My mum has been wanting to go Paris for a while and when I saw the £29 one way deal on the Eurostar I got our family trip booked.
We went on the 20th of March and it was about 13-15 degrees. We got some sun and 1 hour of drizzle in the 3 days we were there.
We arrived in Paris at around 4 pm on the 20th and for the Eurostar back at 6 pm on the 22nd.
Eurostar are doing deals on quite a regular basis and £58 you can get a return train from London to Paris. The journey is under 3 hours which is great.
The trains are nothing amazing; just standard clean trains. The food on board is not too overly priced but you have to walk to the carriage that serves it (8 and 9).
They recommend to get there 45 minutes before. In London once you check in and go through security there are a couple of shops. However before you check in St Pancras has a much bigger selection.
There is on board wifi but it is very temperamental.
When you get to Gare Du Nord there were many information desks that can help you. The station has very many armed police which was a bit scary but I guess that made is safer for us.
When boarding the Eurostar from Paris give yourself plenty of time- I would say an hour. When we were there there were 2 passport control booths open and the wait was 30 minutes. There were no staff to help out and unlike the British there were no queues ; just lots of pushing. Our train back was at 1824 and by the time we got past security it was 1820 and we had to run to get on the train. There is no visible assistance anywhere. There were still people behind us and I don’t know if they got on. The train doesn’t wait for anyone even though it’s not your fault so be careful. It may have just been a bad day or there may have been some strikes because I am told it’s not always so hectic.
Once I had booked the Eurostar I got our return trains from Birmingham to London sorted to save costs. I managed to get £6 one way per adult with London Midland and this was at 845 am which I thought was good. The return was the same price but got this with Virgin. It’s worth checking national rail and red spotted hanky for comparison of train prices.
The walk from Euston to St Pancras is at the most 10 minutes.
I was looking for something central and as you can imagine prices were over £100 a night however each hotel offered different facilities e.g. Breakfast.
When you book with Eurostar you normally get a follow up email offering you 15 percent off hotels with Expedia at the location you are going.
I did look on comparison sites like momondo and trivago for hotels however using the Eurostar discount worked out the cheapest.
We booked one of the Happy Culture Hotels;
Hôtel Etoile Saint-Honoré, 214 Rue Du Faubourg Saint Honoré Paris Paris 75008.
This was £103.41 per room per night. This included buffet breakfast, a glass of champagne each and free canapés/cakes/pastries and soft drinks between 530pm and 8pm (Tip: for the best selection get there early). They also have a coffee machine at the lobby you can use through out the day.
The hotel was a ten minute stroll to Champs-Elysées which was perfect.
The road the hotel is on leads you all the way by Gallery Lafayette. It is about 40 minutes walk but you get to see all the lovely high end shops and soak up a lot of culture whilst walking.
I pre booked the big bus tours; I got the 2 days and river cruise. I always feel the hip on hip off buses are the best way to see all the key sites on a city break. Also having the flexibility to come off at each stop is a bonus! On other bus tours I have been in, tickets are normally valid 48 hours so you can go on the night buses too however with the Paris the day route stops about 6pm and you can then buy an additional night route ticket. The night bus isn’t a hop on hop off so I personally felt it wasn’t worth it.
The bus has two routes; red and blue. The blue one is less frequent.
We didn’t feel the river cruise added any value to our trip; we saw all the key sites on the red bus and were able to get off when we wanted. The headphones were not working properly and the only attraction that we were all made aware of was Notre Dame.
The river cruise was an hour long and runs every hour so if you miss one you have to wait around (there is a restaurant you can go to next door). It starts by the Eiffel Tower.
For a little extra I would get the cruises with a meal on board; they looked more equipped and had better viewing areas. With this standard one, if you didn’t sit upstairs or right in front of the boat you missed practically everything.
It’s always a good idea to look at the bus routes before hand so you can plan your days especially if you don’t have enough time.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT AND TAXIS
When we got to Paris we got Bus 43 from the station to our hotel. This took just under 45 minutes and the stop was right next to the hotel. The buses/ticket points are on the left side exit of the station. It was easy to buy tickets and they were 1.90 euros each, one way. Keep hold of your tickets at all times and ensure you swipe it to avoid fines; the metro controllers have a zero tolerance and cannot be bothered to listen to your excuses.
The buses get really busy and if there a few of you it’s worth just using Uber because it is quick, efficient and not as pricey as you may think. E.g. From Eiffel Tower to our hotel/Champs-Elysse it was 15 euros for a mini bus.
