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Bonjour Paris!

May 3, 2022 | Road Trips, The Grand Adventure | 22 comments

As road trips go, this one came and went faster than a speeding train but, oh garçon, did we pack it in!

For two straight days (et nuits) we ate, drank, walked, window shopped, walked, ate some more, drank and marché encore.

Put like that, it doesn’t sound wildly exciting, but maybe some of the highlights will tickle your fancy:

Prendre le train

If you’re going to travel to Paris, travel by train.

Let me re-phrase that. If you’re going to travel to Paris from London, do it on the Eurostar. It’s brilliant. It takes just over two hours, and when you arrive there’s no queuing for immigration or luggage. You get off the train, dump your bags at the hotel, head straight for the nearest brasserie, and start your holiday.

There’s one proviso. Eurostar will have you believe you need to arrive at St Pancreas in London two hours before your scheduled departure, pour le passport control. You don’t.

We made the mistake of arriving at 5am for a 7am departure and spent 90 minutes drinking café de gare terrible.

One hour before is fine.

Méfiez-vous du taxi voyou

When you arrive at Gare de Nord, you’ll need a taxi. There is a perfectly good taxi rank, with a very helpful taxi attendant making sure passengers get into the right taxi in the right order.  Somehow, this got lost in translation for us.

“Madame, taxi pour deux?” said a friendly driver who had somehow jumped ahead of all the other taxis while the attendant’s back was turned.

“Oui, merci,” I replied, heading for the door he held open. And we were off.

It wasn’t until we were halfway to our destination, having discussed the weather (“il fait beau aujourd’hui.”), and the election (“Le Pen est un fou!”), that our driver waved a printed card in our face showing a fixed price for taxis in Paris from the station, which is why he hadn’t turned his meter on.

The fixed price was 65 euros, and unfortunately, no, we couldn’t pay by credit card as his machine wasn’t working. “Je suis désolé. C’est dommage,” he said with a Parisienne shrug. Quel stitch-up!

On our return journey to the station two days later, in a taxi ordered by our hotel, the fare (on the meter) was 25 euros.

Beware the rogue taxi drivers!

Avenue des Champs Elysées est très chic et très chère

No trip to Paris is complete without a stroll down the Champs Elysées.

It will make your heart sing and your wallet bleed.

Stroll, by all means, but keep strolling to more affordable streets when you start to get hungry. And for gawd’s sake, don’t go into any shops.

Avenue Champs Elysees in Paris

Oh La La. L’hotel est pas mal!

Last time we stayed in Paris the hotel was awful. The promised ‘glimpses of the Eiffel Tower’ were only possible if Russell dangled me from the bathroom window by my ankles, and there wasn’t enough floor space around the bed to put a suitcase down.

But this time, I did hours of online research and. . .oh la la, we struck gold.

No, we didn’t have Eiffel Tower views, and the room was still tiny, but it was truly bijou. We knew we’d love it the moment we got into the 2-man lift and the doors thudded shut behind us. We were inside a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk.

Every inch of this 18th century hotel was old-style Paris, with touches of quirky elegance, from the velvet studded chairs in the dining room to our fabric-swathed bedroom, with its matching curtains and walls, and crisp white bed linen. 

Do your hotel homework. It’s the difference between quelle horreur! and c’est manifique!

L'hotel in Paris c'est chic!

Respecter l’horaire!

When you’ve only got two days to do Paris, have a plan. There’s no time to dither!

Once my research into hotels was done, I started on the restaurants (lots of googling ‘top ten brasseries in Paris that aren’t tourist rip-offs’, followed by ‘how long does it take to walk from the Eiffel Tower to the 3rd arrondissement?’ – that sort of thing.)

And then the activities (‘best Seine river cruises’, ‘what to do in Paris in 24 hours’)

Sure, we went off-piste a couple of times. But we always respected the schedule, and look what we packed in.

Lunch and dinners at three really great brasseries: Le Corner on Av. Kleber (the best food we had in Paris including a creme brulee to die for); Aux Bons Crus, in Rue Godefroy Cavaignac (a bustling Parisienne cafe, stuffed full of loud-voiced men having business lunches); and Brasserie Balzar, in Rue des Ecoles near the Sorbonne University (a lush icon that’s been around since 1894, with just enough local diners among the tourists to give it an authentic touch).

Best restaurants in Paris

Exploring the back streets of the 16th arrondisement, searching for an elusive antique shop that turned out to be permanently closed, followed by a one-way river cruise from the Eiffel Tower to Pont Marie (we didn’t have time to do the return leg).

