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An 18th Birthday Trip to Paris

Sacre Coeur

Back in 1994, I lived in Paris for 9 months. Spending an academic year in France was a non-negotiable part of my degree course and not being one to take the easy route (most of my peers went to study at a french university), I decided to work as a language ‘Assistante’ in a french school.

“Sadly my overriding memory of that year in Paris, is one of loneliness”

When I think back to that year, I’m actually embarrassed by how little I can remember. I have vivid memories of strolling through the beautiful streets, knowing deep-down that I was very lucky but sadly my overriding memory of that year in Paris, is one of loneliness and therefore my feelings are ‘muddied’.

My youngest daughter is currently in year 13 studying A level french, so when we discussed going away for 3 days to celebrate her 18th birthday, Paris was the obvious choice. She had never been to this incredible city and I hadn’t been for 20 years.

I’ll be honest and admit that I had slightly mixed feelings about returning (albeit under the totally different guise of parent/tourist). Would the slightly negative memories come to the forefront or would I fall in love with this city all over again?

Getting to Paris and Finding Accommodation

I knew straight away that we would be getting the Eurostar to Paris. We don’t live too far from London so I worked out that door to door, it would take us 5 hours to get there. That 5 hours would allow plenty of time for underground disruptions and arriving at St Pancras an hour early, as instructed.

IOB Paris Travel Tip: You do need to check in at least 45 minutes prior to your booked Eurostar time. No need to separate liquids like you do when flying. 

Paris Gare Du Nord

“Four days before our trip, I saw a hotel with better reviews for a lower price and breakfast was included!”

The whole journey went without a hitch and we arrived at our hotel within 10 minutes of my estimation – first win in the bag! As is often the case, I used booking.com to choose our accommodation and actually the hotel we ended up at was our second choice.

The absolute genius thing about booking.com is that you can reserve a hotel and then change your mind nearer the time (assuming you’ve paid the flexi price). Four days before our trip, I saw a hotel with better reviews for a lower price and breakfast was included! No brainer.

Our hotel wasn’t fancy but it was perfect for our needs. We stayed at 9Hotel Opera (9th arrondissement) and I couldn’t fault the location. Although in different directions, we were a 15 minute walk from the Gare du Nord, Sacre Coeur and Galeries Lafayette. There were also 2 metro stations within a 5 minute walk.

Sacre Coeur

The only downside to our hotel, was that it was a little noisy (Parisians seem to party until 3am even on week nights!) but I’m extremely noise-sensitive so perhaps don’t take my word for that. The room was also small but I think that’s typical of a city hotel. On the plus side, it was plenty big enough for the two of us, who were only really looking for somewhere to lay our heads. It was very clean (always a priority) and had everything we needed, including an adequate breakfast.

Getting Around Paris

Firstly, it’s important to mention that Paris is so accessible on foot. Being much smaller than London (the obvious city to compare it to) it is easily navigated and having an interactive map on your phone makes it pretty much foolproof. It was really strange to think back to my days of strolling the Parisian streets with a good old-fashioned folded map!

“You can use your Uber account in Paris and actually if there’s 3 or more of you, it’s probably one of the cheapest ways to get around.”

We mostly used the metro which again, is much more straight forward than the London Underground and trains seem to come more frequently.

IOB Paris Travel Tip: Purchase a ‘carnet’ of 10 tickets for about 16.90 euros) at any metro station and use one ticket per journey. During our 3-night stay we got through 30!

We were also pleased to discover that you can use your Uber account in Paris and actually if there’s 3 or more of you, it’s probably one of the cheapest ways to get around. We didn’t discover this until fairly late into our trip so used an Uber only twice. Both journeys were around 15 minutes and they only cost us 6 euros per trip. The arrival of an Uber was a very welcome sight after a long day on your feet, especially in Montmartre!

sacre coeur steps

IOB Paris Travel Tip: Think more than twice about wearing any kind of heel if walking around Paris but particularly in Montmartre where the streets are cobbled and uneven – it’s also very hilly!

Top 5 Things to Do with a Teenager in Paris

It’s probably important to point out that we packed so much into our 3 night stay but I’m going to pick out our top 5 highlights or this will be a 3000 word essay before I’m finished.

1. Seine Boat Trip at Night

Having opted out of going up the Eiffel Tower, we decided to take a boat trip to do all of the sights in style. Everything looks more beautiful at night doesn’t it? At 12 euros per person, the 1 hour boat trip was great value for money and the talk that accompanied it was interesting for us both.

Seine boat tour at night

IOB Paris Travel Tip: There is an inside part of the boat but the best view are out on the top deck so make sure you wrap up warm – it was freezing!

2. History of Fashion Tour

Booking this was a total gamble. My daughter is studying french at school and she has a real interest in french fashion. Having done a Google search (what on earth did we do before Google?) this private tour came up. It wasn’t particularly cheap but it was worth every penny!

Fashion Tour Paris

The personable and extremely knowledgable Ivo was the man in charge of our private tour. His enthusiasm for Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Pierre Cardin (to name but a few) was infectious. This walking tour of the 8th arrondissement was in the rain and 3 hours long but we were enthralled from start to finish.

