Conscious tourism is the buzz-phrase of 2019 and, according to multiple travel trend reports, its what were all going to be obsessed with.
It does tend to conjure up images of hemp-wearing gap yah students trying to help locals whod rather they werent there, rather than a sumptuous and relaxing trip for a couple – or throuple, it is 2018 after all.
However, it turns out conscious tourism can be more unconscious by nature, and encompass the coolness and romance that you might associate with travelling.
Paris is a city of decadence – and nothing wrong with that – but as a young couple visiting during a politically tumultuous time, my partner and I wanted to do things differently.
Thats where MOB Hotel came in, and it gave us an ideal base from which to explore the more alternative (sorry, I gagged too) side of the City of Love.
MOB is the brainchild of Cyril Aouizerate, who has the kind of swagger thats impossible to learn. We stayed in the St Ouen location, although there is also one in Lyon, and more MOBs planned across the world.
The hotel is covered in pictures of Communist leaders (inspired by Cyrils father – who was secretary general of the CGT) and rock stars, and decorated in a way you could only describe as a mix of Scandinavia and France.
The rooms are small, and built to be a bolthole to come back to after days and nights enjoying your surroundings.
There are no TVs – an intentional move – as Cyril doesnt feel theyre necessary. Far from being a forced switch-off, however, the idea is that you can simply switch on with your own devices if you fancy, with some of the fastest Wifi in the area.
MOB is genuinely something special, for the ethos as much as the rooms. Photos of the builders who worked on the hotel line the walls of the lobby, there is a community garden on the terrace where the neighbours can plant fruit and veg, and they run and fund a fashion school next door.
Gentrification will always be a thing, but if a business can move into a vibrant neighbourhood like St Ouen and try to include and benefit the local community, that gets a huge thumbs up from me.
Apart from marvelling at the curtains (that show a mural of everyone from Amy Winehouse to Barack Obama) heres what we got up to on our romantic trip to Paris with a difference.
The food at MOB is Levantine with a more modern twist. Try the Lamajoun pizza or sea bass for something substantial, or some of the Barbies hummus to soak up your cocktails (I can personally recommend the splash, which is a kiwi delight).
The lighting in the bar/restaurant is low, the music is just on the right side of jazzy, and knowing your bed is right upstairs makes this a sweet spot for lovers.
In terms of things to do in the area, youre spoilt for choice and could spend days wandering around. The hotel is situated right in the middle of Les Puces, which is Europes largest flea market.
At one moment you could be looking at priceless art and Only-Fools-slapstick-worthy crystal candeliers, and the next youre buying knock-offs from a trestle table. We tried to set ourselves a challenge where we wandered off with 10 euros each and bought each other a mystery gift, but ended up just wanting to spend time together – very uncool.
Catch a movie at revolutionary cinema 1789, or drink, eat, and make stuff at Le Recyclerie or Main Deouvres. This area was once the heart of Parisian Communism (which youll notice from the architecture) and the spirit of collaboration is still a big thing here.
Romance definitely doesnt just need to mean staring into each others eyes over a bottle of Bordeaux – although you can always do that too.
French food is great, but in Belleville theres everything from Lebanese to Japanese, which may make you reconsider lescargots.
Trendy bars also abound here, in an area Ive affectionately termed the Shoreditch of Paris. Hit up the Rue Denoyez (a street art dream) and sup coffees and beers while pretending you work in a creative agency (wear an interesting hat for added effect).
The Pere Lachaise cemetery is a short walk away, and you can see the final resting places of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and Chopin. A passer-by told us while we were there that its bigger than Monaco, although that seems like it may have got lost in translation.
Edith Piaf is also buried here, and you can visit her familys old house on Rue de Belleville to see where the legend was born. Love is… considering your mortality (clearly).
Forget the Eiffel Tower in any sense beyond getting a photograph beside it. Its expensive, there are crowds, and you cant actually see the Eiffel Tower from inside it, duh.
Go visit the Montparnasse Tower instead, which is easy to get to and half the price. It has the fastest lift which takes you up to the 56th floor viewing platform. From there you can see the city skyline as it was meant to be seen.
Incidentally, we got there and I wimped out immediately upon seeing it, so heres a photo of me and my shame as well – as what your picture would look like if you werent scared of heights.
We were also recommended a few places by the lovely Keith of Good Morning Keith (who makes incredible, organic, rock-inspired clothing with his absolute baller grandma Paulette, and sells them in a pop-up at MOB). Unfortunately, theres only so much you can fit into two days, so were taking his word for it:
Serpent a Plume is location on the Places Des Vosges in Marais, and has a hot tub, plenty of dark corners, and some of Paris most colourful characters.
Near the Gare du Nord is Hotel Grand Amour, which is a real Insta-palace, and gives you the joy of an authentic brasserie with the decor of a grown-up French funfair.
We stayed at MOB Hotel Paris, where rooms start at €79 (£71) per night. To get there, we took the Eurostar from St Pancras to Gare du Nord, which costs from £44 one-way or £58 return. Once youre in Paris, you can get around on the Metro, which is €1.90 (£1.70) per journey.