When you plan a three night city break, time is valuable. Last month I visited Paris with Lizzie for a long weekend away – the brief was to to relax, unwind and (having both visited the city before) get to know Paris a little better without the distraction of tourist attractions.
We chose to stay on the left bank (La Rive Gauche) which is south of the rive in the 6th arrondissement. Our aim? To get to know that square mile of Paris pretty well over our mini vacation… It was an added bonus that the 6th is only 4 metro stops from Gare Du Norde, our arrival point having opted to train it rather than plane it. We left Cheltenham a little before 6am and checked into La Belle Juliette just after noon. Not bad going at all.
The 6th arrondissement appealed for its central location which encompasses the historic Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, a really beautiful part of Paris. We found a beautiful hotel through Mr & Mrs Smith that was hidden away in the backstreets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés amongst antique shops, beautiful cafes and bustling street markets. Bustling with locals I hasten to add. The location was perfect, the hotel with designer decor, private spa and great touches like the provision of an iMac in each room was just what we needed to get into the holiday mood. We would stay for two nights having left our last night in Paris unbooked. Accommodation in Saint-Germain does come at a premium but as this was such a short stay we decided it was a luxury worth indulging in and anyway we would save time by not having to use public transport. For our third night we fired up the Hotel Tonight App where you can find really good deals if you are brave enough to wait until the last minute. We were able to remain in the 6th arrondissement on our third night at a fraction of the cost, albeit slightly further away from the action.
We practised our fairly basic French in the local street markets and with a little encouragement from the stall holders (and to be honest, quite a lot of English!) we left with enough organic cheeses, meats, bread and of course French Fizz to fuel a seriously indulgent picnic on the riverbank.
On our three day visit we did very little, which was kind of the point – days were spent mooching in local shops and soaking in the sights of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the weather was very kind to us so we whiled away sun soaked hours in Jardin Du Luxembourg before perching outside a cafe with a carafe of white. One evening we visited le “Relais de l’Entrecôte” a restaurant with a no-booking policy and a very limited prix fixe menu. Some advice; don’t go here if you want to have a romantic dinner date but please, please, please do go here if you want to taste the best steak frites of your life. It’s all they serve but they serve it so well. Each meal consists of a walnut salad to start, followed by steak frites cooked to your preference and smothered in their closely guarded secret recipe sauce (that apparently got published on Facebook a few weeks ago). Service isn’t exactly with a smile and the cafe style surroundings are very much substance over style… But that’s all part of the experience!
Our trip to Paris was everything we wanted it to be – a relaxing 3 day adventure into life in the 6th arrondissement but it seemed a little odd to visit Paris and only see the Eiffel Tower via the numerous souvenir prints for sale alongside the banks of The Seine… A little touristy indulgence perhaps, but hey – We were tourists! And when the driver turned up in blue and white stripy top and beret we couldn’t help but chuckle (and ask where the string of onions around the neck was) but it was a brilliant experience and we got to see all the key sites… Through the roll down roof of a tin can car that threatened to break down every time it came to a halt.