I’ve a confession. I wasn’t captivated with Paris when I visited it for the first time in the autumn of 2013. I couldn’t understand what the hype was all about; the city was grey and dirty and full of tourists.
So when my husband suggested spending a weekend ahead of a conference he was attending, I thought ‘why not?’
I suppose location is everything. This time we stayed centrally in La Madeleine in a small boutique hotel called Madeleine Plaza.
We arrived at a comfortable 5.30pm at Gare du Nord and navigated fairly quickly to the Metro. Mind you there are three different lines so you need to make sure you get the correct tickets! We got on the RER Blue 12 to Madeleine. Four stops and fifteen minutes later, we got to our hotel which was just round the corner from the Metro.
First thing first at check in: wifi code and recommendation to a restaurant nearby.
“If you want something French and no fuss, try Chez Papa. It’s south-west cuisine and about 5 mins walk from here, turn right as you exit the hotel and another right,” said the lady at the reception.
The reviews on TripAdvisor were fairly positive with a few negatives as expected. Given that all we had was a baguette sandwich for lunch we were feeling quite hungry and decided to head to Chez Papa. Who knew restaurants in Paris only opens at 7.00 pm! With about 20 mins to spare we wandered around the area and Sam had already identified the patisserie for breakfast!
There’s a really nice vibe to the 9th arrondissement. It’s also very centrally located, with the Place de la Concorde about 9 mins walk away. And from there you can pretty much walk along River Seine to all the famous landmarks of Paris.
We still had great light after dinner and decided to take a walk, which turned out to be a good 5km to the Louvre and back! No complains though as we got the Louvre at dusk and it was lovely.
Day 2, Saturday: After breakfast at a delightful little patisserie round the corner from our hotel, we were on a mission to get some decent landmark photos! The fact that the weather forecast wasn’t looking too good in the afternoon made this even more urgent!
After a quick stop at the Madeleine, we were staying in the area afterall, we walked along Rue Royale to Plaza de la Concorde and took a right towards the Arc de Triomphe along Champs Elysess.
From there we headed south along Avenue Marceau towards La Seine. I love this walking route as it’s a slight downhill towards the river.
We ended up in the 7th arrondissement by the Assemblée Nationale and found a cute brasserie for lunch. By now the storm clouds are looking ominous and there wasn’t much chance of us wandering around in the rain. Fortunately the sky opened up just as lunch finished and we thought of heading to a museum.
The last picture to check off was Notre Dame. The last time we were here, the cathedral was covered in scaffolding and we were delighted that all renovations were done!
Our legs were starting to ache after 6 hours of walking, guess it’s time to make our way back to the hotel for a short rest before dinner.
Gosh. Dinner. Where do I begin. Without realizing we made reservations in a seedier part of the city where we traversed across town and made it to Belleville. First impression was did we just ended up in Chinatown? Turned out as we were walking out from the Metro, it was a ‘working alley’ with working ladies peppered along the pavements. *faint*
That aside, Le Sainte Marthe was a quaint little restaurant slightly off the craziness of Belleville. We found the restaurant tucked in a corner of a square and as Sam puts it, ‘it looks promising.’ Dinner was lovely and Norah as the hostess was perfect. We finished the meal feeling very guilty. Or at least I did!
The trek across town was all worth it!
Day 3, Sunday: We woke up this morning wondering where we should wander today given I need to be at Gare du Nord by 4.00pm. We thought of venturing around our neighborhood since we’ve not seen much of it and ended up in St Augustine in the 8th arrondissement.
We decided to head up to Montmarte after breakfast. It’s never been a destination for Sam since he never had good memories from his last visit when he was 18. What a lovely surprise it was!
While deciding our route, we found a bus from Pigalle that we would take up to Sacré Cœur, the church up on the peak of Montmarte. Many websites suggested either taking the funicular or walking up through the back streets up to Montmarte. No. The better idea would be to take the Montmatrobus right up to the peak and take a leisurely was down to Abbesses for lunch!
Paris, you’ve redeemed yourself. Or rather, we finally found out what everyone else was raving about. What a wonderful weekend. Thank you.