Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Foodie Mini-Break Guide: A Romantic Weekend in Paris

Earlier this year my boyfriend and I jumped on the Eurostar for a romantic weekend away. Two and a half hours later and we were in Paris (just in time for lunch!).

Canal Saint-Martin

We stayed at Hotel Le 123 Sebastapool, which was number 1 on Tripadvisor at the time, and perfectly placed - just 15 minutes walk from Gare du Nord and 10 minutes from the Canal Saint-Martin and the stylish boutiques and fashionable restaurants of Le Marais. Le 123 Sebastapool was a lovely boutique hotel, with lots of special touches which made for a memorable stay. It's themed around French cinema, and in keeping with this, guests are treated to a paper bag of pic n' mix sweets on arrival, and a self-service popcorn machine (accompanied by a buffet of snacks and drinks) in the lobby. Fantastique!

The Seine

We began our visit with a stroll through Le Marais, and an unsuccessful attempt to visit Breizh Cafe for galettes (definitely worth booking ahead!). Eventually we found a local bistro, and had a traditional menu du jour instead, followed by ice-cream from Amorino (I know, they have one in London, but it's the best!). My boyfriend ordered the surprisingly delicious combination of "l'inimitabile" (rich Nutella chocolate) and raspberry sorbet, which is definitely on my list for my next visit!

After lunch we wandered along the Seine in the sunshine towards the Eiffel Tower. The love lock trend seems to have spread since my last visit in 2013, and more and more bridges are covered in locks. We passed through the courtyards of the Louvre and through the gardens before stopping for overpriced coffees in a touristy cafe and heading back to the hotel.

On the recommendation of David Lebowitz' excellent blog (well worth a browse if you're planning on visiting Paris) we had booked a table at Astier, where we were treated to an absolutely fantastic bistro meal. We weren't the only tourists, but the restaurant still had a very authentically French vibe. The service (unusually for Paris) was great, the food was delicious, and they serve the most enormous cheese platters I have ever seen (the idea is, they give you an absolutely gigantic quantity of cheese and you eat your fill...I'm assuming you're not supposed to finish!).

Cheese platter for one!!

We both had soup to start - mine was the healthy green one, which wasn't quite as good as the sumptuously creamy veloute above it - followed by steak with pommes puree (accompanied with a huge and very sharp knife!). My boyfriend got the cheese course, which I skipped, and somehow still found room for a tarte au chocolat for dessert, while I went for a delicious apricot and almond mousse concoction.

We had meant to go for drinks afterwards, but were too full and sleepy after the enormous meal, so headed back to the hotel to sleep it off. Despite our plan to wake up bright and early for more exploring, the black-out curtains and comfy bed meant we woke with a shock after 10am. We passed on the complimentary buffet breakfast at the hotel in favour of a trip the Cafe Angelina, where I indulged in one of the best hot chocolates of my life. A jug of rich, molten chocolate, thick enough to stand a spoon in, and served with a (slightly gratuitous!) pot of whipped cream...Mmmm!

Just beautiful...

Our final stop before we left was Montmartre - a steep climb up to the Sacre-Coeur, followed by delicious egg, ham and gruyere galettes for lunch (to make up for missing out the day before) - before boarding our train and getting home in time for dinner. A fantastic weekend away, without the hassle of flying!