Warning: post filled with soppy confessions of a loved up girl in Paris!
Exactly a year ago today, on my birthday, George organised a great surprise for me.
George is a chef, a very talented one! Last year, to celebrate my birthday, all I wanted to do was stay in, watch films and have George cook me a meal. So that is what we did.
He pulled out all the stops and ended up cooking me a three course meal that consisted of some of my favourite foods.
On the menu:
Halloumi on a crusty roll with beef tomato
Fillet steak with peppercorn sauce homemade chips & asparagus
Vanilla panna cotta with strawberry and raspberry compote
I am pretty sure he made me a cup of tea as we watched our films
We sat at the round, wooden table (the legendary round, wooden table that was a central component in my life back then. Thinking of it brings back the many memories I shared with the unconventional group that I had found myself to be amongst. We would sit round it playing games and uniting in our mutual hatred for our boss…but this is all another story!) that overlooked the harbour area. With a little candle and some mitch-matched crockery.
It was a very memorable evening, especially when George handed over my present. It was a box and inside the box were a few items that had been wrapped in pink fairy wrapping paper. The paper made me laugh and his attempt at wrapping very awkward gifts was also comical.
Each present turned out to be clues relating to my overall surprise. The first clue I was given was a toy frog and the second was a garlic. At this point I thought I was being taken to a place that held vampires due to the garlic. The third clue was a metal Eiffel Tower. I turned to George with the Eiffel Tower in my hand to find his smiling face looking back at me.
‘We are going to Paris?!?!’ I asked in amazement. He proceeded to hand over an envelope with all the details of our trip to Paris inside.
I couldn’t believe he had planned a surprise trip to Paris for my birthday. I was very excited and had many questions about how we could spend our time there. He kept telling me that it was my trip and I could do and see whatever I wanted. I was like an overly excited kid in a Hamleys toy store.
His Mum told me that he spent hours looking for the perfect hotel for us to stay in, disregarding many because he didn’t think they looked right. I am not sure what his criteria was because I am sure I would have been happy with whatever he decided on.
It soon became apparent that he had put a lot of effort into making this the perfect trip and I have to admit that it did make me fall a little bit more in love with him. He had even checked with the hotel to see if we could leave our bags there after checking out. – what usual 21 year old guy thinks of that?! I felt so lucky to have found such a considerate and organised human!
The Eurostar. We caught the train from Ebbsfleet train station. The train is a lot larger than your average train and I felt like I was in a scene from Back to the Future, experiencing a new type of train that you would expect to exist only in the future.
I made myself comfortable and before I knew it I was in Paris. I couldn’t believe it only took two hours. It takes longer to travel from London to Devon. It takes me an hour to travel to work every morning and that is only across London! I asked myself why I had never done it before (although, on the other hand I was glad that I got to spend my first time in Paris with George).
It is fairly spacious, I’d say more so than a plane. You are seated in groups of four with a table in between. On both occasions we were lucky to be sat opposite fairly normal people and none of the people in the surrounding area smelt funny which is always a positive.
The hotel. We took a few wrong turns before we were able to find our hotel but that didn’t really bother me. I could have continued to get lost among the enchanting streets of Paris all day long. When we finally found the hotel I was blown away by George’s decision to stay here. He had chosen Hotel Verneuil and it is situated not far from The Lourve (an ideal location for wandering along the river and accessing the main tourist attractions). We were greeted with a friendly smile and swiftly shown to our room. The stairs seemed to spiral up to the heavens and had the odd wonky step which all added to its character. Christmas decorations lined the banister rail and were expertly presented around the communal areas. It was quirky and that is what I loved about it. The room was small and it made me feel safe and cosy…like it was our own secret hideaway in the middle of a busy city. The bed was extremely comfy and I remember the way my head sunk into the soft pillows. Adjacent to the entrance there was a lounge area that featured comfy looking sofas and brightly coloured arm chairs positioned around an open fire. We sat here and rested our feet before leaving to catch our train on our last day. I remember not wanting to leave. I would highly recommend this hotel and hope to stay there again one day when I return to Paris. Everything about it was perfect.
It was December when we visited Paris and all the Christmas decorations made it seem all the more magical. There were traditional French market stalls that lined certain streets and we spent time wandering amongst the crowds, breathing in the smells of freshly baked breads and melted chocolate, mulled wine and roasted nuts.
After we had dropped off our bags we headed out to wander the streets. We were both hungry so we stopped and bought a chocolate crepe from a market stall. France is well known for its crepes and I am a huge fan of the chocolate variety. If I could I would install my own crepe plate in my kitchen so I could constantly make them how the French do. We strolled through a park, holding hands and wrapped up in our coats and scarves. I can’t remember what park it was but it had a lovely old mansion house that reminded me of Downton Abbey. We then wondered over to the Lourve to get s glimpse of the interesting triangular skylights. When I return to Paris I definitely plan to spend half a day getting lost amongst the art inside but for now I settled for a view of the outside.
As part of my surprise, George had booked an evening’s boat ride along the river. On our way to catch the boat we walked over the famous padlock bridge, which is sadly no longer there, and did the loved up tourists traditional thing and added our own padlock. It was all very romantic!
Whilst on the boat the commentator pointed out key landmarks on Paris. It was a great way to see all the sites and I was very excited when I glimpsed the Eiffel Tower all lit up for the first time.
The Eiffel Tower. The cue for to go up the Eiffel Tower was luckily not very long. We did plan on climbing up the stairs but due to the rain we had to take the lift. I found it strange standing under such a famous monument. It felt surreal to finally see it in person. The views over Paris from the top were beautiful, even despite the grey sky. Looking at the world from such a height is fascinating. How all the roads lined with buildings form a beautiful pattern below. I was not willing to risk my life by bei blown away from the top of the tower so I only viewed everything from within the safety of the enclosed area. George and I spent a significant time stood by the warm radiators just admiring the view below. Watching vehicles move amongst the little paths.
Notre Dame. I have always wanted to go to this building ever since I was the Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It is one of the most famous historic Catholic Cathedrals in the world and also demonstrates some of the finest examples of French gothic architecture. The gargoyles that sprout from the facades are interesting but it is the beauty from within that is worth the visit.
I found it so peaceful inside. I lit a candle and wandered around, taking in the gorgeous colours of the beautiful stained glass windows. Definitely worth a visit, even if you aren’t religious.
I can honestly say that my short time spent in Paris was one of the most magical and memorable moments in my life and I can definitely see why they call it the city of love. From the romantic winter walks, huddled under the hotels umbrella to looking over Paris by a radiator at the top of the Eiffel Tower…not even the rain could have spoiled my trip! A huge thank you goes to George for my birthday surprise.