What do you do and why do you do it?
After reading French and Russian at Cambridge University, I've been working as a journalist in Paris writing for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Observer, The Times and Culture Trip. I'm crazy for contemporary art, the weirder the better. But my main passion is poetry - Paris is perfect inspiration. After winning 1st in the BBC Proms Poetry Competition, I've performed on Radio 3 and written for BBC podcasts. I was also Poet-In-Residence for Ilkley Literature Festival alongside Radio 4's Daljit Nagra, touring literature festivals. Lastly, I love music, and dabble as a BBC Introducing poetic-folk songwriter with debut album 'Leaves & Lovers'.
You’re broken hearted - what tracks does your heartbreak playlist consist of?
Christophe Mae's songs are stained with heartbreak yet stitched together with hope. I like how his voice blends a patchwork of passionate outcries and soft sighs, carried by the roll of a southern French tongue. This combines with an earthy root melody and the occasional harmonica to fashion a raw and authentic style. There's also Jacques Brel who composed explosively theatrical yet thoughtful songs. It’s difficult to not watch his moving live performances without shedding a tear. In ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, he begs in desperation for his lover to not leave, offering a gift of pearl-shaped raindrops picked from a land never graced with rain.
What are the best TV shows of all time?
I honour BBC Two’s Versailles, the sumptuous period drama depicting the decadent and turbulent early reign of the French Sun King, as one of the most beautifully filmed dramas I have had the pleasure of enjoying. There is pure poetry woven throughout in metaphorically hidden motifs, as subtle as clues about who murdered the young girl encoded in the angel-decorated buttons on the murderer’s jacket: “I saw angels”.
Name some spots in Paris that are good for a Tinder date.
La Fontaine des Innocents is perfect for a rendez-vous, boasting not only convenience and choice but brilliant ambiance and architectural glory. It's a masterpiece of French Renaissance commissioned for the royal entry of King Henry II to Paris in 1549. The tranquil spot is secluded behind a cluster of trees with torrent of cascading water that drowns out the traffic drawl. Unsure where the date will lead? This square is surrounded by an array of things to see and do. It has the best shopping centre only a stone’s throw away (Les Halles), the best contemporary arts museum (Pompidou), and a fabulous variety of food choices.
Who’s your hero and where in Paris would you take them out for a serious hang?
Salvador Dali! The king of surrealism, I'd love to hang anywhere with him. I know that at Le Meurice hotel in Paris, he once demanded a herd of sheep be brought to his room. Another time, he settled on a single horse. Most hilariously of all, he once asked the staff to capture flies for him from the Tuileries Gardens next door, paying them five francs (around one euro) per fly, so I'm sure we'd have fun wherever we go.
Where do you buy those fabulous clothes of yours?
Usually high street fashion stores like Topshop, but also cool vintage shops.
What’s the area/ spot in town you’ll never be caught dead in?
A souvenir shop by the Eiffel Tower
What’s the thing you LOVE to do in your city that you never get to do?
Rollerblading in Paris! Apparently, you can now put your skates on and rollerblade around the highest rooftop in Paris, on the terrace of the Panoramic Observation Floor at the top of the Montparnasse Tower. It takes just 38 seconds – in Europe’s fastest elevator – to reach the 56th floor, where you can marvel at the most incredible views of Paris while zipping around at supersonic speed.
What’s the most decadent / extreme dish you ever ate in Paris and where did you get it?
I still find eating snails a little peculiar.
Is there a hidden bar / hole in the wall in Paris that you particularly like?
La Nouvelle Seine. Not only does this Peniche boast a brilliant location beneath the dramatic architecture of Notre Dame, and also a varied program of theatre that ranges from comedy to cabaret, it also serves mouth-watering food. A carpaccio of melon raveled in ham makes for a refreshing starter in these summer months, light enough to favor the filet de boeuf and homemade chips that might follow.
What’s the most expensive restaurant / spa / hotel you’ve ever been to in Paris? How much did it cost and what did you get there?
