Written by Hannah Dunleavy


A taste of Paris

If you’ve gorged on the epicurean delights of Paris, what’s the best palate cleanser? Disneyland, it turns out. Hannah Dunleavy tells us more.

Please do not lick the statues.

Please do not lick the statues.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a big spender, or the sort of person to put what I’m having for lunch on social media, but when I tweet that I’m eating truffle, a lot of people ask me if I don’t mean truffles.

I most certainly do not. I’m in the tightly packed luxury Paris store Maison de la Truffe, eating something that I’ve dipped in something that’s been infused with something that is so expensive that it would still be out of my price range if I sold an internal organ.

On the one hand, I want to start singing The Internationale. On the other, I’m worried that if I knock something off a shelf and I break it, I’ll have to put my flat on the market.

I’m on a tour of some the eighth district’s luxury food outlets with La Route Des Gourmets. And I’m not going to lie; I’m probably not the easiest sell.

All credit to our guide, then, whose mix of niche enthusiasm and knowledge, and nonchalant stylishness won me round to the degree that later, I find myself eating mustard with a spoon to please her.

We taste caviar, smoked salmon and brightly coloured macaroons. Plus there’s chocolate at the utterly pointless and, therefore, utterly wonderful store of Patrick Roger. The mere existence of which should be celebrated, as it means carving statues out of chocolate is now a thing people can grow up wanting to do.

What the evening has going for it too is the outright charm and resolute Frenchness of the stores we visit, from mustard emporium Maille, to belle epoch patisserie Ladurée and its 21st-century peer, the modern and swish Fauchon.

It’s a great way to see a hidden bit of Paris, as you circle the striking Madeleine Church, a Roman inspired temple for the glory of Napoleon’s army. And it gives you breath like Boris Johnson. What more do you want from an evening?

We head back to our hotel – the Vienna House Magic Circus Hotel. It’s perfectly serviceable, although clearly designed for families, there to experience the thing which I would’ve told you, as a child, was the ultimate ‘luxury’ – a trip to Disneyland.

france disneylandThe Paris park’s been revamped and its newest ride is easily its best. Ratatouille, a rat’s-eye view chase round a kitchen, is unbelievably fun, particularly, I’d imagine, if you don’t end up with a jumper over your head for a lot of it because you attempted to remove it halfway round and forgot you were wearing 3D glasses.

Elsewhere The Tower of Terror confuses the hell out of you as incredibly rude staff members herd you round a fake hotel. You find yourself wondering, “are they in character or are they just being stroppy? Stroppy young people? Stroppy young French people. Or maybe it’s a Dismaland thing?” And as you do that, they strap you to a chair and drop you down a lift shaft while you grasp wildly at the person next to you that you hardly know. This is a lot more fun than it probably sounds.

My one regret is that time constraints meant I was unable to go on Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Who know what wonders I could have beheld. Next time, eh?

france disney castleThe evening’s hot ticket is the amiably OTT light and fireworks show, projected onto the iconic Disney castle. It’s a heaving mass of humanity, but as most of them are children ready for sing-a-long-a-Frozen*, it’s the right sort of heaving mass of humanity. And even I struggle to stay cynical in the presence of that. And Beauty and the Beast.

(*I decide to keep the fact I’ve never seen Frozen under wraps, in case the crowd turns on me.)

Outside of the park a huge complex has risen up on the site, including golf facilities and luxurious shopping outlet La Vallée Village. It means for hotels, the location is ideal. Especially as it’s just half an hour from the Champagne region, where we head to have a taste of another luxury – one that has started to grow on me.

france champagne croppedWe go to Vrigny, to small batch producer Roger Coulon, a 19th-century family business. After a fascinating tour of the mix of graft and, seemingly, witchcraft it takes to produce champagne (during which we learned that the stuff they don’t think is good enough is sold to Moët), I was pretty much ready for it to be the best glass of champagne I’d ever tasted. No pressure.

And reader, I bought some. For a price w-a-y lower than I could ever have bought it here. An affordable luxury is one I can really get on board with. Forget Aerosmith, my one regret is that I didn’t buy loads of it.

There are thousands of ways to spend time in Paris and this trip proved that no matter how many times you may have been, there’s always something you haven’t tried just around the corner.


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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.