I’ve been very lucky that in my nearly 26 years on this planet that I’ve had the chance to travel to many places. But one city I’ve never visited before was Paris. I’ve passed through France briefly on route to Amsterdam, but until recently, I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore the country, or its capital city.
So when my best friend offered me a place last-minute trip, it was an offer that I simply couldn’t turn down. So, on a rather freezing Sunday morning, we hopped in the car at 3.30am – the only time that it’s EVER acceptable to get up at the crack of dawn is to go on holiday – and made our way to Manchester for four days of croissants, coffee and a heck of a lot of walking.
One of the many joys of going to Paris is that it’s so quick and easy to get to. So quick, in fact, that I’d hardly cracked the surface of my monstrous playlist that was originally put together for my trip to Orlando back in October of last year. The flight was only an hour, and with a pretty quick and super convenient train service direct to the city from the airport, we were out exploring by early afternoon.
Our hotel, Hôtel Vendome Saint-Germain was in a great location, just a 15-minute from Norte-Dame. A boutique-style hotel tucked away up a small side street, it made for the perfect place to come back and relax after a long day of walking. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful; the rooms were clean and modern with plenty of storage space; free WiFi was available throughout, and there was also breakfast available down in the restaurant – we opted to go out and buy bits from the supermarket, as Paris is rather expensive.
Having never been to Paris before, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’d been warned that it was pricey, dirty and that tourist spots were also packed. But in all honesty, I fell in love with the city very quickly. It has stunning architecture on every corner, quaint little side streets with hidden coffee and flower shops, not forgetting the huge open windows where you can see the most delicately beautiful pastries being hand-crafted right before your very eyes.
As for the tourist attractions, most of them are situated in the heart of the city. We set out to see 90% of the city on foot, which led to us walking around 11 miles a day, meaning I didn’t feel at all guilty about eating my body-weight in croissants. While the art galleries are stunning and hold some of the most iconic works, including the Mona Lisa, they aren’t cheap to get into and often have quite long queues – unless you’ve pre-booked your tickets in advance.
But there are perks. If you’re 25 or under, you can actually go to the top of Notre-Dame for free, and the cathedral itself is also free to enter for everyone. Rich in history and boasting some of the most stunning architecture I’ve ever seen, it really is up there with the gem in Paris’s crown.
If you’re planning to visit the Eiffel Tower, I highly recommend that you pre-book tickets if you want to get the lift straight to the top, as queues can be up to an hour, if not more. We, on the other hand, decided to go with the second option of walking up to the second level and hopping on the lift from there. It’s cheaper, yes and sounds like the better option than waiting in a queue for over an hour, but making your way up 460+ stairs is one heck of a challenge – even for the fittest of people! But trust me when I say, the view up the top makes it really worth it.
I was also incredibly lucky to have dinner up the Eiffel Tower, where if the weather’s on your side, you’ll be treated to the most stunning views of the city at night. The food is divine and the service is second to none, so I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll add that extra sparkle to your time there. And after you’re done, make sure you leave plenty of time to see the Tower twinkle. It lights up for five minutes on the hour and is something you really cannot miss during your visit.
Getting around the city is super easy. Trains are cheap aren’t difficult to navigate as they work in a similar way to London’s tube system. Admittedly we didn’t actually use the train a lot, as Paris has so much beautiful architecture that you’d miss out if you spent all of your time on the underground. However, if you’re heading further afield to Versailles or Disneyland Paris, your tickets won’t cost you as much as you probably think.
While we tried – and failed – to visit Versailles due to train issues, we still managed to pack a lot into our four-day trip. I can imagine that Paris is a beautiful place to visit in the spring and summer, but I don’t honestly think anything will beat it covered in Christmas decorations and giant trees. It adds a level of warmth that I didn’t expect to feel from such a busy city and visiting on the festive period definitely made our getaway that extra special.
I hope you enjoy this little peek at my last-minute getaway to Paris. I can’t wait to see what adventures 2019 holds, but I’ve already got some new destinations in the pipeline that I can’t wait to share with you over the next 12-months! I also want to thank my beautiful best friend, Caroline, for inviting me on this truly wonderful trip that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I feel super lucky to have experienced it all with you!