Paris in the Spring – St Germain:
I’ve been a Londoner for most of my adult life. A couple of brief excursions to the country and a temporary contract in Brussels for nine months my only attempts to break free. Yet, there are cities where I believe I could happily live. Paris is one of those cities, somewhere I’ve loved since I was taken to ‘Le Train Bleu’ for dinner at the age of eleven or twelve.
A few years ago I used to travel fairly regularly to New York. My antidote to the Big Apple was to take the long route, travelling from London to Paris and spending a couple of days there before flying to New York. I always stayed in St Germain, a part of Paris where there is a wealth of cafes, small boutique hotels and great shops. And for the most part, I explored the city on foot. So I was thrilled when I was invited to visit and review a self-catering apartment on Boulevard St Germain. Any excuse to go back!
Travelling up to Paris from Charente Maritime by TGV, I was happy to let my hosts help by arranging a cab to pick me up from the Station. Although I’m fairly confident using the Paris Metro, treating myself to a cab when I had cases to carry and was travelling to a new address seemed like a reasonable luxury.
The apartment was on Boulevard St Germain, right by Cluny, La Sorbonne Metro and just a few minutes from the Seine and Notre Dame. A rather scruffy but very secure entrance opened into a traditional hallway with lift and curving staircase. On the fourth floor, my home from home, bathed in the evening sunlight. Full of personal touches, each bedroom had its own bathroom, one with walk-in shower, one with a fabulous deep tub. The living room had big curl-up sofas, parquet flooring, books, family photos and contemporary art. It felt just a little too much like home to be in a design magazine, but it was a close thing.
The best bit about this kind of place to stay is that you CAN walk home in the evening and enjoy a bottle of wine looking out over the rooftops of Paris in the privacy of your own place. You CAN get up when you like, without having to worry about what time breakfast is served and whether the hotel staff are going to try and make up your room before you’ve had a chance to get dressed. You CAN just relax and gaze out of your window all day if that what suits you.
That is just what I did. After I’d had a chance to take a walk. I wandered out, took a look at Notre Dame and then went to the next door bistro, recommended by the owners, for my supper. Back in the flat, I tried valiantly to improve my rusty French by watching a film on TV, but, I was completely distracted by a glass of wine and the wonderful views over the rooftops of the South Bank.
The next morning I got up early and walked. Past St Severin, down to the Seine, then all the way along the river to Musee D’Orsay. The last time I walked along this route, the bridges were pristine, love locks didn’t exist. Now, bridges have been laden with memories in the form of padlocks. The weight of the locks has caused sections of some of the bridges to collapse and others are now protected with boarding panels.
After a coffee, I wandered over to Tuilleries and had great intentions of going around the Musee d’Orangerie. Paris on a sunny spring morning though, deserves to be an outdoor experience, so instead I just wandered around, people watching and enjoying the sunshine.
Back along Boulevard St Germain, I stopped at Les Deux Magots for lunch. The food has a timeless quality, dishes presented as they might have been when it was one of the meeting places for surrealist artists, intellectuals and writers. Patrons have included Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Satre, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus and Pablo Picasso. Of course, now there’s a fair scattering of tourists but the Cafe doesn’t seem to have lost its integrity for all that.
I wandered back to the apartment, window shopping along the way. After coffee, another walk, over to Notre Dame, then the Marais. No pressure, no formality. Just a relaxing day exploring.
Leaving Paris, travelling by Eurostar from Gare du Nord, I felt just a little sad. I had been so perfectly at home that I felt no need to leave. And, I hope that I’ll be back soon.
You can find this kind of apartments in London and Paris and for me, it’s a great way to travel. It gives you all the freedom of a city at a lower cost – and with much more of a local feel. I’m already planning my next trip. Find out more about the best area to stay in Paris for you. There are plenty of options.
If you are looking for a budget stay in Paris, you might want to check out the range of best Paris hostels for solo travellers – there’s something for everything!
Disclaimer: I stayed in Paris as a guest of FG Properties.