A Weekend in Paris (or, Baby’s First Hen Do) 

Once upon a time, six girls and two guys (ie, myself and five friends) decided it would be a ruddy marvellous idea to go on a hen weekend in Paris, in celebration of one of my bestest pals Chris. Amongst other things, we bought with us a picnic basket, a selection of decorations for our AirBnB house, and a small child by the name of Noel. Don’t worry though- Noel’s mum was one of the six girl hens of the posse. He wasn’t just a random kid we picked up on the Eurostar as that would obviously have been really out of order. Our two days in Paris were jam packed with a whole load of extremely awesome things to do, so here for your reading pleasure is a blow by blow account of what exactly we did and the things I personally discovered along the way.

The Eurostar is a brilliant invention

First and foremost, maybe I’m just easily pleased but the fact that you can just hop on a train in the middle of London, travel underneath the actual sea, and then pop up the other side in Paris is just downright astonishing. What a wonder of the world! We all met at St Pancras station in the morning and stocked up in a highly middle-class fashion on croissants and prosecco from M&S before boarding the train and for the bargain price of approximately £40-ish each way, off we went on a brilliant adventure to a whole different country on a completely different mass of land! Amazing. It’s worth pointing out here that when I was a youngster I truly believed that when you travelled through the Eurotunnel you’d be able to see through the walls and ceiling of the tunnel into the ocean around you in the style of an extremely large aquarium. Obviously this isn’t actually the case, as firstly the tunnel is beneath the sea bed and secondly, even if the tunnel did go through the ocean instead of underground, let’s face it that would probably be a pretty murky and gross view to be looking at. Bleurgh.

Here’s Noel having a whale of a time on the Eurostar journey, looking a lot better in my hat than I do and carrying one of our snazzy M&S prosecco glasses. Don’t worry though guys, he’s a proper teetotal baby and the glass was definitely very much empty. Good old Noel.

Our AirBnB was a right find

Once we’d arrived in this glorious city, the next step was to reach our AirBnB which Chris had done a marvellous job of deciding on. Located in Montreuil, which is a slightly more residential area outside of central Paris, the house was hidden behind a fairly unassuming door in a wall, on a street which- I’m not gonna lie- had a minorly grimey sense to it. Well let me tell you, that place was a gem! Behind the Unassuming Door, was a dream house waiting to be discovered!!! A giant open-plan kitchen and living room with a massive dining table surrounded by windows, and with a winding staircase spiralling up another three flights of the building to a beaut set of bedrooms all with their own bathroom, it was like a modern-day mansion, kitted out with all the retro 1970s crockery you could ever wish for. (And I wish for quite a lot of retro 1970s crockery, to be completely honest) This house was also perfect for the treasure hunt we’d organised for Chris, leading to a casual showing of a series of highly nostalgic photographs on the projector that was conveniently there.

It’s hard to be a vegan in Paris

I myself am not a vegan, but my pal Marky B is, and let me tell you something: being a vegan in Paris must be full on hard work. French cuisine is famous for being all about the butter and cheese after all, so while some of my vegan pals will just order a collection of sides if there’s no set ‘vegan’ menu in a restaurant- you know, a selection of vegetables and salads maybe just missing the dressing or with a special request to leave out the meat part of the dish- admittedly in France it’s a little more tricky as so much of the food is cooked in butter. We had to inspect a great many menus before entering any restaurant, but were often greeted next to the menu by a waiter who assured us that of course they had a vegan menu, despite that often not being the case. Alas for the vegans, it seems like a great deal of research would be needed into vegan restaurants prior to a trip to Paris. Cooking at home in our glorious AirBnB kitchen was a far easier task, and at least saved Marky from existing solely on avocados and sunflower seeds which I felt was a very real danger.

Montmartre is a fabulous location

High on a hill overlooking the rest of the city, Montmartre was historically home to bohemians galore, and is the birthplace of the cancan. (Just watch Moulin Rouge if ya don’t believe me) Nowadays it’s still got an essence of bohemian charm to it and is renowned for being a great place to spend an evening or two. We spent our first very funny evening here (Noel stayed at home with his Ma, if you’re wondering), eating and drinking and having all the merriments.

Running through Montmartre in the rain mainly just made me want to sing all the Moulin Rouge songs, especially the Tango de Roxane. I mean, it goes without saying really doesn’t it? Also I had a bit of a makeshift Carrie Bradshaw vibe going on that evening in a black net skirt, my best giant vintage 1960s clip-ons from Norway and a pair of extremely high stiletto heels which, I’ll be honest, is not a very practical outfit for walking down a very steep cobblestone hill in the bucketing rain, so let this be a lesson to you all.

We ended up in a very non-Parisian tiki bar called Dirty Dick’s, where Chrissy D spent the majority of the rest of the evening attempting to get a picture taken in front of a couple who were full on necking each other in the background. (We had a photo scavenger hunt going with a checklist of things to get selfies with, and a couple kissing was one of these things) Pretty soon we were all competing for the best picture with the unsuspecting couple, and then we realised it was actually getting a bit weird and it was definitely time to leave. I’m pleased to report that we had a BRILLIANT taxi ride home with a driver who played EVERY BEYONCÉ SONG WE REQUESTED and tried very hard to teach us as much French as possible during our time together. What a legendary lad.

