Paris

Paris - Part Trois

Following on from Paris Part Une and Part Deux

For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamt of owning a Chanel flap bag, commonly named the 2.55. Over the years I’ve plotted and schemed ways of raising the money to buy one.

A few years ago my family even had to stage an intervention when I’d arranged to sell my beloved first car in an effort to access funds as quickly as possible, (despite me trying to convince them that me and my Chanel would be happy to travel on public transport.)  

Image by   Felipe Dolce

Image by Felipe Dolce

It wasn’t just about owning a Chanel, it was also about buying a piece of history. The first Chanel flap bag was designed by Coco Chanel and sold in February 1955, hence the name 2.55. It has since become one of the world’s most iconic and recognisable bags. Coco designed the bag with a moveable double chain strap, inspired by military costume, to allow the bag to be worn on the shoulder to free the arms. This was revolutionary for fashion.

Fashion fades, only style remains the same.
— Coco Chanel

The 2.55 is made to the exact same design today, over 60 years after it was first released, and is strictly only made in France by specialist craftsmen to keep the history of the design in Paris.

Fashion and history aside, the 2.55 is also a great investment as Chanel bags continue to rise in price every year. The iconic 2.55 never goes on sale which is why it retains its value. If you hold on to one long enough, there will be some value locked in.

For me, there was only one place to buy a Chanel. Coco started her empire at Rue Cambon. In 1910, she opened a hat shop, “Chanel Modes”, at Number 21, right in the heart of the most fashionable part of Paris. She soon outgrew the single store and so in 1918, she acquired the entire building at number 31. Here she invented the concept of the modern boutique and began selling fashion accessories and her first perfume, Chanel N°5.

31 Rue Cambon has since become the brand’s flagship store and consequently holds the best collections and some exclusive items. And so, last September, after years of dreaming of owning a Chanel, I finally visited Number 31 with my mum to buy my 30th birthday present.

The boutique attracts huge crowds every day so mum and I made sure we were there when it opened at 10.00am and were the first people to arrive. I have read many reviews of visitors saying the sales staff are rude but my experience couldn’t be further from the truth.

As soon as we entered the store a lovely lady approached us and asked if she could be of help. She spent the next 20 minutes or so bringing every colour 2.55 in the store and placing them on my shoulder to try. Eventually I decided between a black and cream. She persuaded me to go for the black and sent it into a room to be wrapped in privacy by a specialist wrapping team.

When you buy something at Chanel, your purchase isn’t just put into a bag, great care and time is taken to wrap the item in layers of Chanel embossed paper and ribbons. 

While we were waiting, the lady serving us asked if we were visiting for a special occasion, when my mum told her that it was for my 30th, she replied, in her thick Parisian accent, “ahhh, you must sit”. She then called for her colleague to fetch us some Champagne! And so mum and I sat, at 10.00am, getting tipsy in Chanel.

Rue Cambon is such a fantastic experience for anyone who loves fashion. What was once a single unit has now grown into a vast, glamorous space. There was even a lady whose job it was to walk around the store spraying the iconic Chanel N°5 perfume so that visitors had a constant whiff of Coco’s scent. I’m considering applying for that job!

Once we had finished our Champagne we were treated to a private walkthrough of the boutique including being shown the latest catwalk collection and the most expensive handbag on sale, a grey crocodile-skin bag. A snip (or should that be snap?!) at €45,000!

We were then led into a hallway to see the stores pièces de résistance, the famous mirrored staircase. This is where Coco used to sit, hidden away from the press, to view her collections being modelled below. The stairs lead to the first floor where Coco used to present her collections and hold fittings for Haute Couture. Further up the stairway is Coco’s second-floor apartment, which remains untouched to this day, full of her personal possessions. The third floor houses her studio, where Karl Lagerfeld now works, and the Chanel workshops.

After taking a few photographs on the staircase, we left the store smiling from ear to ear and holding onto my beautifully packaged bag for dear life. When I unwrapped the bag I found a personalised Chanel birthday card which was a lovely touch. 