Louis Vuitton Paris window

3. Galeries Lafayette Haussman

It wasn’t until the night before we were due to leave, that I realised our hotel was just a 15 minute walk from this iconic french store. With two hours to spare, we decided to take a stroll down Rue La Fayette to see what the fuss was about.

Galeries Lafayettes Ceiling

If you want to shop in Paris, there really is no need to go anywhere else. Whilst there you get to see the most amazing display of beauty courtesy of the ceiling (there’s a glass viewing platform if you’re feeling really brave) and if you go right to the top floor, the rooftop view is pretty spectacular too.[/caption]

Galeries Lafayette view

IOB Paris Travel Tip: We didn’t do this but Galeries Lafayette has regular 30-minute fashion shows open to the public. Book in advance here

4. Latin Quarter at Night

This is another little gem that we stumbled upon quite by accident. After our Seine boat tour, we decided to go in search of something to eat. It was dark and we weren’t quite sure where we were going but having ended the tour at the Pont du Neuf, we knew that we were in a fairly safe area.

If you’re looking for quaint, bustling, traditional french bars and restaurants then this is your place. Being avid people watchers, we came two nights in a row. Meals were not cheap (nowhere is in Paris) but you’re welcome to sit and sip all night in this very trendy yet relaxed part of Paris.

5. Artists at the Place du Tertre, Montmartre

As well as french, my daughter is studying art. She particularly loves portrait painting and I knew that somewhere around the Sacre Coeur area, there are artists drawing and painting Parisian scenes as well as members of the public. Thankfully my memory didn’t let me down!

Montmartre place du Tertre

The Place du Tertre is about a 5 minute walk from Sacre Coeur and full of charm. It’s busy but there’s plenty of room to wander the streets, admire each artist’s work and drink in the atmosphere. It’s also an area that is littered with french cafes so there’s something for everyone.

Place du Tertre

Cost of Our 3 Night Stay in Paris

I’m not going to lie, Paris was expensive. Whether it was to do with the weak pound or simply that Paris is cashing in on the tourist market, I don’t know but meals out were rarely less than 25 euros per head (I’m talking a main meal and a drink!). I am always interested to know how much holidays cost so if you’re planning a short break in Paris, this might give you an idea…

Hotel : £385 for one twin room

Travel : £296.00 for two return tickets

Fashion tour : £180.00 for two

Night Seine boat trip:  £24.00 for two

Musee du Louvre : £36.00 for two pre-purchased (skip the queue) tickets

Louvre glass ceiling

Will We Be Back?

The answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes’ – if only to see Paris when it isn’t raining! So many positive memories came flooding back and I was surprised that I could remember with clarity how to use the metro, where things were in relation to one another and just how easy Paris is to navigate.

Paris Selfie

It was lovely to experience the city with my daughter who listened to my ancient stories (the good and the bad) and was great company. Our 3 day break in Paris will be remembered very fondly.

Have you been to Paris recently? What was your favourite memory of this beautiful city? 

Inside, Outside & Beyond

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5 COMMENTS

  • Tracey Williams

    What lovely memories for you and your daughter celebrating her 18th. I have never been to France but would love to visit Paris one day. I think the majority of city breaks are expensive now ( we got through LOTS of euros when we went to Amsterdam last summer) and great to give the costing of the trip. My friend always books her hotels on booking and then cancels if a better one comes up, I might need to try this in the future x

  • Gail

    Your trip sounds fabulous Suzanne, and I really enjoyed following along on Instagram. We went to Paris for one day on our French/Belgian roadtrip two years ago (we spent the other two days we had there at Disney for the kids). It’s an incredible city and I’d love to go back some day. I was a bit nervous about the trains but getting around was easier than we thought. xx

  • BLEKE

    Suzanne,

    One of my favourite memories of Paris is of having visited Notre Dame before the disastrous fire. Elsewhere in Paris, I bought a T-shirt decorated with pictures of five Parisian landmarks. Strangely, Notre Dame wasn’t one of the five.
    The Père-Lachaise cemetery, where many famous people (Maria Callas, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde) are buried, is worth a visit. I liked Montmartre, but I wasn’t all that impressed with the talents of the artists!
    If you’re staying in Paris for several days, the “navigo découverte” pass at €27.80 could work out less expensive than using carnets.

    https://parisbytrain.com/paris-train-metro-week-pass-navigo-decouverte/

  • Jo - Mother of Teens

    Suzanne I loved reading this. I was treated to a trip to Paris by a friend for my 50th and that was my first time back since being a French exchange student at 16. A lot had changed. Anyway I have promised my daughter we will do a girls trip next year as she has never been (bad parent) so I have loved reading your recommendations on what to do. It’s wonderful to have some girl on girl time isn’t it? Glad you had a great time. Much love. Jo x

  • It sounds like you both had an amazing time and your tips are very helpful! I’m in awe that you could get there in five hours door to door. We’ve been talking about going to Paris. I went a couple of times in my late teens and had a day there (when were at Disneyland) in 2002, so I think another trip there is due!

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