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Paris in Autumn

eiffelIt was Halloween. We couldn't possibly have hoped for such sunny and warm weather with gorgous clear skies. We saw Paris at its very best this weekend.

Our hotel near Montmartre was well placed, a short stroll from Pigalle and St George underground stations. The Joyce Hotel has a spacious and interesting reception and lounge area and individual boutique rooms. Sit on carseats for breakfast and enjoy unique, if some are a bit small, rooms. Beds are comfy, rooms soundproofed and curtains dark. Superior rooms only offer a bath extra and you can request one of 3 balcony rooms. There is no bar but they offer a free afternoon tea. What we really were blown away by was the service - that really makes this place. From the reception staff working on changing my ticket (unbelievably I had been able to fly on a ticket that didn't match my passport) to them serving us our own champagne in the spacious reception when friend's visited. Nothing is too much trouble and you become attached to the place quickly because of them.

 

 

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That first night we walked up to the Sacre Coeur and drank beer on the steps of the brightly lit monument perched on the top of Paris, looking out over the city. If the climb is too much for you, take the funacular - a hillside streetcar. Afterwards we dined in an unpolished, atmospheric, small restaurant with delicious typical food - Miroir. Small birds and boar and a bone marrow dish (although I chose none of these!).

Next morning up early and an easy metro ride with 1 change to the Eiffel Tower. Unable to book a regular entry ticket we had gone for the group package with Easy Pass Tours, and despite my usual reservations about organised tours, we were very glad we did. We jumped the long queues and had a wonderful commentary from our guide, Juan Carlos, that seemed to open the door to all Paris for us. With blue skies and sunshine we could take in all the monuments and parkland and even had a birds eye view of a fire in the Radio France building.

From there we took a direct metro to Bercy and the ATP tennis tournament quarter-finals. The highlights were watching Federer, even though he couldn't fight Raonic's fierce serve. And up close observing of Murray and Djokovic training too, with Boris Becker on hand.

Then there was a big faff getting to The Pantheon - an enormous monument in the Latin quarter - to meet a friend. We ate at L'Ecurie for rustic food in a cave-like room underground. I enjoyed it but others in our group thought it a bit basic, especially the old-style hole in the floor toilet. It was cheaper to eat here - but we seemed to drink more so, as on other nights, the costs came to around €50 per head. Once we emerged we immediately got sucked into a similar room underground in the bar opposite where there was a Halloween party. It was a great cultural night, meeting the locals and befriending Kat in her PanAm hostess outfit - an essential part of the travel experience! Unfortunately we discovered that finding a taxi after hours on the weekend in Paris is almost impossible. It took us well over an hour to get home - we had been out for 20+ hours non-stop.

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Marais, the old town, with its narrow streets and impossibly expensive vintage and boutique shops, was next on the agenda. We were feeling a little tired but enjoyed meandering this lively area alongside the chicest Parisians. The Pompidou Centre is nearby too, with its metal framework and outside tubing, making this architecture seem up to the minute despite being 3 decades old. There are many restaurants bursting on to the pavements and it was easy to spend a slow Saturday there, ending with a walk to Notre Dame. All this in the best weather we could have wished for.

To stay in this happening area look at historic B&B at Bonne Nuit Paris with its winding staircase, brick and beamed walls. Or the slick Hotel Duo with a sauna, fitness room and a cocktail bar. Get your glimpse back in time to the original culture of France at Caron de Beaumarchais, where the decor is inspired by the play The Marriage of Figaro. There is a harp and flower prints abound.

A siesta and we were out again, for our favourite dinner yet, recommended by the hotel - Bistro Des Deux Theatres - followed by the Moulin Rouge. The original cabaret show was all feather boas and topless girls and rude bouncers. It is a 'must do' in Paris but I was told by Kat that the Cabaret Lido in the Champs Elysee is way better and cheaper too I suspect.

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Our last morning and we took the chance to nip to the Louvre, walking from Plaza de la Concorde through the Jardines de la Tullerias to reach it. That day it was a little chillier and the autumnal leaves were blowing around us. We ate outdoors still but I wrapped up in a blanket. Our plan to pop in to see the Mona Lisa painting was thwarted by the 1.5 hour queue to get in. Damn! Still lovely just to be there. A stunning and vast building, a former palace built over various centuries, it - like so many other monuments in Paris - is beautiful and imposing.

We had run out of time before a Seine cruise. This can be done on all budgets - as a boat-taxi where you hop on and off, or with dinner and music and the lights of the city passing you by. A couple we met highly recommended joining Paris en Scene at Pont St Michel. Its seemed to be priced at no more than a regular dinner out. And there are so many other places I could have spent more time. There's even a huge parkland called Bois de Bologne where you can row boat rides on a lake. Next time I will try the famed macarons from either Pierre Herme or La Duree and hot chocolate at Angelina's and go to Place Pigalle for live music/karaoke. For there will be a next time.

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