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.
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!
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).
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.
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:
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.