MY FIRST BIRTHDAY ABROAD…

French Breakfast

I took a little hiatus last week. It was my birthday and I decided that I would take a break to enjoy the weekend fully with my sister who was coming out to Paris. This was my first time celebrating a birthday abroad and I wanted to make it a memorable one! I’m very lucky that my brother-in-law had booked the trip for my sister as a surprise gift to her, and then subsequently also as a pretty awesome gift for me.

We stayed in a really cute hotel in the 15th arrondissement, the perfect location for everything we had planned and wanted to do. The 15th is known as being one of the quieter arrondissement and somewhere a lot of families settle, it’s also the largest but with fewer cars and people around compared to other areas. After meeting my sister at Gare du Nord on the Friday night, we decided just to check-in to the hotel and then go for dinner locally. Whilst at dinner we realised we could see the Tour Eiffel, it still takes my breath away a little and is extra special at night. This was the perfect way to kick-off my birthday weekend, I was so happy to be spending it with one of my favourite people in one of my favourite places that I knew it was going to be great!

On Saturday we woke up early and went for a swim at the hotel, it was really quiet and relaxing and there was only one other person in there so no fighting for space or waiting around. We decided not to have breakfast just yet but would pick something up on the way to this big flea market my sister wanted to go to. It was about a 30min walk from our hotel and we stopped to have breakfast just right next to the market. We of course went for the classic fresh croissant, baguette, tea and orange juice combo…can’t go wrong with that. After fuelling up we hit the market. It was so interesting walking around and looking at all the different objects on sale, anything from ostrich eggs on little brass feet stands to enormous gold framed free standing mirrors. It’s called Puces de Vanves and I’d definitely recommend having a look if you’re ever in that area of Paris. It’s recommended that you get there early (i.e 7am) if you’re a serious buyer but if like us you just wanted to browse you can arrive later around 10.30/11am. We spent a couple of hours there before heading back towards the river, we picked up some bits for a picnic lunch at a supermarket and took a walk along the Îles aux Cynges (an 800m long ‘garden’ on the Seine which I found a little disappointing to be honest) before settling down in a park that had a view of the Tour Eiffel.

Me and My Sister

With our bellies full and our feet rested we went back to the hotel for a little break and to freshen up before heading to the Tour Montparnasse. This is the only skyscraper in Paris and has an incredible view of the city from the 360 degree observation deck. I’d read that you should buy tickets in advance, especially if you’re wanting to go at a busy time such as sunrise or sunset so this is what I did. I HIGHLY recommend anyone wanting to go does the same, we walked straight past the HUGE queue of people waiting to purchase tickets and went straight on up. I wanted to see sunset and this meant we didn’t have to wait around and be anxious about missing it. The level you arrive to from the lift is, well a little underwhelming. We thought this was ‘the view’ and I was definitely disappointed! That was before we discovered the stairway leading up to the observation deck, thank god we decided to ‘give it a go’ as this is where the real view is from! Uninterrupted views across Paris, and we were there on a clear night so you could see for miles. We got to see Paris at three different times, day, sunset and night and it was magical. There is a bar downstairs so we got a glass of vino and enjoyed a good hour or two up there just looking out at (and of taking loads of photos of) the view). I’ve not experience Paris like that yet and I would 100% go back and do it again. Add to your Paris ‘to do’ list. 

Tour Montparnasse

We both fancied Italian for dinner (yes I know, très terrible when in Paris!) and took a risk on picking a random Italian restaurant from what we could see nearby on Google maps. Well, what a good choice we made!! We ended up in this super cute little restaurant, it’s run some Italian guys, the food is good and the service great. It was also really reasonable in price which can be hard to find in Paris! It was a really great end to a great day, they were also very patient with me when speaking French and made us feel so at ease. I’m looking forward to going back again very soon!

Tour Montparnasse

We didn’t set alarms and it was so nice waking up feeling super refreshed and relaxed on my birthday! My sister went out and bought fresh pastries for us to have, my favourite is a pain au chocolat and I’d bought champagne so we could have a special birthday breakfast! We’d also done the VERY British thing of buying English tea bags and fresh milk (UHT just isn’t the same guys). We sat eating croissant and pain au chocolat in bed, sipping champagne and listening to The Greatest Showman. Perfection. We took our time getting ready, packing and making the most of the morning. My sister’s train home was around 5pm so we decided to go for a long leisurely lunch before making our way back to Gare du Nord. We found a lovely little restaurant, sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine. As it was my birthday I had a creme brûlée for dessert and my sister had arranged for them to put a little candle in it for me! She’d also brought over mini M&S Colin the Caterpillar cakes, now if you know about Colin the Caterpillar you’ll know this is like a birthday right of passage. Let’s just say I gobbled up the whole pack of mini caterpillars by dinnertime the next day. Oooops.

Me and My Sister

It was really sad having to say goodbye again at the station. I’m not very good at them so like to keep it short and sweet. Like I’m just popping out to the shop or something and will be back in 10mins. I then made my way back home. My host family cooked a really lovely dinner and they had made a cake for me as well. The youngest bought me a little gift with his own money (super cute), and the other two children made me little birthday gifts/cards. The parents had also got me a gift which was really unexpected and so thoughtful. This was the perfect way to round off my birthday and I was reminded that I’m very lucky to have found such a lovely host family.

I have to say, I feel very privliged to have spent my first birthday abroad like this. I can’t think of a way it could have been improved and I’m looking forward to (hopefully) spending many more birthdays in Paris. 

F x

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