Well it was a bit of a whirlwind weekend filled with the usual sightseeing, exploring the beauty of Paris, but also with a twist – an exciting dinner with a difference on the Saturday night. But more on that later… I’ll start at the beginning, with all the more “normal” things we did.
Friday morning, early train from Beziers, arriving to a wet Paris.
First outing was to explore the Montorgeuil area in the 2nd and stock up on goodies for later on, then head to the Eiffel Tower for a horse and carriage ride around the evening streets, yes including champagne! The Christmas lights are stunning, from the warm golden balls scattered through the trees of the Boulevard Saint-Germain to the glistening whiteness of the Christmas village along the entire Avenue des Champs Élysées, it was all beautiful. Wintry cold, but beautiful. Back to the apartment to thaw out and catch up over wine and the goodies bought earlier.
Saturday morning up & out early to the Eiffel Tower again, ready for our “behind the scenes” tour up the tower. Disappointment!! The tour operator changed our time without telling us – to that evening which we couldn’t make – so we were left with no option but to claim a refund when we got home. On with the day, walking and exploring a sizeable area of Paris and taking in a light lunch. I love the Parisian sense of humour…
With very sore feet, but even more in love with the most famous City of Lights, it was back to the apartment to prepare ourselves for the big dinner ahead.
So what WAS the big surprise?
Well, we had the fantastic opportunity to be welcomed into the home of a wonderful Parisienne lady for an evening involving meeting new people, making new friends, discussing our cultures and that of France in particular, seeing how Parisians live in their apartments, enjoying French wines – and all of this over delicious home-cooked French fare. Who would pass up that opportunity? Not me that’s for sure!!
Now I had never thought of this sort of an evening before, especially since I don’t actually know anyone who lives in Paris so that meant I might never have this opportunity… until I was fortunate enough to come across this website:
After a quick browse, I decided this would be a perfect surprise for my friend so I went ahead and booked it. As I was booking quite a few weeks in advance, I entered my details and registered my interest. A week or so later I was contacted by Renaud, the owner of the site, to organise our dinner and we were on our way. A host was chosen, details were passed back and forth and it was all set.
Imagine my surprise though, when Renaud contacted me again a few days later to ask if we would be willing to have a couple of journalists accompany us to our dinner and film the evening for a story to be aired on national French TV. Wow, this was now shaping up to be an even more interesting night!
The journalists contacted me and we arranged for them to meet us in our apartment where they did some general filming of us flicking through brochures, choosing our outfits and getting ready for the big night out. They then followed us down the street and into the taxi. With cameras following our every move, one cafe owner called out to us that we must be “divas”. How hilarious!! Well our journalists were wonderfully friendly and put us all at ease as we arrived at the apartment of our host and began with a welcome glass of champagne and some nibbles.
All we knew about our host, Sacha, was that she was an artist. She turned out to be a lovely and very talented lady who welcomed us warmly and showed us around her beautiful, original, Haussmann apartment. For those who don’t know about Haussmann, he was the civic planner who modernised Paris between 1853 and 1870, giving the city the classic look it still has today. Sacha’s apartment was in one of these buildings and still contains the original walls complete with detailed ceiling work, parquetry floors, fireplaces and mirrors in the reception rooms. It was amazing.
Sacha then blew us away with her incredible talents as a concert pianist!
More surprises were in store when we found out that Sacha designs and paints unique bespoke dinner services for weddings and she had designed a beautiful setting especially for our night. (If you are interested, her work can be found in the famous Galeries Lafayette in Paris). By this stage we were feeling that the whole evening was a little surreal – certainly not your average Saturday night dinner in Paris!!
Her talents certainly didn’t end there though, her food was also delicious. Sitting down to dinner along with Sacha’s lovely friend Yael, we were presented with an entree of foie gras cooked with orange segments and artichoke hearts – my friend’s first ever taste of foie gras and duly pronounced to be amazing – along with a leafy salad. Main course was equally delicious, fish cooked in a light coconut cream sauce and served with fragrant rice. The next course was fromage, a selection of 4 beautiful French cheeses and lastly we finished with a decadently rich chocolate gateau. And of course the meal was accompanied throughout with delicious French wines.
The evening was very interesting and every time the talk turned to the differences, surprises and delights we had discovered with the French culture, on would come the lights and camera, and we’d find ourselves being filmed again! Thankfully the wine worked its magic and we were much less intimidated or nervous by the end of dinner.
After dinner, our journalists finished their interview and left us with our hosts – of course this meant some time to let our hair down and finish the evening with some girl-talk and a good laugh.
We left in the early hours with two new friends and an incredibly interesting night out in Paris to remember.
I would definitely recommend Voulez-vous Diner.com to anyone visiting Paris and looking for something a little out of the ordinary to remember.
Our weekend continued on Sunday – after a decently late sleep of course – when we headed up to Montmartre for a fresh pasta lunch and to climb to the top of dome of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Be prepared for a steep, never-ending spiral stone staircase if you do this climb, but the view is worth it
The afternoon had us cruising on the Seine admiring the beautiful monuments from the water, albeit through slightly foggy and rain splashed windows and while tolerating a very loud and annoying tourist group on the boat with us, then it was out of the rain into a gorgeous little restaurant in the left bank for some traditional French food, but that will be the subject of my next post.
If you’d like to see a glimpse of our dinner on French TV, it is to be incorporated in a story on “66 Minutes” about visitors to France and their impressions of French culture. It is due to be screened on channel M6, Sunday night 23rd December. If that changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.