By Yvette Caster, Freelance journalist and podcaster
Tuesday 26 Jun 2018 8:00 am
Paris isnt exactly a hard sell – the Monets, the architecture, La Vie en Rose.
However, I arrived with some trepidation – could politics and terrorism have cowed the City Of Light?
This being France, the answer seemed to be non – I felt no less safe than I do in London.
During my visit, the same sights greeted me – tourists fighting to get into the Louvre, lovers chewing each others faces off everywhere I turned, and friends chatting nonchalantly in the Tuileries Garden as their impossibly tiny dogs strutted about.
But there is a difference – this time, I also dined with a local at her home and was shown around by a guy in the know.
The highlight of my trip was staring at waterlilies and Renoir girls in Musee de lOrangerie. Its open from 9am – 6pm every day but Tuesday and tickets are £8 (€9).
A close second was dinner with Francoise in the Batignolles district.
My menu included spectacular saucisson, endives and monks head cheese hors doeuvres, followed by a delicious three-course meal ending with pears in red wine with Chantilly cream.
But the real appeal wasnt the locally sourced fresh produce or the skill with which it was presented – it was sitting with the host in her stunning flat, discussing politics, religion and art.
The evening was facilitated by an app called eatwith, which is like Airbnb, but for food.
You sign up and have dinner cooked for you by a local in different cities around the world.
Meals booked via eatwith cost between £22 and £88 (€25-€100) per person in Paris, depending on the food, and you can pick your menu via the website.
Id recommend it to any traveller looking for something outside the usual hotel food offerings.
Another great way to explore lesser-known areas of the city was getting a guided tour.
A guide from Musement took us on a fascinating walking tour around Le Marais district, which is also the Jewish Quarter.
We heard all about Pariss murky, marshland beginnings – it was originally called Lutetia, from the Latin for mud, and the scandals of the royals (before they got the chop).
Our tour took in everything from street art to antique shops, not to mention the Victor Hugo House in Place des Vosges.
We also saw the remains of one of the capitals ancient city walls.
The Musement tour was a great way to explore this slightly lesser-known part of the city – ideal for both history buffs and slaves to Instagram.
Tours cost from £13 (€15) per person.
But guided tour or not, a visit to Le Marais is fascinating. With its ancient twisting, turning cobblestone streets, it gives you an idea of what medieval Paris was once like.
Its peppered with quirky shops, cool galleries, designer stores and old-fashioned French food shops too.
Where to eat like a local in Paris:
While fast food chains vie for high street trade, local takes on fried food seem to be taking off.
Frenchie To Go, which serves up delights such as fried chicken sandwiches with caramelised onions and jalapeno mayo, was chock-a-block at lunchtime, and rightly so.
Their sandwiches cost from £13 (€14) and hot dogs were £7 (€8).
Also recommended was The Sunken Chip, which serves top fish and chips and fried chicken.
Where to stay in Paris and how to get there
I stayed at Hôtel Lumen Paris Louvre, a smart and attractive boutique hotel in the centre of of the city.
The staff were helpful and the decor was shiny, but the main advantage was that you can walk to the Louvre, Musee DOrsay and Musee de lOrangerie in about 15 minutes.
It was booked via Wanup – a free loyalty club for travellers looking to stay in a range of independent hotels around the world.
Members can collect points for their stays, which they can then redeem in the form of free hotel accommodation, experiences such as guided tours, and Spotify, Netflix and Amazon subscriptions.
Rooms at Hotel Lumen, which is a Wanup Select hotel, cost from £156 (€178.50) per night.
I travelled on the Eurostar from St Pancras to Gare du Nord.
Its generally cheapest travelling on Sunday, and standard single tickets cost from £59.
The journey takes about 90 minutes and theres about one train an hour.
From St Pancras, the journey went without a hitch but the return trip was a bit of a scrum – queuing up for more than an hour to get on a train – and only just making it even then.
Make sure you come prepared for the trip back.
Pack some decent French food as the onboard offering was overpriced and disappointing, to say the least.
Where to stay and eat in London before and / after your trip
I stayed at The Citadines Barbican.
This is a fun hybrid hotel and apartment – you get the usual check in desk and amenities but theres also your own little kitchen in the room if you want to cook your own meals.
Rooms cost from £125 and guests can enjoy the fresh produce at the on-site Sourced Market, which provides breakfast, lunch, and evening snacks and drinks.
I had dinner at Searcys St Pancras Grand Restaurant, which is in the station itself, so incredibly handy.
The restaurant has a lovely ambience and serves dishes including an outstanding potted Gressingham duck with celeriac and a dinky vegetable pie with creamed cauliflower.
Meanwhile, the heritage tomato, artichoke, soy cheese and pine nut salad is as delicious as it is colourful.
Two courses cost from £18 or £24 with Champagne.