30 April 2017

Nikki's Guide to Paris



Hello, hello! 

Earlier this month, I spent a wonderful week in Paris. It was the first time I'd visited in spring - and after witnessing the pink blossoms, warm sunshine and al fresco dining, I see how 'springtime in Paris' has inspired so many songs and films.

If you've followed my blog for a while, it might seem like I'm in Paris all the bloody time, although it's actually only once every one/two years. And I'm done for a while, now. It's out of my system.

But with a few trips already under my belt, how should I present this blog post? What haven't you seen here before? After some umm-ing and ahh-ing, I decided to write a mini-guide, just in case you fancy popping off to the fair city soon.

Enjoy!

The best view

When I started my holiday prep (ie stalking the #Paris hashtag on Instagram), I became obsessed with finding the perfect viewpoint. You know what I'm talking about: the Eiffel Tower, the beautiful cream-grey stone buildings with their blue roofs and flower-speckled balconies, the shimmering lights.

You know what I learnt? There's isn't a singular 'perfect place' to take in a panoramic view of Paris. I think the best spot depends on the time of day. Here's what I learned:

Daytime: Printemps


If it's a clear day, I'd highly recommend a visit to Printemps - a huge, high-end department store with an amazing rooftop terrace.

It took us a while to find the terrace, so, here's what you do: ride the elevator to the 8th floor, head to the cafe, suck it up and buy a €5 soda and then head out onto the balcony.

You won't regret it. 

Slap-bang in the heart of Paris, you've got a 360 degree view of the city. Look left, and there's the Eiffel Tower; and on your right is the Sacré Cœur in Montmartre. And directly in front of you? A refreshing beverage and some light patisserie. It was just so perfect that I decided this rooftop would be my 'happy place' from now on.



Dusk: Arc de Triomphe





Who knew you could climb up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe? Well, I did. But only 'cos I looked it up.

It's absolutely worth braving the 280 steps to get up there (which I definitely did...) because you'll be rewarded with the best views of the city! I'm not exaggerating, I think this might have been my favourite part of the whole trip.

My advice? Find out when the sun will set and make sure you're up at the top for that moment. When we went, it was a little cloudy, so I didn't get the beautiful pink sunset sky I'd imagined. But it was still absolutely stunning.

Oh, and once it gets dark, the Eiffel Tower switches it's lights on: gorgeous, golden and glowing. It's really something - don't miss it.

Evening: Montparnasse Tower

When Paris is all dark skies and glittering lights, there's only one place to be: Montparnasse Tower. Located in the south of the city, it's kind of the Empire State Building of Paris - except this is the only skyscraper to be seen.

Once you clear the airport-style security (there's never much of a line), you'll get whizzed to the 56th floor observation deck in Europe's fastest elevator. That's an attraction in itself, no? No?



Once you get there, you can watch the dazzling golden lights of Paris dance. If you can, time it so you can see the Eiffel Tower's light show (on the hour, every hour). Oh, and bring a coat - it's chilly up there!


The best place to chill

I'll admit, Paris isn't the most stressful city I've ever walked around. It's not overly crowded or fast-paced (thankfully!) and there are plenty of green spaces - even where you'd least expect them.

Jardin du Luxembourg


After a very busy morning, we pulled up a couple of chairs by this little boating pond (is that a thing? Did I make that term up? I think I did) and sat, basking in the sun. Plenty of native Parisians were doing the same thing, which means this was a good, non-tourist choice. We didn't fully explore the vast garden, which was full of perfectly pruned greenery, idyllic lakes and a giant maze, but it looked like a dreamy way to spend an hour or so. 

The Promenade Plantée



I loved Promenade Plantée, an abandoned railway track transformed into Paris' first elevated park. Even though it was created in the 1980s, it looked incredibly futuristic and modern. And, surprisingly, it was really, really relaxing. You're way above the noise from the streets and bistros, secluded in a flower-steeped passage. Occasionally, the immense greenery that lines the walkway pauses, and you can get these great views of the city. It's sort of everything you want, in one beautiful and unconventional package.




