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.
“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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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?