There are very few things that I would wake up before 6am to do. However, a trip to Paris is one of them and I have no problem getting out of bed before the sun rises if I am heading to my most favorite city on the planet. Paris is my home away from home and I am always excited to visit.
We had a very early morning train to catch to London from Ely in order to make the Eurostar train from St. Pancras Station to Paris, Gard du Nord. It was absolutely freezing outside when we boarded the train-a typical English morning- even though it was July 31st the temperature was only in the 50’s (10° C).
This was my first trip on the Eurostar, and although I have travelled on several trains throughout Europe, this would be the quickest ride I have taken at a mere 2.5 hours. By comparison, it is shorter than taking the bus from midtown Manhattan to the Hamptons on any given summer weekend. This makes me think that a London-Paris commute is one that certainly could be feasible. For weekend excursions, you know!
Not only is it fast, the fares are quite reasonable too, starting at £69 standard class for a roundtrip ticket. They also have many specials throughout the year and if you book Eurostar online in advance, you can find a real bargain. Another plus!
We arrived in the early afternoon in the middle of a heat wave. Paris was in the high 90’s (32° C) and the sun was beaming. It was gorgeous-the chill of England left far behind.
We made our way via metro to the flat we rented in the 8th arrondissement just a block from the Arc de Triomphe. This location is ideal for exploring the city as the 1 line metro runs through the heart of Paris and connects to nearly every other line. After settling in, we went shopping for supplies -coffee, soda, pain au chocolat and cheese at Monoprix. As I wandered the aisles I was making mental notes of items I wanted to bring back to the US- mustard, cornichons, rillettes, foie gras. The weight of my suitcase may be an issue.
Deciding on an early dinner, we stayed close to the flat eating at Publicis Drugstore’s Brasserie. Because it is right on the Champs-Elysées at the height of wealthy tourist shops, it is a rather pricey place to eat. But the view of the Arc and the ability to people watch from the sidewalk cafe makes this an excellent spot to rest and relax after a very long day.
I’ve eaten here a few times before and the food has always been quite good. This time was no exception. I usually have one of their burgers (they have a whole list of varieties), but I opted for a café offert (2 courses for 20 euro deal) and had a gaspacho de poivrons (gazpacho with red peppers) and fricassée de volaille aux herbes (chicken fricassee with herbed potatoes). My friend had a beautiful tartare de thon albacore, coriandre fraîche et guacamole (tuna tartare with coriander and guacamole) and a simply done la sole meunière (filet of sole with salsa).Despite the fact that there is a Pierre Hermé Paris here where you can experience their macarons, we opted for ice cream instead. They create supersized sundaes in a glass that should be classified as a fish bowl. Needless to say, we slept very well with full stomachs!
Thursday is Marché Bastille (market day at Bastille) and this market is one of the very best ones in all of Paris. This vibrant market begins near the Bastille column and three aisles of vendors stretch for several blocks along Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Normally there are well over 200 vendors here, but since it is summer, and August, there were not nearly as many stalls as usual, but there was no shortage of fresh vegetables, ethnic foods, meats, fish and cheeses to choose from.
It’s a perfect place to stock up on picnic supplies, find odds and ends (like the wire trivet for my Moka pot that fits over stove grates so it won’t wobble) and specialty items like carved wooden cutting boards and bowls, scarves and jewelry.
Because the crowds were light and the vendors in need of sales, we had extra time with each one we stopped to talk to. The samples were plenty and we noshed the entire morning.
How we loved several of the cheeses! Knowing we would be out the entire day, we opted to not buy any as it would have become fondue in the heat. We were however talked into buying some sausages that sweated so much and stank up such a vile stench we actually ended up throwing it away.
Wanting to share my affection of Bread & Roses we hopped on the metro to the 6ème west bank neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Luxembourg Gardens. If you read my blog, then you will know this is one of my favorite places for lunch. The quiches and tartes are incredible and their brioche makes the best French toast. Much to our dismay, after walking and walking in the sweltering heat, it was closed! But the good news is that they are renovating, expanding into the space next door and adding a larger bakery! The maitre d’ that I knew took us around the new space and showed us where everything will be. I am very excited for my next trip to see what they have done!
At this point we were pretty hot and hungry so we walked over to the Luxembourg gardens and sat out in a park cafe before continuing on. The park was lovely with all the flowers in bloom and the clear deep blue sky spanning overhead.
By now it was midday and the sun was blazing hot and we were literally puddles. It was over 100 degrees (40° C) and all we could think of was cold ice cream and air conditioning. So we started to walk back towards the right bank and to Berthillon. Once we hit the Pont-Neuf bridge, and saw the water of the Seine below, we knew that was the only place to be. Hoping for a cool breeze and a place to rest for a bit and take in some scenery, taking a river cruise was the ideal choice. The boat, from Vedettes du Pont Neuf didn’t offer much relief from the sun but there was a tiny breeze and just having the opportunity to see Paris from another view was fun. The hour went by quickly and soon we were on our way.
We wandered through the streets of Ile de la Cité and along the Quai aux Fleurs, the early 19th century flower market of Paris and over the foot bridge to Île Saint-Louis. Would you believe we passed at least a dozen ice cream take out stands on our way to Berthillon, and finally arriving to its doorstep only to find it was closed! Closed for the month of August. I wanted to scream! Defeated and deflated. Sweaty and tired. We nearly collapsed into another cafe where we had our sought after ice cream and several glasses of water.
After regrouping and recuperating, we made our way back towards the flat by way of Rue des Rosiers and a mini tour through the Jewish quarter, where I noted which falafel stands and bakeries that we should visit– another time. Our last stop was to photograph the Centre Pompidou before grabbing a taxi to bring our weary selves home.
Thank goodness there was an air conditioner in the flat. It provided much needed relief, as did a cold shower!
After a good rest and thinking of dinner we headed out to O-Chateau. But as our luck of the day would have it, not only were none of my friends there, the kitchen was already closed. However, a flight of wine and a plank of carcuterie and cheeses at the bar ended up being just what we needed and it was the perfect ending to a very full day.
Here’s where we spent some of our day:
133 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8 ème
Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, George V
62 Rue Madame, 6 ème
68 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1 ème
31 Rue St.-Louis-en-l’Ile, 4 ème
Metro: Pont Marie