I’ve been living in Paris for over 2 years now, going to new museums, restaurants and hidden corners whenever I can. I’m still discovering hidden treasures even now! Many people who come to France stay in Paris for the duration of their trip, it’s easy to see why as there’s plenty to keep you busy here for a week or more. However, taking day trips out of the city allows you to experience the country’s rich heritage, impressive buildings that form the legacy of its legendary monarchy, now a republic and therefore open doors. Castles, forests and palaces all beautifully preserved and waiting to be explored. Most people automatically head for the Chateau of Versailles which is a beautiful palace, but hoards of crowds can make it difficult to enjoy. I can of course offer advice on avoiding the queues and busy times, but I also have some alternatives to present you that I myself have enjoyed more than Versailles. Continue reading “Day trips from Paris that avoid the crowds”
Living in Paris is a dream for a foodie like me. I’ve been here for 2 years now, so have plenty of great restaurants and bars to recommend that I go to on a regular basis. They are enjoyed by tourists and locals alike, and fit in well with sightseeing as I often go to these places when I have friends in town. Enjoy!
A special evening out
Le Relais de Venise is à parisien institution, serving only steak frites and 2 rounds of it to boot! The only question you’ll have to answer is “quelle cuisson?” (How you want your steak cooked) to which you should probably reply “saignant” or “a point” (rare or medium). You’ll have to queue but I promise it’s worth it for that special secret sauce! Make an evening of it by visiting the Hyatt Regency Hotel for cocktails before dinner and the best view of the Eiffel Tower.
The details: Le Relais de Venise, 271 Boulevard Pereire, 75017
Laid back French style
For something more simple, head for great happy hour cocktails 5-9pm and the best cheese and meat board (planche) at “La Comete” and over to the famous (and cheap!) restaurant “Chartier” nearby (you need to queue for the restaurant)
Local music scene
Gypsy jazz bar ‘l’apostrophe” on a Thursday or Friday night will give you the pleasure of listening to the best gypsy jazz musicians around. The food there is nothing special, but worth it if you like live music as you have to eat there to get the good seats where you can see, but you should either arrive early (8pm) or reserve. You can also go after dinner and stand and have drinks. It’s near Republique where there’s lots of interesting bars. Or if you fancy trying some excellent cheese and wine head to La Vache dans les Vignes first, through they do have cheese boards at l’Apostrophe too.
The ultimate “cute French terrace” in Montmartre
This place is perfectly placed for a glass of wine of lunch when exploring Montmartre, it’s a touristy area so good to think about where you’re going to eat first to make sure you never waste a meal!
The details: Le Relais de la Butte, 12 Rue Ravignan, 75018
Le bistro thats full of charm in Le Marais
No trip to Paris is complete without a wander in the streets of Le Marais, it’s full of great shops and restaurants, you’ll be spoilt for choice! This one takes the biscuit for me as its on my favourite street, and will reward you with views (and photos I’m sure) of a quaint pedestrianised avenue so quiet you’ll forget you’re in Paris!
The details: Les Philosophes, 28 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004
The Latin Quarter
Fancy a crêpe on a quintessentially Parisien market street after walking in Jardin du Luxembourg and through the Latin quarter? This is the place. There’s a ton a creperies on this street including a famous greek one with queues out the door throughout the day, but who comes to Paris for a greek crepe? Come here to get the real thing from a Brittanic restaurant, and make sure to wash it down with some of Brittany’s finest cider or apple juice.
The details: La Petite Bretonne, 48 Rue Mouffetard, 75005
The ultimate Parisien brasserie near the Eiffel Tower
Saving the best until last, this is on the road where I live and one of my favourites it’s where we had our wedding lunch. The service is impeccable as is all the food, not to mention the giant tree in the middle of the restaurant viewable from the 3 floors of balconies. It’s a special place indeed. Great for lunch or dinner, it’s located on a nice shopping street to enjoy as you walk off your meal. Try to book in advance:
After a week in Portugal I was totally in love and already wondering when I could come back, or even if I could feasibly move here! The ancient culture, fresh flavoursome food, gorgeous architecture and laid back culture are just a few reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with this country.
Most people visit either Porto or Lisbon on weekend city breaks, with both cities well suited to such a trip. We on the other hand decided to do a 8 day long holiday visiting both cities for three days each and 2 days in Sintra. Both have different activities to offer and different cultural identities, read on to find out my top tips for both.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and as a gorgeous ancient city, sees many more tourists visiting per year than Porto. You can spend your days exploring the various neighbourhoods all of which have very different atmospheres. We stayed in Alfama, the ancient heart of Lisbon and home to the Fado music culture. The area is teeming with little bars and restaurants tucked away on cute streets where you can enjoy dinner, drinks and heart wrenching Fado performances. The singing is intense and transports you to a different world. In this area you will also find the ancient São Jorge Castle on the hill and a tramway line 28 you can ride through if your legs aren’t up to the march!
In Barrio Alto you will find endless bars and restaurants to keep you entertained at night and of course the famous time out market to sample all sorts of Portuguese and international food. Head to Belem to visit the famous monastery, Belem tower and taste the best Pastel de Nata in the world at Pasteis de Belem. Eat in their cute and sprawling cafe instead of taking away- their coffee is delicious!
There is easily enough to keep you entertained for three days in Lisbon but I highly recommend taking a day trip, or even better and overnight trip, to Sintra just 30 minutes away by train and home to countless castles, palaces and gardens. By taking an overnight trip you can visit some of the lesser known but equally beautiful sites (like Monserrate Park) and avoid the mid-morning crowds at the National Palace who are visiting as day trippers by visiting first thing in the morning on your second day.
Just three hours away by train from Lisbon you will find the second most popular destination in Portugal to visit for city breaks. Porto is the birthplace of Port, a delicious fortified wine that you can sample here in various breweries and bars for next to nothing. This city also has numerous winding streets full of gorgeous architecture but is much more rustic and rough around the edges than in Lisbon. You can happily spend two days wondering around discovering little bars and restaurants amongst the crumbling churches and shops.
If you want to head out of town a trip up the Douro river will give you unparalleled views of the steep streets of Porto and vineyards clinging to the banks further up the river. As with Sintra, this can be done as an overnight trip if you fancy getting out of the city and spending some time in the cool mountain air.
A quick search on Skyscanner will reveal that now is the time to plan ahead for those wintery months coming up, and book a weekend away. City breaks are one of my favourite types of holidays; a couple of days to explore somewhere new, wine and dine in nice restaurants and stay in a hotel and let someone else clean up for a while. But which city should you choose, when there are so many? There’s something to be found in Europe for every style, it’s just a matter of finding the one that tickles your fancy and booking those flights!