So Hôtel Paris has opened its doors this week, and is fully booked for the rest of October! For starters, I was to play hostess for my home friend Steph until Thursday. Seeing as she goes to Canterbury, we’re ironically living closer to each other now than when I’ve been at Warwick for the last two years. When picking her up from Gard du Nord, I instantly commented on the size of her suitcase, as she was only here for four days. ‘I need room to bring back wine!’ – typical Steph, though with the prices here I can’t blame her! Having my first visitor here did involve me bunking several lectures (sécher un cours in French), though this is not a routine of mine obviously! At the same time, I felt happy enough leaving Steph to roam Paris by herself whilst at seminars and work as she has visited before and is a born-and-bred Londoner (and can therefore work out the metro fairly easily). In the morning we headed to Montmartre as it’s in the North which is close to uni for me. We visited a rather trendy café called Kooka Boora around Pigalle recommended in a blog I’ve read. You definitely cannot be in a hurry or on a budget when visiting this place – I paid 8 euros for a latte and gateau à la banane and we waited a considerable amount of time for our coffee to be served. That being said, it was the first time I had found latte served in Paris, made with fresh milk and thick foam, so it was definitely worth the wait!
We then went for a stroll round Montmartre and went in the Sacré Cœur before I had to leave Steph to go to a seminar and then straight to work. (I have already mentioned how much I love this arrondissement so I won’t bore anyone again with more details!) What I forgot to mention is that the horrible weather has, for the moment anyway, conveniently stopped for my long line of visitors. It was actually almost like summer the Monday and the Tuesday, I actually walked around in a t shirt for most of the day, which was very odd for the end of October! We had arranged to meet that evening at Notre-Dame and spent the evening in Saint-Michel, another area which I am becoming very fond of. After picking up a baguette and picnicking along the Seine, we headed for some wine in one of the nearest bars called Les Étages. It was still rather crisp in the evening so we decided to sit outside and take in the Parisian street bar culture. We were pleased to see that our wine was accompanied by complimentary snacks – and not just your bog standard peanuts or pretzels, but olives and honey-glazed peanuts at that. Plus, these were generously refilled every time we were near to finishing, to the point where we couldn’t actually eat anymore!
Tuesday was the day of grèves (strikes, something the French are well-known for) and museum closures. When meeting Steph after class on Tuesday afternoon I found out that she had tried and failed to get into the Musée d’Orsay as there was apparently some sort of strike going on. We then attempted to go to the Centre Pompidou, only to be informed by a lovely French man that it was closed, as are most museums in Paris apparently – something which I need to remember in future! The day was not going quite to plan so far, though we had some crêpes which always makes things better! I also got to see the Zidane headbutt statue, which immortalises the infamous moment in the 2006 World Cup Final that France will never forget. We had a promenade along the Seine in the sun, seeing Hotel de Ville and the Conciergerie (the first royal palace in the capital used as a prison during the French Revolution). After meeting Steph again after work we opted for a night in with more baguette, Camembert and wine. Having not at all been a fan of cheese before moving to France, I think I am slowly being converted. My mum will be proud, who has never understood my objection to cheese, especially French cheese!
Our Wednesday did not get off to the best of starts either as the Catacombs were sadly closed due to ‘an air conditioning problem’ (who needs air conditioning in October!?!) This was a shame as neither of us have ever visited the Catacombs, not being one of the first things which usually spring to tourists’ minds when in Paris! We then treated ourselves to a coffee and sweet treats in a nearby café (tarte aux framboises for me and tarte au chocolat for Steph) before heading to Les Halles for our return to the hopefully open Centre Pompidou. Being typical girls, we of course got side-tracked for a bit in the Les Halles shopping centre! We also spotted Fontaine des Innocents on our way, the oldest monumental fountain in Paris constructed during the Renaissance.
Seeing as modern art is more my thing than older stuff, I really enjoyed the Pompidou. Being the largest museum for modern art in Europe it is home to several modern greats such as Picasso, Kandinsky and Andy Warhol. I love its contemporary architecture too, which has a skeleton of brightly coloured tubes also used as escalators to take you to different floors. The view of Paris from the very top is also pretty amazing. In the evening we decided to return for cocktails to the Beaubourg area– a buzzing stylish arrondissement full of bars which I would definitely recommend (with happy hour in many bars going on until 23h!)
So my first try at being a Parisian tourist guide has been rather successful I would say, if not tiring! Being at uni and work whilst playing hostess is not exactly easy, but it was absolutely lovely to see Miss Stephanie Cockburn before returning to London for Christmas. As Steph cannot speak French, I apparently sounded truly fluent to her, and it was also rather entertaining to hear of her adventures attempting to speak French when ordering in cafes without me! Time for Hôtel Paris to have a quick tidy-up before the next guest arrives tomorrow evening, my fellow French Historian bestie Vicky McKeever!