City Break in Paris

I absolutely adore Paris. I know that won’t be earth-shattering because let’s be honest – who doesn’t? One of the things I really love about it is that you can have a different Parisian experience every time you are there – an art focused weekend; girls weekend; romantic weekend; foodie weekend; shopping weekend; or a combo of any of those.

I want to share a few of my current favourite things to do, see, and eat in Paris that hopefully provides some inspiration for you!

Eat

First things first – where are you going to eat?? There are too many wonderful restaurants, cafes, bars, patisseries, and markets to name, so I’m going to share just a few of my current favourite places:

  • Start the day off right with doing as the Parisians do and stop off at a patisserie or boulangerie in the morning and grab a croissant or pastry to go. When I was visiting in the spring, I stayed in the Marais and stumbled across an amazing little bakery called Au Petit Versailles du Marais. Turns out it has been voted as one of the best bakeries in Paris!  It's tiny but wonderful, and regularly wins awards for best bread. I highly recommend their pain au chocolat, as well as one of my favourite pastries, Paris Brest.

 

  • Fish La Boissonnerie is a lovely restaurant in St Germain. I don’t usually do this when travelling, but the food is so good that I usually end up there more than once on a trip to the city of light. The food is seasonal, tasty, and never disappoints. It also has a fresh, regularly changing menu, and brilliant wine menu to boot. Across the street from Boissonnerie is its sister restaurant, Semilla, which is also fantastic though a bit fancier or more upscale. Expect a delicious, seasonal menu and terrific wine as well. 
  • I’m a much bigger tea drinker than coffee drinker, so if you’re with me on that (and even if you aren’t), my absolute favourite tea is Mariage Freres. I discovered it a few years ago and stock up whenever I’m there. My favourite flavours are French Breakfast and Vanille des Iles. There are various locations across Paris, including a few where you can sit in and have afternoon tea. 

 

  • A lovely brunch and coffee spot is called Claus in the Marais, close to the Louvre. It's always busy and I have never organized myself enough to book a table, so I've usually just grabbed some of their lovely pastries to go and eaten them with their coffee on one of the benches in the Louvre square (perfect for people watching and stunning surroundings).  

 

  • My best friend and I went to Le Marie Celeste for the first time together a couple of years ago and LOVED it. Tricky to find (thank goodness for google maps), it’s deep in the Marais, located on a corner, and tiny. It’s also absolutely wonderful. It’s got a young, cool vibe, with a menu to match. The menu is fresh, features seasonal ingredients, and changes regularly. It’s great to go with friends and try various things through small sharing plates. But the real star might just be the incredible cocktails they concoct.

 

  • Bistrot Paul Bert is possibly one of the most traditional French restaurants I’ve visited. Fantastic food but what really stands out in my mind is the dessert course. It may have been the enormous cheese plate they brought to the table (think a large cutting board with big pieces of cheese and a knife to cut off the amounts that you pleased!), the rum cake that came with an entire bottle of rum to pour yourself (incredible!), or the magnificent Paris Brest that I tried for the first time and fell in love.

 

  • If you’re looking for a great quick lunch or snack, pop into the fab food hall at Printemps! I stopped in while shopping on my last visit and sat at the counter of a Spanish tapas vendor enjoying sparkling wine and tapas. Lovely!

 

  • Mama Shelter is an excellent place for cocktails at night and is where cool Parisians hang out.

 

  • I have saved the best for last. Promise me that you will go to L'Eclair de Genie for life changing eclairs? Yes? Ok. Seriously though, these eclairs are out of this world good. There are a few locations now but the one in the Marais is my favourite.

See/Do

There are a million things to do and see in Paris that it would be impossible to list them all – especially as everyone’s interests and tastes vary. If I was to recommend a single thing though, it would be to just wander around the city without a plan and few glances at the map. Perhaps start wandering along the Seine and crisscross over the bridges, such as Pont Alexandre, Pont Marie, Ile Ste Louis, etc.

Here are some of my other favourite places to visit at the moment when I’m there:

  • Check L'Institut du Monde Arabe. Zaha Hadid designed the building, so it is not only stunning to see on its own, but it features an incredible free view on the roof terrace. The café is great to stop for sparkling wine, mint tea, and some baklava too!
  • Visit the parks in Paris as each are unique and beautiful in different ways. The Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes are my favourite parks to wander through.
  • My current favourite museum is the Rodin Museum. Much of the museum is actually outdoors in their beautiful gardens, which is also a favoured location for Dior during Paris Fashion Week.
  • I’ll come right out and say that I'm obsessed with the Eiffel Tower. I think the best place and time to see it is at Trocadero super early in the morning - like 7.30/8ish when there are barely any people around. There's a wonderful little mobile coffee place there where you can grab a cappuccino and enjoy the view before wandering down the Champ du Mars. Alternatively, when it sparkles at night (each hour from twilight to 1am for 10 minutes on the hour each hour).
  • The Place des Vosges is lovely to wander and hang out in, as well as the newly re-opened Palais Royale. Cafe Kitsune is in the Palais Royale, so it’s a great place to grab coffee and sit outdoors when the weather is nice.
  • If you plan to do the Louvre, plan it carefully and have a game plan. It is enormous and overwhelming, so don’t put pressure on yourself to see everything. Do your research beforehand and pick a few things you’d like to see and focus on those areas. The best times to go are early morning when it first opens, or later in the day a couple of hours before closing to avoid crowds.
  • Walk up the steps to the top of the Arc du Triomphe as the 360 view is fab from the centre of Paris!

