3 days of touring Paris like a rockstar!*

I know, I’m a really bad travel blogger for only blogging about a trip 4 months after I’ve returned, but I was waiting for my story on Paris to be published in the Sunday Indy first before I covered it here (ok, that happened about 2 months ago…) and I’ve also needed to wait until I had a good spare two or three hours to write about the trip because I know it’s going to take that long :) I’m working with a web developer to display all my published work in an easier to read way (I also want to make some other changes to this blog)- I know the current page is taking longer to load as my portfolio is growing, but I’ll publish the Sunday Independent “Best of Paris” story soon.

Our 3 week long European holiday started off on Paris, before we went to Spain and then cruised the Italian Riviera. Tied with New York, those few days in Paris take first place out of all the holidays I’ve been on.

I’ve been to Paris before, as a student on a very tight budget, but because the aim of this trip was to write a story showcasing the “best of Paris” – that’s exactly what I got to do – experience Paris like a celebrity does! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the 3 days we spent there were completely surreal. We stayed in a 5 star hotel, situated right onChamps-Élysées. Not just any 5 star hotel, the best hotel in Paris, as per Trip Advisor. Paris is probably the most expensive city I’ve ever been to, and staying in a 5 star hotel in the middle of all the action was just WOW. Hotel Fouquets Barriere hosted us for all 3 nights. The stunning hotel provided the perfect start and end to each day.

After our taxi dropped us off, we were relieved of our bags by the porters and stepped onto a black carpet, which inched all the way from the street to the entrance of the hotel. The lobby is rich and opulent, decorated in shades of gold and purple with wooden finishes. Velvet daybeds are strategically placed at the windows, perfect for people watching. We were greeted by name at reception, how, I still don’t know. Perhaps the receptionist recognized our Saffa accents?

An 8am arrival meant we were too early to check in, so we had the option of using the spa facilities to have a shower, or take advantage of the hotel’s offer of a complimentary breakfast, while the hotel doubled up their cleaning team to get our room ready as quickly as possible. Too excited, we declined both and left our bags in storage, immediately heading for the streets. Even though nothing was open, the mere fact that we were walking along Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe thrilled us. We stopped for tea and macarons at Laduree- arguably the most famous tea shop in Paris. If you like the look of these, you can get similar macarons right here in Jozi at C’est mon macaron.
When we arrived back to the hotel, we were escorted up to our room, after which, the number 1 Trip Advisor rating made sense.
Parisian hotel rooms are notoriously tiny, but Fouquet’s doesn’t allow itself to succumb to the generalisation. However, it wasn’t the size that impressed us as much as the thoughtful details did. The mini bar comes fully stocked and is complimentary with your room rate, with replenishments covered too. Open the cupboard and there is a light embedded in the clothing rod, which switches on automatically. You may be a bit surprised at the fact that the tv is not noticeable, until you realise it’s part of the mirror opposite the bed. Fancy breakfast in bed? There’s a button under the bedside lamp allowing you to open your bedroom door for room service, without getting out from under the covers. Similarly, there are buttons at your bedside allowing you to control the lights in all areas of your room.

 

 

Yes- that is a tv in the mirror!!

Like any girl, I’ve always dreamt of having a Louis Vuitton bag, and the LV store was directly opposite our hotel- a sign, obviously. I’d already discovered this fact after stalking the hotel on Google Maps in advance, and mentioned it to Rishav. On our first day there, we went into the store and in addition to a few things for himself, he bought me a bag! It’s definitely not my everyday bag but I try not to keep it just for special occasions either – I use it whenever I feel like remembering a bit of that magic. I mean, who goes on shopping sprees at LV? I think it was my reward for organising a kick- ass trip to Europe :)

For lunch, we had plans to meet the lovely PR manager of the hotel, Celine, for lunch at Fouquet’s Michelin starred restaurant, le Diane. An amazing fact about Celine before I tell you about the restaurant- she painted portraits for Michael Jackson for years, and knew him personally! Check out her site here.

We were soon to discover that in Paris, every meal starts with champagne. After the obligatory clinking of glasses, we savoured French delicacies like braised veal sweetbreads with Jerusalem artichoke mash and a potato and chanterelle mushroom mini-waffle, as well as lobster claw meat with morel mushrooms, peas cannelloni and a yellow wine sauce. For dessert, the pastry chef wowed us with his “exotic cup”- delicate fresh mango and meringue brunoise with a mango and passion fruit sorbet. The thing I realised about Michelin starred food, contrary to SA fine dining, is that it is really simple. The focus is on making one aspect of the dish the focus, rather than filling up the plate with too many elements.

