We arrived there the day after Christmas and spent three wonderful days in the City of Light. It feels short but we managed to fit a lot of things in without having to run everywhere (and we barely took the Metro).
As this was a Christmas gift to ourselves, I booked a room in the really lovely Hôtel Verneuil. This boutique hotel is located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area in the heart of Paris (7e arrondissement). The location is perfect to access many amazing museums that are only a 5-minute walk from it (the hotel itself is right across the house where Serge Gainsbourg used to live). The hotel used to be an apartment building and it has the quaintest of elevators taking guests to their rooms (I do not think you could fit more than 2 people in it). The room we had was small but wonderfully designed and cosy, it definitely had a very Parisian feel to it. The overall atmosphere of Hôtel Verneuil was very relaxing and the staff were truly wonderful. It felt like staying in someone's beautiful Paris home and that they were making sure we would have the best of times. It definitely worked!
Having arrived early afternoon at the airport (it turns out a flight from Nantes was cheaper than the train...), we went straight to our hotel so we could leave our suitcases and head out for a late lunch.
Our first stop was at an Eric Kayser boulangerie as there happened to be one right on the corner where we were staying and we were really far too hungry to start exploring the area on empty stomachs. It had a seating area so we could order some savoury food, take the time to eat and even go back for desserts and coffee. The baked goods were delicious, in particular the apricot and pistachio tartlet I had (two of my favourite things in one!). Coffee arrived with an adorable miniature pistachio financier on the side; sometimes it's the little touches like this one that make a place special! We liked this bakery so much we even made sure to bring back a loaf of bread in our luggage the day we left.
Our late afternoon stroll took us to Le Louvre museum for some sightseeing. It was already closed at that stage but we were just there for a walk and admire its architecture (the museum itself is really amazing).
Our exploration of the area took us through the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés which are filled with beautiful buildings and very interesting interior design and furniture boutiques (we even passed one that was selling stunning hand painted wallpaper). Imagine owning a place in this area and decorating it with things from those shops, one can dream!
We had a quick rest at our hotel before heading out to dinner at famous French chef Cyril Lignac's bistrot restaurant: Aux Prés. The moment we stepped in, we knew we would have a wonderful time. The place has a real no fuss and cosy atmosphere that makes you feel really comfortable. And the food! We were blown away by every single dish we had. I started with the oeuf bio moelleux (organic soft egg) on a bed of curly endive lettuce and sweet and sour mushrooms. It sounds simple but was so unusual. The egg instantly reminded me of an onsen tamago egg I had in the country side in Japan. Knowing that a lot of Cyril Lignac's cuisine is very much inspired by Japan, I have no doubt this was part of the idea behind this dish. E. had the ginger marinated tuna with pickled thai chilli. It was so delicious I had to hide my fork so I would stop eating from his plate. He followed his starter with a main of beef fillet with sauce saté (a very subtle version of satay), lemon condiment and mashed potatoes. It was really well put together. My main course was so wonderful I nearly selfishly put an arm around my plate so I would not have to share a single bite with E. But I am not that bad so I did share! I had the scallops, cooked to perfection, served with the smoothest of celeriac puree and really fine pieces of apple topped with a delicate foam of peppery coconut cream. Heaven on a plate for the scallops lover that I am! We obviously had desserts, how could we not after so many wonderful dishes. We needed to taste the sweet things too! E. had the profiteroles which were just perfect and topped with delicious little pieces of caramelised peanuts. I had the milk chocolate soup with Piedmont hazelnut ice cream after being promised by the waiter it would not be overly rich (I adore chocolate but I usually avoid it in desserts after a meal, I prefer to stick with a piece of good dark chocolate instead). And it was fantastic! I actually keep dreaming about it to this day, with the subtlety of the flavours still very vivid.
We walked back to our hotel raving about the amazing meal we had just had, the City of Light having won our hearts after just one dinner out.
Our second day in Paris turned out to be very cold, windy and rainy. We knew the next day would be lovely so we swapped our plans around. This way, we would end up in cosy places most of the day.
After a quick breakfast stop at Eric Kayser boulangerie where we sipped our coffees while tasting some delicious pink pralines brioche, we headed to Musée d'Orsay which was barely a 5-minute walk from our hotel.
We spent a few hours admiring the incredible collection of Impressionist paintings there. We started from the very top of the museum where you can have a beautiful view of Paris (with Sacré Coeur in the background) and took our time walking through the different exhibitions until we reached the ground floor. I would highly recommend purchasing your ticket online ahead of your visit as the queues can be quite long to get in (and if you want to avoid the equally long queue to check in coats and bags, avoid carrying a large bag/backpack or an umbrella).
As it was well past lunch time when we had finished our visit, we walked across the Seine river while the rain had stopped so we could get some food at a little salad bar before continuing our trip for the day.
