Despite Paris being so close to London – three hours on the Eurostar – we had never been with big A and little Z. Mr B and I had been on numerous occasions in the past both for work and pleasure, but we were long overdue a visit with all the family. Good friends had recently moved there – well to the pretty town of Versailles to be exact, so the decision to visit was very easy.
We decided to show our girls (aged 10 and 6) a snapshot of Paris so that they could soak up the atmosphere and see some of the sights; the most famous of all being the Eiffel Tower. I had always admired it from afar but never ventured to the top. A flurry of light snow began to fall, despite the pretty blossom making an appearance, and we climbed (well Mr B and big A did – Little Z and I took the lift) right to the top. The view was spectacular, despite it being rather overcast. As we made our way down in the lift we were told that we could get out on the first floor if we wanted the ice rink – pretty impressive I thought to have a rink actually on the tower.
After a stroll around the Louvre we made our way to a charming and very buzzy French restaurant called Bistrot Victoires on 6 rue Vrillère – about a 10 minute walk from the Louvre. Here you can indulge in traditional gallic fare accompanied by a bottle of red wine and some great tasting baguette to munch on whilst you wait for your food. The restaurant is famous for its steak frites that comes with burning thyme on top.
The smell, pomp and visual spectacle of it all is very memorable so I would urge you to order it if you go. We had a portion each and I must say I think it was the most tasty I have ever had.
Here is a close up to make you hungry!
I rather loved their old till, which looks so much grander than the hand held card reading device that they use to day. Old and new sitting side by side.
We walked off our lunch with a visit to the wonderful Musee D’Orsay which is housed in the former Gare D’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. A must if it’s your first time to Paris, and slightly more manageable than the Louvre in as far as size. Thursday nights are late opening so a nice thing to do before heading out to dinner perhaps.
The following day we headed back into Paris – a very short 20 minute journey on the RER. I rather loved the old school look of this carriage that looked like it was a travelling library carriage – how very civilised.
There is nothing quite like a crepe to kick start your day. The girls were thrilled with their nutella ones whilst Mr B and I went for the ham and cheese.
Bellies full we headed to the spectacular French gothic cathedral of Notre Dame, which stood in all it’s glory in the cold, crisp February sunlight. The girls were familiar with this building owing to the fact that they have watched the Disney movie ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ more times than I care to remember. We walked off breakfast within its walls, marvelling at its grandeur and beauty.
An absolute must if you are visiting Paris is Sainte-Chapelle, which is literally a stones throw away from Notre Dame. It was built by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of passion relics, including the Christ’s Crown of Thorns. You need to climb up the winding narrow staircase but once you’ve reached the top you will be rewarded with one of the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collection anywhere in the world. It is utterly breathtaking, especially when the sun is shining and reflecting through all the coloured glass in all it’s brilliance.
Another pit stop for food was required so we headed to A La Biche Au Bois on Avenue Ledru-Rollin, which offers hearty, honest French food away from the typical tourist trap restaurants.
The staff at this restaurant were both jovial and charming and coupled with the fact that the food was great, it makes it a restaurant worth seeking out, and indeed booking as it gets packed.
Creme caramel or ile flottante anyone?
After all good lunches a walk is required so we sauntered over to my favourite and indeed oldest square in the whole of Paris…..Place de Vosges. After ambling around the square we decided to head north to Sacre Coeur in bohemian Montmartre. The sun was shining so we felt it was worth the effort to head there so we could admire the view of Paris and Sacre Coeur.
The next few days we spent time relaxing in Versailles with our friends and visiting the famous Palace and grounds of the Versailles Palace.
If you ever find yourself in Versailles for the evening and want to splash out, the bar at the Trianon Palace Versailles is worth a visit as they serve delicious cocktails, but then again at €22 you would expect them to be pretty outstanding. If you are in town and want something more hip and low key on ambiance and price then I can recommend La Conserverie a bar in the 2nd arrondissement. From the outside you probably wouldn’t notice it, but don’t be put off. For the brave who venture in you’ll find elegant, longing surroundings with a relaxed vibe. Needing a bite to eat then head to Restaurant Victor 101 bis, rue Lauriston in the 16th district of Paris. It has an old school French vibe, dishing up all the French classic with style and panache.
Back in Blighty I decided to continue with the French theme by rustling up some little french fancies known as ‘madeleines’. Small, bite size and wonderfully moist in the centre and a little crispy on the outside. They are best eaten straight from the oven. Deliciously warm. They often come in sweet flavours but work equally well savoury. I naturally gravitated towards making them savoury, although I think next time I will try cardamom ones. You can play around with the fillings by adding pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes, sage, rosemary or whatever takes your fancy.
They take a matter of minutes to whisk together and then another 12-14 minute to cook in the oven. A perfect tea time treat.
Parmesan, Chive and Truffle Madeleines
50g parmesan, finely grated
100g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
40ml truffle oil
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (if using fan or 200 if not).
- First blend the cheese and eggs using an electric whisk if you can (or by hand if you haven’t).
- Then add the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
- Now add the truffle oil, melted butter and chives.
- Finally add the milk and whisk so that it is smooth but still quite firm.
- Lightly grease the madeleine tray and add a heaped teaspoon of mixture to each compartment. Smooth the top where possible.
- Place in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until bronzed on top. Use a tooth pick to see if it is done – it should come out nice and clean.
Eat immediately if possible whilst they are still warm with a cup of tea.
Note: instead of truffle oil you can use extra-virgin olive oil, chilli oil, basil oil. Experiment and see which you like.
Paris Restaurants and Bars:
Bistrot Victoires – 6 rue Vrillère (R)
A La Biche Au Bois – 45 Avenue Ledru-Rollin (R)
Restaurant Victor – 101 bis, rue Lauriston (R)
Trianon Palace Versailles – 1 Boulevard de la Reine, Versailles (B)
La Conserverie Bar – 37 Rue du Sentier (B)
It was simply by chance that two of the restaurants I visited had part of my name in the title ;o)!