Ohhh, Paris. My happy place. My one true love. My city. As anyone who has ever spent more than 5 minutes within earshot of me will know, I bloody love Paris. Having spent 10 months living and working in (well, near) the city, Paris holds some of my happiest memories; maybe it was the carefree lifestyle, maybe it was the cheap wine, but Paris me is my favourite me of all. Confident, sassy with the ability to speak French somewhat decently, I often find myself wishing I could be that Parisienne once again.
Traveling to Paris from Amsterdam really could not be much simpler, with the Thalys running every hour to the French capital, with a journey costing as little as 30 EUR each way. Bing bang bosh, and 3 hours later you emerge bleary eyed in the heart of the city. That being said, I have not taken advantage of this deal as much as I would like to; indeed, whilst I would happily spend every weekend exploring a new corner of the city, we have only been over twice in our 2 and a half years on the continent. Must improve. Last month, however, we took advantage of a Friday Koningsdag to escape Amsterdam for a long weekend à Paris.
We stayed with B’s parents in the outskirts of the city in a small AirBnB, located about 30 minutes walk away from the imposing tower of Montparnasse. As the group’s elected ‘Paris expert’ (I can point out a good Happy Hour from a few blocks away, but that’s about it), it was down to me to choose our first day of activities. Shunning my ingrained desire for a day spent on the banks of the Seine inhaling bread and cheese, we opted for a sunny stroll along the canal Saint Martin, a scenic part of the city I’d never actually seen in the flesh before. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t see any Eiffel Towers or Notre Dames in this part of town, but for an authentic early afternoon stroll it’s hard to do better.
In order to fuel our rampant excursions through the city, we booked a lunchtime seat at L’Assiette, a highly-recommended eatery owned and operated by David Rathgeber, the one-time protégé of Alain Ducasse. A very French establishment, L’Assiette offers a selection of classic dishes in it’s very reasonable prix fixe menu. From steak and octopus risotto for the main course to crème caramel au beurre salé and île flottante for dessert, I was in heaven from start to finish. Not to mention the bottomless bread basket (only the French can truly understand my love of bread) and the rather delicious glass of red I had on the side… I’ve had worse starts to my day. The day finished with a stroll through the Marais and peaking into the many beautiful boutiques in the arrondissement – probably my favourite in all of Paris.
On Day 2 of the trip, we decided to play it a little bit more touristic. A classically-Parisian breakfast of pastry upon pastry upon pastry was neatly followed up by a stroll through the Tuileries Garden and a peak at the Louvre (and maybe a cheesy photo or two). For lunch we headed to Chartier. This place was recommended to me by a French friend (so therefore her word on food must be taken as gospel), but as we were waiting to go in it was B’s mother who had the biggest revelation of the day: “I’ve been here before!” Yes, indeed, turns out that B’s mother had already dined here… 30 years ago. So this place has been on the scene a while (since 1896, fact fans!); luckily she liked it then, and she liked it now just as much (even if the children were in tow this time). This place has a fancy setting (worth the visit in itself) but its food is down-to-earth and well priced. If it takes your fancy, make sure to get there early; we arrived just before noon (my friend tipped us off) and got a seat easily, but 20 minutes later and the queues were already out the door. Proof, if proof was needed, that this place has something of a reputation. And it bloody well lives up to it.
Day 3 was spent largely at ease, with our train home to Amsterdam booked in for late afternoon. We contented ourselves with a rain-soaked peak at the magnificent Notre Dame cathedral and a wander around the Île St-Louis, topped off with a crêpe (my only one of the trip – #sadface) and a coffee. Not too shabby.
Overall it was a pretty laid-back weekend in Paris, which is the best kind if you ask me. Lovely as always to spend time with B’s parents, but also a great reminder to me of just how at-home I feel in the city. I often joke about feeling half-Parisian, but there’s something about the place that just makes me content. Lucky for me then, that Paris is only a 3-hour train journey away. And with tickets starting at 30 EUR each way, I have no excuse to not make it a thing.