Sorry, I've never been to a spa!
What restaurant in Paris looks crap, but the food’s amazing?
While the general surroundings might seem a little run-down at first glance – stepping off the metro to dusty graffiti makes for a curious clash with the metro station name ‘Belleville’ (beautiful city) – you’ll be welcomed by cheap prices and a friendly space to chill at Les Piaules on their hidden rooftop. Whether its craft beer or homemade lemonade you’d like to try, or rather dip into a selection of French cheese with a glass of Bordeaux in the cosy chimney lounge, this hostel and bar really is the place to drop by. There are live music events and always plenty of young foreign traveller bustle, proving that this is worth a visit.
Where can you get the best cocktail in Paris? Which one do you like?
Onze Bar is an incredibly quirky bar set in the 11th district of Paris, with reasonable alcoholic drink prices and great musical ambiance. The interior design is multicoloured and oddly mis-matched, making for a unique photo opportunity. With invigorating alcoholic cocktails that start at just €6, there's also creamy hot chocolate options at €3.50, and espresso at an incredible €1, price-wise you can’t complain. Expect to find strange objects hanging from the walls like handbags, chandeliers and huge ornate mirrors, as well as enormous theatrical-like furniture to sink into as you sip your cocktail.
Where would you take your partner in Paris if you wanted to really pamper them?
Le Meurice is one of the most elegant hotels in the world, oozing 18th-century opulence. It's a luxurious five-star hotel in the heart of the 1st arrondissement, nestled perfectly between the Place de la Concorde, Musée du Louvre, and the Tuileries Garden. Its dreamy interiors flaunt extravagant Louis XVI décor and have been dazzling celebrities for centuries. The current vibe is a cocktail of classic and modern: with televisions concealed behind paintings, USB ports in the sofa armrests, and iHome systems equipping each of its 160 suites. There’s an ambitious mélange of Louis XVI tradition and the latest technology.
Which snacks can you only get in your country, and which ones do you recommend?
Who knew Paris has its own traditional dishes? The iconic ring shape of Le Paris-Brest immediately conjures up its secret past, hinting at the famous French cycling race that inspired its creation. The delicious pastry is stuffed with praline cream, then garnished with flaked almonds to produce one of the most iconic Parisian desserts. There's also Le Flan Parisien, distinguishable from other flans by its crumpled bed of broken dough, supporting a thick yellow layer covered with a wrinkled top, before lightly browned by cooking. Its elasticity and freshness mingle with a sharp and surprising taste of vanilla to concoct a unique dessert.
What’s the one place you think is overrated in Paris?
The Eiffel Tower.
What’s the one place you think is underrated in Paris?
The National Museum of Natural History (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle) is not the most famous museum in Paris, yet it hides so many treasures within its walls. People should visit because they keep in good shape one of the oldest and largest natural history museums in the world: some of their collections (70 million specimens, two million publications, archival material, and pieces of art) date back to the 17th century. In the Great Gallery of Evolution, there are historical specimens, such as the rhinoceros who once belonged to King Louis XV and used to live in Versailles before the Revolution, along with many extinct species.
What are the Paris spots a first-time visitor can’t miss?
You can't skip Notre Dame's terrific gargoyles spying down over the city on the Île de la Cité, followed by a wander across the small islands of the Seine: Ile de la Cité and Ile St-Louis. Along these left banks you can peruse à la parisienne, the iconic green kiosks selling books, dreamy art, and souvenirs. If the green kiosks didn’t fill your lust for books then you can browse Shakespeare and Company. The beautiful wooden beams of this legendary bookstore boast an impressive legacy. There’s a piano and typewriters, which make for a quirky space. If it’s a nice day you should finish with ice cream at Berthillon, the best ice cream in Paris.
Tomorrow’s your last day in Paris. How do you spend it?
I absolutely love visiting The Pompidou Centre in Paris, housing over 100,000 modern and contemporary works of art. I never get tired of visiting and musing over the artworks.
What’s your favorite vacation city in the world and why?
Paris! Of course.