Discovering Paris in Winter

It’s been a while since I wrote but life has been a whirlwind the last few months, with kids settling into new schools, moving house, unpacking countless boxes in our new home, one case of chicken pox, three bouts of sickness bugs to deal with, including one the day we moved house and not to mention squeezing in Christmas and work! It has, as a result, left little time to blog or relax and while completely over the moon to finally have started the next chapter in my life, I was also left feeling pretty frazzled at the end of it all.

When the opportunity arose therefore, to take a quick break to Paris with my photographer partner, who was travelling there to do a Chinese pre-wedding shoot, using the iconic Parisian landmarks as his backdrop, I knew it was just what I needed to recharge my batteries…

Travelling to Paris is pretty much a breeze if you travel using Eurostar and fairly reasonably priced at around £150.00 return at this time of year. We took a 45 minute drive from the house to Ebsfleet where we caught the train and arrived only a few hours later right in the heart of Paris itself at Gare du Nord station. As our visit to the city was work related and not purely recreational, we went for the cheap and convenient option on the hotel, which was part of the Mecure group, incredibly well placed right opposite the station and only 100 Euros for the night.

However, the original room we were given was very small, extremely tired looking, with no view and poor sound insulation – not a great start. Unimpressed, we headed straight back down to reception to ask to be moved and were given a much better, refurbished room on the top floor which was cosy but clean with two small balconies and gorgeous views across the city.

The black and white documentary photography in this post, for me, captures the romance and the story of the city without distraction and also reflects her timeless beauty. There is something intangibly seductive about Paris that draws you in the moment you arrive. Steeped in history and full of old charm with its traditional architecture, monuments and bustling streets and cafes, it is a metropolis that is both vibrant and edgy yet romantic and magical.

Even on a grey and icy January afternoon like the one we arrived on, it captures the imagination and exudes sophistication, grit and glamour that makes the reasons to fall in love with Paris as diverse as the city itself. Famed as a capital for fashion, culture, art and food, it’s easy to see therefore, why it remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Getting around Paris is made easy once you familiarise yourself with the convenience of the Metro. Much like London Underground, it transports you down a maize of tunnels to your chosen destination within minutes and is a mix of old tired trains and new and improved modern ones. At only a few euros for a single ticket, it is one of the cheapest ways to get about the city other than on foot and in winter is a welcome reprieve from the cold and icy weather above ground.

When we first arrived, we travelled via the Metro to the Shangri-La hotel to meet the clients my partner would be photographing the next day. Entering the grand foyer of the Shangri-La is an experience in itself. Its stunning marble corridor, opulent chandeliers, grand sweeping staircase and abundant floral displays mixed with the delight of delicate perfumed scent wherever you walked, made it hard to want to leave. The hotel simply oozes class and allows stunning views of the Eiffel Tower, if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford the £1000 plus room rate per night!

Having enjoyed some traditional Chinese tea and our meeting with the couple, we headed towards the river to find somewhere to eat for dinner and found a fabulous and reasonably priced restaurant called Le Grand Corona. Stepping inside, we were immediately greeted by the warmth and wonderful aromatic smells of the place. Low orange lighting from the vintage exposed filament ceiling bulbs and the gentle chatter of diners as they sat in comfortable leather chairs all added to the welcoming and cosy atmosphere, enhanced by the contrast of the cold winter wind and rain outside.

I enjoyed possibly the best boeuf bourguignon I have ever tried which had me savouring every delicious mouthful and enjoyed with a glass of Brouilly red wine, an exquisite Beaujolais that was the perfect complement to my meal. The coffee ice cream dessert was also amazing and before we knew it we were the last diners to leave the restaurant!

The following day after a restful nights sleep, we headed in the morning to the Trocadéro to experience the unrivalled views of the Eiffel Tower and the city for a quick photoshoot for the blog, before I headed off to enjoy some shopping on the Champs-Élysées while my partner spent the afternoon doing his pre-wedding shoot.

There are of course many places to shop in Paris but the Champs-Élysées is a great place to start with its long parade of popular high street stores including Marks and Spencer, Banana Republic, Zara and Abercrombie and Fitch lining its wide pedestrianised walkways. The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, and stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées and marked the starting point for my mini shopping spree. I picked up a couple of great buys in M&S before heading to Le Louvre to rejoin my other half for supper before heading back home on the Eurostar.

Although only in Paris for a few days, I was left with an overall feeling of warmth for the city and a desire to go back to experience it at a warmer time of year when I could fully appreciate its beauty with a walk in the sunshine rather than on this occasion a rather chilly dash in the rain!

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