If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen all my posts from Paris, where I spent the past few days, including my 30th birthday. When I plan blog posts, I usually think of the skeleton first, and then start writing. I knew I wanted to share a little bit about turning 30, but also a bit about my week in Paris. So I’m just going to share both 🙂 I know I have some readers who are more interested in food recommendations, and others who are more interested in self reflection type posts, so apologies in advance if I’m boring you!
Milestone birthdays like this always get us thinking about.. life. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the last decade, and the decade ahead. My life has done a 180 since my 20th birthday. Back then, I was dating an absolute loser. I had just finished my second year of university and almost failed it – at that point, I knew there’s no way I could write all those exams and qualify as an actuary, thank goodness I nipped that idea in the bud – saved myself lots of studying! At that time, I was still very starry eyed and would constantly fantasise about visiting places like Paris and New York. I like to think that in my twenties I really lived, and grew up at the same time. Looking back, I actually had no idea what I was doing back then, or even who I really was. At 20, we’re so conditioned by what people around us believe/think/do, and getting to know yourself is a really difficult thing to do.
Over the years, I went from being my parents’ daughter to having more of a parental role to them when my dad got sick and passed away. I learnt that being a wife involves a lot of compromising and watched our marriage evolve in a beautiful way, along with ourselves. I became more of a friend and less of a daughter to my older sister. Relationships with some close friends and family members dissolved, while others strengthened. I watched many of my best friends get married, have babies, and even get divorced. From the first year I started working, I started impulsively booking trips all over the world, and always held onto experiences over objects. Now, I realise that we are the sum of our experiences, and I really believe that all that travelling opened my eyes up to a bigger world, and made me realise that so much more is possible, despite my circumstances seemingly being a barrier.
I started this blog and built it into something much more than I ever thought it could be, and made so many new friends through this blogging community. . I invested and bought assets, and then sold everything in a leap of faith. I moved countries – multiple times. I got an MBA and changed my entire perspective on life. Right now, I feel like I have my sh*t together in terms of what I’m doing with my life, but what scares me is if this much could change in just 10 years, what will I be like when I’m 40? I really don’t feel like going through this process of self discovery again 🙂
For my 30th, I would have loved to collect all the people close to me and take them to some remote island to celebrate – but having any sort of organised celebration, now that I have friends sprawled all over the world, compounded by the fact that everyone travels over this time, would have made it impossible. So, second best to celebrating with the people you love, is celebrating in the city you love. Paris has always been so idyllic to me. I lived an hour out of Paris for 4 months this year, but I’m still obsessed with him. When I’m in Paris, I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything specific. I’m perfectly happy just walking around. Each day, we planned very little – maybe one dinner or one lunch, and spent the rest of the time walking, stopping to shop or for dessert or to sightsee a little. Lately I’ve been planning stuff solely based on word of mouth – INSEAD makes that easier because there is a local you can ask for advice in practically every city, and in Paris, I have a friend who is like me in Jozi – she knows ALL the best spots, so now I just listen to whatever she says. It was such a perfect trip.
I got thinking about the fact that many people get so caught up in the tourist veneer when visiting Paris, and of course, you should visit the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysee. Go to Versailles and check out Mona Lisa. Buy macarons from Laduree and eat a crepe off the street. But, if you’re staying a while, or if you’re visiting Paris for the second or third time, here are 10 things to do that I recommend. Naturally, this list has a foodie bias.
The untourist: What to do when you’re in Paris
1. Skip the hotel breakfast:
The best thing about Paris are the boulangeries. In order to call yourself a boulangerie, you have to bake fresh baguettes every day, throughout the day, because baguettes only have a shelf life of a few hours. Now, when you have a boulangerie on every street corner, why would you want an overpriced hotel breakfast? Go to the supermarket, buy some OJ, yoghurt, fruit and butter, and in the morning pick up a a fresh baguette and a coffee and enjoy it in your room, or in the boulangerie itself.
