Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely mum’s! We are taking Viv to Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle for lunch today, as a double celebration for both Mother’s Day and her 60th birthday this week. I thought today would be a good day to share some of the things we got up to on our weekend in Paris a few weeks ago. It was technically the start of her birthday celebrations, not that she’s milking it, but we did some lovely things as part of our mother-daughter weekend break that anyone visiting the French capital with their mum could enjoy as well.
Stay in a nice hotel
I would recommend this whoever you’re travelling with to be fair, because it’s always nice to stay somewhere a bit posher. We stayed at The Chess Hotel in central Paris, just a few minutes walk from the Opera and Place Vendome. It was a 4* hotel, with a quirky boutique feel to it. As you go in there’s some incredible scent blowing through the air con and it’s the first thing Viv commented on, followed by the fabulous floor tiles and the typical French windows and tiny balcony overlooking the Parisien rooftops – it’s all in the details.
Other places I would highly recommend are hotel Royal Saint Honore, another lovely 4* hotel on one of the best designer shopping streets in Paris, and Sofitel Faubourg which is 5* pure luxury and stunning.
I find that people I speak to either loved or hated Paris, and I really believe your entire experience could be altered based on where you stay. The outer areas just aren’t for me. Personally I’d never want to stray far from Concorde, Rue Saint Honore or the opera. The George V, the Ritz and the Shangri-La with an Eiffel Tower view are firmly on my bucket list for when I’m a millionaire.
Go shopping, even if it’s just window shopping
The fashion capital of the world is like no other when it comes to designer boutiques and flagship stores. Even though we just window shopped this time, we spent hours doing it. I know some people love the Champs Elysees for shopping but it’s just too high street for me when I’m in Paris. However the flagship Louis Vuitton is here so every cloud…
As I mentioned before Rue Saint Honore is lined with labels, and not far is Rue Cambon with the original Chanel boutique and Coco Chanel’s apartment/early design studio above it. Just a tip if you’re buying your first Chanel bag here they let you have your photo taken on the marble staircase that leads up to Coco’s apartment – how fabulous.
Place Vendôme is another great high end shopping spot especially for jewellery and watches, and is just around the corner. Tiffany, Cartier and Rolex all have shops here and it’s not surprising really considering The Ritz is there too.
My favourite fact about Place Vendôme is that it was the inspiration behind the bottle for Coco Chanels iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume. It’s the same shape looking at it from above. Viv and I spent ages wandering around and discussing how one day we would love to stay at the Ritz and have afternoon tea.
Galeries Lafayette is a big department store in Paris, a bit like Selfridges or Harvey Nichols in the UK, which is also pretty good for shopping, but we didn’t venture in this visit. I’ve heard theres a rooftop terrace cafe which is definitely something I’d try find in the summer.
Go to the Opera
Or just wander around it like we did. The Palais Garnier, or Paris Opera house is a work of art in itself. It’s the most beautiful, detailed building with huge pillars, gold statues, giant chandeliers and french balconies. It’s impressive from the front but definitely have a wander around it because it’s huge, and depending on what is showing at the time the restaurant and outdoor garden are themed to match.
I’m not sure if it was for Valentine’s Day or the Russian ballet that was performing at the time, but there was a beautiful rose garden.
If you’re lucky enough to go to the Opera in Paris, I’d recommend dinner at Cafe de la Paix which is literally across the road. It’s a fabulous French and seafood restaurant with silver service and a view of the opera through all the glass front windows.
Wander the gardens and hidden courtyards
Due to all the snow the Tuileries gardens were closed for part of our visit, but the walk through them when they’re open is definitely something you should do. Sit by the fountains in the sun, or wander among the trees towards the Louvre.
As we couldn’t do this and were in Saint Germain for lunch, we went to the Jardin du Luxembourg instead. These gardens were full of snow as well but were open to the public.
The last time I visit Luxembourg Palace and the gardens it was spring, but it looked totally different with a blanket of snow. We spent part of our afternoon wandering through and sitting on the benches watching people build snowmen.
As well as the gardens Paris has some delightful little courtyards, if you can just find them. Le Village is one of Viv’s favourites, and is near the Madeleine. It has small boutique shops for Chanel and Dior, but it also has a very nice cafe called Cafe Royale where we went for breakfast.
Other courtyards we found were this oriental looking one, and of course the one that forms part of Ralph’s restaurant.
If it’s not your first time in Paris, do something new
Viv had never been to the Shakespeare shop or Ralph’s restaurant, but I knew she wanted to go so planned visits to both as part of our trip. We walked along the river to Notre Dame in the morning, something we do on every family trip to Paris, but afterwards we went across the road to the bookshop.
She loves a good book, so was in her element wandering around the tiny rooms and 16th century floors of the rickety house above.
For lunch I took her to Ralph’s, the Ralph Lauren restaurant in the Saint Germain area of Paris. It’s much less touristy, but is a lovely area to wander about.
There are a lot of traditional French restaurants along the side streets, but after Kieran and I went to Ralph’s last year and she saw the photos she really wanted to go. Also, her dad was called Ralph so think she liked the idea of it for that reason too. Which brings me to my next point…
Research good places to eat
Ralph’s is so quaint, a beautiful restaurant and has an adorable outdoor seating area with blankets and cushions in the outdoor courtyard. It isn’t cheap, but it’s very popular and we had a lovely relaxed lunch and bottle of wine after a morning of walking around the city.
For dinner we went to Flottes, an old favourite that we go to every time as well, but it serves the best French onion soup you will ever have. The staff are amazing and go out of their way to get to know you a bit and are happy to share recommendations.
If you want a pre or post dinner drink, there’s a fabulous little bar on Rue Saint Honore which isn’t far away, there’s also lots of hotel bars in this area including the Faubourg which are on the pricier end but serve some excellent cocktails.
Only in Paris…
For a true French experience that your mum will love you could take her to somewhere like Laduree for afternoon tea, or Angelinas for hot chocolate and a cake.
We bought some macaroons from Laduree, but the queue for Angelinas was so big we just grabbed a hot chocolate to go from the little cart they have outside if you don’t want to sit in. Drinking a hot chocolate in the snow, while looking at the Eiffel Tower was a pretty memorable part of our weekend.
Whatever you’re doing this Mother’s Day, hope you have a lovely time!
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