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Roadtrip to Champagne, Pitstop: Saint Germain des Prés, Paris

We decided to take a detour from our Easter weekend drive through the Champagne Region and stop in Paris for the first night. 

Since we've been to Paris so many times before, we didn't really want to see anything in particular, so I picked for us to stay in St Germain des Prés, the area just off Musee d'Orsay on the left bank. 
The good thing about this place is that once you park your car (car park in Boulevard St Germain, 34 euros for the day) you can walk everywhere and you don't even have to go anywhere else for a good 24 hours. Everything you need is within arm's reach.

Pont Neuf from the left bank

Our hotel, Hotel Verneuil on Rue Verneuil was a great little base. (check availability)
Tucked away in one of the smaller streets, it's a dimly lit townhouse with panelled walls and chic furnishings. 
It's great for a night or two, but remember as a true boutique hotel it's so petit that the only common area is the lounge, with grey-panelled walls, a fireplace and lush velvet sofas. 
The rooms are very cute too, with exposed beams throughout, even in the bathrooms. They are all painted and decorated in shades of grey with art deco touches here and there - heaven. 
Make sure you know your partner well before choosing this hotel though, or at least expect to get to know him or her very well after spending time in such an intimate space!
You do get free local calls with your room and free calls to all European landlines believe it or not; it comes in handy when you are trying to make reservations for dinner etc. Wi-Fi is free too, off course. The strong point of Hotel Verneuil is location, how so? read on...

http://bit.ly/1ndg6WT
http://bit.ly/1ndg6WT

We left home early in the morning, caught the 7:30 ferry to Calais and arrived in Paris around 1 o'clock,  just in time for lunch! 

We opted for the ever so popular Les Deux Magots for lunch.  It was the easy choice in the rain, just two blocks from the hotel and with famous patrons like Sartre, Picasso & Hemingway you just have to try it, right? 

Well, it's certainly got that old charm inside with wooden panelling, high ceilings and waiters still dressed in their black and white suits, seemingly running around in a constant hurry. And if people-watching is your favourite sport then pick an outside spot. But we shortly after regretted it, having taken a walk through the neighbourhood. 



If you absolutely must sit and watch people go by at Les Deux Magots, or Cafe de Flore for that matter, just grab a coffee or a quick drink. Don't bother with the food. It's not bad, but it's not anything special either, especially at these prices. 
Do bother with desserts. We ordered three between the two of us, hey hey no judging please, I told you we had been driving since 5 in the morning! Try the deuxmille-millefeuille, sourced by the famous Pierre Herme boutique down the road, hazelnut cream in-between two thousand - apparently - layers of sweet and crunchy pastry. 

Yes, off course I needed a Cognac grog along with my coffee to keep my arteries moving after that;  it seemed to have worked!  
 

Just behind the Deux Maggot you'll find Zinc, a Belle Époque brasserie that serves seafood and oysters. Alternatively, on Rue du Bac there is L'Ancienne, a classy brassiere that locals frequent, where you get the occasional cigar smoker sitting outside, in a much quieter setting and no hyped up tourists. 

For a drinkie pop into the Bar at Hotel Bel Ami on Rue St Benoit. Snuggle in one of those transparent baubles swaying from the lobby ceiling and let the world go by...

Left: Early morning walk down Ile de la Cité. Right: Art Deco street setting at Zinc.

The next morning, just around the corner from Hotel Verneuil - literally - just a left outside the hotel and then a right on Rue des Peres, we found ourselves at a "secret Paris" spot, for brunch, thanks to my new Paris blogger-crush "Messy Nessy". 
 
In-between a Tobacco shop and an Antiques shop opens a doorway...step in: it leads to a courtyard, then another doorway opens that leads to a second courtyard, where you'll see the whimsical entrance of "13, A Baker's Dozen"
 
It's a hole in the wall, decorated in kitsch chic style and everybody (E-VE-RY-BO-DY) is greeted with "heeey, how are you doing?" as soon as the door opens. The owner is a chirpy American from Charlotte Carolina, who makes sure that everybody gets properly fed and happily stuffed, while they're there. 


The best thing is the menu: you can have French Toast with Southern non-fried fried chicken and gravy! Sounds a bit much for breakfast? 

Well, go for the "Fancy Brunch" deal then...at 21 euros you get a coffee, a fresh juice concoction of oranges, apples, carrots, ginger and red peppers and a main of your choice. I went for the eggs with mushrooms and ham alongside buttermilk southern biscuits. What a revelation! Those biscuits are fluffy, savoury scones, essentially. Sooo good alongside runny eggs and thickly sliced ham. 

My husband went for the omelette option, which looked great and puffy, almost like a soufflé but unfortunately was a bit dry, so we swapped plates. The omelette came with this little green salad though, dressed in sweet honey and was bejewelled with gojie berries and apple pieces. I'll be trying that at home! 

It's a small, intimate place and I was lucky to get there just after 10 o'clock, so it was empty. The owner said to me, "I know it doesn't look like it, but we are really busy" she wasn't lying, in 15 minutes there wasn't a single empty seat in the house! 
It's one of those places guaranteed to make you happy, there's chit chat all around and unusual food choices that will cheer you up! 

If you must get your shopping fix on, across from Les Deux Magots you'll find yourself on the top of Rue Bonaparte and Rue de Rennes. Anything from Zara to Max Mara, to the Pierre Hermé boutique and local jewellery shops is right there.
And don't forget to pop into one of the Parisian Pharmacies to stock up on cosmetics. See, I usually opt for Avène products, because they are perfect for sensitive skin but this place on the corner of Rue Bonaparte & Rue du Four was full of options from similar laboratories, at a fraction of the price you get in the UK. 
And you've had enough of shopping pop into Ralph's for a spot of lunch. Ralph Lauren's magic little Parisian garden, for sunny days in the city.
 


Just before we left for Reims, we popped into Boutique Acide Macaron, a super sleek showcase of macaroons in Rue du Bac.
A box of 13 will set you back 24 euros but you get to pick between salted caramel, coconut milk and poppy seeds, Sicilian citron, green tea & mint and bubblegum, amongst others.
 
We saved them for later, not knowing when would be a good time to taste these precious little gems. We ended up cracking the box open at the Pommery Champaigne House, after our champagne tasting because we were starving, it was meant to be!  


Favourite moment: early Saturday morning walk on the left bank of the Seine, with nobody around. Just a block away from the hotel lies Pont des Arts with all of its lovers' locks and a passage straight to the Louvre. 
 
But I carried on, I wanted to walk the streets of Ile de la Cité, it reminds me of a 17th century postcard... until you get closer to Notre Dame, where even at 9:30 in the morning crowds of tourists were gathering... I turned right and went to meet my husband for breakfast at our whimsical "secret Paris" spot instead...

The arches around the magnificent square & buildings of Place des Vosges. 

ps: A note on the driving from Calais business; the tolls have become rather hefty, 32 euros to be precise, so make sure you have some money with you or be prepared to put it on the card.

1 comment

  1. I like your pictures of the place des Vosges. And I totally agree with you about the Boutique Acide Macaron : their macarons are awesome !

    ReplyDelete

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