WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?
Of all the cities in the world “the city of love” is one of my favs and it’s not just because it’s “Paris” (these days being a fan of Paris can sound a little cliché because let’s be honest, nearly everyone does!) but it's because I have some very special memories in this city and over time have come to uncover the real Paris. There are so many amazing facets of this city which go well beyond the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, so when you take time to truly explore it… you can’t help but be fascinated by its diversity and charm.
It comes as no surprise then that I love any excuse to find myself tucked up on the Eurostar for the 2.5hr trip to the French capital and this time we had the best excuse ever… a very special excuse even. My husband was being awarded by Eva Longoria and the Global Gift Foundation with an Award of Excellence for all his years devoted to, and achievements in, philanthropy #proudwife
So we had 48 hours in Paris and as usal we had a fabulous time. If you happen to find yourself with a good excuse to visit Paris (or maybe even no excuse at all!) here’s my 4 Top Tips for a great Parisian escape:
1. TREAD THE BOARDS: The best way to see Paris is by foot. This is a city with many different masks and I found that it’s only when you’re walking down alley ways and across arrondissements (aka suburbs) that you truly see behind each one and experience how the heart of this city really beats. There is so much colour and character to explore (for better and for worse) and for me, this how you really get to know and understand Paris and the people. Be careful though and always hold onto your bag/ purse!
2. TOURIST TRAPS: If you are going to visit the Eiffel Tower or any of the big tourist attractions (which you definitely should at least once) ALWAYS book in advance. The qeues can be dire and you could find yourself waiting for hours just to get in. There are loads of tour operators with online websites and offers, so spend a bit of time on Google before your trip and lock in a good deal with someone who has EXPRESS ACCESS (not all do) and who can guarantee you the experience you’re looking for at a price you’re willing to pay. Beware there are also A LOT of "shonky" tour operators who promise but don't deliver - do your homework, read reviews and make the phone calls before you give anyone any money.
3. MAKE TIME FOR MONTMARTRE: Everyone loves shopping in Paris and so it comes as no surprise that the famous Champs Elysees (and surrounding areas) command most peoples attention when they’re visiting. It’s the obvious choice. But for me, it’s Montmartre that I would rather spend my time as it has to be one of the most interesting neighbourhoods in Paris and is bubbling with history and character. There is great shopping (more unique and boutique-based) plus fascinating architecture and street life. My advice is not to use a map or to walk the streets well trampled by other tourists, just feel your way around the steep and cobbled streets without guidance and you’ll truly experience how magical this district is. The famous Basilica of Sacre-Coeur (the big white church) sits at the top of the hill and can be seen from almost everywhere, so as long as you’re heading uphill there’s little chance of you actually getting lost. NOTE: On weekends at different times of the year the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur hosts a fabulous market which is worth seeing, so you may want to time your Montmarte excursion around this. Again hold on to your wallet and be aware that some of these stalls are proper tourist traps... don’t be fooled into thinking that all products and prices are authentic!
4. FASHIONISTA HAVEN: OK ladies, if you want to treat yourself to something fabulous in the way of clothing, this is the place to be. Forget Colette (save Colette for cool little nick nacks and gifts) Montagne Market has the best selection of on trend style for those who really love fashion. There are two levels of brands from around the globe - upstairs being the more affordable ones (from what I could tell) and downstairs being the creme de la creme. Even if you don't have the budget to buy, it's a great spot for style inspiration so you can hunt down similar looks elsewhere with more affordable price tags.
A SERIOUS CASE OF THE MUNCHIES
Of course I’m going to bring it back to food… I always do haha. Unsurprisingly there are many fabulous places to go for food in Paris and it really depends on what mood you’re in and how much you want to spend. I find that some of the cheapest food experiences are the best, for example I can’t pass a Parisian street vendor without throwing him some euros for a tasty Nutella crepe! But if you want to do something extra special and invest a little more into a great food experience, then I find good recommendations come in super handy. There’s nothing worse than splashing the cash in a restaurant that wasn't worth it #PetHate So here is a quick list of some of my favourite spots – trialled and tested. They’ve never let me down before, so hopefully you’ll enjoy them too!
