Over the Easter bank holiday weekend Gareth and I travelled to one of our favourite destinations in Europe: Paris. It had been more than a year since our last visit and we couldn’t wait to get back there, eat all the macaroons, stroll down the River Seine and soak up the atmosphere of Paris in Spring!
On Friday morning we woke at 3.30am to catch the train to Kings Cross and make the Eurostar at 7am. It was dark, cold and we were tired but filled with excitement for the weekend ahead.
We arrived in Paris at around 10am, and promptly made our way to the hotel we would be staying at – Hotel Pastel Paris. Our hotel was located in Rue Lauriston, just a short distance from the Champs Elysees. Unfortunately check in wasn’t until an hour later so we promptly dropped our bags off and headed out in to the city to explore.
We had time to kill but didn’t want to stray too far from the hotel, so we hopped on the Metro and travelled a few stops down the line to Vaugirad for a spot of shopping. Prior to our trip I had searched online for some shops that sold Sonny Angels. Sonny Angel is far more popular over in France than it is in the UK so I thought it would be fun to see what I could find and pick up.
I was in luck! In the first shop (Saprista) I bought a couple of blind boxes from the Easter 2016 collection plus a special sold out Laduree macaroon angel that was sat in a display case. In the second shop I was even luckier as I scored a little pink Shiba Inu that was on display in the window. This Sonny Angel might not look like much to some but it is in fact a very special New Year edition that isn’t sold to the public. I paid 8 euros for it and it is worth around £100-£150!
After our wander around the shops we decided to catch our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. The sun began to break through the clouds as we approached and a beautiful Easter service was being held in the grounds, with visitors holding up wooden crosses and singing Hymns on to the breeze.
When our feet began to ache we headed back to the hotel to unpack and change.
Hotel Pastel Paris is a boutique hotel located just a stones throw from the Champs Elysees. The rooms are small but exquisitely decorated in pastel shades of pink, blue and grey with chic wall-hangings and colour co-ordinated cushions. When I picked this hotel out I had been desperately hoping for a pink room, so was absolutely delighted when we pushed open the door to discover every pastel-lovers dream. With candy floss – coloured walls and zebra-printed floor I could not feel more at home.
After a quick stop and freshen up at the hotel, we headed out to peruse the beautiful Galleries Lafayette and Printemps where we stopped for our first Laduree of the trip. I indulged in a delicious Saint Honore Pistache and a cold chocolate milkshake whilst Gareth opted for a palm-sized macaroon.
Fuelled on sugar we explored the City, dropping in to a Bathroom Graffiti store for yet more Sonny Angel bargains.
Later that evening we took a short five minute walk down to Avenue Kleber to scope out the local restaurants. On previous visits to Paris we had gone for dinner and drinks in the Latin Quarter but, as we were exhausted from our long day, we decided to stay closer to the hotel – this turned out to be one of the best decisions we made during our trip.
Avenue Kleber is a bustling street lined with restaurants, bars and convenience shops. We chose to eat at Frog burger after reading rave reviews about it online and seeing the crowds milling around outside. We both ordered fries, cocktails and burgers and had the best meal in Paris we have ever eaten. The cocktails were strong and the food delicious. The restaurant itself had a trendy vibe, not too dissimilar to what you might find in London- and was absolutely packed with Parisians – a sure sign that it’s worth the visit.
Around the corner from Avenue Kleber is the Trocadero – and a great viewing platform for the Eiffel Tower. At night this space is bustling with excited tourists and street vendors peddling miniature versions of the iconic tower. I have seen the Eiffel Tower lit up at night before but it never fails to impress me with its beauty. This was a perfect way to end our first day in Paris.
On Saturday morning we woke bright and early and made our way to the Champs Elysees. As it was so early most of the shops were still shut and it was eerily quiet with only a handful of people posing by the Arc De Triomphe – us being no exception obviously.
Enjoying some peace and quiet, Gareth and I strolled down the Champs Elysees, pointing out any and all new shops and developments from our last visit. As we had tickets for Arts Forains later on in the day we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous or time-consuming.
We did however, find the time to stop at Laduree again for breakfast. I had a gorgeous Geranium flavour macaroon whilst Gareth opted for chocolate. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit Paris, without fail I will always stop at Laduree for their world-famous macaroons.
Paris is a beautiful city filled with hidden gems. As our hotel receptionist Laurie so aptly put it, you can turn any corner and discover something new and wonderful. On our first full day in Paris we visited one of those gems; Arts Forains.
