This short break is a walking discovery tour with a difference: a new concept that combines city and country where you walk your way around city sights and historic monuments as well as the surrounding countryside. You savour the unique cultural experience of the City of Light, followed by a visual history lesson in Versailles, and then, after all that, the chance to escape for a day to a hidden hotel in a spectacular country location. There is also a gastronomic element to the weekend with some great dining experiences “à la Française”!
If you already know Paris pretty well, why go again? Even if you’ve visited Paris many times, have you actually spent a full day walking around it? Just walking and admiring? Paris is the perfect city to explore on foot as it’s not actually that big. You would be hard pushed to get around some of the other world capitals in a day, certainly not London or Berlin, definitely not New York. We have devised a walk that takes you from the Left Bank to the Right and back to the Left, through gardens, two islands, up hills and down steps, through a Roman amphitheatre, along the River Seine and by the Notre Dame.
We start the weekend in Montmartre, high above the city. It‘s a good place to start, and a good place to unwind on a Friday evening far from the madding crowds, the noise of traffic, department stores and busy Parisians rushing home from work. The air is better here, the sweeping views of the city impressive, the architecture quintessentially French and very pretty. Even the most conservative Anglo Saxon cannot fail to be seduced by the bohemian charm of the village made famous by its former residents – some of the world’s most renowned artists – as well as the iconic sleazy cabarets cherished by the “IT” crowd of the early 20th century.
The first evening is relaxed: we climb but just one small hill before taking a nice long pause to savour the ambience and have our first glass of wine (and most definitely not the last!). The pace is easy and relaxed. We make frequent stops to relish the atmosphere, point out and talk about Montmartre’s many little curiosities and stories. We finish our walk on the steps of the Sacré Coeur.
Our dinner venue is just a few hidden steps around a corner, one where no tourist would stumble. And this is probably a good thing as the waiters and chefs in this little bistro do not speak “ze English”. There is however, great but simple traditional French cuisine and the wine is superb. My translation services also come in very handy!
We walk back to the hotel through the Pigalle area flooded with young and stylish Parisans packed into the busy restaurants and bars. We feel like we are getting a glimpse into the world of these young hip locals and wonder what they make of 18 British walkers passing by.
Back to Hotel Arvor, our little haven tucked away in an attractive semi circular street in a neighbourhood that is less “bohemian” and more “chic”, although definitely not touristy. We feel like we are getting the real deal. And well, that is just the beginning……..
by Sarah Puppini, your guide