We sort of got denied entry to Versailles

The morning after our fun and games in Montmartre, we packed a very giant picnic complete with prosecco and willy straws and headed bright and early to Versailles, which is one of Chris’s favourite places in the history of the world. (It’s probably one of my favourite places too now, to be honest) As we were there so early in the day, the queue was very much a minimal affair, meaning that we were at the gates within 5 minutes of joining it.

WELL. It turns out that prosecco, and alcohol in general, is definitely not allowed into Versailles, even though Marie Antoinette herself drank gallons of the stuff I’m sure. But, you guys, we laugh in the face of danger, so naturally the best solution to this (as advised by the security guard herself), was to remove ourselves from the premises and sup our prosecco round the corner in our very well-thought-out M&S glasses. Good one, us!

After drinking in as classy a way as possible, but essentially whilst standing up in a car park, we re-entered the palace feeling full on victorious and ready to take on the day. And all I’m saying is: Versailles is absolutely incredible. So incredible that I’ll do a different post on it as there’s far too much to talk about, but the sheer size and scale and history of the place really blew my mind in a way that I wasn’t expecting it to at all. After exploring the palace itself, we headed out to the grounds which are even more extensive and mind-blowing, containing what seems like an infinite number of gardens, even more palaces and AN ACTUAL VILLAGE. I. LOVED. IT.

Taking a baby in a rowing boat is a terrible but hilarious idea

(It was genuinely only hilarious for me because I find the best way to deal with absolute fear and panic is to laugh hysterically through whatever situation I happen to be in, just so you know.)

So, pals. There is a very large boating lake at Versailles, because old King Louis liked things to be very much on the grand scale, and nowadays little rowing boats bob along on the water all through the summer as let’s face it, going for a row is a downright lovely activity to partake in. We split into two sets of four people, plus baby Noel who joined us in our vessel, wearing a brightly coloured life jacket which the boat hire people provided. Being in Noel’s boat was an experience and a half, I’ll tell you that for free. First of all we drifted for a bit, shunting slightly one way then another, and we realised at that point that Chris had the enthusiasm but not the knack of rowing. Harriet offered to swap with him, and then some very severe boat-wobbling took place as the two swapped places, whilst it became clear that Noel was having none of these shenanigans and wanted very much to disembark and jump into the water. Really this was just Noel’s extreme curiosity about what could be in the lake rather than fear of what Harriet and Chris’s manoeuvring and general rowing skills, but by the time he had one leg up over the edge I was altogether downright petrified of any sudden movements that might cause a man overboard situation. I’m pretty sure Sooz (his Mum) was too, as she was still pretty much glued to her seat but with one hand equally glued to the back of Noel’s life jacket in order to hold him back. Don’t panic pals, we made it back to safety but poor Haz had to do the rest of the rowing solo as I was way too frightened of any more boat wobbling and potential baby-tipping to move a muscle, and Sooz was obviously a bit preoccupied with preventing Noel from breaking free of the boat.

Fancy Dress and T-Shirts Galore

After spending many an hour strolling around Versailles- because it’s absolutely ginormous- we headed back to our AirBnB for a good old fashioned home-cooked meal and a selection of carefully chosen beverages. I really do appreciate staying in AirBnBs for that very reason- that with the use of a kitchen you can really feel at home pretty quickly in a whole new part of the world, and this Parisian badboy was no exception. We’d arranged a selection of Chrissy D-themed games, including the good old fashioned treasure hunt that I mentioned before, complete with a different piece of fancy dress from the History of Chris’s Fancy Dress Days hidden in each location. GLORIOUS. My pal Chris is one of the best champions of fancy dress that I’ve ever known; from Wednesday Addams to Edward Scissorhands, he always takes costumes very seriously and it very much pays off. He’s also one of the world’s biggest Beyoncé fans, so we each designed a Queen B-themed t-shirt to hang out in, using a selection of Primark shirts and some fabric pens, and I have to say pals, I was pretty proud of my Single Ladies number. So proud I wore it all the way home on the Eurostar the next day.

All things considered, I’d say this was a pretty successful Hen Party Trip: our beloved pal Chris had a blast, we did a whole jammy selection of awesome things, and perhaps most importantly Noel lived to tell the tale of his first hen party. Brilliant.

LOGISTICAL STATISTICALS

  • Eurostar prices change throughout the year and depending on what time or day you want to travel, so it’s worth signing up to get notifications of special deals or sales if you’re not fussy about when exactly you go.
  • The Paris Metro is all very interesting. A single trip costs €1.90 (though bear in mind that’s different if you’re going somewhere slightly further afield like Versailles), or you can get a strip of ten single tickets for €14.50.
  • The benefit of staying in an AirBnB slightly out of the way wasn’t a problem for us and meant that we could keep the costs down, however I’ll admit it’s all swings and roundabouts- be prepared to pay more to stay in the centre of the city.
  • On a side note to the AirBnB point, if you’re planning on cooking a lot, it’s worth checking the reviews specifically for comments about the kitchen facilities, as I’ve had a couple of experiences of arriving and then discovering there’s only two plates, a butter knife and a toaster to prepare with. Let’s face it, that’s just not cricket.
  • Try and speak French! Even if you’re not brilliant, it’s worth it just to show that you’re willing to attempt to embrace Paris as a whole. And even if you’re pretty bad at it (like me), it’ll at least give everyone a bit of a laugh.

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