The experience of buying a Chanel at Rue Cambon was very special and I know that my bag will be loved for decades to come. If you are lucky enough to experience Rue Cambon, I would recommend getting there early. Regardless of what day of the week it is, there is always a queue of people. Also make sure you check any tax implications. If you’re visiting from outside of the EU, there may be a tax payable which you then have to claim back so this is something to bear in mind. 

If you decide to buy a vintage Chanel, take care that you buy from a reputable seller. Authentic Chanels have a unique registration number on each bag, but, this is no guarantee of authenticity when buying second hand since some of the higher-quality fakes have imitation registration numbers and receipts. My advice would be to select an online authentication service like www.vestiairecollective.com, www.fashionphile.com or www.whatgoesaroundnyc.com.

After our amazing trip to Chanel, we decided to follow in the steps of Coco and Audrey Hepburn and take tea at Angelina. This is an elegant Parisian tearoom that has been a famous meeting place since it opened in 1903. Apparently Coco was a daily customer for a hot chocolate. She used to sit at table 10, which is positioned next to a large mirror. Her biographers have written that she used the mirrors to coyly keep an eye on the world around her (like her mirrored staircase!)

Angelina is equally as famous today for its traditional Chocolat à l’Africain, a dark hot chocolate served with whipped cream on the side. This is incredibly rich and absolute heaven for chocolate lovers. The restaurant has roots in Eastern Europe where thick, rich hot chocolate is the norm. The Rumpelmeyer family, who opened the tearoom, emigrated from Austria-Hungary to settle in the Côte d’Azur. In the late 1800s, the family had nostalgic thoughts about the tearooms they had left behind and decided to open their own in Nice. It proved to be so successful that they went on to open tearooms in Monte Carlo, Antibes and then Paris. 

The interior of the tearoom remains unaltered to this day, it is a little tired in places but this adds to the history and charm. There are marble tables, chandeliers and an abundance of mirrors which makes for a very elegant tearoom. The interior was designed by the architect, Edouard-Jean Niermans of the Belle Époque period. The walls are decorated with large paintings, each one with a link to the Rumpelmayer family. There is a large landscape painting of the French Riviera where the first Angelina opened.

The waiters are all smartly dressed in black and white and guide you to your table. As soon as we were seated, Mum and I ordered the famous l’Africain which was served in a cup and saucer along with a pitcher of steamy, thick hot chocolate. Fresh whipped cream is served on the side along to dollop into the hot chocolate to make it even creamier. 

We also chose a chocolate eclair each just to go totally overboard. The eclair was gorgeous with a chocolate centre rather than the usual whipped cream. With hindsight, we should have tried the famous Mont Blanc, the recipe of which remains a closely guarded secret after one hundred years. Essentially it is a ball of meringue covered in whipped cream and sweet chestnut!

Angelina is no ordinary tearoom, it has attracted Parisians and international visitors for decades. The Chocolat à l’Africain has been a classic since the beginning and the recipe remains unchanged. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the city. 

As with all great places in Paris, there is usually a queue but it’s worth a wait. If you don’t want to queue, at the front of the tearoom is a shop selling Angelina’s signature pasties and hot chocolates to go. You could take your treats over to the Jardin des Tuileries which is directly opposite and a beautiful part of Paris to sit. 

This trip to Paris was more than I could have ever dreamed of, made all the more special to be accompanied with my lovely mum. What a fantastic way to enter my 30s.

Until next time Paris!

Paris - Part Deux

Following on from my recent post about having afternoon tea at the Peninsula, I thought I’d share a little bit more about our trip to Paris. 

Image by  Małgosia Frej

Prior to my 30th I’d deliberated a lot about how to celebrate. My birthday fell on a Wednesday which meant that my friends would all be busy in work. I was adamant that I didn’t want the day to just pass me by without doing something memorable. A few weeks before the big day I was flicking through Instagram when I saw a quote saying “I want to wake up in Paris”.

