Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Paris Uncovered: Part One

I’m trying a new idea out. In order to spice up not only my life but the content of my blog I have decided to recommend at least one place in each arrondissement whether it is a bar, a restaurant, or a museum. I shall endeavor to share my favourite places to go whilst avoiding come clichés and telling you some local secrets.

For those who don’t know, Paris is organized in a spiral. The districts or arrondissement start in the very centre with the 1st and work there way all the way to the 20th on the outer reaches of the city. It is a wonderfully logical system by French standards but of course it does mimic one of their favourite foodstuffs – les escargots. So let’s start at the beginning…

1st Arrondissement

Many moons ago when I first moved to Paris I received an unusual message from my Mum to say that I needed to go to a certain address at a designated time in order to collect a little present she had arranged for me. Loving the new spontaneity in my life I was excited about the adventure. My destination was a branch of internationally renowned Pierre Herme’s patisserie empire where a bag of baked goods was waiting for me. From croissants to macarons, you can purchase a plethora of French delicacies. Head to 4 Rue Cambon to sample their culinary delights after a bit of culture in the Louvre.

2nd Arrondissement

As I was compiling the list of places I want to include in this guide to Paris I couldn’t stop writing down names of places that were in this particular arrondissement so I have thus decided that it must be my favourite of all the areas of the city. Firstly I would love to recommend Sapporo or any of the other Japanese restaurants of Rue Sainte-Anne. You can always tell a place is going to be good when it is absolutely packed full of locals and they all are. When deciding where to go and have some ramen you are spoilt for choice on this bustling little street because everywhere is fit to burst. The food is glorious and the atmosphere is one of satisfied delight, but it is worth a trip to the one supermarket on the street. K-Mart is my number one place to get dumplings and sticky rice for those nights were only some Asian comfort food will do.
If delicious food wasn’t enough for you then Rue Saint-Sauveur in the same arrondissement has some of the best bars in France. Experimental Cocktail Club has to be one of my favourite drinking spots. It is expensive but it is worth it. The décor is partway between a rustic French barn and a Pigalle brothel which adds to the charm of the ever helpful bar staff.
As if that wasn’t enough it is worth a trip to the taxidermy shop on Rue d’Aboukir where they have incredible displays of animals from across the globe.

3rd Arrondissement

A bit of light relief might be needed after all of that eating and boozing and what better way to unwind than a bit of shopping? Merci has an eclectic mix of items. From clothing to homeware you can get pretty much anything at this store. Browse the stationary whilst being shocked at some of the price tags before settling down in either of the two cafes before making an impulse purchase at the till.

So there we have it, my brief guide to the first three arrondissements in Paris. Now it’s time for me to go and explore the next few! 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Wandering Through The Streets Of The City

I bought a rucksack. Not a very expensive one. Not a very trendy one. But I absolutely love it. This recent purchase has prompted me to start getting out of the flat and exploring a little bit more. Every day for about the last week I’ve tried to go for a walk somewhere new. I’m very pro-walking as opposed to cycling (because I can’t) or taking public transport (because well people). You see a lot more things when you’re walking and you can change your mind as to your destination. Paris has made me go with the flow a lot. Especially recently when life throws up little difficulties.
Taking some time to just have a think and to burn off some nervous energy is very healthy for everyone to do from time to time. Paris is a perfect place to do this as well. It is easy to navigate. Every road has a café where you can stop off for a cheeky aperitif. Plus the scenery is to die for. From wide open spaces in the numerous parks to tranquil calm by the river, you can have it all. Admittedly there are lots of tourists who can be quite slow walkers and tend to get in the way but even they can provide some entertainment.
This afternoon I popped a bottle of water and my book in my rucksack with no knowledge of where I was going to go and just set off out the front door. It’s incredibly liberating to just aimlessly wander particularly now. It is only a matter of months before I start my final year of university. The real world outside of education is certainly starting to seem quite close now so making the most of hardly any commitments is my priority now.

Walking is free exercise too, as my Dad would say. You don’t have to pay to go for a walk. Being out in the fresh air is better than being sat in bed all day. I’ve been trying to soak up some Vitamin D this week as everyone feels better with a tan don’t they? With my sunglasses on and music in my ears I feel invincible. There is no greater feeling than the freedom you get from doing what you want when you want. It doesn’t matter where you go, so just bung some comfy shoes on and a book in your bag and discover somewhere new. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Les Provinces

Uni has finished. I’m in a new flat (well the one just above my old one but that’s a whole other story). I’m currently looking for jobs. So as the real world beckons me I’ve taken some time out on Paris to try and run away from the city. There are things that are truly wonderful about living in a big city. Decent public transport, varied nightlife and cosmopolitan atmosphere to name just a few advantages. But sometimes it is quite healthy to get away from the over-priced pints and the smoggy pollution.
France has a truly excellent rail network. I can’t fault them in this respect. Reasonably priced and clean trains are what the UK desperately needs. I’ve never even seen a replacement bus here. Recently I went to Giverny to visit Monet’s house and gardens with my Gran and in a shocking display of common-sense there was a shuttle bus from the train station to the visitor centre the likes of which you’d never see in the UK. Shame however that this didn’t happen when I visited Fontainebleau with my Dad this last weekend. We decided that the best way to get from the train station to the boulders we were going to climb would be to take a taxi. Easier said than done. I rang the number the tourist information centre had given me to have the man at the end of the phone hang up on me after saying he had never heard of such a place. After a second time of trying he said there would be a taxi ready in 45 minutes. He must not have like my Parisian accent. Instead we exploited France’s rail network again and go back to the next stop where we walked to our new destination.
But after the distinct hassle/non-hassle in both situations I had a delightful time pootling around nice gardens and peaceful forests. Watching the wildlife and sitting in the sun is just what everyone needs after a few weeks of intense stress. I’d recommend it to everyone to reorder their lives and to get themselves feeling more human.

 Also the bonus of being outside a capital city is that everything is cheaper - 50 cents for a bottle of water! It really does highlight the daylight robbery that goes on in my beloved metropole. Despite the Parisians snooty attitudes to les provinces I’d implore you all to visit the surrounding areas to this delightful city. It is hard to remember sometimes that France isn’t just Paris and harder still to remember that it’s really very easy to take a day trip away from the city.