Our aim for this week is a simple one – no big ticket tourist items (we’ve canned the idea of a trip to Versailles due to hassles with trains etc. that I’ll get into later). This week is a chance to live like locals, and explore some of the more hidden things. That may translate as just being a couple of lazy sods, but so be it.
We started our day with coffees at the most excellent KB Coffee Roasters in rue des Martyrs, literally just around the corner from the hotel, followed by a wander along the street that is famous for its restaurants, boulangeries, pâtisseries, fromageries and more.
One really quirky thing I’d discovered about Paris since the last time we were here is the existence of ‘Space Invaders’ street art, the work of French artist “Invader” (Franck Slama), who started working with ceramic tiles in 1998 rather than spray paint, due to the permanence of the medium. These pixel-art installations often have a video game theme to them – there are currently known to be around 3700 of them around 78 cities worldwide, with the majority being in Paris.
There is actually an app, a bit like Pokémon Go, where you can track their known location, photograph them and score points for each one you find. I downloaded it to my phone before we left, but of course, we’re not using my phone in Paris, are we? Vanessa refuses to download the app to her phone and tells me that I’m being childish. I’ve told her she’s a poo-poo head, and have resorted instead to giggling like a little schoolgirl and risking life and limb crossing the Paris traffic to get a photo of each one I see. But without the app of course, I’m working blind.
We spent the morning walking around the streets of the 9th and 18th Arrondissements, and then went back to the hotel to do some research. You see, we had booked lunch for this week at an exclusive restaurant called Hotel Particulier Montmartre – we’d read about it as another hidden gem of Paris, and while we couldn’t afford the hefty fees to stay there, we did feel that we could splurge a little on lunch one day. The problem was, the confirmation booking had gone to my work email address, which I am unable to access at the moment, and neither of us could remember whether we’d booked it for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
So we took the little elevator up to the roof of our hotel to admire the view of Paris bathed in October sunshine, while Vanessa called the restaurant. After checking through each day’s bookings, the girl at the restaurant was unable to find any reservation in our name at all for any of those days, so she advised us to book again via the website, as they are unable to take phone bookings. So while I logged into the laptop, Vanessa checked her phone, and was able to locate a CC of the original email that I had forwarded to her work email. Turns out the reason we couldn’t find the booking was it was for 1:00 pm today – and it was already 1:07 pm!
We rang the hotel back to explain the situation, and they were OK with us pushing the booking back to 2:00 pm, so we rushed downstairs, put on our least crumpled, best looking clothes and took a taxi up to the top of the hill.
The entrance to the hotel is actually really hard to find – it’s tucked away behind a large electronically locked gate that also leads to a few private residences and a very exclusive Pétanque club, and you have to press a buzzer to ask for permission to enter. After pressing nearly every buzzer except the hotel’s, which I finally found tucked away on the side wall, we were admitted to the restaurant via the hotel garden.
No photos I’m afraid, but we’d certainly found where the beautiful people of Paris come to dine. The maître d’hotel looked like he’d just stepped off the set of a glitzy French soap opera, with his perfectly coiffured hair and movie star looks, while the barman looked like one of the guys from Milli Vanilli. And the receptionist was drop-dead gorgeous, with thick ringlets of golden hair and a mini-skirt and legs that would be considered illegal in a number of countries. Never before have I felt so out of place.
The wine list was amazing, we ended up ordering a glass each of premier cru Chablis that was crisp and stunning, followed by a bottle of Pinot Noir from Beaune. Given how late in the day it already was, we decided to share a poultry pie as a starter, then for mains Vanessa had a veal cutlet that fell off the bone, and I had a delicious (but huge) plate of Charolais Beef Tartare. For dessert, Ness went for the tarte Tatin, while I had an extremely rich, dark chocolate mousse.
We said our goodbyes to all of the beautiful people and headed back out to wait for our taxi. While we waited, I took a wander into the little street next door, Villa Léandre, named after a local comedian and actor, but inspired by London streets, and lined with terraced houses with little gardens out the front. The house at number 10 even has a black wooden door and a replica Downing Street sign on it – I dare say given current events, the resident here has likely outlasted at least a dozen of his counterparts across the ditch.
We taxied back to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening sitting up on the rooftop, watching the sun go down, and enjoying life as a local. Too full for any dinner, we snacked on potato crisps, drank rosé and watched as the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Cœur were slowly lit up for their nightly display. (Owing to some technical difficulties I had with my camera batteries, I’ll save the pictures of this until tomorrow’s blog)