And that was it, decision made! I’d been to Paris for my 18th and 21st so it made perfect sense to go again for my 30th. A few months after my birthday it was my mum’s 60th as well and so I didn’t have to think too long about who to invite with me to celebrate. 

Tickets were booked and Mum and I travelled down to London and across to Paris on the Eurostar on the Sunday, arriving in Gare du Nord just after sunset. The plan was to fill Monday will lots of sightseeing for my mum and the Tuesday was for my interests before waking up in Paris on Wednesday and then travelling back home to celebrate with my family. 

Once we arrived in Gare du Nord we hopped into a taxi and made our way across Paris to the Hotel Duminy Vendôme. It was easy to pick the hotel, I had one major requirement… that it had to be close to Chanel Rue Cambon (more of that in Paris Part Trois). 



The hotel is perfectly situated in the 1st arrondissement, within a few minutes walk of the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries. It’s clean, contemporary and has a striking dining room. It’s very reasonably priced considering its location at about £110 per night (in contrast, the nearby Mandarin Oriental is roughly £700!). The bedrooms and bathrooms were on the small side but we had opted for single rooms and this is Paris after-all! 

As soon as we had unpacked, we went for a walk around the area, taking our time to admire the fabulous shop displays including DiorLaduree and Chanel as well as visiting Pierre Hermé for some of his famous macarons. We walked to the prestigious square, Place Vendôme, to admire some of the most luxurious addresses in Paris. It is home to the Ritz hotel, where Coco Chanel lived for nearly thirty years, as well as designer stores such as CartierBulgari and Louis Vuitton

We stopped at La Coupe D’Or for something to eat. It doesn’t get the best reviews on TripAdvisor but it suited us perfectly, perhaps due to the generous wine servings! We sat outside of the restaurant sipping our wine and eating chocolate dessert while watching Parisians go about their business. If you’ve ever been to Paris you’ll know that people watching is a sacred pastime. Tables and chairs generally face outwards so that each person can sit watching passers-by. After the vino we were ready for an early night so returned to the hotel ready for our early start the next day.

The following morning we set off to visit one of Paris’s famous flea markets. My mum loves antique hunting and has always wanted to visit the markets, of which there are several dotted around the city. We decided upon Marché aux Puces de Saint Ouen, a 20 minute taxi ride to the north. The market is held on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. It’s vast with over 2,500 stalls attracting both tourists and antique dealers in equal measure. It sells everything from photo frames to huge pieces of furniture and is a complete maze, I don’t think we covered even half of it before our feet gave up on us. It’s also a bit misleading to call it a flea market. Nothing comes cheap (150 euros for a small mirror!). Apparently you’re expected to haggle, starting at about 50% of the original price, but even then it’s still expensive. We were also restricted to buying smaller items due to having to carry them back home on the train. I’d still recommend a visit though, it’s worth a trip even if you don’t buy anything. 

After the flea markets we grabbed a taxi and went to Basilica Sacre-Coeur. My mum had never been before and she was amazed at how beautiful it was. The Basilica is based on Roman architecture and took over 40 years to build. Despite the crowds, the view from the steps is the most spectacular in Paris, no wonder since it is the highest point at 130 meters above the city. Tourist favourite, harpist Hugo, was playing The Beatles Let it Be as we arrived. We stood together listening to him play while looking out over the city. We then went inside the church to light some candles. It’s stunning inside, you’re not really allowed to take photographs but I 'accidentally' took a couple.

We then walked down to Place du Tertre. This is a square behind the Basilica where lots of famous artists used to paint. Today, many artists still congregate and paint or draw caricatures for tourists. It has a fantastic atmosphere and you really feel the history of the area and of those who have stepped foot there previously. Picasso, Van Gogh, Hemingway and countless others lived and worked there. As you walk around you can see wall plaques identifying historic buildings and cafes. If you’ve ever seen the film Midnight in Paris, it captures the spirit of this area perfectly. 