My default plan is to spend my first day in a new city walking. I love soaking up the vibe of a city, marvelling at beautiful architecture (which there is plenty of in Paris) and just getting a feel of what life would be like there. We walked all the way down Champs-Élysées, and made our way to the Seine, where we stumbled across the famous “lock bridge”- lovers affix locks to the bridge and throw the key into the water- a symbol of everlasting love.

Paris is just so beautiful. There are lots of tourists around, but it isn’t overwhelming like in Rome. Everywhere I looked, I was struck by intricately woven Parisian balconies, or the sight of the Eiffel tower in the distance.

The next day, we lunched at the Mandarin Oriental. The restaurant was all white, in the shape of a dome. We spent a couple of hours feasting there, enjoying glass upon glass of champagne and wine. I was constantly slightly intoxicated in Paris, just as I was getting over the alcohol from lunch, it was time for dinner! Thankfully we had a spa treatment in between on this day:)

At this point, we were already on a foodie high. I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that I was in Paris, eating at some of the best restaurants in the city. Let me tell you it was a reality check when we got to Spain and had to sort ourselves out for food- Europe is expensive! Whenever I get comp’d meals I always tip 10% of the value of the meal. In Paris, our tips alone were 20-30 Euros!

We caught a taxi to Le Royal Monceau, which is a Raffles hotel. We had facials booked at the Clarins My Blend spa, which was spectacular. At the base of a large, warm toned wood and mirror-clad staircase, a door opens to reveal a dazzling world of pure white, infused with luxurious simplicity. Your shoes are removed so as not to dirty the floors, and you’re left to wait in the serene pool area, the white broken only by blue illumination from the Olympic sized 28 metre swimming pool, its image perpetuated by a wall length mirror. The spa is one of only three places in the world that offers the My Blend facial- where the blend, texture and application techniques are specific to each client. With more than 200 possible combinations, My Blend provides a tailored response to practically any skin type.

 

 

 

After our treatments, we headed to Le Royal Monceau’s restaurant, La Cuisine, which is also Michelin starred. Are you starting to see why I felt like this Paris trip was unreal?! Our camera battery died midway through the meal but here are some pics of the hotel’s bar and restaurant areas- we were even given a choice of knives to take our pick from!

We opted to spend half of our last day in Paris in Versailles, about an hour away by train. We toured a magnificent palace, and picnicked in the gardens. It was really, really busy, but we enjoyed it anyway, especially seeing the Hall of Mirrors where Charlize Theron’s Dior advert was filmed.

That afternoon, we took a walk to the Eiffel tower and while we didn’t go up, we did enjoy some yummy Nutella crepes while sitting on the grass below the tower.


When I was in New York, I experienced my first food tour and I loved it. Basically, a resident foodie takes you from one foodie spot to the next. In Paris, I hooked up with Paris by Mouth, who hosted us on a tour called “the Taste of Saint Germaine”.

Saint Germaine has the highest concentration of exceptional chocolate and pastry shops in Paris and possibly the world. It was during this tour that we learnt about the “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” title, which is representative of an artisan’s excellence, and represents the finest French establishments in 162 disciplines- from hair dressing to cheese making. Saint Germaine is home to a few of these- my favourite was La Maison du Choux- a patisserie devoted to making exquisite shoe pastry cream puffs- nothing else. A walking tour is great, because it allows you to see the city, while eating delicious food that you may not have come across had you been touring alone.

  Here are some of the places we visited on the tour- everywhere from a bakery to a cheese market!

 

 

 

 



Our last night was spent at Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière‘s other restaurant, La Petit Maison de Nicole, a traditional French brasserie, where the likes of Kim Kardashian and Beyonce have been spotted. More casual than Le Diane, this restaurant offers secret hideaway booths and live music and is the ultimate celebrity hangout. On the menu, expect to find roast chicken, fried calamari, and roast Mediterranean lobster. There’s nothing quite like sitting on Champs-Élysées at 9pm, when it’s still light outside, wining and dining while overlooking the endless pathway of trees lining the street- if that isn’t the good life, I don’t know what is.

 

And that was the end of a very decadent, completely OTT 3 days in Paris. I don’t know if such an opportunity will ever come my way again, but I’ll always think back to those few days when Rishav and I lived the high life! Ha :)

xxx H