I’ve been to Paris quite a few times before – when I was younger, it was our family holiday of choice and we’d go every summer, driving down to Calais, taking the ferry over, spending a few nights in Paris for the sights and Disneyland then driving further south for sun and Eurocamp parks with massive waterslides. The romance of Paris is most certainly lost on 13-15 year-old teens.
I’ve also been a few times as an adult but only for work, with no time for sightseeing. I’ve also been on fashion trips where everyone scoffed at the idea of going to see the Eiffel Tower and I meekly agreed that it was all so blasé and cliché and other faux-French fashion words.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Paris properly, and I’ve never had the chance to appreciate it as the most visited country in the world, with all its romance and grand architecture and gooey cheese. So as a 28 year-old, visiting the city with best friends who are equally as Carrie Bradshaw about it, I was ready to ‘perdre ma merde’ over the City of Light.
We stayed in Montmartre, an artists’ community in the 18th arrondissement. Our AirBnB apartment had the most breathtaking view of the Sacré-Coeur – it was a truly incredible sight to wake up to each morning. That, combined with hardwood floors, gorgeous furnishings and high ceilings made this one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in.
Montmartre is a beautiful part of Paris – some say it’s unsafe at night and it did feel a bit rough around the edges, but that made it all the more interesting. Tumbledown shops and traditional boulangeries sat alongside hipster bars and brunch spots with snaking queues, and the community was a mix of old men on scooters with baguettes in their pockets and impossibly beautiful woman with severe haircuts and tattoos. I LOVED it.
We only had two full days in Paris, so we were determined to pack in as much as possible. We kicked off day 1 with brunch at HolyBelly – a recommendation on Twitter led me here and although there was a 20-ish minute wait for a table, it was SO worth it. The food was delicious, the decor was suitably stylish and the atmosphere and service were fantastic.
After brunch we walked down Boulevard de Clichy into Pigalle, to see the Moulin Rouge building. This part of Paris is quite comically ‘seedy’ and packed with sex shops called Pussy’s and Porno Stop. The Moulin Rouge is at the end of the boulevard – it’s definitely worth a visit for the iconic windmill and the interesting facts inside, but after 20 minutes we were done and on to the next.
After a couple of wine stops and a look in some of the shops, we made our way to Sacré-Coeur. It’s quite a climb but once I clocked the panoramic views of Paris I forgot my achy legs. Look one way and you’ll see the hazy city spread out beneath you; look the other and the monument of Sacré-Coeur towers above. Inside is just as awe-inspiring, with a very peaceful, calming feel and some absolutely stunning architecture.
When we’d taken the obligatory tourist photos, we descended back down the steps and into Montmartre for more exploring. There are so many winding streets leading to hidden gems – we stumbled across an amazing jewellery shop and a junk shop selling everything from plastic doll heads to old war photos.
After an early dinner at a pavement café (sweet and savoury crepes which were AMAZING), we headed back to our apartment to get ready for our main event – the final night of Jay Z and Beyoncé’s On The Run tour at Stade de France. I don’t think I’m ready to put into words how amazing it was – emotional, thrilling, dance-till-your-feet-fall-off brilliant. Come back for Part Deux tomorrow!
My Montmartre Recommendations
Eat – HolyBerry, 19 Rue Lucien Sampaix
Drink – La Famille, 41 Rue des 3 Frères
Shop – Tombées du Camion, 17 Rue Joseph de Maistre
See – Sacré-Coeur, 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre