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The City of Love: What to do on a best friend’s trip to Paris

The City of Love: What to do on a best friend’s trip to Paris

How to do the City of Love with your best friend
Paris is about more than extravagant engagements (Picture: Ella Glover)

Hidden first dates on the banks of the river Seine, proposals in front of the Eiffel Tower, couples kissing after attaching an engraved padlock on the love lock bridge – Paris oozes romance.

Roaming the streets of the French capital, it’s easy to understand why they call it the city of love, and it’s even easier to understand why anyone without a romantic partner might be unwilling to visit.

But visiting Paris with your best friend is the perfect act of defiance against the city’s idealized stereotypes – which often leave people disappointed a la ‘Paris Syndrome’.

And, anyway, who said friendship can’t be romantic?

Book a boujee hotel

Staying at the Hotel Sonder Atalawith a view of the Eiffel Tower from our bathroom window and a bed so large we woke up each morning feeling as though we had slept in separate beds, Ellie and I tasted luxury like never before.

The hotel room had its own private elevator, something neither of us have experienced before, and a huge balcony, perfect for sipping coffee while looking out across terracotta chimneys at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.

balcony with chairs
The view was incredible (Picture: Sonder Atala Paris)

eiffel tower view
The view from our window never got old (Picture: Ella Glover)

Staff at the Atala are extremely helpful with everything you need to know, including the best places to eat and drink in the neighborhood, all easily accessed on the Sonder app, which also offers a 24-hour check-in service.

In terms of amenities, we couldn’t have asked for anything more – in-room Nespresso machines, a large courtyard, a continental breakfast and even a fitness room, which I did, perhaps too optimistically, plan on using at some point.

Located just off the Champs-Élysées we were perfectly connected and didn’t have to stray far for great food and transport links and tax-free shopping using the Wevat app.

Take a gourmet food tour

Ellie and I love food.

Our friendship was consumed when we tried the KFC Festive Burger in 2016 and reaffirmed when, on my 19th birthday, we were caught in the kitchen of our student flat snaffling half an arctic roll each by our hot flatmate – so it was only right we started out our trip with a gourmet food tour of Paris.

Our tour guide, Aprilpicked us up from our hotel at 10am on Saturday morning, leading us to the metro station while we scrubbed up on our French (but not before we each picked up a box of the ‘best macarons in the world’ from Pierre Hermé).

The best macaroons in the world (Picture: ella Glover)

After a walking tour of Les Halles District – once known as the ‘Belly of Paris’ – April took us to Rue Montorgueil, one of Paris’ permanent market streets, where you can find all the best produce in Paris.

We dipped in and out of butchers, cheese shops, bakeries and the oldest (and grandest) pastry shop in Paris, Stohrer, which happens to make some of the best chocolate eclairs in the country.

three women sat at a table with food and wine
The perfect end to a great tour (Picture: Ella Glover)

Produce in hand, we headed to Rocher de Cancale, one of the oldest restaurants in the city, where we assembled a charcuterie board using our bought goods while sipping wine.

After that, we shared a portion of oysters, which the restaurant specializes in, and one of our bucket list foods, escargot (aka snails) which were genuinely delightful.

When in Paris… (Picture: Ella Glover)

Now sufficiently tipsy, we finished our tour and attempted to navigate our way to the Eiffel Tower, but that plan was stifled when we found a spot in the sun to drink wine and people watch (a national sport in Paris, according to April), which we did until we could barely walk upright.

Take a padlock to the Love Lock Bridge

To keep the romance alive on our trip, we of course decided to get ourselves a padlock engraved, and we fully intended to lock it to the famous Love Love Bridge opposite the Eiffel Tower.

However, we were informed by April that the original love locks were actually removed after the bridge collapsed under the weight of so much metal.

As we walked – or should I say stumbled – our way back to our hotel following an unnecessary amount of alcohol, we spotted a bridge that seemed to have replaced the original Love Locks Bridge (hopefully with more structural integrity) and decided that was the moment .

woman locking padlock on bridge
How romantic (Picture: Ella Glover)

pad lock
Not out finest moment (Picture: Eleanor Sloan)

So Ellie got down on one knee and attached our £12 padlock to that bridge; a symbol of permanent love and friendship (well, sort of: in our drunkenness, we forgot to take off the spare keys).

Bastille Market and Le Marais

On April’s recommendation, we woke up as early as we could on Sunday morning and took the metro to Bastille to explore the local food market.

Hungry, and a tad hungover, we bought ourselves a rotisserie chicken, which you’ll find on every corner, and a portion of some of the best potatoes I’ve ever tried.

We took our food and had a picnic in Place des Vosges, the prettiest square in Paris, under the beaming sun.

So much good food (Picture: Ella Glover)

Place des Vosges is in the heart of Le Marais, which is not only the Jewish Quarter – meaning it’s lively on Sunday’s – but also the best place for boutique and vintage shopping in Paris.

After an hour or so of window shopping, we found ourselves in the same position we were in the day before: with a glass of wine on a terrace in the sun.

See the Eiffel Tower

After a few drinks, we headed back to the hotel, determined not to lose sight of the Eiffel tower once again.

A quick shower and outfit change and we were off, deciding to take the scenic route down the Champs-Élysées, hoping to find a restaurant that sold frog’s legs (we didn’t).

As much as I like to think I’m immune to tourist traps, seeing the Eiffel tower in person was pretty awe-inspiring.

eiffel tower
Mandatory tourist pic (Picture: Ella Glover)

The air around the Eiffel tower is filled with love – couples kissing to your left, proposals to your right – and it was the perfect place to be with one of my favorite people.

Take an evening boat ride down the Seine

According to April, a river boat cruise after sunset is the perfect way to see Paris, the city of light, in all of its glory – she was right.

Shivering, because as Brits through and through we’d dressed entirely inappropriately for the weather, we set off just before the clock struck 10pm, when the Eiffel tower began to sparkle as it does every hour on the hour after sundown.

Eiffel tower lit up
Paris really is the city of light (Picture: Ella Glover)

On our way, we were able to witness the minutiae of Paris, like a couple laying together on a lone bench on the river bank or a large group dancing to Latin-inspired music.

After two hectic days, sitting quietly and watching the city twinkle was the perfect way to spend our final night in Paris.

Try the French McDonald’s

Okay, this is no Eiffel Tower or tour of Versailles, but hear me out.

After we finished our boat tour, we wandered back up the Champs-Elysee, stopping for a few farewell drinks on the way.

We’d spent the whole weekend passing McDonald’s, one of the busiest in Europe, wondering what French McDonald’s had to offer.

The Croque McDo was genuinely life changing (Picture: Eleanor Sloan)

So we ordered our meals and headed back to the hotel.

It was there that we had another memorable food moment, one I’m sure we’ll be talking about for as long as we’ve been talking about the KFC Festive Burger, when we took our first bite of the Croque McDo.

Literally McDonald’s version of a ham and cheese toastie, that small slice of Paris was the best fast food item either of us have ever had.

As if I needed any more reason to move to Paris and never come home, the thought of being able to eat a Croque McDo after one too many drinks is probably the most convincing.

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