Sunday, 1 January 2012

Guide to Paris - Part 1 - Travel and Champs Elysees

Years ago, when I was working for a big brand in Europe, I was fortunate enough to 'have' to visit Paris once a month - for work. Paris is also where I did advanced facial training (a bizarre blog post all in itself).
I have a soft spot for Paris - and most things French. Except snails. Never succumbed. 

I've developed quite a few favourite shops, restaurants and sights to see and thought it might be worth sharing a few..

A few travel tips first.
  • Always Eurostar. Never fly. Unless you live in Scotland perhaps but seriously - I can get to Paris in the same amount of time it takes to get up North to the homeland. No waiting for luggage - no 2 hour check-in. Bliss.
  • Buy a Carnet on the Eurostar - and buy it early - they sell out. A Carnet is 10 metro tickets and costs around 12 euros. Buying it on the train means you avoid the queues at Gare de Nord. Think any tube station on the first day back to work after Christmas/School holidays - horrible queues. The Metro system in Paris is delightfully easy to use - and safe. You'll spend so much time walking you won't use all of your tickets if you're just going for a quick visit.
  • Don't try and hail a cab in Paris - they have to use taxi ranks - you can't hail them down in the street. Painful. But there we are.
  • If you are taking a taxi from Gare du Nord avoid the queue in the 'official' huge taxi rank on the outer right of the station. Exit the station at the front, cross over and turn left and walk for about 50 or so metres? There you'll find another taxi rank with no queue. So worth it.
  • If you can, try and avoid ordering a cab through your hotel for your journey back to the station/airport. The cab will add a good 8/10 euros just for the pleasure of picking you up. If you have been shopping for England - order the cab but make a point of asking how much the fee will be for collecting you. Cheek.
Once you've arrived and are ready to go - hit a specific area and stick to it for an amount of time if you can - don't faff around running back and forth all over the place.

First up - the Champs Elysee
You need the Metro Franklin D Roosevelt. Not Champs Elysee. That would be similar to getting off at Marble Arch when you want Tottenham Court Road. 

Exit left out of the station and walk up a block and there you have the beauty bloggers Promised Land.
The flagship Sephora is always packed but has plenty of staff to cope - queues are kept to a minimum.  The French love a French brand. Priority is given to Dior, Givenchy, Lancome, YSL and Chanel. You'll find plenty of Chanel Seasonal Colours/Limited Editions that sell out in the UK in days, Make Up For Ever and Sephora's Own Label to get you started.
A word on the Sephora/Karl Lagerfeld collaboration. I love Chanel. I mean LOVE. Who doesn't? But WHAT IN THE NAME OF BOUCLE was KL thinking with this collaboration? When we went there was plenty left on the shelves - which is always a bad sign - if it's not good enough for the French etc..and the quality was just awful. He can't need the money - or the press? 
I considered buying a few pieces for Ava's collection - of which she remains clueless but will thank me one day - but couldn't bring myself to do it. Bad quality, bad choice of product, bad idea. And unnecessary.
I stuck with Chanel. Maybe that was the thinking? Anyway..

Next up - and practically next door, is Guerlain. I blogged about our tour of Guerlain last time we were in Paris - you need to go to the Guerlain store. Firstly, the staff and service are exquisite. Polite, friendly and no pressure. I managed to get my Grandmother (in the banner) a Shalimar Dusting Powder for Christmas - not available in the UK - the staff gift-wrapped it in nano-seconds and threw in a lot of samples for her too. All sorts of fabulous.

On the block down from Guerlain is a Monoprix
Monoprix is the French version of Tesco - but you will have all manner of fun in one of these if you like things such as Bourjois, Bonne Maman jam, pre-packed Croque Monsieur cheeses - anyway - I recommend doing your supermarket shop on your last day/at the end of the day. Too heavy otherwise.

Exit Monoprix and walk down a block and you'll find Biologique Recherche. Home of the infamous P50 and well worth a visit. Unfortunately due to EU ingredient regulations the best version of P50 is now only available in the US. Humbug all round. Still worth seeing just for the products.

By now you're probably hungry - it's probably lunchtime and you NEED to visit La Relais.

See those people? That be a food queue. We went back the next day - early.
If you're vegetarian look away now.

The staff ask you two questions when you sit down at La Relais.

  1. How do you want it cooked? (medium rare)
  2. What do you want to drink? (bottle of red s'il vous plait)
That's it. Steak and chips - TWICE. Not for 2 - two servings per person.

The good news is that there are branches in London. Go. But as with Paris - go early to avoid queues.

Next up: Boulevard Haussmann and L'Opera.


  1. A great and fabulous guide. I went to Paris once on a school trip and felt spectacularly un chic but enamoured all the same - it is the architecture but also the quality. Thanks so much for this - helpful and succinct as per.

  2. Love this post. I have never visited Paris, but I will make a note of all these things. Always good to get recommendations when you visit a place :) xx

  3. Thank you so much for this! I'm going to be visiting Paris this year so cant wait to read al your posts on the wonderful city! Do you have any hotel advice? I just dont know where to start! xx

  4. I was in Paris over Christmas and had the same thoughts as you with the Karl Lagerfeld palette - awful and pointless.

    We took a plane though.. it was cheaper than the Eurostar becuase we went at the last minute :)

  5. This post is fantastic! I really want to visit Paris with my boyfriend & these posts look like they'll be invaluable in ensuring I get to see a bit of Paris that I'm interested in. I've been to Paris a few times, visiting Disneyland, visiting family, etc. Last time I was there it was horrible though. I was about 15, & my 3 sisters & I were on holiday with out Mum. We'd been down in the South visiting family & then Mum had driven us back up to Paris for a few days before we flew home (my first flying holiday!) When we arrived at our hotel, we were told our room had been 'flooded' & we had been moved to another hotel down the road. The other hotel turned out to be a dingy hostel, right by the Moulin Rouge. My poor Mum broke down in tears when we reached the hostel & she saw where we were supposed to be staying. Not only was it her birthday that day, but the hostel wanted to put us in a dormitory! In the end we got our own room, we barricaded the door whilst my Mum & sister went to Pizza Hut to get dinner & we spent the evening playing UNO.
    Definitely not the kind of Parisian holiday one tends to imagine, but thankfully it hasn't put me off visiting again one day :)

    Big love

    Steph xx

  6. i love paris, i think it is my favourite palce in the world :D

  7. Ava's collection? Do expand!!!!!

  8. I have recently just found your blog by way of watching Nic from Pixiwoo's tutorial on facial care. I have indeed ordered the EH Cleansing Balm. It is on back order but they have emailed me and is putting in a small container in my order as a bonus!!! Perfect for my trip this fall to London. I have been reading and trying to find a good way to sneak to Paris during our trip and I did find something thru Eurostar. Reading your blog has pretty much sealed the deal!!! My husband and I are both military and we have been all over the world. We have just started travelling on our own and are looking forward to crossing the big pond for pleasure. Thanks for your blog on travel and beauty!

  9. It sounds like a great eat out place in Paris. I will definitely love to be there in my next trip. I also have created an itinerary for my trip. Please have a look.

  10. H iCaroline,
    Could you maybe recommend a place for a facial in Paris?
    Thank you so much!