After a bit of shopping, we got on the Metro so we could make our way towards the Trocadéro area and get a nice view of the Eiffel Tower. Even though I often see many many photos and drawings of it and it is a big part of my cultural heritage, I never get bored of admiring this stunning Dame de Fer (Iron Lady). I just stood there, on the Trocadéro platform between the museums, with a big smile on my face despite the wind and really cold rain (my hands were so cold I could barely press the shutter on my camera).
As the rain was getting heavier, we quickly made our way towards the recently opened Rive Droite version of La Grande Epicerie. I was like a child on Christmas morning. This food hall spans over many levels where all you want is a giant basket to buy all the things. We got a few things for ourselves to sample on New Year's Eve and also spent a bit of time admiring the variety of chocolate bars available.
After our visit to food heaven, we went straight to get a Metro towards the 10ème arrondissement as we were meeting family members for dinner. As it turned out, a bakery I had been dying to go to was right on the corner from where we were going later so we decided to stop by. Liberté Patisserie Boulangerie is an open plan bakery where you can see the baked goods being made from scratch and where you can also meet with the artisans who make those beautiful bread loaves, baguettes and gorgeous desserts. We were there late afternoon so it was very quiet and we had plenty of time to look at the interesting design of the boulangerie. It has a mix of modern industrial style and the remaining old features of the bakery that used to be at that address. We eyed a good looking little tarte tatin immediately and knew we had to try it. There were a couple of small tables so we sat to enjoy our pre-dinner dessert (sorry? Is pre-dinner dessert not a thing?!). Once I had a bite of the heavenly tarte tatin, I knew it was the best I had ever tasted. Cylinder shaped, this little dessert had a circle of fine crispy pastry topped by many thin caramelised apple slices that just melt in your mouth. Magnifique!
We then headed to meet our family for dinner. My cousin had booked a lovely French restaurant called Les Enfants Perdus. The menu there was good and seasonal. I had a wonderful piece of veal served with various root vegetables while E. enjoyed boeuf tartare with sautéed potatoes. As we were busy catching up and chatting, we realised afterwards we had ordered the same dessert (we usually try to order different things). It was quite all right as my trio of crèmes brûlées (vanilla, hazelnut, pistachio, served in three little ramekins) was so delicious, I am not sure I would have managed to share it... The little épicerie and wine shop Les Enfants Gâtés (that belongs to the same people) across the road is well worth a visit. If we had not had limited space in our luggage and another day to spend in Paris, I could have bought a lot of the delicious looking butters and charcuterie sold there.
We spent most of our last day walking in Le Marais.
We walked there from our hotel going along the Seine River, then across the Pont des Arts onto Ile de la Cité where we walked past Cathédrale Notre-Dame (which already had huge crowds queuing that early in the morning...) and finally arrived in Le Marais via Ile Saint Louis.
After passing the lovely Place des Vosges (a square lined with beautiful houses), we finally made it to Fragments for breakfast. There is a lot of hype going about this café and you can expect a bit of waiting outside before a table is ready in the quaint space inside (and it is also most certainly pricier than your average café in Paris). I was a bit disconcerted at first that being in Paris, France, the menu was only in English and I was addressed immediately in English by the French waitress. I looked past these details and focused on the deliciousness of the avocado on toast I had heard such good things about. And it was delicious indeed! The smashed avocado was seasoned so nicely with shallots, pepper, salt, chives and really great olive oil. I ordered poached eggs with it, which were cooked perfectly. We also had some good coffee but did not try any sweet things as we had plans for the rest of the morning.
And those plans included first of all a visit to the wonderful Manufacture Le Chocolat of Alain Ducasse. I love chocolate more than anything and this was definitely my happy place. This is one of the rare bean-to-bar chocolateries in Europe and where we got to enjoy some exceptional chocolates (especially from a box of little pralines that were really exquisite). The moment you enter the small courtyard leading to the atelier and shop, you are surrounded by the most divine chocolate smell. We were lucky to be there in the morning as chocolate was being made behind the large glass wall that separates the shop from the Manufacture. It is quite a mesmerising sight. We left with a small bag of delicious things, including a bar of 75% forastero blanco Brazilian dark chocolate which was quite exceptional with its fine red berries notes.
Our following stop was meant to be lunch but we got slightly (A LOT) distracted when we passed L'Eclair de Génie on our way. So we walked in for an obligatory pre-lunch éclair (yes, I am realising pre-meal desserts were quite the thing during this trip...). We bought two: a lemon yuzu meringue one (I cannot resist lemon desserts, and especially yuzu) and a salted caramel and gianduja one with small pieces of peanuts under a copper milk chocolate glaze (which E. described as the ultimate Snickers bar in an eclair form).
After our 'apéritif', we headed to Cafe Saint Régis, a lovely bistrot located on Ile Saint Louis. It is a really nice spot for traditional French food and people watching. As for my last meal in the City of Light, I had a soupe à l'oignon, évidemment!
After all this, it was time to collect our bags at the hotel and head to the airport. This mini stay in Paris and all those lovely visits were fantastic and we should certainly plan another visit soon to see more of what this amazing city has to offer.