Boxing Day in Paris
We love Paris, it’s totally our favourite city in Europe and at Christmas it was enchanting. We had enjoyed a lovely few Christmassy days with family (cooked my first goose which was awesome!) and then bright and early on Boxing Day we headed to Paris. For some reason the train was substantially cheaper than flying this time so we booked the Eurostar. Having been and gone the reason for the cheapness was clear. It was mayhem. Completely full and hour long queues both arriving and departing, triple ugh! Flying from Southampton is soooo much more civilized. Although that said when we lived in London it made perfect sense but driving in and out make it a serious hassle. On the upside you can bring as much wine back as your case will fit!
The journey was pretty smooth and we were off and in the metro in a jiffy. We usually buy a carnet, a book of ten tickets that can be used on the metro or bus at a discounted price, they’re a great and reasonably priced way to get around. Both the bus and metro are clearly signed and easily navigable even for beginners.
Hotel des Marronniers was a treat, beautifully decorated for Christmas inside and out and located on the charming Rue Jacob a few minutes walk from the metro. It might be my favourite so far, we even had a life size reindeer in reception. Parisian hotel rooms are infamously tiny unless you pay a kings ransom. Our room was positively spacious – for Paris. On the second floor overlooking the entrance courtyard, spotlessly clean with a desk, bedside tables, foot stool and mini chest of drawers as well as a tiny built in wardrobe. The bathroom could almost fit two people. A rare treat in a city where hotel bathrooms sometimes don’t even fit one comfortably! I’ve recently changed banks and the new bank gave a £150 expedia gift voucher as incentive to change, thanks First Direct. So while we paid about the same as we would usually, the voucher made all the difference in room size. The toiletries were eco friendly and generously provided and other than the typically tiny bed and obnoxiously loud British neighbour one night, it was a really lovely stay.
Even though Paris was pretty cold, about 5 degrees in the day and hovering around freezing at night, we made the obligatory visit to Relais de L’entrecote. Turning up about half an hour before they open usually gets you within the first ten people in the line and this time was no different. By the time the doors opened at seven the line was easily a few hundred long and the end of that line will have had a further hour or so wait until the first diners left. It is the only eatery I will queue for. We love it. The staff are charming and the one dish menu, delicious every time. The balance of tourists to locals still seems to be pretty consistent.
The following morning, crisp and clear we headed to the Catacombs. I’ve been wanting to go for years but had heard of the terrible queues and never seemed to be able to prebook tickets for the dates we were travelling and always shied away from the overpriced beat the line tickets. For some reason when planning our trip this time I visited the website and found when booking with the venue direct we were able to get a 10am slot at a reasonable price, yay! When we arrived a little before opening time the line for people with tickets was easily two hundred metres long while the ticketed line was a much more appealing 10 metres.
You start with a seemingly endless descent down a fairly narrow spiral staircase. There is no indication along the way of how much farther you have to go until you reach the bottom which I found a bit daunting. When you finally get there you walk through a hundred or so meters of narrow tunnels until you reach the catacombs, which are both macabre and fascinating. There must be hundreds of thousands of bones and skulls all neatly arranged. The audio guide was great and it would have been a much less interesting visit without it. As some of the first people through we were not crowded or rushed in our exploration of the catacombs at all. I am not sure where the people in front of us had disappeared to as we are always quite quick but for most of the time we were on our own. I am so pleased we went as it really was an incredibly interesting experience, not for the claustrophobic or fainthearted but a must for everyone else! It took surprisingly longer than anticipated and it was about two hours later that we emerged, in an entirely different area, having climbed up the hundred or so steps, and found the nice, albeit hugely overpriced gift shop, and some loos at the end.
Last time we were in Paris JHubz found some sour gummies he liked and as he was keen to find some more, and I love a supermarket in any country, we spent the afternoon travelling far and wide. Which was fortuitous as our travels led us past Le Lotus in the 13th which was fan blooming tastic. I happened to spot someone eating what looked like a pretty fine pho and in we went. The restaurant was mostly empty just after midday but by the time we left it was packed with happy diners, most of them Vietnamese which I always take as a good sign. Our vermicelli salad with pork and spring rolls was so delicious it had us chomping at the bit to go back to Vietnam, roll on April! The service was fast and the restaurant itself clean and straightforward. Not a fancy place but definitely a place for a tasty authentic feast.
Stuffed to the gills we carried on our way to the Geant Casino supermarket and came across some truly staggering street art. Both on the entire side of tower block housing. The first by Antonio Correira aka Pantonio in his trademark swirling and swooping style, this time of sardines. The second by Stew of a gigantic heron. Even without the fabulous lunch and massive supermarket which had none of the right gummies these would have been well worth the trip.
No gummies found we were soon on our way back to St Germain for a little nap.
Dinner was a relaxed affair at La Citrouille a few streets over from the hotel. We discovered this little gem on our last visit and were keen to return. Alice, the house cat was a welcoming sight and the food as lovely as we remembered. It’s a traditional little French bistro with friendly service and a very well priced fixed menu.
The following morning after a healthy lay in we headed to Censier Daubenton Metro for our food tour of the Latin quarter. Food tours are tricky beasts, the weather, guide and other participants all playing a large part in the enjoyment of any tour on any particular day. We must have had the gods smiling down on us as Louis, our Parisian guide, was great. Knowledgeable and entertaining. We were joined on the trip by a nice family from outside Chicago and the day was again cold, crisp and clear. It was a walking tour mostly centred on the wonderfully named Rue Mouffetard and included stops for fresh pastries, seafood, sausage, cheeses, crepes and choux buns. While tasting the cheese, sausage, baguettes and seafood we stood outside a wine shop and shared some really yummy fleurie and a white I didn’t catch the name of. Before ending up opposite Notre Dame we had a lovely walk spotting some great street art as well as seeing the oldest tree in Paris, an acacia planted in the early 1600s.
Dinner was Vietnamese again but much closer to home at Xin Gainain as we were both cold and a little tired after the days wanderings. Our food was served in minutes and was super tasty (although maybe not as tasty as at Le Lotus).
Our final night’s sleep was ruined by an a’hole neighbour returning to his room at about 1130 and turning on the TV super loud. At 130 we’d had enough and called reception to shut him up, which they thankfully did making me wish I’d called two hours earlier but anyway.
After a wonderful morning wandering we wanted to stay close to the hotel for lunch and chose Le Pres aux Clercs just down the road. We enjoyed a very tasty lunch with excellent service. The food was generously portioned and wonderfully fresh and the clientele was also mostly French, which we love.
This was definitely one of my favourite visits to Paris. The city was as beautiful as ever and even prettier with all the Christmas decorations still up. The weather was consistently cold and clear and we found the perfect balance between exploring, eating and relaxing. I always find Parisians welcoming and friendly and this time was no different. We never found the gummies JHubz was searching for, so we’ll just have to keep going back until we do Xx