I’d been to Paris years ago (in my early twenties), on one of Hull’s infamous ‘Dutch Dashes’, let me explain. You jumped on the ferry after work / college etc. at 5 pm on a Friday, sailed overnight to Zeebrugge (party the night away at the North Sea Ferry disco) hop on a coach at the other end, bomb down to Paris (or wherever your mini-break destination was taking you), a quick whistle-stop tour around the sights, back on the coach, returning to Hull on the Sunday at around 11 pm (ready for work / college etc. on the Monday). Phew!! hence the name Dutch-Dash, it makes me exhausted just to think about it now.
Keen to visit Paris again (properly) we briefly discussed visiting as my husband had a similar experience to my flying visit. We started trawling the internet one evening in search of bargain deals (over half-term), is there such a thing?? After a few nights of persistence, we did actually manage to find a pretty good deal, 4 nights in Paris (5 days) for a family of 4 (2 teens), airport parking, baggage allowance and staying at a hotel within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower, all for under £1000 (with Travel Republic). Pleased with ourselves, we gently broke the news to the teens the next day. Surprisingly they took the news (that they would have to spend some time with us) well, genuinely appearing quite excited.
Our day of departure finally came, we were catching an early flight with Vueling from Gatwick Airport. That did mean two grumpy teens but flying from Gatwick at that time of the morning was a lot cheaper and meant that we had little traffic to contend with. No sooner had we boarded the aircraft and fastened ourselves in, it was time to get off again. Just an hour’s flight to Charles De Gaulle airport. We were greeted at the other end by a very friendly airport shuttle-driver (no sarcasm here, he was actually very chatty), a 40 minutes transfer to our hotel and we were ready to begin our adventure.
We were staying at the Hotel Mirabeau Eiffel, a small boutique hotel in a perfect location. Just a stroll from plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and the metro. The Eiffel Tower and Seine were only a 20-minute walk away too.
Tired from travelling, we had a fairly relaxed evening exploring the local area of Grenelle, eating at a fabulous little bar-restaurant bar called Café Beaugrenelle. We voted for an early night, in preparation for the following day.
We’d bought a decent travel guide at the airport and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough, the Pocket Rough Guide to Paris. Individually, we all had a few places in mind that we wanted to visit, so we mapped out a rough itinerary for each day.
Determined to embrace a little culture (and even more determined to inject a smidge into our teens), we headed off to The Maris area of Paris. We were kindly directed to the Metro station by a lovely lady after hubster nearly led us into a lamp-post, (the Parisians so far were not living up to their reputation). However, once in the Metro, he navigated us around like a pro. We bought a book of 12 tickets (as our guidebook recommended), it was more cost-effective. The Maris area was renowned for its artsy vibe, café bars and restaurants as well as museums, art galleries and Renaissance buildings.
We tried out the Musèe de Picasso, the entrance fee reasonably priced (€15 for adults and free to under 18s). The museum was lovely and airy and had recently been extended and renovated, so we enjoyed strolling around for a few hours enjoying Picasso’s works.
Keen to re-energise the teens we headed back via the Metro to the Avenue des Champs-Elysée and Tuileries. Bustling with people, cafes, bars and both high street shops such as NIKE and designer stores including a huge Luis Vuitton, MAC and Jean-Paul Gaultier, it was much more their thing. Stopping to take photographs of the Arc De Triomphe we then walked back along the Avenue taking in the atmosphere before heading back to Grenelle for dinner.
We found another little gem serving home-cooked French cuisine, Le Relais Charbon. I don’t know about you, but if we find somewhere on holiday that we enjoy, it tends to draw us back again and again. We just loved that little place, so unpretentious with no frills, the service was friendly, with a recommended regional wine chalked up on the board every evening, all at very affordable prices.
A visit to Paris (unless it’s purely for shopping) has to include the Louvre, we did make the mistake of not pre-booking tickets (which you can easily do on the website) so had to queue outside for nearly an hour. However, when we finally made our entrance, it was definitely worth the wait. Halls and halls of fine art and sculptures from every decade and nation, you could literally spend the whole day there (so wear comfy shoes if art is your thing). Our main reason for the visit was obviously to see the Mona Lisa! I’ve never seen so much hype, but at least I managed to get a few decent pics of the most famous face in the world!
I really wanted to visit the Galleries Lafayette, located in the Grand Boulevards and Passages. It didn’t disappoint, the building was absolutely amazing. Floor after floor of designer brands which led up to a glass ceiling and dome and onto an outside terrace, boasting amazing views across Paris. Definitely comparable with Harrods, if not grander!
Cathedrale de Notre-Dame was our next stop, we were lucky enough to witness a service just after we entered the Gothic cathedral. Beautiful inside and very serene, the rose-coloured glass windows and high vaulted ceilings were pretty dramatic.
Fortunately, the weather improved throughout our trip and we’d saved Montmarte and Sacré-Coeur, situated in Northern Paris until our penultimate day. I particularly enjoyed wandering around the cobbled streets and market square which was packed with local artists. We stopped for a drink at La Vigule, a vibrant bar situated over from the Sacré-Coeur, sitting outside to people watch (which is one of my favourite things to do on holiday), and wondering why are Europeans so stylish compared with us Brits? Anyway, I’d just like to point out that stopping for ‘drinks’ in Paris was always very expensive, the average price for a pint €10, a little cheaper for a glass of wine, around €5. Soft drinks for the teens extortionate, with a bottle of cola or Fanta costing between €5 to €6. Definitely more economical to drink wine! We finished the day off by sitting on the steps adjacent to the Sacré-Coeur and just enjoying the panoramic view across Paris.
As we were flying back at mid-day to Gatwick, and because the Eiffel Tower was only a stroll away from our hotel. We decided to spend our final morning climbing the Eiffel Tower (gulp – as I’ve grown up, so has my fear of heights). We’d been fortunate enough to pass the tower all week-long, using it as a landmark to get us home, marvelling at it every day and evening. Night-time was pretty spectacular as the Eiffel Tower was lit by a double searchlight, and for the first 10 minutes of every hour, thousands of effervescent lights twinkled and dazzled the Paris skyline. It is recommended to book online prior to your visit or arrive before the ticket office opens to avoid the queues. Since it’s renovation, part of it’s first floor has been replaced by glass (to intensify the thrill or fear!), however the views are clearer on the second floor. An elevator then takes you up all the way to the top.
Well I do have a little confession to make at this point, my fear of heights did get the better of me and I decided not to go BUT I did climb the tower on my earlier trip to Paris and made it to the second floor (had I not done this then I would have pushed myself – honest)! The rest of the gang enjoyed it though.
In summary, Paris is a wonderful and vibrant city of culture and with travel restrictions looming following Brexit, if you haven’t yet visited the city of love, I really recommend you try to find time to do so soon. There is something for everyone, the down side it is a little expensive to eat out, however you can always buy bread and snacks in advance for your day trips at the local supermarket like we did. It’s such a short flight too and an easy drive from Charles de Gaulle airport (and just as easy to cross the Channel on the ferry or Euro-Tunnel.
As the best time to visit is definitely Spring …. What are you waiting for?
Photographs By: Leigh