France (Paris & Versailles) December 2013
This trip was more of an opportune trip than anything else; we had a voucher to use from January, when our previous Eurostar journey hadn’t gone as planned, and it was about the only weekend we could use it by the time we realised we might end up losing it. The outward trip by Eurostar was therefore free and we only paid for the return leg.
East Coast Advance Tickets – £20 (£10 each way)
0623 Doncaster – Kings Cross
1435 Kings Cross – Doncaster
Eurostar Advance Tickets – £79 return (£34.50 each leg)
9014 0931 St Pancras International – Paris Gare du Nord
9027 1213 Paris Gare du Nord – St Pancras International
Travel around Paris
Mobilis Zone 1-4 Day ticket – €10.85
Paris – Ibis Eiffel Tower, Cambronne – 60 second from the Cambronne Metro stop on Line 6 and a 20 minute stroll from the base of the Eiffel Tower. For an Ibis it certain looks the part in reception; the only complaint I had was that the walls were very thin and once people started to get up you could hear their every move; toilets, showers, furniture moving, talking. The room wasn’t large but it was comfy and had good heating.
Paris had never really appealed to me that much but without testing the water you just never know? The transport system is very good indeed; even if the people using it seem to have no manners at all; it was worse than being on the London Underground in rush hour. Everyone just seemed to be in their own bubble and oblivious to everyone else around, which resulted in a lot of barging about and bumping into people; nothing that a bit of extended courtesy wouldn’t cure; and there was me thinking Londoners were ignorant when traveling on the tube……..
Notre Dame Cathedral
As we only had one day to visit where we wanted we made a plan and stuck to it; luckily we managed to pick the hour that the sun chose to shine on Notre Dame Cathedral, on the day we arrived, which saved us a trip during our one full day there. It would have been rude not to take a peek on our way from Gare du Nord to the hotel, especially as the RER/Metro route we were taking took us through.
Palace of Versailles
Armed with a Zone 1-4 Mobilis ticket which cost €10.80, on the Sunday morning we headed out to the Palace of Versailles; via Metro to Montparnasse and SNCF to Versailles Chantiers. It’s a good 15 minute walk to the Palace from Chantiers station and there’s a map giving directions as you exit the station.
We didn’t going into the Palace itself and just roamed around the grounds; which is free. It wasn’t the greatest of mornings weather wise but the cloud made for some great photographs with the palace reflecting in one of the two ponds at its rear; and the fact that we got there early meant there weren’t too many folk about either; busloads were turning up as we left!
After returning to the hotel, via the same route we’d used to get to Versailles, we then walked to the Eiffel Tower; the tip of which we could see from outside the hotel. It took us about 90 minutes to amble along, up the Champ de Mars, directly underneath the tower itself, over the River Seine and up the hill/steps to the Esplanade de Trocadero. From the vantage point on the Esplanade there are good views of the City with the Tower obviously being the most prominent thing in any photo you take.
We returned to the Esplanade de Trocadero, this time by Metro to Trocadero, when darkness had fallen; I actually think the Tower looks better at night. Every hour, on the hour, there is a five minute window where flashing lights give the Tower a bit more prominence than it just being a very large illuminated monster, rising from the Paris floor. We didn’t know this when we went out that night and managed to turn up just as the lights had started; and as we didn’t know it was hourly we ended up literally right beneath it an hour later when the lights started…….
Eiffel Tower Day
Eiffel Tower Night
Esplanade du Trocadero
Arc de Triomphe
Quite how you be expected to know what you’re doing the first time you drive round Place Charles de Gaulle, which circles the Arc de Triomphe, is anyone’s guess. Still the French seem to have it off to a fine art and make it look easy; despite the chaos it actually looks.
The Arc de Triomphe itself is very prominent in the middle of the roundabout and to get the perfect head-on shots you need to be brave and stand in the middle of the Champs-Elysees; don’t worry though there are crossings and there’s room for a few people to stand at a time while the traffic is moving in either direction.
To get to the Arc de Triomphe there’s an underground passageway that leads off from the Champs Elysees; I wouldn’t get any ideas of trying to cross the roundabout! Once you’re standing right beneath the Arc’s great arch you get more of a feel for the size of it; we didn’t go up the Arc; the views from which are supposed to be quite good.
For a quick trip it achieved what we wanted from it; personally I only wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. It would have been nice to have had an extra day and maybe gone up the Montparnasse Tower. We’d even toyed with doing it before we went home but the weather forecast was overcast and cloudy when we went to bed the previous night so we didn’t bother; of course it turned out to be a glorious morning instead!
I found Paris to be a lot dearer than I expected; food especially. The cheapest thing, and best value, was the integrated travel system and the plethora of tickets you can buy to suit your needs and get about the city. Unlike other countries I’ve visited in the last few years I don’t feel myself being drawn back anytime soon; unlike somewhere like Switzerland which had me wanting to return the moment I left.