they say paris is for lovers, but for lovers of paris, often the best way to explore the city is on your own. an opportunity to explore on your own time, to move to the beat of your own drum and rush past familiar sights and spend time on those things that truly make your heart sing.
it’s been several years since i last wandered the cobbled streets of montmartre, so as soon as my early morning eurostar pulled into the gare de nord, i hopped out and made my winding way up the hill to the north of the station. it’s a steep climb to the grand vista in front of the sacré-cœur, but oh-so-worth-it for the breathtaking views across the city. i was incredibly lucky the sun decided to poke it’s head out from behind the clouds (for one of the only times during my trip, alas!) to illuminate the skyline and add that extra-special touch of amélie-esque magic to the moment: the whole of paris laid out below, just begging to be explored…
on the advice of fellow francophile igor, once i descendedi headed straight for coquelicot, a boulangerie on rue des abbesses, for a traditional parisian petit dejeuner: an almond and pistachio pain au chocolat, with a bowl of hot chocolate. if you ever find yourself in this café, i recommend grabbing the window sear upstairs and looking down onto the bustling street below – it is perfect for people watching!
from there i spent time meandering maze of the narrow picturesque streets, marvelling at the quaint little boutiques, book-laden pavement stalls and the fresh fruit and veg market outside abbesses metro station, as well as the numerous boulangeries and patisseries wafting the tantalising scent of baguettes into the air. looking up i caught glimpses of parisian life unfolding behind open shutters and admired the bold colourful graffiti adorning the exterior of the imposing haussmann architecture.
from montmartre i ambled my way along to an area of paris i’d never explored before; canal st-martin. despite the clouds beginning to gather threateningly overhead i was excited to delve into the delights of this buzzing and creative quarter in the 10th arrondissement and see what it had to offer…
canal st-martin’s iron footbridges and tree-shaded quays formed the backdrop to some of the amélie‘s most atmospheric scenes (remember her skimming pebbles across the water’s surface?), and it was lovely to wind my way back and forth across the canal, taking in the sights. the elegant arches of the footbridges and their height above the water give the area a very distinct charm and picturesque quality and had the weather been a touch warmer it would have been wonderful to buy lunch from one of the cafés (ten belles café is often feted as one of the best in the area) near the quayside to enjoy sitting on the canal bank, soaking up the atmosphere.
in the absence of clear blue skies i opted instead to nip in-and-out of the charming boutiques lining the canal, lured inside by the brightly coloured pink, green and yellow façades of boho design store antoine et lili, and the rainbow coloured plimsoll displays in the windows of bensimon (my casual footwear of choice, fyi)
as the storm clouds grew in stature overhead i hotfooted it down to le marais, taking shelter in a quaint little bistro at the top of rue payenne to escape the rainfall that never actually came. by the time i finished my croque madame at le sevigné, the clouds had blown away and the sun had come out to play again!
le marais was my old stomping ground from previous sojourns in the french capital, prior to the opening of the much-talked-about upmarket concept store merci in 2009, so i was naturally very excited to finally get to visit it!
arranged over several floors combining stationery, fashion, homewares and furniture as well as a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling library of a café, merci is a veritable playground for any interior design lover! despite it’s popularity, the spacious setting allows for a tranquil and intriguing atmosphere and i totally lost track of time browsing the heaving shelves of porcelain, colourful washed linens and plentitude of pens, pencils and notepads. it really was akin to being a kid in a candy store, and i could happily have bought up half the store if lugging it all home on the eurostar (and halfway round paris) had felt like a sensible option…
that’s all for today folks, stay tuned for more parisian tales coming soon!