LE DERRIERE – This place is a hidden gem and the recommendation of a Parisian local who knew I loved unique food experiences… and boy did this NOT disappoint (I have been recommending it to everyone since)! Basically the restaurant tables are strewn throughout an eclectic Parisian terrace house, so you could be seated at a candlelit table in a bedroom, bathroom or even the kitchen. Sounds crazy but it’s super fun and the food is great as well as the cocktails! On a warm summer night you may want to request one of the courtyard tables for a few drinks before cosying up inside for your food.
LE CANDELARIA – For the best cheeky drink when you’ve finished dinner and don’t want the night to end. This little spot is not what it seems… from the street you think it’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall Mexican canteen (which despite it’s appearance, actually serves very tasty and fresh Mexican food) but for those “in the know” the real fun is hidden away behind a small door at the back of the premises. Yep! It’s one of those clandestine bars reminiscent of the prohibition area – tucked away and very cozy, plus serving elaborate cocktails and loads of different tequilas! I LOVE this place – very cool and very discreet.
CAFE COSTE – For lunch on a sunny day. This is a cool spot, quite sceney, not overly cheap but it’s in the heart of the city and set in a gorgeous Parisian sun-filled courtyard (my favourite part). Fav dish is the steak tartare.
LES DEUX MARGOT or CAFÉ DE FLORE – For a mid-morning pastry or an aperitif at the end of the day. Both of these cafes are Paris institutions and certainly the more touristy thing to do (but for all the right reasons)… Les Deux Magots and Café De Flore, which sit side side by side in the Saint Germain district, have long had the reputation of being the place for a rendezvous among the literary and intellectual elite. They are your quintessential Parisian pavement cafés and renowned for their famous clientele – from ex-pat writers like Hemingway to contemporary authors, artists and celebrities and although prices are over the top, it’s worth splashing out on one of these iconic cafes for the ultimate Parisian experience.
MISS KO – For a very cool and vibey Asian dinner. As you walk through the door of this low-lit Philippe Starck restaurant, you feel like you’ve just been inducted into the cool kids club. The walls are painted with trippy murals, there a tattoo-like prints on the tables and the music drums like a nightclub (in a soft and non-offensive way). It really works. The food and cocktails are fab and if you’re looking for a good place to kick-off a fun night on the town, this is your place.
KONG – For a futuristic vibe with great food and great views. This is another Philippe Starck restaurant which was very “in” back in the day and although possibly struggling to keep its trendy crowd now (lets be honest… there’s been an amass of uber cool restaurants pop up around Paris since this one launched in 2003) I still keep it on my list of favs because the principals of what made it great, still remain: great food, great drinks and great service. Furthermore I have a number of great memories at Kong and the décor + views will blow your mind!
LA AVENUE – For a fancy pants lunch in a sophisticated setting. If you like a bit of a buzz and flutter, La Avenue is known to be a bit of a high-end hot spot for celeb spotting and paps (like Icebergs in Sydney, The Ivy in London, or Balthazar in NYC). I celebrated my hens day in Paris here (thanks to my ever fabulous bridesmaid who also happens to be my stepdaughter!) as this was the spot she chose for all us ladies to la-dee-da it up! It couldn’t have been more perfect. The food and cocktails are fantastic and when the sun is shining you don’t want to leave. Like all great restaurants, it’s because of the food that I keep going back despite knowing it's a "showy" spot and the opposite of discreet. I highly recommend the tuna tartare – I’m not a huge fan of raw fish so barely ever order this dish, but I do at La Avenue… it’s my favourite dish of them all!
There are two historic hotels in Paris that provide the ULTIMATE luxury in Paris... Le Bristol and of course the George V (Four Seasons).
The Four Seasons group are devoted supporters of the Global Gift Foundation and so this was the fourth year the magnificent George V hosted the gala event in Paris - consequently we got to stay here again (super spoilt)! We took a small trip down memory lane walking through the doors as last time we stayed at the George V, my husband and I had just got engaged and escaped to Paris with one of my brothers and sister in law for a whirlwind trip of fun, laughter and romance #GreatMemories
Thank you so much to Eva Longoria, Maria Bravo and the whole team at Global Gift Foundation for hosting us and acknowledging my husbands endless devotion + achievements in Philanthropy. The work you all do with your own foundations is incredibly inspiring and we look forward to working alongside you in the future to enhance and save lives.