When we’re all punching each other for the last croissant or getting into headlocks over the final packet of Camenbert after the supposed 2019 Brexit deadline of March 29th, doing a daytrip to Paris will seem like a faraway folly. As queues at customs and border control snake out of the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras, up the grey streets, we’ll look back and sigh “we had it so good back then”, while stooping over and drinking rainwater out of a shoe, chewing on stale Marmite sandwiches. Or scones. We’ll probably have to burn our furniture to keep warm (what with all the energy blackouts) while England turns into some sort of Father Ted-esque Craggy Island, where we slump into a version of the 1970s with Brussels Sprouts re-named because they sound too Belgian. The only public places to eat out at will be at a greasy spoon café or pie ‘n mash shop. Lawd help us!
In light of a ‘quick hop over the Channel’ becoming an imminent bureaucratic nightmare, I thought my husband deserved a last ‘hurrah’ for his birthday, so I got him day return tickets to Paris while our passports still have some currency. We got the 7am train out and the 7pm train back. It was brilliant. Paris isn’t so huge that you feel overwhelmed – and we didn’t even bother buying metro/bus tickets because we decided to walk everywhere. We weren’t there for the museums, galleries or the shopping – it was all about walking around and eating. And lugging back a hefty bag of supermarket shopping back on the return. For those interested, there is a Carrefour City supermarket right near the Gare du Nord for all your emergency saussison and cheese needs. I’m all about shoving as much Amora mustard, Breton butter biscuits and jars of cornichons into my bag.
Despite doing quite a bit of research* on where to go for lunch, we ended up abandoning booking anything to free us up for just mooching about. In any case, we walked past a few of the restaurants on my list and dismissed them as they looked a bit gloomy or formal – it was unseasonally sunny and hot so we chose a trad French place with people dining outside. It’s really easy to find somewhere – just look for a spot where you can have a proper stare at the food on the plates as you walk past. This is how we chose our lunch spot, the brasserie ‘Camille’ in the Marais district. If anything could make you proud of being a European, it was this place – our friendly waiter spoke brilliant ‘Franglais’ to anyone who couldn’t manage any French, and we rubbed elbows with Parisians on our left and international tourists on our right, all speaking a mixture of languages while slugging back the vin rouge and eating hearty dishes. If Brexit goes ahead (I still have a flicker of hope that it can’t somehow be allowed as it’s so MENTAL) we will be much the poorer for having a harder time getting over the Channel to come and soak up another culture. Even if it’s just for a day.
<<<If any UK readers want to show support for a People’s Vote on Brexit, please come on the People’s March this Saturday in Central London, from 12pm.>>>
Here are some photos of our day in Paris – we walked seven-and-a-half-miles in total. Croissant power!
Breakfast on arrival, a hop over the road from the Gare du Nord at the legendary Terminus Nord cafe:
Just LOOK at all that Art Nouveau and Art Deco finery:
The stunning mosaic floor, which appears to have been hand laid:
Impossible to walk by a Lindt boutique in Montmartre that sold PICK ‘N MIX Lindor balls! Argh!
We had a great traditional brasserie lunch at ‘Camille’ in the Marais district – it has everything you could possibly want from a classic French bistro, from the tiny dogs snoozing under the tables to locals getting into heated debates over vin rouge. And some good, solid hearty food – nothing mindblowing, but robust and full of flavour:
Camille ticked all my boxes – lovely old tiles, bistro classics, French people arguing and smoking fags outside while eating scallops and pâté. Heaven!
Obligatory, small under-the-table dog:
Most lovely baguette:
Escargots avec garlic butter:
Salade de chevre chaud:
Brochette de boeuf avec FRITES:
Mousse au chocolat – a lovely big bowl of fluffy richness:
24 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
Tel: +33 1 42 72 20 50
*Here is the list of restaurants I made in advance, which I’d definitely want to try another time. Probably better at night-time, just a hunch:
Bouillon Pigalle (Pigalle) £
La Poule au Pot (Les Halles) ££
Chez Denise (Les Halles) ££
Le Petit Marche (Marais) £
And if I had lots of dough to burn: Le Train Bleu (Gare de Lyon) £££
More photos of buildings and streets:
Ceiling at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre:
Even the bins look elegant in Paris, don’t they?
The Pompidou Centre opened in 1977 – it still looks ultra-modern:
Le Marais district:
The pretty Place des Vosges:
Banks of the River Seine:
Jardin du Luxembourg, St Germain:
If you thought I was joking about only eating Marmite sandwiches after Brexit, think again. Jay Rayner has written about the food security issues we all face here if Brexit becomes a reality – a must-read.