Best photo stops

'Cos it's all about that Instagram game, y'all. 

The Trocadero



I've seen so many pictures taken directly in front of the Eiffel Tower - and I had no idea where this magical photostop was.

Turns out it was the Trocadero, where I've been so many times before! What I hadn't realised was that if you go down the first half flight of stairs, there's a wall you can sit on - no hedges or fences ruining your shot - just you and the tower. That's really the only downside, y'know? If you slip, you'll plunge to your death. Or at least, break a lot of bones. Being innately clumsy and inherently nervous, this was something of a tense photoshoot. Bleh. Worth it though, I think?

Side note: it's also pretty good for Eiffel Tower spotting at night...


Carousels




Carousels are everywhere in Paris. For a photogenic shot, my favourite carousel is just outside Hotel de Ville (top image). It's surrounded by pink blossoms which gives it this very pleasing, Instgram-type look.

But in terms of fun factor, you've got to visit the carousel at the Trocadero (bottom image). Ride it at night, while the Eiffel Tower's doing its hourly light show. And then get some ice cream or a crepe from the snack vendor nearby. Perfection.


Montmartre



There's the vast Sacré Cœur, the domed church that you can't miss. Unless you expire on your way up those many stairs (which I think I nearly did).

Just behind it is the Place du Tertre, the artists' district. It's a smallish square absolutely crammed with amazing artists. It's nice to have a wonder round, taking a look at what they're a) selling and b) currently working on. There's also plenty of artists eager to paint or sketch you - which is nice for the ole self-esteem. Becky and I went for a silhouette of ourselves.


And don't miss the first-class graffiti - from a rainbow-coloured Gandalf, to pink flamingoes, to Shatters the mosaic seahorse.

Jardin du Palais Royale



This particular jardin felt like our very own secret garden. At one end, there's these serene, tranquil, hidden courtyards where locals sit on benches and read, gossip and puzzle over crosswords. At the other end? These weird mint humbug-style columns and abstract fountains. It's amazing how much fun you can have by trying to sit on the tallest columns and taking Boomerangs of yourself jumping off.


The best shopping

I'm going to assume you're too poor for Prada.

Shakespeare and Company


It's an amazing shop for the following reasons:
  • there are thousands of books (that aren't too badly priced!)
  • there's a tortoiseshell cat that roams the place
  • it has cool stairs
  • it has a lonely hearts corner
  • you can see books that are literally hundreds of years old. 
I walked away with a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, after about a century of dithering. (Thanks for telling me which one to buy, Becky - what would I do without you?)

Maison Georges Larnicol




Maison Georges Larnicol is a chocolate shop. That should be enough of a reason to include it on this guide, no? As soon as I stepped into the store, my pupils dilated at the sight of hundreds of different types of chocolate adorning the walls. I managed to restrain myself and walked out with this delicious chocolate covered marshmallow lollipop thing, and a jar of caramel that came with its own spoon.

Most importantly, this is some seriously high quality stuff, it's absolutely delicious! If you happen to visit, please bring me back a chocolate marshmallow lolly.



And that concludes this mini-guide to Paris -  I hope you found it useful! If you have any hidden gems you'd like to share, please let me know in the comments! xx
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8 April 2017

25 Facts About Me: the update


Happy April!

Before I disappear off to Paris, I thought I'd share a quick update here. But this time, it's not going to be my usual sort of blog post - it's a video!

Not too long ago, I got a comment on my very first blog post, 25 Facts About Me, asking for an update. I thought that was a pretty interesting idea, so I decided to film myself going through the list and talking about whether my 'facts' still hold true - or whether they're now a thing of fiction.

It's a bit of a long one, so I'd recommend settling down with a snack and a nice drink before you watch it. You've been warned ;)


Thank you so much for sticking with me. Until next time,

Nikki

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