Our springtime weekend in Paris

We had such a nice long weekend in Paris earlier this month. I’d not been for many years, and when our friends announced they were running the Paris Marathon, we were only too pleased to have an excuse to tag along.

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We arrived on Friday evening and, having taken longer just to get out of Charles de Gaulle Airport than it had taken to get all the way there from Birmingham, we just had time for a nice evening meal near the Palais Garnier before the evening drew to a close. Next morning the sun was blazing as Lee and I wandered down towards the Jardins des Tuileries for breakfast while our friends went to register for the marathon. Our first discovery was this, which is presumably either a replica of Trajan’s Column in Rome or inspired by it.

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I have Instagram to thank for my discovery of Angelina, a posh cafe famous for its decadent ‘chocolat chaud’ (hot chocolate), which promised to be the perfect way to get the weekend started. Opened in 1903, there are now several branches of the cafe around Paris, but we went for the original one, which is on the other side of the Jardins des Tuileries from the river. It’s just what you’d hope an elegant Parisian cafe would be like. Note from the reflection that I have my summer dress on! Even first thing in the morning it was already wonderfully warm.

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The famous hot chocolate exceeded our high expectations, and was well worth foregoing my morning coffee for. It’s deliciously thick and creamy – pure melted chocolate and not a lot else, I’d imagine.

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You get a little pot of cream to go with it. One can only imagine the calories.

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There’s also an elegant counter selling a variety of decadent-looking pastries and cakes. To be honest, after that hot chocolate I could hardly so much as look at a cake.

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From there we walked off the vast number of calories we’d consumed with a saunter through the Jardin and along the river Seine down to the Eiffel Tower.

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The views were lovely all the way along, especially in the blazing sunshine. I couldn’t help noticing, however, how dirty and smelly Paris is! Everywhere you go, the air is filled with the stench of public lavatories (polite way of putting it), and people do not clean up after their dogs. Gross.

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Unfortunately the sun was in the wrong place for the classic Eiffel Tower shot from the Trocadero, so apologies for the truly abysmal quality of this photo.

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This is one of the twin statues that flanks the bridge linking the Trocadero with the Eiffel Tower. I assume they are Castor and Pollux, but I may be wrong.

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We couldn’t be bothered to queue to go up the Eiffel Tower, but we walked all the way around it for numerous photo opportunities instead. My favourites are the ones with the blossom.

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The Eiffel Tower may steal the limelight, but it’s just as nice to wander the elegant streets admiring the lovely architecture, imagining being a struggling writer penning romantic novels from a tiny attic apartment overlooking the Parisian skyline.

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We all had baguettes for lunch, this being France and all, and we spent the afternoon sauntering along to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysses and then getting the Metro to Notre Dame.

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The streets around Notre Dame are full of nice (but very expensive) restaurants and bars, and crepes are readily available.

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On the walk back to the hotel we walked through the Louvre courtyard, though we didn’t have time to go in. There had been a terrorist incident there just a few days before, but everything seemed to be continuing very much as normal – both at the Louvre and everywhere else we went.

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In the evening we dined at a fabulous Italian restaurant called Salsamenteria Di Parma. I know we should probably have gone for a French bistro, but this place looked great and it was half way between our two hotels.

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It didn’t disappoint. I loved the fact that they serve the wine in traditional bowls, and the food was fabulous. I could literally have ordered anything from the menu, but I was delighted with my blue cheese gnocci!

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Next day was Marathon Day and we walked down to the Champs Elysses to locate our friends on the start line. We planned to follow them by Metro and pop up at strategic points along the course to take photos and generally be supportive. We’d envisaged a nice relaxed morning of sipping cool drinks in bars while they did the marathon, but it was surprisingly challenging to keep up with them as they steamed round the course! We did a lot of walking and Metro-ing.

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I took this photo of us in a particularly reflective window, as I thought it looked quite cool with the runners in the background!

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The wisteria was already out in force all over Paris – always a wonderful sight, and extra marks here for the nice red door.

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This was the view of the marathon route along the Seine. We joined it at about 18km, 29km and 41.5km and there was always lots going on – bands playing, people cheering and so on.

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Once our friends had successfully completed the marathon and celebratory drinks had been consumed, our final port of call for the day was my favourite part of Paris, Montmartre, which is presided over by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

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The views across Paris are wonderful, though I was sure I remembered being able to see the Eiffel Tower from here!

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The square was still filled with artists at work, just as I remembered. It’s the Parisian answer to Rome’s Piazza Navona.

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There are several steep sets of stairs leading up the hillside, each with a glimpse across Paris.

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Just imagine living in the top floor apartment of that white building at the bottom of the stairs.

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If we’d had time I’d have loved to have stopped at this restaurant for a glass of wine beneath the wisteria.

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This last shot of yet more wisteria draping majestically over the wall seems a good one to end this post on. We’d have spent a lot longer in Montmartre had we had time – but that’s something to look forward to for next time.

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