We sailed past the Avenue de New York, Pont de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, the Louvre, Notre Dame (under repair), and everything in between. 

Sights in Paris

Then a 30 minute walk to the 11th arrondisement, through the Place de la Bastille and streets of trendy boutiques, to a well-earned lunch, avec deux bières fraîches bien méritées.

Bon dieu! Regarde comment ils garent leurs voitures!

You couldn’t pay me to drive in Paris. We went around the Arc de Triumph three times in different taxis and I had my eyes closed each time. French drivers sont fous!

But I take my hat off to their parking abilities. God knows how they manage this:

Cars parked in Paris streets

Au revoir Paris, nous reviendrons

So, that was Paris. We got dudded by taxi drivers, ate way too much buttery, garlicky, yummy French food, got horribly overcharged for every glass of champagne and ‘Happy Hour’ cocktail we drank, walked the soles off my boots (literally), and spent more on the thank-you chocolates we bought for my brother for looking after Molly the dog, than we would have paid to kennel her. 

And we loved every minute of it. 

22 Comments

  1. Debbie Lorking

    What fun you are having . Got to love those taxi drivers 🤦‍♀️ We had a similar experience with a water taxi in Venice . Love the blogs xx

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Yes, I think those rogue taxi drivers are everywhere!

      Reply
  2. SUSAN TAYLOR

    What a fabulous trip – can’t believe how much you did! I went to Paris when I was 14 and joined a Dutch friend and her formidable mother. I flew through a violent thunderstorm and the first thing we did on my arrival was go up the Eiffel Tower where I was sick. Not a good start.

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      What a terrible introduction to Paris! I hope the rest of the trip went well.

      Reply
  3. Bruce Lorking

    Mel
    Please send more pitchas of what you ate.

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      I think you’ll find some snails in there if you look closely although, I have to admit, I didn’t eat them, Russell did. Can’t stand the things myself!

      Reply
  4. Ian Thomas

    Love your blog Mel.I am in Brisbane until tomorrow.
    I came to see Yasmin and Steve just for a week and I have been here nearly 3 weeks having contracted Bronchitis.
    Good day Russell
    Great to hear you are enjoying your new home.
    Tommo

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Sorry to hear you haven’t been well. Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

      Reply
  5. Elizabeth Dempsey

    Loved this story Mel, brought back memories, especially of the insufferable taxi drivers.

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Ha ha. Yes, they can be insufferable!

      Reply
  6. Victoria Ciddor

    So envious!!!! Such a special city. Don’t know how you managed to pack in so much in such short time. Next time you visit, save up your pennies for a seriously fabulous lunch experience at La Tour d’Argent. 15 quai de la Tournelle. It overlooks the Sein and Notre Dame. Centuries old, still in the same family and the best duck you’ve ever come across. Thank you for taking us back to Paris xxx

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      We’ll definitely try that restaurant next time. Thanks

      Reply
  7. Helen Villiers

    I envy you the ability to drop over to Europe for a weekend. Your Paris adventure made my mouth water for all that “buttery garlicky” goodness.

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Lucky we were only there for two days. I don’t know how those Parisiennes stay so thin

      Reply
  8. Suzie

    Hello lovely people oh how I miss you!
    The Wicks guide books are something to look forward to!
    Eat your heart out Michael Portillo.
    Russell has to start dressing like him!!!
    Beautiful day here best I get on with it … love you lots Suzieq

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Missing you too, Suzie

      Reply
  9. Mike Mabbutt

    Fabulous blog Mel, was there with you all the way!! Your hotel sounds remarkably like ours when we stayed, we could barely squeeze into the lift and could turn the tv on with our toes…. Mind you ours was 1 star so I’m sure you were more up market!! And the Eurostar, c’est magnifique and so fast!!
    Love your memes, enjoy.
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Thanks, Mike

      Reply
  10. Susan Mudge

    Love love love Paris. Great post – I was there with you. especially loved the look of that hotel. You’ll have to tell me its name for when we go!!! xoxo

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Le Dokhan. It’s a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and 15 minutes from Arc de Triumph. Perfect location

      Reply
  11. Petrina

    Absolutely love your travel dossier. Enjoyed your jaunt around a truly beautiful city, even with its irritating taxi drivers 🤣

    Sounds like the best trip, rip offs ‘n all. Part of travelling these days isn’t it? Exciting trip.

    Love love love your blog xx

    Reply
    • Mel Wicks

      Thanks, Trina. It’s good to know someone’s reading it. Makes it all worthwhile.

      Reply

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