 

Shop

  • Bon Marche is a must! It’s personally my favourite place to visit and shop when in Paris. They have the best in beauty, contemporary fashion, accessories, and homewares - and the store itself is stunning! While you're there, take a break and stop in at the Rose Bakery inside and have one of their famous carrot cakes and coffee or tea.
  • Printemps is a fun store, though my favourite things about it are the food hall (across the road in a separate building from the main store) and the rooftop terrace where you can enjoy stunning views across Paris free of charge (one of Paris’s best viewpoints and little known to many tourists). There’s a great café up there to enjoy something to eat and drink while overlooking the city.
  • If you're as obsessed with toiletries like I am, you have to visit City Pharma in St Germain. For many in the know, it is an essential pilgrimage and I would happily take the train from London just to stock up. It has the best products, like Caudalie, Avene, La Roche Posay, Klorane, etc, at inexpensive prices. Be forewarned - it gets insanely busy I suggest going early on a weekday morning or later in the evening on a weekday if you can.
  • Shop some of Paris’s local independent shops as well as homegrown talents, such as Isabel Marant.
  • I can’t forget to add Colette to this list, possibly Paris’s coolest shop! You can find Colette and many other wonderful upscale stores to shop along one of Paris's most famous shopping streets, the Rue Saint Honoré.

 

 

Getting To Paris

Paris is easily accessible as a major transportation hub:

Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Palliser

What are the essentials for an afternoon tea? I take afternoon tea seriously and feel like I can be a discerning guest. For me, there are five key things I like to look for that I think makes a great afternoon tea worthy of recommending:

1. Quality of Service

2. Scone Quality

3. Mixture and Balance of Savoury and Sweet

4. Quality and Selection of Teas

5. Atmosphere

I recently had the great pleasure to have afternoon tea at the Fairmont Palliser, located in Calgary, Alberta, and I have to say that it excelled on all of those key points! Firstly, the stunning, classic Rimrock Room where the Palliser holds their tea is steeped (pun intended!) in history. This grand room has played host to many guests over its 101 year history, including everyone from Canadian Prime Ministers, Sharon Osbourne, British Royalty, and the Game of Thrones cast! 

The service is impeccable. We were attended to from the moment we arrived - and not in an annoying, hovering way. They genuinely want to ensure you are looked after and have everything you need and want. I was amazed at the depth of knowledge that our young server had of the teas he brought around in a lovely box. He could give you every last detail of the entire extensive selection from where the leaves were from, pros and cons of loose leaf versus bags, what goes best with what food, and how long to steep the tea for. 

When you arrive at your table, there are the loveliest little touches and attention to detail, such as the beautifully presented menu, a gift of the Palliser's own blend of tea to take home (Margaret's Hope Darjeeling), the white lace tablecloth and crisp linens, and classic centrepiece of a single white rose. It is obvious that a great deal of care and attention has been put into making guests feel welcome and have a luxurious experience that they will remember. 

The vanilla scones were just perfect - not too sweet and perfectly baked - and paired with a delicious selection of jams and cream. Having the right cream for scones is essential and the Palliser's choice was terrific: not too heavy and not too sweet.  There was a delicious range of sandwiches from classic cucumber, to salmon, to a very light curry chicken. I'm not usually a fan of curry chicken but I have to say that it was so fresh and very light in flavour, surprising me with how much I enjoyed it! And the little cakes... absolutely divine! I've had afternoon tea in other places around the world where the desserts can dominate the experience, making it sickly sweet and you leave feeling a bit ill. Not here - the desserts were the perfect ending and everything was in balance with each other. 

My friend and I were a bit of a last minute addition to attend the tea. My friend, Andrea, is celiac and as soon as we mentioned it to our waitress, she went to the kitchen and worked with the chef to produce an incredible speed of treats that she could enjoy. It was incredibly thoughtful and we were stunned by the service and how they went out of their way. We later had the opportunity to meet with the Chef who came to our table, which was another absolutely brilliant touch. It was great to let him know how much we appreciated it and how much we enjoyed his tasty treats all around. 

Now, we had the opportunity to attend afternoon tea on a special day at the Palliser, which was celebrating Heritage Day in Calgary. As such, all of the guests moved to another beautiful room where we had the chance to enjoy a talk on the fascinating history of the Palliser over the past century and experiences and memories from its many guests over the years! Who would have thought it has played host to everyone from members of the British Royal Family, to Prime Ministers, to Brad Pitt and Angelina Joie, Bill Murray, Marilyn Manson, and the wildly popular Comic Con celebrities (and eager fans!). 

Overall, it was such an enjoyable experience with impeccable service! I just wish it was closer to home so that I could enjoy it on a regular basis; though, perhaps the distance is what also makes it special to enjoy every moment. This would be a brilliant outing to go to with girlfriends, take your mum, a bridal or baby shower, or just because it's a weekend! 

If you're in Calgary, make this a must-do on your list! The Palliser's Afternoon Tea Service is held daily between 1 to 3pm. To ensure that you can enjoy this service, give the Palliser a call and they will be more than happy to help you with securing a reservation (tip: book before 11am on the day of the service at the latest, if possible) The tea is $37.50/person plus tax and worth every penny!  Also very cute - there is a junior high tea menu offered for children under 12, which would be a lovely experience. Keep your eye out also for special tea events that the Palliser will hold during the year for an extra special experience.

 

A big thank you to the Palliser, Jacqueline and team for a wonderful, memorable experience. I can't wait to return!