So I’m old now… That being said, I’m far from growing up just yet, and went back to my childhood days with a trip to the magical land of Disney the day before reaching official maturity. Having seen warnings for temperatures dropping as low as minus 5, we prepared ourselves for a chilly visit. There was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was out, the snow white snow dusting the park was glistening rather prettily – maybe it wasn’t to be so cold after all? Wrong. It was fricking freezing. Despite being lulled into a false sense of security that we would start gently with some kiddy rides (no one is ever too old to ride on Dumbo), I found myself straight away preparing for take-off on Space Mountain. I screamed pretty much the whole way of course – putain putain putain! To begin with being swept up by the Disney spell distracted me from the biting cold, yet the more we statically queued, the more I turned to ice. We did hit all the major rides, though due to my literally oncoming hypothermia we decided to bail out before the sun went in. A perfect way to spend my last day being twenty – here one can definitely deny looming adulthood.
I was lucky enough to have two of my besties Vicky and Sarah travel up from their respective French cities Dijon and Grenoble. After myself and Sarah had a stroll around Le Marais, Bastille and Le Port de l’Arsenal, we treated ourselves to a hot drink and a pâtisserie in Miss Manon, a great little boulangerie and sit-in patisserie. I love the fact that here you can sit in with good company and enjoy your sweet treat whilst soaking up French café culture. And I always do feel like such beautifully made pâtisseries should be consumed in nice surroundings rather than à emporter chez moi in a paper bag. What’s also great here is that there is happy hour – even in pâtisseries, incredible I know! For just under 8 euros, you can have a hot drink and the choice between four mini macarons or a viennoise between 15h30 and 17h30. Considering a cappuccino can easily cost you 5 euros in the capital, this deal is pretty amazing. A good find by myself and Mairead – this place has definitely become one of my regulars.
After Vicky’s arrival, we headed out for crêpes in the quartier Latin at one of my usual spots before celebrating in a bar along with fellow Warwick Parisians Emma and Mairead, as well as a large gathering of my international friends. I’m so lucky to have made so many amazing friends from all over the world this year, I felt really touched by the effort they all made with my presents and card with personalised messages. I was also surprised by a cake along with several joyeux anniversaire sing-alongs. If people say that friendships made during a year abroad don’t tend to stick, I would have to disagree. Although the bar was not the greatest of venues (it is difficult to find a reasonably cheap bar with happy hour running late on a Friday night), it was a great night, made by the presence of everyone there. In fact, I really wouldn’t recommend the bar in the slightest – we were more or less hurled out at around half 12 in order to avoid their rip-off scheme that forced everyone to pay for the cloakroom or to leave. The wonky tables also resulted in several drinks being spilt, as well as a smoke explosion nearly choking us all on the dance floor. Though surrounded my so many great friends that night, I couldn’t have cared less.
On Saturday I got my tourist guide skills fully into action with a daytime tour around the quartier Latin for my two guests. First stop was the Sorbonne, where I can now say I actually go to for lessons. Both Sarah and Vicky admitted that they were a little bit jealous of the picturesque setting of my uni (though I had to remind them that they hadn’t, and would not want to see the other Sorbonne sites – especially the particularly moche Clignancourt!) We then visited Le Panthéon, which, despite often admiring from a far, I had never actually gone inside. Situated at the heart of the 5th arrondissement and overlooking the whole of Paris, it was originally a church dedicated to Sainte-Geneviève, yet was transformed into a secular monument now containing the remains of many French greats – Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo, Zola, Monnet, Jaurès, as well as the two grands hommes which my local metro stops are named after – Alexandre Dumas and Léon Gambetta. Spectacularly structured and adorning an exquisitely designed interior, not to mention its star-studded crypt below, I would highly recommend a visit to anyone.
After a quick promenade in the Jardin du Luxembourg, we hopped on the metro over to the chic rue de Rivoli to meet Mairead in order to introduce my two visitors to the best hot chocolate in Paris. Whilst it is almost impossible to have a bad hot chocolate in France (I made the mistake of ordering one back in London and turned my nose up at its wishy-washy texture and bland taste) – the hot chocolate at Angelina’s is in a league of its own. Having already dedicated a whole blog to the luxurious tea room, I won’t go into too much detail, but its velvety, rich signature chocolat chaud is to die for. In fact, one can struggle to finish a cup when accompanied by one of its divine pâtisseries. Despite being in a highly refined place, we couldn’t help ourselves and had some fun making various bizarre concoctions with our high-end pastries, resulting in macaroon eyes, noses, moustaches, mono-brows. Sometimes you wouldn’t think that this time next year we’ll be on the verge of graduating and entering the real world, but we can enjoy our care-free youth (minus the student debt) whilst it lasts…
We then took a leisurely stroll across the length of rue de Rivoli, lined with shops, exclusive hotels and quaint cafés. We were all rather chuffed with our finds in a vintage store called P star around Saint-Paul. Despite the cluttered rails, lack of space and rather interesting technique of hurling bags of clothes down the spiral stairs without checking for victims on the floor below, I love the satisfaction of finding something which is guaranteed to be original after hunting through rail after rail and rifling through shelf after shelf. Myself and Emma then took the girls to a favourite Korean restaurant of ours which is very good value for money and gives very generous portions. Very full and satisfied, we hurried over to Trocadéro to catch what we called ‘sparkle time’ at La Tour Eiffel. Funnily enough, this is the first time that I have intentionally sought a view of Paris’s most famous monument since living here (because I’m obviously an acclimatised Parisian now who is just sick of the sight of it…) I don’t think it matters how many times you’ve seen it, when it glitters glamorously against the backdrop of the jet-black night sky, it still takes one’s breath away.
On Sunday we stuck more to my side of Paris, starting with a wonder around Montmartre. After showing the girls the Mur des je t’aime and ducking for shelter from showers in a café around Anvers, we went to L’espace de Dali. Inspired by his visits to Paris and meeting with surrealist circles based in Montmartre, the Spaniard also met his muse Helena Gala in la ville lumière. Containing many of Dali’s unique masterpieces, particularly sculptures and over 300 original prints representing his intriguingly imaginative fantastical world, this permanent exposition is perfectly tucked behind La Place du Tertre. Heading back to mine, I started a visit tour around Père Lachaise (I’m lucky enough to have my own private entrance 2 minutes from my front door), which was rather rudely interrupted by the teaming rain.
And before I knew it, I was waving off my latest guests and struck with the guilt caused by a severe lack of work and non-existent revision for exams to be sat after the week-long spring break. However, I can only celebrate a 21st in Paris the once – a great long birthday weekend in Paris which I will always remember.