One of the great things about working at Belle France is that we are given the opportunity to explore the holiday areas covered in the brochure. I have just had a flying visit to Paris arranged by the Paris Isle de France tourist office.
An early start saw me catching the 07:30 train to London and then crossing from London Bridge station by tube to St Pancras - very quick and easy journey. Our small group met at the Eurostar check-in with plenty of time to have a coffee before boarding the train for Paris. Travel in standard class, which was comfortable and plenty of room for luggage - there is a bar on board where you can buy tea, coffee etc. Don't forget you can take advantage of Eurostar's Culture Connect program -- you can use your ticket for two for one entry at number of museums and galleries - In Paris les Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Le musée du quai Branly, la Cité de la musique, le Jeu de Paume and le Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
After a smooth journey, we arrived at the Gare du Nord and were whisked off across Paris to the wonderful Brasserie Mollard - a stunningly beautiful art nouveau restaurant founded in 1867 with the original decor amazingly intact and the food is delicious as well so if you have the chance, well worth a visit: it’s open from 12 noon to 00:30am every day, all year long except for Christmas Day! If you don't have time for lunch then just visit for a cup of tea and enjoy one of the beautiful and ancient Brassieres of Paris.
Check in to our hotel at about 6pm ready to leave again at 7.15 for a coach ride through Paris to the foot of the Eiffel Tour and dinner at Les Ombres the panoramic restaurant above the Musee Quai Branly - fantastic views across night time Paris and the Eiffel Tour almost within touching distance and beautifully lit and then every hour on the hour twinkly lights radiate out across Paris - a wonderful Ah! moment. Unfortunately, the museum was closed but it’s well worth visiting and check out their website and the www.frenchgardening.com website for design by the botanist Patrick Blanc amazing array of plants cladding the exterior of a 4 story building. Finally made it back to our hotel around 11pm.
Up bright and early the next morning for a short walk through the newly washed streets to breakfast and a visit to another hotel - very bright and modern and lovely breakfast of croissant and coffee - tried not to eat too much as off on a "chocolate tasting" next. We were guided through the streets of St Germain des Près to sample chocolates in 3 wonderful chocolate emporiums - far too elegant to be called shops! Next stop: some culture in the form of the Pompidou centre - wonderful guided tour through the Mondrian/Destijl exhibition, this runs until the end of March and the permanent exhibition is well worth a visit.
Time for lunch and this time at the famous Au Pied de Cochon in Les Halles - a very traditional restaurant that first opened its doors back in 1947 and since then has never been closed - it's open 24 hours a day, every day Here the menu is dedicated to all things "pig"; even dessert came with a small, pink meringue piglet! We left the restaurant to find 4 2CV lined up outside waiting to take us on a wonderful trip through the streets of Paris stopping to visit some hidden places -- including a roman amphitheatre in the heart of the Latin quartier. This trip gives a unique view of Paris and the charming and informative drivers add to the fun. Blankets provided too, in case you feel chilly. The roof is open so you get some unusual views and these jaunty cars bring a smile to the most staid Parisian faces!
Our tour ended on the banks of the Seine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and we were off on our next trip - a night cruise down the Seine - past floodlit iconic buildings and monuments back to the dock and another delicious meal on the quai hosted by Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise and dinner at their riverside bistro - a really enjoyable way to relax after a busy day sight seeing.
Our trip to Paris ended with a lovely breakfast and with just time for a guided tour of the Opera House. It's a wonderful building with fabulous décor and, if you have a couple of hours to spare before your Eurostar home, well worth a visit. I arrived tired and happy after a wonderful, action packed two day visit to Paris. It's amazing how much you can pack in.