This post is about my visit to Paris in August 2019 prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. I am publishing this article today later than I had planned and by doing so, it does not mean that I am encouraging travel in any form until we are legally able to do so. Please adhere to the Covid-19 guidelines as per your city and country. Read on and immerse yourself in the beauty and romance that is the City of Lights; I hope my Paris journeys inspire your future trips to Paris.
Paris Stories Sunday 25th August, journey through Paris with me and discover the Marais neighbourhood.
People often ask me when is the best time is to visit Paris? and of course anytime is my reply, every season brings with it its own charm. Spring with its fresh fragrant cherry blossom and the balmy summer heat through to the Autumnal vibrancy of colourful crispy leaves and winter with the longing and anticipation of the magical festive season. I love Paris whatever the season and month.
Christmas in Paris
Cherry Blossom near the Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit – Bonjour Paris
But visiting Paris in August is probably one of the best times to go. Parisians take their yearly vacations and there is a peaceful stillness about the city; it’s definitely one of my favourite times of year to visit. No traffic, lots of taxi availability, crowd-free streets, museums, and art galleries and if you’re lucky with the weather, it’s quite simply, perfect.
Knowing the weather was going to be hot and sunny both in the UK and Paris, my husband and I were really looking forward to returning to Paris. The only tricky part of Paris in August is finding a restaurant that’s actually open because many close for their annual vacation and the ones that do remain open sometimes aren’t open on a weekend, bizarre I know. I’m always curious as to why this should be? The weekend is the busiest time for the hospitality industry. It’s pretty unheard of in London but I am quite used to this in Paris which is why I try to do my research about what’s open and what’s not before my trip. If I’m in Paris for a longer visit, I make a point of visiting the bistros and restaurants which are closed at the weekend because I need to get through my ever growing list of places to eat! However, I had a couple of restaurants in mind, so we decided to leave it to the last minute to decide, in hindsight, that was a mistake, but it all turned out ok in the end.
We had an early Eurostar booked which got us into Paris by 12 noon which was perfect. In order to catch the first train, we had to be up pretty early. Wanting to make the most of a short trip means that an early start can sometimes mean falling asleep at the dinner table after an exhausting day sightseeing ☹ We arrived to a fiercely hot Paris as we joined the taxi line at the Gare du Nord station.
When I see this bistro I know I have arrived in Paris, they are a welcome sight. You immediately know you are leaving the Gare du Nord to begin your Paris trip. Also very handy for a quick bite to eat before catching the Eurostar home.
We were staying in the Marais as we did a couple of years ago, again in August; is there something about the Marais in August? Well with this trendy neighbourhood, there’s always something different to discover whether it’s August or any other time of year, it’s a truly captivating slice of Paris.
I had picked a really quirky hotel for our short trip, the Hotel du Petit Moulin designed by the Avant-Garde designer Christian Lacroix. The hotel was one of Paris’ oldest bakeries, Victor Hugo who lived a few minutes away on the Place des Vosges was a regular customer.
Hotel du Petit Moulin
The hotel still has the same façade and sign as it did all those years ago. Many people walk past and peek in out of curiosity not knowing quite what this little establishment on the corner of rue de Poitou is. The Marais neighbourhood is comprised of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements which neighbour each other. This part of Paris is just south of the Gare du Nord station and less than a 10 minute taxi journey away. It was a pleasure to drive through a traffic free Paris, both of us agreeing that we should visit the city more often in August. One of the first things I noticed after we arrived was how pretty and quaint the exterior of the hotel is. Old buildings like this have a “protection status” to preserve its historic past; you might see many shops with their original shop signs. It makes me really happy and very relieved to see this because these old shops are so much part of Paris’ history and culture and defines Paris in so many ways which is why many of Paris’ bistros are seeking UNESCO status These quintessential bistros are not just known for their traditional French cuisine but are an essential part of French cultural heritage.
The Parisian bistro is so much part of continental city life.
They’re a melting pot of history, people, art and life; a working lunch, a leisurely weekend brunch, a romantic rendezvous or late night dalliance, yes, the Parisian bistro is quite simply the joy of living. Pulling up one of those traditional Parisian chairs I love so much to enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee “en terrasse” is one of life’s pleasures in my opinion.
As my husband and I stepped inside this tiny boutique hotel, we were overwhelmed by how beautiful the tiny lobby was especially the ceiling; look up and you’ll see the most extraordinary original artwork.
