpetuate a presentation of his works. The entrance to the museum is quite small giving the illusion of a small museum but it really isn’t.
It has about three floors with the most elaborate and intricately designed collection of 18th century artefacts, paintings, sculptures and furniture. The star is definitely the magnificent regal four poster bed. I’ve always wanted to visit and was so glad that I did, at 3:00pm when I arrived, a small queue was already forming. The museum costs 8 euros to enter and is open Tuesday to Sunday, allow yourself at least an hour to explore.
Mindful of the time, I headed over to Place des Vosges, it’s the jewel of the Marais and probably my favourite too, it’s also home to the Victor Hugo museum.
It’s essentially a little square of serenity, so peaceful, a tiny park, its perimeter dotted with cafés, art galleries and boutiques. I walk over to the home of Victor Hugo and I am in absolute awe. Visiting the museum is immersing yourself in the life of this great author and poet. The house, now a museum is simply breath-taking, it feels like stepping back in time. The home opened as a museum in 1903 largely because of admirer and friend Paul Meurice himself a playwright.
There’s so much I’d love to tell you about Maison de Victor Hugo, the story behind its inception and the historic pieces housed in the museum so I’ll do a separate post about museums in the Marais in a post later on in the year. Entry to this museum is free and is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm however audio guides can only be hired until 5pm which cost 5 euros, temporary exhibitions are between 6-8 euros.
It’s about 5:30pm and I was due to meet Hugo and Alix, how apt we were meeting at Café Hugo! It was dark by now and Paris was chilly with a cold wind that was beginning to bite and the rain was coming down. Café Hugo is always busy and of course, typical of every Parisian café, there’s outside seating which was also full. What you need to know about Parisians, all French people and everyone on the continent for that matter, sitting outside is paramount, they like nothing better than to sit and watch the world go by. They coined the phrase “people watching” and here at Café Hugo and every single café in Paris, there are blankets and outdoor heaters.
I sit and wait at the tables that are further away and therefore are not shielded by the elements and feeling quite chilly by now, I get a message from Alix to say that they’ve been help up by the Yellow Vest protesters who after two months are still around, in fact as I am writing this, it has been exactly three months since these vile protesters hit the Parisian streets disrupting life and causing chaos. Finally, Alix and Hugo arrive, we recognise each other instantly, by now, I’ve managed to secure an inside table and I’m cosy and warm. We order drinks and happily chat, why an earth was I nervous? They are the nicest couple ever and it’s like we’ve known each other forever, Hugo’s English is perfect, and Alix is fluent in French, I’m in awe. We while away the time with wine, beer and coffee until we decide its time to go and eat.
From London, I’d decided after a fabulous recommendation from a blogger friend to eat at Les Philosophes which is literally 5 minutes from my hotel. The is a very popular Marais bistro on the renowned street, rue Vieille du Temple.
Hugo ordered a typical French hearty dish, the main ingredient I am told by Alix is a very strong smelling sausage 😊 apparently it isn’t just the amount of garlic in the dish, its what its made from which is lots of offensive smelling offal encased in caul fat (intestinal membrane that surrounds the internal organs of most animals such as sheep) and formed into a sausage shape. I can’t smell a thing but Alix tells me, the smell comes later, to which I reply “who’s sleeping in the spare room tonight”!!Alix and I choose a delicious smelling appetising Beef Bourguignon but with sauté potatoes, not Pommes Purée which is what I was hoping for.
We have more wine and finish off with dessert, I order a very popular French dessert, Crème Brulee and Hugo and Alix share an unusual cappuccino cake which is the restaurants’ speciality. The conversation flowed all evening and I was so thankful for these two lovely people that I had met via Instagram, Alix has Italian roots originally from New York and had always loved Paris from a very young age. Her supportive mother natured her love of Paris sending her to Paris for holidays many times while she was young. Seventeen years ago, Alix settled in Paris for good and then met her French Prince, the rest is history.
We walked back to my hotel while we chatted away and made plans for Sunday, my final day. I had an amazing first day in Paris and needn’t have been nervous or worried.
Day two of Paris stories January 2019 coming soon!!