2. Visit Saint Chapelle:
I have no idea why I hadn’t heard of Saint Chapelle prior to my friend telling me about it. It is SPECTACULAR. It is a church with one of the largest collections of 13th century stained glass in the world. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. The queue is long, but it’s worth the wait. You can purchase priority access and skip the queue if you’re short on time.
3. Eat a fallafel at L’As du Fallafel:
L’As du Fallafel is well known in Paris for their amazing fallafels, and everyone agrees that they’re the best in the city – this is justified by the fact that there is always a queue! The fallafels are relatively small, but they’re light and crispy – not stodgy at all. Order the fallafel special (sit down prices are about EUR8, or takeaway and eat on the street for around EUR5), which is 8-10 fallafels packed into a pita, loaded with crunchy cabbage, aubergine, tahini and hummus. Mmmm…
Separately, this restaurant is located in the Marais district, also known as the Jewish quarter. This is a great area to walk around in on a Sunday (when everything else in Paris is closed.) There are lots of cute boutiques and arty stores to browse.
4. Go grocery shopping at Le Bon Marche:
Dubbed as the “Harrods of Paris”, Le Bon Marche is a department store in the Saint Germaine des Pres area of Paris (another great area to stroll around in.) It has all the usual high end brands, which you can shop in most department stores, but the real attraction is their grocery area. Oh. Em. Gee. I don’t even like cooking and I was absolutely enthralled. We bought some French butter, biscuits and jam to take home, but I could have easily bought way more. Teas, chocolate, foie gras, and lots of other exotic delicious things are available for you to purchase.
5. Have a profiterole at La Maison du Chou
I first discovered this spot years ago on a food tour with Paris by Mouth. Imagine crisp, light choux pastry, made that day, which is filled by hand with a creamy (not too sweet), mixture. Each chou dissolves in two bites and they’re absolutely delicious. Probably one of my all time best sweets ever. Order the natural flavour, it’s the best.
6. Drink hot chocolate at Angelina’s
This is probably one of the more touristy things to do, but the hot chocolate at Angelina’s really is the best in the world. You may not be able to enjoy it with any of their tarts because of the decadence, but just try it. Imagine melted Lindt mixed with fresh cream. But better. The restaurant itself is also gorgeous so really is an attraction in itself.
7. Have a souffle at Le Recamier
I can’t say I love soufflés in general, but this one was incredible. So if you do like soufflés, then definitely try this spot. Light as air, with a range of veg and non veg, savoury and sweet options. It’s busy, so book in advance or prepare to wait.
Thanks to my friend, Rebecca, for hooking us up with reservations at both these places 🙂 I’m a sucker for a good view. I’m not saying that either of these restaurants have the best food you’ll come across, but go for the view and better than average (even good, actually) food. At Monsieur Bleu, book in advance and ask for a window table, and you’ll have the Eiffel tower right next to you. I struggled to focus my attention on the dinner conversation with that view. At Kong, the restaurant itself is just really cool. It’s Asian fusion kind of food, with a great vibe. Not too expensive either. The restaurant was featured in Sex and the City – check out the link here.
9. Stroll through Jardin du Luxembourg
This is one for summertime. Rishav and I would buy cherries and a bottle of wine from a grocery store, and then sprawl out on the grass and admire the view. Heavenly.
10. Enjoy amazing steak at Le Relais de l’Entrecote
I don’t eat meat, so I can’t personally vouch for this, but Rishav loved it. There’s one one thing on the menu – rib eye steak, salad and (bottomless!) chips. They don’t take reservations so this is a good option for a last minute dining option (especially for the indecisive.)
One tip for when you’re strolling around and suddenly get hungry, but don’t want to eat at a random restaurant. Use Tripadvisor’s “Best Nearby” feature (download the Tripadvisor app), which will sort the restaurants around you by ranking. There’s nothing worse than wasting money and calories on a bad meal. I totally get the need for spontaneity but you can have this and still enjoy your meals by doing a little bit of research on the spot.
Thank goodness for the Eurostar. After this trip, I realised that there’s so much of Paris that I still have to discover. Do you have any must visit Paris spots to share?
Lastly, happy new year! Let’s hope that 2016 is filled with lots of happy moments and personal growth.