Wednesday, 7 September 2016

A WEEKEND IN PARIS

Paris seemed like the ideal destination for a weekend getaway when me and one of my best friends Katie where planning a little trip to escape our London routine, it's mix of excellent food and drinking opportunities and more importantly ability to get there without having to board a plane (my fear of flying more often than not replacing any kind of excitement in the run up to a trip) seeming too irresistible to resist. Yes, I am always going to be a little critical of Paris, to be precise the Parisians themselves and their often rude and unwelcoming attitude when they realise you aren't French, but I was lucky enough to get some amazing recommendations of where to drink, eat and have a general fantastic time ahead of this trip and discovered some rather incredible places that left me in awe and would see me return at an instant. Even though we were only there for 3 days, with admittedly very little sleep in-between, we had an absolutely fantastic weekend, able to explore a very non-touristy side of Paris I had previously struggled to find.

With the Eurostar being so cheap and more importantly so comfortable to travel with, Katie and I barely noticing the two and half hours on the train whilst chatting away, and despite my initial reservations towards this city, I would definitely return to Paris for another visit and hope if you ever make it across the channel that you will at least try a few of the spots I discovered! They may not be your typical bistro, heavy on the charcuterie and cheese, or tourist hotspots, but they are definitely worth seeking out and showed me a side of Paris I simply could not help but fall in love with at least a little.

THE PERFECT LITTLE AIR BNB

I have over time become a huge fan of the whole airbnb concept, it of course allowing you to have your own private space in an amazing location at the fraction of the price a hotel would cost you. I've stayed in airbnb's in New York, Berlin and Barcelona now and have never had a bad experience, instead across the board surprised by the generosity, helpfulness and quality of the airbnb hosts and their apartments.

The same was the case in Paris where we booked a studio in the heart of the super cool Republique district, a stones throw away from the Marais. Parisian based WAD magazine editor and blogger Barbara Malewicz, who I have religiously followed on Instagram for years, had recommended this area and with her sense of style and drool-worthy posts when it came to her Paris dining adventures naturally made me follow her advice!

The world being a small, small place these days I, believe it or not, accidentally ended up booking the studio of one of her best friends for our stay and with that was somewhat already confident of another great airbnb experience even before our arrival. And I am glad to say I wasn't wrong! Marine, who our super cute and stylish yet extremely well planned out airbnb belonged to (it may have been a studio but it didn't feel crammed at all for two people) was incredibly forthcoming with advice and tips in the weeks before the trip and made us feel immediately welcome when we arrived around lunchtime on the Friday of our weekend there.

The apartment is in the Broadway Market / Shoreditch area of Paris, with all super cool bars, brunch venues and the like essentially a 10 minute walk or less away. I can only whole heartedly recommend a stay in Marine's lovely apartment and would not have swapped our experience for a stay in a generic hotel in the middle of the touristic centre of Paris at any cost. If you go to a new city you may as well be as much of a local as possible, an ethos that has rightly made airbnb such a success.

THE PARISIAN BISTRO EXPERIENCE @ CAFE BRASSERIE LE ARTS & METIERS
There are about a gazillion bistros with outside seating in Paris and I am sure at least a dozen are as good as Le Arts & Mertiers but we couldn't help but be endeared with the unusually (for Paris at least) friendly service, decent prices and good quality food that was served here and of course the amazing people watching we were able to do when perched on one of their outward facing chairs. 

The rosé we ordered as soon as we sat down was perfect to quench our thirst on this scorching summer day and the food, to set us up for a long day of cocktail bar hopping, was equally satisfying- my properly crunchy and perfectly fried fries coming with a home made and incredibly delicious mayonnaise with a hint of mustard while Katie's seafood linguine not only tasting great but also arriving at the table in a rather impressive cooper cast pot.

We could have very easily eaten at a below average bistro, in fact ending up in just such a place the day after, being served two undrinkable cocktails and a Caprese salad that gave me a mild form of food poisoning, which is why this place is such a gem. It may not be extraordinary in what it delivers food-wise but I would happily return here anytime for a light afternoon snack, dinner or wine the next time I'm in Paris and would urge you to seek it out if a good Parisian bistro is what you are after. 

THE HIDDEN BAR OF DREAMS @ PAVILLON PUEBLA
I had a list the length of my arm of cocktail spots to try whilst in Paris and being in town for three days only obviously meant that I was never going to be able to try all of them on this occasion. I do however believe in fate of some kind in life and after we had tried and failed to make it into my first choice of outdoor drinking venue (summer+drinks+outdoors being just about my favourite combination of things ever), we, a few cocktails into the night, chose whatever we liked the name of most on my list to try as next potential venue.