We got an Uber from our hotel to the station on the way back and that was 25 euros which wasn’t too bad for a minibus (better than standing on a bus and waiting for your stop).
Eiffel Tower: it wouldn’t be Paris without the iconic Eiffel Tower. The best place to view the full Tower and get photos is Place du Trocadero. It’s 5 minutes walk from the Tower but the views are brilliant and it looks like the spot Kate and William recently had their photo taken from.
On the picture below the gold flame is above the bridge Princess Diana had her accident (we found out about this location on the us tour).
The lights on the tower go on at sunset which was around 715pm. We then waited for the twinkle which is on the hour and lasts about five minutes. Photos or videos don’t do this justice; it looks very pretty and is definitely worth seeing.
Arc De Triomphe: The monument stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle and is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. You can climb 284 steps to reach the top of the Arc where they will get information about the city’s history, as well as some panoramic views. To get to the monument you have to go under a subway and once you get there go to the entrance that looks like the one only for buying tickets.
Notre Dame Cathedral: Paris’s Gothic masterpiece was constructed between 1163-1334. Climb from the north tower to the south to appreciate the masonry, and get a close-up view of the Gallery of Chimeras, the fantastic birds and beasts gazing over the balustrade. Entry’s free to Notre Dame, one of the world’s most famous cathedrals with its gargoyles and bells.
Walking on Champs Elysees: This is a very prestigious avenue in Paris with cinemas, cafes, luxury specialty shops. It’s also one of the most famous streets in the world, running down from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. It is always busy and always expensive, but it’s a great place for people watching and photos during the day.
Montmartre: The home to starving artists for decades, this area gives you a stunning view of Paris.
The views are nice but not spectacular.
We went to Sacre Coeur and from the church you can see the city as well as the Eiffel Tower for free.
Galeries Lafayette This upmarket department store is worth paying a visit even if it’s just to window shop. Visit the dome which is in the beauty section. The store has Angelina and L’eclair de genie in there too.
I have a list below of places to Eat based on various blogs. We didn’t manage to cover majority of these because we were a big group and were restricted with time.
Where we did go was:
Angelina: This is a chocoholics dream and worth it for the experience. There hot chocolate is pure cup of rich thick chocolate as enough for two people (because you could actually feel sick by drinking the whole cup). You do need the cream it comes with to dilute it. We had a Mont Blanc ice cream dessert there and that was tasty too.
L’eclair de genie: The eclairs tasted like nothing I have ever had: they look sickly but were not. The fillings were so moist and full of tasty flavours. They were expensive but worth it. Plus you don’t have them all the time.
Le Bistrot d’Arsene: On our second night we just couldn’t find a good brasserie by Champs Elysses- they were either too expensive, were not open or didn’t have a nice selection. We stubbled across this bar who then recommended us to go to Le Bistrot d’Arsene. The lady at the bar was kind enough to ring and book us a table.
We were not disappointed and this is what we wanted; a traditional French bistro. We didn’t have starters because we noticed the portion sizes were generous. We had a main meal each with cocktails, beer and wine and shared a couple of desserts; this worked out 65euros for two.
Here are some tips I picked up along the way and from various bits of reading:
Palace of Versailles – A visit to the palace of the kings of France requires a whole day. It gets very crowded but that mostly means you have people in your pictures, not that you are pushed into other rooms. The palace is opulent and makes you see why the French revolted!
Louvre – The Louvre is the biggest museum in the world with thousands of square feet of space and millions of works. It houses pieces from classical times to the 19th century. Be prepared to spend hours here and not even see it all.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is the largest public park in Paris. The garden contains just over a hundred statues, monuments, and fountains, all scattered throughout the grounds. In the morning, you’ll see lots of runners. At lunch on a nice day, a park full of people having a picnic.
Panthéon – Located in the Latin Quarter, this neoclassical building was originally built as a church but was turned into a state burial site for France’s heroes, like Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille and Voltaire. The height and scale of this building’s fantastic.
Useful Apps: I would recommend downloading the google translate app which enabled us to communicate in French and translate stuff like menus easily.
If you are going on the bus tours, they have an app which will show you the stops.
You can download the Here Drive offline map or another off line Paris map and travel guide was Ulmon. These comes in handy when walking from on place to another. You can also put your favourite destinations on the Ulmon map too and search offline for particular destinations. I think Ulmon lets you download one map at a time for free.
Here are few more snaps I caputured whilst on the bus tour.