It was my wife’s birthday on the 18th this month so we popped over to Paris on the Eurostar. The ticket included brunch, and champagne as well as wine with the meal so by the time the train pulled into the “Gare du Nord”, we were well into the holiday feeling. After all the dreadful tales of the Parisians refusal to help tourists (Even Mitterrand told them to be more helpful to foreigners) we thought we’d play smart. I programmed our hotel and all the places Pam wanted to visit into my little Nuvi GPS so we wouldn’t have to ask directions. It even gave a list of all the Metro underground stations within whatever vicinity we were in, so we didn’t even have to ask for the Metro. A little bonus was when the taxi driver saw I was following the route on the GPS, we tended to get to where we wanted with no dilly dallying around the back streets.
The first day in Paris was spent travelling around in the “L’Open Tour” tourist bus which helped get the layout of the city with all the tourist spots. A visit to their website will give you an idea of their charges and you can even order the tickets in advance by way of an email voucher you print out.
Our hotel, the “Champerret Elysees“, was an excellent jumping off place and the only bad thing about it was the drinks were far too generous! But we got around this by buying one before going out for dinner, and sharing it between us.
Through a blog by “Etienne Marcel”, we discovered an excellent low cost restaurant for lunch just off the “Champs Elysees”, or to give it its full name “Avenue des Champs-Élysées”. It is part of a chain within France, called simply, “Flams”. They sell an Alsace type of pancake which, although not really like a pizza, is the best way I can describe it. Etienne’s description will give you a better idea.
Our first dinner was local to our hotel as we were tired from travelling and was quite expensive. Not really any different to a thousand others for me to want to talk further about it. We later learned that the area where our hotel was situated was the “Mayfair” of Paris hence the high costs.
The second night we ate at Etienne’s favourite, “Chez Stella” for less than half the previous night’s meal and it was excellent. The restaurant was almost an extension of the owners’ dining room and everyone, staff and other diners alike seemed to belong to the same happy family! Etienne Marcel explains further in the above link.
No man goes to Paris, with a woman, who doesn’t get dragged along to the “Galleries Lafayette” in the Boulevard Haussmann. This is a magnificent department store which first opened in 1893, and started by two cousins, Théophile Bader and Alphonse. As you can see from the photograph, there is a centre area which stretches from the floor to the ceiling on the seventh floor. It really is all very beautiful. However, when Pam looked at a jacket in the fashion area I put my foot down very forcibly and said “Non!” It wasn’t the fact that it was an “Amani” that upset me. It was the eight hundred Euro price.
I won’t talk about the daytime periods of traipsing around the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and all the other sightseeing places which I had seen all too often before (I lived in Paris in the fifties for three years) but it was Pam’s birthday treat and she knew little of Paris. This blog is about food and accommodation. Not about sightseeing. However, I will post one or two photographs.
In the evening of Pam’s actual birthday we went to “Le Train Bleu”, a most magnificent restaurant at the “Gare de Lyon”. It was where all the posh knobs would eat before going on the famous blue train (of years gone by) to their mansions on the south coast. There are some words, independently written about this wonderful “Station Café”!
We had a splendid meal and it came to less than £200 for the two of us. I was very pleased as I fully expected it to be up to double this cost considering the type of establishment. It covered a two course meal (we were far too bloated to attempt a sweet). We started off with a half bottle of champagne and followed it with a half bottle of excellent burgundy. One thing we immediately noticed was the excellent choice of half bottles with no attempt to decrease the choice quality wise. Pam had smoked salmon, but when she gave me a taste I discovered it was not like any smoked salmon I had tasted before. It was out of this world. I had a duck paté, everyone has to have duck at some time in France, and we both finished off with a mouth melting fillet of beef. After the meal we finished with “Le Grande Liquors”, these were their special high quality drinks – and should be at around twenty-five Euros a “snort”.
The three night stay, courtesy of Driveline came to a combined charge of £405. This covered a return to Paris from St Pancras by Eurostar, including newspapers, wine or spirits or both, a meal on the train all included, and three nights bed and breakfast in a three star plus hotel. It should be noted that Driveline has now been taken over by the AA so deals like this may or may not be available in the future.