I thoroughly enjoyed my first stay in Paris but this trip definitely solidified the city’s special place in my heart. My latest Netflix binge has been CW’s “The Reign” which follows Mary Queen of Scots throughout her engagement and marriage to French prince and eventual king, Francis. The series, though largely fictional, takes place at French Court during the 16th century and is fundamentally based on these real people and their elaborate lives. I loved returning to Paris with a much deeper interest in the French monarchy, and therefore more knowledge about its rich history.
Paris also happens to be James’s favorite city in the world, so his enthusiasm for and familiarity with the city eased our navigation and planning considerably. Sydney and I met up with him and some friends from Edinburgh at the Louvre. I loved wandering through all of the exhibits and remembering certain pieces from my prior visit – I could honestly spend hours exploring and admiring all the isles of incredible artwork. One piece that I was particularly excited to see was the portrait of Diane de Potier, who once influenced many of the proceedings at French Court as the official mistress of King Henry II.
This time around, we stayed in the 9th arrondissement at the BVJ Opéra-Montmartre, the first historical youth hostel in Paris. The establishment, which was once home to Bavarian Princess Wagram, Maréchal de Gouvion Sain Cyr, and the actress Mademoiselle Mars, has its own wealth of history. Woody Allen even rented out the premises during his filming of Midnight in Paris! From there, we were only a short walk from Le Palais Garnier, the extravagant opera house where rumors of phantoms (i.e. original Phantom of the Opera) and supernatural occurrences have persisted to this day.
Our dinner that first night was one of the most entertaining culinary endeavors that I’ve ever experienced. We went to a fondue shop called Le Refuge des Fondues, an intimate restaurant where you literally have to climb over the table to get to your seat in the booth. They serve wine in baby bottles and provide endless baskets of bread with bowls of perfectly melted cheese and butter. It’s the most decadent experience. Another one of the weekend highlights was the best falafel I’ve eaten in my ENTIRE life at MA-VI-MA, where they’re wrapped up and served in the traditional street style. I guess it shouldn’t come as an overwhelming surprise that many of my most outstanding memories from my time abroad revolve around food… but it was so impressive that I went back the next day for lunch. Right down the block is La Drogurie, which many tourists regard as the best creperie in all of Paris. My super-foodie Sydney had visited this particular creperie before with her family and if her rave reviews were any indication, this place certainly deserved its reputation. I loved watching the steam rise off of the batter as it sizzled on the pan into perfect canvases for sweet and savory fillings. The smell was heavenly but the taste was in fact even better.
Our other sightseeing adventures included lunch under the Eiffel Tower (with a fresh baguette, soft cheese, and red wine – the most perfect afternoon outing), the Cathedral de Notre-Dame, Jardins de Luxembourg, and Pont des Arts. The love-lock bridge is no longer the spectacle that it once was because the sheer weight of all the locks started collapsing its reinforcement mesh panels. A large majority of the locks have been cut away to prevent future damage, but those that remain still cast a colorful image.