Paris - Part Deux
We awoke on Monday morning to glorious sunshine, very lucky for a trip taking place in February, especially given our plans for a walking tour of Paris that evening. Our tour was the only pre-planned activity for the Monday so we had the day to ourselves to choose what we’d like to see and do, amazingly my brother suggested visiting a department store, entirely uninfluenced by me no less!
My sister-in-law was already out and about running around Paris, literally. In training for this year’s London marathon she seized the opportunity to explore a bit more of the city whilst keeping up her exercise routine and counteracting the effects of French baguettes and pastries. The remaining five of us headed over to the Galeries Lafayette, which was about a fifteen minute walk from our apartment. My brother’s main reason for wanting to visit was to admire the astonishingly ornate glass dome in the main store (one of three; Coupole, Homme and Maison), I was happy to go along with this pretence of visiting, safe in the knowledge that the store in question also houses their designer handbag collections.
Upon arrival I was quickly ushered past the rows of handbags, with both my brother and husband acting as shields to prevent me from wandering amongst the gorgeous SS14 collections from Miu Miu and Michael Kors, what spoilsports! Once we’d gone past the handbags and my husband (and bank balance) could breathe a sigh of relief, we entered the central part of the store which featured the cosmetic counters and departments, above which was the beautiful glass ceiling we’d been promised. Rather than describing this in great detail, I’ll let a photograph do all the talking for me.
The store itself was truly sumptuous and we spent the next hour happily engrossed in the baby department while we waited for Faye to join us. I felt obliged to make a purchase if only to justify the amount of time I’d spent looking through the department and choose a gorgeous fluffy teddy that will become our baby’s first bear and that I can delight in telling him/her came from Paris.
Once Faye had re-joined us we headed off to grab lunch and then visited the Mariage Frères tea emporium, where we got to enjoy sampling some of their more unusual tea flavours, Sexy Tea anyone?!
We headed back to the apartment after enjoying copious amounts of tea and freshened up just in time for our evening’s walking tour. Martin, our guide for the night, arrived promptly at 6:00pm and introduced himself and his company while giving us maps of the city that he’d highlighted to indicate the best areas for shopping, eating, culture etc... it was at this point that I realised we were in for a very enlightening evening. Martin’s company (Paris by Martin) was another TripAdvisor find, originally I had been looking to book a dinner and a cruise along the river Seine, but that didn't work out and instead I stumbled across the many positive reviews of Martin’s tours. I'm always concerned when I book something that has excellent reviews that it won’t live up to expectations, but I needn't have worried when it came to Martin as his endless enthusiasm and knowledge kept us brilliantly entertained for the next five and half hours.
We spent the first part of the evening wandering through some of the more upmarket Parisian streets, stopping to look at the Opera house while Martin explained how Paris was redeveloped to feature the classic architecture that makes the city so distinctive. From there we headed over to the Louvre and then across the river to the south side of the city where we stopped off to enjoy what turned out to be the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted!
Exquisitely rich, I struggled to finish mine, but it gave us all a much needed energy boost and we headed back out into the city while Martin regaled us with stories about the history and his personal tips on where to find the best restaurants and shops. If you’re planning on a trip to Paris anytime soon then make sure you check out Paris by Martin, a tour on one of the first days you’re in Paris will really open up the city up for you and you’ll visit plenty of places you’d be unlikely to discover otherwise.
We finished the evening at the Eiffel Tower, which is where we started the day on Tuesday, it was great to see it both at night time and during the day, especially the light show that takes place every hour after dusk.
We’d pre-booked our summit tickets (definitely worth doing if you can), so skipped past the growing queue and headed straight for the elevators. On arrival at the second floor, we spent a few minutes taking in the views before hoping on elevator number two and heading straight to the top!
I was wedged between two American guys as the lift made its way to the top of the tower, both were terrified of heights and kept their eyes firmly shut whilst moaning loudly... Note: all those afraid of heights, consider avoiding attractions such as the Eiffel Tower where the main thrill is being HIGH up and viewing the city down below!
Atop the Eiffel Tower (with my eyes open) I took in the breath-taking views while attempting to remain upright in the midst of a sudden localised gale. You can really appreciate the beauty of the structure of the Parisian streets from up high, they overhauled the city in mid-1800s when Georges-Eugene Haussmann constructed the wide new avenues and imposed the architectural standards for the buildings that now gives the Paris boulevards their distinct appearance.
After lunch we headed back across the river and into the southern part of the city. Keen to explore some of the shops and restaurants recommended to us the night before, we found our way back to the Shakespeare and Company book shop, a wonderfully quaint establishment that sells everything from first editions to the latest bestsellers, all in English.
After several miles of walking the night before our feet were telling us to call it a day, so we headed back to the apartment for a quiet night in and kept ourselves entertained with plenty of delicious bread and cheese.