Arts Forains is a curious museum dedicated to the fairground arts and is housed in Bercy’s ancient wine warehouses. Creator Jean Paul Favand said: “Laughter and parties did not have a museum, yet so many are dedicated to wars. I created a world of dreams that could not have existed without the visitors who bought it to life.” I love this quote, and the whole concept behind the Musee des Arts Forains.
Upon entering the gates at Arts Forains we found ourselves in an outside foyer of sorts; red velvet curtains hung somewhere between decadence and decay, opulent lampshades hid faux wooden legs and wooden carousel horses with peeling paint lined the walkway. We approached the ticket booth – not too dissimilar to what you might find at an old-fashioned fairground- and were assigned a tour guide.
As the tour was to be in French we were also handed paper leaflets with facts about the rides and exhibits. These quickly ended up stuffed deep in to our pockets as we wanted to experience everything as we saw it, in the present moment and without distraction.
As it was the Easter weekend we were informed there would be an activity where we were asked questions, try to solve clues and ultimately find a bunny to win a prize. I must admit I glazed over a bit as this was explained, my eyes fixated on the alluring carved wooden doors desperately excited to get a peek behind them.
As we pushed open the first heavy door the site that greeted us was spectacular. The room was spacious yet filled filled with intriguing objects, dark yet glossy, fairground light bulbs casting a dim and atmospheric glow. The main centrepiece was a curious elephant, suspended by a hot air balloon and emblazoned with bulbs. This piece represented Around the World in 80 Days and reminded me of something dreamlike.
We walked around the room, soaking it all up and taking in the extraordinary objects; pieces of driftwood shaped like various animals depending on where you were stood, a mechanical fortune teller booth, cabinets of curiosities and a giant palmistry hand. I wanted to run around it all, taking my time to snap photographs and admire each piece- we restrained ourselves though and followed our guide patiently as he took us through the pieces, explaining in both French and English the histories behind them.
As the museum is meant to be interactive, there were plenty of games to play and partake in. The first was an old fashioned derby where you raced wooden horses by rolling balls in to slots.
Later we rode on carousels of carved wooden horses and one with metal bicycles that were peddled by the riders. The bicycle carousel was my favourite and left me feeling exhilarated as it raced around the track faster and faster until I could no longer keep up with the peddles, the room becoming a blur of fairground lights reflecting off of the polished floor.
We wandered from room to room with our tour guide as he explained in detail what everything was and how it had come to belong to the museum. In one hall mechanical puppets sung and played out scenes from balconies in the ceilings, in another you could wander around stalls that had belonged in Belle Epoque funfairs.
The tour of the museum lasted nearly two hours and by the end of it we were exhausted but happy; my only slight gripe was that I wished we had been allowed more free reign of the museum. There were so many wonderful objects on display and I feel that some were a little overlooked in the rush to cover everything. Tour is the only way to see the private collection however, so I feel this may always be the case.
After more exploring of the city and much later that evening we ate out on Avenue Kleber once again, this time picking a cosy little Italian restaurant.
On our last day in Paris we woke early and walked back down to Avenue Kleber – which was now a firm favourite- and to a small bakery where we had our final Parisian breakfast.
We walked down to the Trocadero to say our final goodbyes to the Eiffel Tower before hopping on the Metro in search of the famous Sunday Bird Market in Place Louis Lepine.
On Sundays the Paris Flower Market is transformed in to one filled with feathers, beaks and squawking. We had read about the bird market online and were a little sceptical but, after paying it a visit saw the birds were well looked after. The cages may have seemed small to some but were similar to what you might find in a pet shop – temporary cages for the purpose of display. The birds were well fed with plenty of seed and millet spray and all looked bright and un-bothered by their bustling surroundings.
For people who keep birds, this market was like a dream. There were cages of all shapes and sizes, bags upon bags of different seeds, feeds and millet sprays, nest boxes and bowls, treats and toys. And of course the birds – if this market had been in London I would have come away with a new pet or two for sure. There were doves, finches of all variety and colour, budgies, chickens, canaries and more.
Obviously we couldn’t buy much- but came away with a little nest insert for our finches who have been laying eggs in their food bowls for weeks.
The market is just around the corner from Notre Dame, so of course we paid that a visit too as Notre Dame is one of my favourite tourist attractions in Paris. Sadly the queue to get in was very long (which may have been due to it being Easter Sunday) so we skipped going inside this time. (But if you’d like to see how beautiful it is inside, please take a look at my last Paris blog post here!)
From here we took a stroll along the River Seine, soaking up the beautiful surroundings and reflecting on our time in Paris.
We had a final spot of shopping and exploration before catching the Eurostar later that evening. We boarded with heavy-hearts as always not wanting to leave our favourite city so soon. But we had an absolutely wonderful time in Paris and as always, know we will be drawn back again.