Having navigated the steep steps and narrow cobblestone streets of Montmartre, all pretty with the classic lampposts and trees leading the way, we stopped off in a little restaurant for some pizza. Having topped ourselves up, we went on a little tour of Montmartre which has its own vineyard, famous cemetery and beautiful parks, not to mention the Moulin Rouge. However, I was eager for mum to see more of Paris’s sights and so persuaded her to head back into the city centre. 

We decided to take a boat cruise along the Seine which allowed us to see the main sights in one hour including the Eiffel TowerNotre Dame Cathedral and Musée d’Orsay. I’d definitely recommend going on either a boat tour or a bus tour of the city. There are so many beautiful places to see, if you’re restricted on time it’s the perfect way to see the main attractions. Yes it’s a touristy thing to do but it’s touristy for a reason. Our boat ticket cost around 16 euros each but it was a two day ticket so not much more expensive than the underground and with much prettier views. 

Once we had finished on the boat tour we walked along the Seine stopping to view the lock bridge, Pont des Arts, and some more artists painting along the river bank. We then walked around the Louvre and the Tuileries. This part of Paris is really gorgeous. It’s has beautiful architecture with perfectly manicured gardens. It’s one of Paris’s only open lawns for picnics and was full of Parisians catching the last of the days sunshine.

We were exhausted from all the walking and sightseeing so went back to La Coupe D’Or for some crusty baguette with cheese, red wine and more people watching before getting an early night ready for the following day…

Paris - Part Une

Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula Hotel

Last year to celebrate my 30th birthday I took a trip to Paris with my mum. During our stay we went to the Peninsula Hotel for afternoon tea. The hotel is on Avenue Kléber, the 16th arrondissement, close to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees. 

Image by   Felipe Dolce

Image by Felipe Dolce

We visited shortly after the hotel had opened following a four-year restoration of the classic French-style building in which it is set. Inside the hotel is stunning with an elegant white marble entrance and a sweeping black and gold-trimmed ornamental staircase, which consists of over 40,000 pieces of gold leaf and was created by Schwartz & Meurer (who constructed the Eiffel Tower).

We dined in the Lobby, a grand room full of chic Parisian ladies dressed in their finest. In the centre of the Lobby we admired the spectacular Dancing Leaves installation, a series of cascading flower bouquets made from over 800 hand-blown glass leaves, each one took an artisan three weeks to make. The attention to detail throughout The Peninsular is amazing and makes for the most perfect setting to experience afternoon tea. 

To begin, we ordered our choice of tea (English, naturally), which was served with fresh lemon to really enhance the flavour of the tea leaves. Some considerable time later (there’s no rushing a Parisian waiter) we were presented with a silver cake-stand full of delectable sandwiches and small patisseries.

Although somewhat insubstantial, perhaps why "French women don’t get fat”, the sandwiches were full of flavour and were presented slightly differently to the usual finger sandwiches served with most afternoon teas, with the filling also on the top of the sandwich. We had a small selection of cucumber with cream cheese and eggs ‘mimosa’ with mayonnaise and rare peppers. Salmon sandwiches were also on the menu but we skipped these since I’m vegetarian. 

Next we were served French scones with creams and jams (not exactly like an English scone, a fluffier version with more of a doughnut texture). Finally we had a selection of mini pastries including delicious macarons... nothing too heavy. 

Once we had finished our cakes, we went up to the top of the hotel to the L’Oiseau Blanc restaurant which has an open air rooftop terrace with 360 degree views over the city (I believe that the terrace opens at 6.00pm). We sat outside drinking Champagne while watching the Eiffel Tower light-show in the distance. It was a truly special moment which I’ll remember forever.

What better way to spend the final hours of your twenties than sipping Champagne with your mum while watching one of the world’s most iconic monuments sparkling away?!



Before heading back to our hotel, we decided to jump into a taxi to Trocadero to see The Eiffel Tower lights up close. The light-show is on every evening, on the hour every hour, for just 5 minutes. The perfect end to the perfect day!

Afternoon Tea is served daily in The Lobby between 3:00pm and 6:00pm and costs approximately €40 per person (£30).