I'm lucky enough to have been to Paris on several occasions, but I don't remember ever visiting in the winter run-up to Christmas. Everyone knows it's such a beautiful romantic and bohemian city but I spent 24 hours there and wanted to put together a few ideas if you're wanting a city break that doesn't break the bank but it still packed with beauty and culture.
If you're good on your feet then the good news is a lot of the main attractions in the city can be found on foot. It might be a long day of walking but when it's December and -1 you'll appreciate the movement! If not it's €10 for a train from the airport into town, and the metro is €1.30 flat fee so public transport is pretty cheap too.
We walked from one end of the city, following the Seine through from the East to the Eiffel Tower in the West. Iconic architecture, statues and landmarks like the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Luxor Obelisk etc. are free to view and take in the sights.
There are actually 130 museums in Paris it can be hard to know what to see. Do your research and find out which ones have exhibitions you'd most like visit, rather than trying to go round them all. Everyone knows ones like the Louvre and the Grand Palais, and they are stunning but queues and cost can be an issue. We opted for the Musee de l'Orangerie which is just €9 entry and hosts an incredible collection of Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and Cezanne under the permanent exhibition of famous art dealer Guillaume's collection.
As if this collection isn't impressive enough, upstairs in the Museum are eight panels of Claude Monet's famous and defining Water Lilies series. As we entered the huge oval rooms of diffused light and lengthy canvases I felt quite overwhelmed. This was an absolute highlight of the trip for me and I will be going back to revisit. The Monet exhibition is on until August 2018.
I was staying in a hotel just next to The Bataclan Theatre on Boulevard Voltaire and am lucky enough to have been asked to read poetry at an event not far from there for a community organisation called Paris Lit Up.
"Paris Lit Up aims to intensify collaborative artistic practices. The principle objective is to stimulate creativity through the cultivation of common spaces such as local platforms connected through transnational networks for artists living in and passing through the City of Light. Paris Lit Up fosters a horizontally-minded community inspired by the desire for social cooperation and cultural diversity. In recognising the social origin of the arts, we hope to encourage broad participation and facilitate personal and collective growth through grassroots artistic activism."
Reading in Paris was a dream come true for me, and the group at Paris Lit Up are a very talented and welcoming bunch. It doesn't cost a penny to go along and hear the words and music from their members, they encourage a community sprit and believe everyone has their right to voice their opinion on stage. Be sure to check our their events and go along next time you're in the city.
Another focal point of literature in bohemian Paris that any literary enthusiast must make, is to Shakespeare and Company; one of the most famous bookshops in the world. Named in tribute to another bookshop Shakespeare and Company that closed down during German occupation in France, the original was a writing haven to famous writers Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
One of my favourite writers of all time, Jeanette Winterson, as well as many other high profile contemporary writers have been involved in supporting the bookstore and literary paradise over the years. In 2010 the store launched the Paris Literary Prize for unpublished novellas and in 2015 opened a café next door which serves delicious and mostly vegan food.
Just paces away from Notre-Dame it's easy to miss this beautiful calming thrum of creative voices but you must go if you're visiting Paris. Inside the nooks and crannies are crammed with books old and new, from every genre imaginable, and there's even a resident cat who guards the seats upstairs.
As it's winter and nearing Christmas, Paris was very cold at this time of year. As you'll know by now, I like to explore a city mostly on foot and public transport, and one plant shop caught my eye.
Just past Notre-Dame as we walked across the île de la cité Christmas trees and ornaments glowed from inside. We walked through the shop exclaiming how exciting it was to see such a reverence to nature in a city centre (Paris is great at green-space in general), but as we came out the other side we realised we'd only just started.
There were so many shops all bursting with plants, trees, flowers and woodcarvings. There were ornaments and wind chimes, painted pots and handmade crafts. It was a nature lovers paradise. Be sure to check this area out if you're looking for an extra special gift for someone, or for your own home. It wasn't overpriced and recycling and environment were at the heart of this surprise little area.
Once again living in Europe has been a huge advantage for me as I spent just 24 hours in Paris on what felt like a literary pilgrimage. It's so easy to hop on a one-hour flight and spend a day in the beautiful city so full of creativity. Until next time, Paris.