One week after the Define Relationship book was launched on Amazon, R&R decided to book a trip to Paris to investigate if this city was indeed the most romantic city in the world.
We got a great deal through Jet2 Holidays and after booking our last holiday through Ryan Air I’ve got to say it was refreshing to travel with Jet2. Easy check-in online, no overpriced baggage or taxes to worry about and the arrival into and out of Leeds Bradford Airport was truly professional for a ‘cheap’ airline. R&R do not do queues and with Jet2 we were not in a cattle grid of a queue to check-in. The flight was smooth, the airline staff were lovely and the drinks were poured.
On arrival in Paris, Charles de Gaulle and soaring through customs we were assisted by a lovely Parisian lady to purchase our train tickets into Gare Du Nord where on arrival we immediately charged straight into the nearest bar.
We stayed in the Hotel Astoria which was on a fabulous metro route to all the tourist attractions. The hotel and staff were fabulous and not only was breakfast provided every day, something we never sampled as couldn’t get up in time, but from 1pm every day there were also free cakes, coffee, soft drinks and water to ensure the hangover was provided for prior to venturing out into the city.
After a smooth hotel check-in and the friendliest taxi driver I’ve ever met we headed straight into the sleazy part of Paris, Pigalle.
Pigalle is what it is. The main strip (pardon the pun) is full of sex shops, cheap bars, pimps and prostitutes tempting you into their clubs; not to mention the infamous Moulin Rouge with all its windmill splendour.
We, however, headed up the back streets of Pigalle away from the tourists, prostitutes and pimps where there are many cosy bars and restaurants along with Parisian locals having a drink and an evening meal. Of course, you still get offered all your treats, from viagra to cocaine on every alley and if that’s your choice, Pigalle is where it’s at.
I personally love Pigalle and despite having to look after your handbag as if it’s your child, we found the whole experience quite amusing. Just like in any city, be careful but it’s worth the experience.
With hangovers from hell and after emptying the free mini bar of all its water, we headed straight to the area of the Sacre Coeur. I absolutely love this area of Paris. It’s got everything you could possibly want. Looking at the steps to get up to the Sacre Coeur, there must be 1,000 of them and heads still pounding, we headed through the back streets for food.
This, for us, was better than dealing with dodging through hundreds of tourists to look at a church. I would recommend going through the back streets. Yes, you still have a few steps to go up but you also see the many different Parisian delights you wouldn’t see in tourist land.
The top of the Sacre Coeur is just a bustle of colour. There are artists all over the square, touting for business of course, telling you how gorgeous you are and they need to sketch you for a nice hefty price of 40 euros but dodging all these we headed to a quiet spot to take some pictures for the Define Paris website.
After being stalked by a ‘deaf woman’ to hand over 20 euros for her blind school, you make sense of that, we headed back down the steps and got the metro to the Champs Elysees.
You need re-mortgage your house to have a drink on this avenue, but what goes on in Paris, stays in Paris. We, instead, got a tube to Avenue de Wagram and had a few drinks there, people watching. The sophisticated Parisian ladies and gentleman and wow, their dress sense is second to none Capital of Stylish. Sorry, not sorry, London, Rome and New York. The French know how to dress.
Of course, it would only be fair to admit we did stroll down the Champs Elysees paying extortionate prices for a whisky and wine. One drink was enough and in true R&R style we headed straight into the nearest Metro to our local bar, Café de Rome to drink 4 euro wine a glass instead of 12 euro wine a glass.
Another day, another hangover. We’d booked dinner in La Tour de Eiffel. The 6.30pm sitting. I would seriously recommend this experience. The security is on high alert around here and the French police, with their guns are everywhere and rightly so after the 2016 bombings. There are Eastern Europeans on every street corner. One family, all wrapped up in quilts had a doll passing it off as a baby in order to get money. Personally, I’d rather they were in Paris than the UK but still, as long as you ignore their begging, which I can happily do, you will get on just fine.
The dinner in the Eiffel tower was beyond exceptional. The service was amazing. Was it pricey? Yes, of course it was but if you pay in advance, you don’t have to queue. R&R do not queue. The lift arrives to take you up to the first floor where you get personally escorted to your table by your own waiter and looked after with not a penny to pay because you’ve already paid. I class this as free, even though it wasn’t. The only thing I would say is that do not book with Expedia or any other online websites and book direct with the restaurant.
The Haye versus Bellew fight was due on and with my fiancé being from Liverpool and both of us loving Rocky, we headed over to a place called Saint Paul by bus. Bearing in mind I don’t walk to a bus stop, never mind get on one this was in fact the best public transport experience I’ve ever had. It was 1.95 euros each and we passed through all the great sites of Paris, albeit we’d had a few drinks so the sites were slightly hazy and it was dark, but it would be amazing, possibly sober and by day.
Saint Paul is now one of my favourite parts of Paris. It’s non-touristy, brasseries and bars are everywhere and filled with local Parisian bars, except one. The only Scottish bar in Paris called The Pure Malt.
On walking in, the guy who owned it was more drunk than we were and was offering everyone shots of free whisky. How that man made a profit I’ll never know. He had all the locals sat around him whilst he was dishing out Scottish whisky to everyone, doing shot after shot. He was a professional whisky drinker to the point even my fiancé was impressed.
The bar itself is small and cosy and we were made to feel very welcome. Everyone in the bar was routing for Bellew and the atmosphere was fabulous. Personally, I don’t like UK bars abroad, but made an exception for this one. I'd recommend.
Getting out of bed this day was almost impossible. With the hotel staff knocking on the door every five minutes as they wanted to change the bedding and towels which they hadn’t done for the whole time we’d been there we eventually got up at 3pm.
To note, no one gets into the R&R hotel bedroom whilst we are in there. They wouldn’t be able to anyway as they wouldn’t be able to clamber over the suitcases, cigarettes, wine bottles, towels and underwear everywhere. When R&R do hotels, no staff are ever allowed in until we leave. It's our rule and the 'Do Not Disturb' sign goes on for the whole time we are there. Just don't come in, for your own safety, if anything.
When we eventually managed to surface, feeling totally dehydrated again but this time with no stocked free mini bar we headed, by metro, glugging Evian bottle after bottle, to La Louvre.
Ideally we’d have probably gone into La Louvre as on the first Sunday of every month it’s free. No, too many tourists and too many queues. Instead, we headed straight into the Café Marly where we ordered drinks whilst looking onto the La Louvre sipping whisky and wine. It’s a beautiful café in a beautiful area and one to go to, but only for one drink unless you have cash to splash.
We then took a romantic walk hand in hand along the River Seine. Crossing Le Pont des Arts, kissing and cuddling and laughing heading towards the magnificent Notre Dame, where we finished our Paris trip in a local brasserie, chatting in broken French, I thought fluent at this point as I’d got a beret on, to the locals and eating steak.
How would I describe Paris? Paris is charismatic. Yes, it’s expensive, yes it’s full of beggars from other countries trying to enter the UK and yes it’s full of French people.
Is it romantic? Well that’s up to you and yours. I loved it, but to be fair, I'd love being in a tent in a desert with no food or water as long as I was with my fiancé.
For me though, Paris is possibly one of the best cities in the world. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a city.
Would I go again? Definitely. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.
It’s truly Ooh La La.