The hotel is an eclectic mix of modernity meets 19th century and it really works. There’s a lot about this hotel that reflects Christian Lacroix’s vibe and mood. Some areas are sensuously dark even hedonistic and little bit vulgar but in a good way.
We were curious as to what our room might look like going by what we’d seen already. Whacky, 1970’s space age, psychedelic are the only adjectives I have to describe this weird and wonderful room but I won’t say much more, you’ll need to read my post about the hotel to find out more.
Shower Hotel du Petit Moulin
After a much-needed coffee, we headed out to explore more of the neighbourhood. I absolutely adore the Marias, it retains a quaint and authentic village atmosphere with medieval narrow cobbled streets and pretty little squares plus an abundance of upcoming café’s, hip and trendy coffee shops, bistros, and restaurants. Street entertainers and street art seem to have cropped up all of a sudden and it makes the Marais an even more appealing and popular neighbourhood especially with young bohemian types.
Entertainers are a regular sight in the Marais.
Street art is everywhere.
We stopped to enjoy the music of the street bands, one of many not just in the Marais but many neighbourhoods in Paris. There was a magical atmosphere in the city perhaps due to the glorious weather. It was by now lunch time and as always, my husband let me take the lead. I wanted to have lunch at Briezh Café who make the most fascinating savoury and sweet crepes, but the queue was too long and the weather too nice to waste standing in a queue. I didn’t mind too much because I had another trip planned to the Marais in the New Year and it would be less busy then, I would surely find a table at Briezh.
Street art is everywhere.
One of the best things about being in Paris is meandering around the city at a leisurely pace taking in the sights and smells; no pressure, just stopping by somewhere you’ve never been before. I realise this is hit and miss but I like to think that my intuition has been mostly spot on. The Marias with its zestful vibrancy and cobbled streets is the perfect spot for cafes and restaurants to take centre stage. One such place is just off the extremely popular rue Vieille du Temple and rue du Trésor, a pretty quiet side street with an abundance of charm.
rue du Trésor
I stumbled upon rue du Trésor on a previous visit in the month of January, even a dreary cold windy winter’s day couldn’t deter from its charm. How different it looked on this sultry hot August day, dazzling in the sunshine full of life and people enjoying lunch on the terrace. We knew immediately that we had to have lunch here especially when I noticed that they served oysters. As we relaxed on the colourful flower terrace, soaking up the atmosphere enjoying our chilled wine we felt so blessed to be back in Paris as short as our visit was. The food was great, and the oysters were delicious, we could stay here all afternoon; I thoroughly recommend this bistro.
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the beautiful little streets of the Marais taking coffee and beer breaks along the way, wine in my case! As we were walking the narrow ladder streets of the Marais, we came across a stylish Italian indoor food market on rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie called Eataly, if you love artisan food, you’ll love Eataly. Spread over three floors, it sells all sorts of authentic Italian food and wine and it has a café and bar where you can enjoy more of their delicious food, wine and coffee. We bought a few bits and pieces to take home; I honestly wanted to buy so much more but had to be mindful of how much we could pack. I was particularly drawn to the cheese counter with its huge blocks of parmesan as well as to the exqisite Italian breads, cakes and pastries. Just to let all my London readers know, there is a UK Eataly opening in London’s Bishopsgate.
We made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. We checked with the hotel about some restaurants we were thinking of going to, unfortunately the bistro I had set my heart on was closed for vacation. Something I rarely do is consult with the hotel’s concierge about where to eat, I feel I know Paris too well but they’re definitely useful for added reassurance and in this case, they recommended a restaurant in the Palais Royal called Le Mini Palais, but something told me to let the stars decide.
It was a warm and balmy evening in Paris, and we knew we didn’t want to go to a restaurant that was too formal, we also didn’t want to be confined to a restaurant booking. Though Le Mini Palais sounded perfect with both inside and outside seating, we both agreed to see where the evening would take us. First though, drinks at a bar not far from the hotel…. how tempting it was just to sit here for the whole evening. Suddenly I remembered a post about a bistro I shared on Instagram a little while ago. My fellow Parisian bloggers agreed that it was authentic with excellent food and very highly regarded among the locals. Luckily, they had an outside table free which was a bonus.
The bistro was La Fontaine des Mars. Did you know that former president Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle had visited a few years back and if it was good enough for a President, it was good enough for us. It was indeed genuinely nice; you can read more about my thoughts on La Fontaine des Mars. The highlight of the evening for me was the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower flickering in the distance and as we approached the end of rue Saint-Dominique, there she was in all her glittering majestic glory illuminating the Parisian skyline…..