It may have meant bit of a trek, well more an expensive uber ride across town, but it was absolutely worth it, this pot luck choice of a bar ending up being one of the best spots I have ever been lucky enough to enjoy a drink at. Why? Well this bar hidden within a park and surrounded by low hanging tree branches and ferry lights, felt almost magical and as if we had unknowingly ended up in some kind of Woody Allen movie, only further reiterated by the jazz band that performed live right next to us whilst we were sipping on our drinks. That is not to say that it felt poncey or unwelcoming, no the bar staff were absolutely fantastic with the drinks mixed together at their expertly equipped outdoors bar, most of them in fact trained up at one of London's finest cocktail temples, and the whole vibe of the place so enchanting that we almost forgot that we were actually in the middle of a capital city.

Go, enjoy and drink many, many cocktails and before you leave don't forget to make use of their outdoor photo booth to get your very own little keepsake from Pavillon Pueblo... not that there is any chance you would really forget this unique venue and absolute must visit in Paris for some time to come.

THE OUTDOOR CLUB TO BLOW YOUR MIND @ CAFE BARGE
Finding a decent hip hop night out in Paris was my biggest worry whilst planning this trip, knowing too well from going out in mainland Europe on more than one occasion that big clubs tended to be Eurotrash on the one hand or proper techoney and housey on the other hand when it came to the kind of music played and clientele present. Of course I am also a little spoiled living in London and with that having Visions as my to go to for a Friday night out, Visions by now being a pretty infamous and well regarded hip hop club that regularly sees live and unannounced performances from Skepta, Jammer and even ASAP Rocky- all the more reasons that I kept my expectations for Paris relatively low. Luckily we somehow ended up meeting a friend of friend in Paris, equally into his hip hop, on the Friday night who quickly sparked our interest when he mentioned an outdoors hip hop party taking place exactly on that night...and boy all I can say that it was a party worth attending. 

Hosted at the amazing outside space that is Cafe Barge, all lit up and right by the river, this was pretty much as close as you can get to the perfect night out in my eyes. On this hot summer evening being outside and listening to some really rather good hip hop, this was basically like being in Visions minus the hot and dingy basement, providing us with a night I won't forget in a hurry! It was nothing I ever expected but everything I wanted from this night and if you go to Paris, whether you like going out or not, it better be added to your to do list. You can thank me later.

THE PAD THAI TO CURE ALL HANGOVERS @ GUO MIN PARIS VIA UBEREATS
I was admittedly feeling a little rough after our long night out in Paris that didn't end until the early hours of Saturday morning and was in desperate need of some food to perk me up and make me feel alive enough to brave the streets of Paris and look semi presentable at the same time. 

Thank God that my weekly saviour when it comes to hangovers in London, ubereats, had also arrived in Paris which meant, with a little help of Google translate, I was able to order food directly to the door of our airbnb without having to face the outside world in my fragile state just yet. Of course I had literally no idea what the quality of the takeaway I ordered was going to be like which was why I was the more surprised when the pad thai with prawns I ordered actually turned out to be one of the best I've had, overpriced London versions included! 

If you do ever find yourself hungover (or indeed simply fancying some amazing Thai food delivered to your front door whilst in Paris) I can only recommend Guo Min with its fresh, authentic and reasonable priced fare that did more than the trick of getting me up and ready to explore the city even if my head was still a little sore. 

THE BEST BRUNCH IN TOWN WITH A TWIST @ PAPERBOY

I have always been a big fan of a good old brunch yet in London I rarely treat myself to this particular weekend indulgence. Why? Well firstly there aren't that many truly amazing and inventive brunch options left in our capital, in fact many of my former favourites changing their menus and owners and with that also loosing their appeal to me, and secondly I tend to spend too much money on other frivolous things on a weekly basis to justify treating myself to having one regularly. 

Holidays are of course a completely different kettle of fish and meant that I spent a considerable amount of time researching where I would find the best brunch in Paris whilst there. One name kept on popping up when I enquired with friends and was googling around- Paperboy apparently the hippest and best spot in town to enjoy this meal time. 

Once we made our way to this little spot in the Marais around noon on our last morning there and despite having to endure a rather lengthy wait (nearly an hour though it didn't matter too much as we were happily chatting away) plus some typically Parisian rude service, this brunch was still every bit worth the hype. For around 25 euros each you are able to enjoy a sort of brunch package- a hot or cold caffeinated drink, a fresh juice, a selection of fantastic breads with jam, butter and peanut butter and to finish things off  a savoury main with a sweet treat on the side. We went for the eggs royale (classic eggs Benedict finished off with smoked salmon rather than ham) with a fantastic sweet side of banana bread, topped with peanut butter, banana and whipped cream.

From the perfectly poached eggs to the delightfully light sauce hollandaise, to the sweet and unexpected juxtaposition of the banana bread addition to your plate, this brunch compilation plus so much more. This was neither Parisian nor what you would typically expect from brunch but it was refreshing, incredibly tasty and and challenging to your taste buds in a way few brunch places would ever manage to plate up. Go, ignore the slightly ropey service and have one of the no doubt best brunches of your entire life. 

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