A whole idea came about a while back for a couple of my girl friends to come stay in Scotland with Stuart and I, and then “we should do a girls trip!” came about shortly after. After a bit of a stay in Scotland, Paris became our girls trip, and we hopped on an EasyJet flight from Edinburgh to Paris.
One frustrating thing about airports in the UK is that just doing a drop-off or a pick-up at the Edinburgh airport costs 5 pounds. Ri-fricking-diculous. Just to drop someone off at the airport! While costing something is somewhat commonplace, for instance the Glasgow airport only charges 2 pounds which feels so much more reasonable.
So, we get to the Edinburgh airport for our EasyJet flight. For those of you from the US side of things reading this, EasyJet is a low-cost carrier. They are fairly common in Europe – EasyJet, RyanAir, Jet2.com, FlyBe, just to name a few. Low-cost means there is a fee for more than one carry-on bag, there is a fee for a checked bag, there is a fee if you want a soda or cup of coffee or tea or anything during the flight, and there is a fee if you want to pick out your seat – basically there is a fee for everything. The majority of these flights are short. For instance, our flight was only 1 hour and 50 minutes to get from Edinburgh to Paris, so do you really need soda mid-flight if it is going to keep your round-trip ticket to Paris $100? Probably not.
This brings up another thing that I have yet to get used to – these countries in Europe are fairly close together which means that from a nice little non-stop flight in just a few hours I could be in: Spain, France, London, Ireland, The Netherlands, Greece, or Italy, just to name a few. Keep in mind, this trip to Paris was literally a weekend getaway, from the time getting to the airport to Stuart picking me up was just over 48 hours.
For any short trip (or big trip) my biggest recommendation is to figure out what kind of trip you want and then actually make a plan. I had been to Paris before and wasn’t overly concerned on what we did. I was just happy to be back in the city and to practice speaking french a bit. So, for me, I didn’t need a specific plan. I was good with land, grab a metro map, and off we go. However, one girl I was traveling with had never been to the city so there were definitely things that she wanted to see. Make a list of where you want to go and if there is somewhere that is crucially important go on their website ahead of time to find out what their hours of operation are, as well as if you should buy tickets in advance for anything. For instance in the summertime if you visit the Eiffel Tower you should definitely buy tickets in advance to avoid the lines but in the winter it is not really a big deal. If you want to see certain things plan ahead to make it happen!
Alright, let’s talk about our trip. So our trip was going to be more of the see a whole bunch of attractions kind of trip versus a just walk around the city and see where your feet take you kind of adventure. That is a-okay! Let’s see what we got up to:
We landed in Paris at about 3:00pm. The Charles De Gaulle airport (Paris’ main airport, or CDG) has a train that connects you right from the airport to the city center. Look for train RER-B. It’s 10 euro 10. Not bad, and it gets your right there…. except for this past weekend on Saturday when we heard various rumors about what caused us (and everyone else) to get kicked off the train only part way through on a Saturday. So, we get kicked off the train no where near the city center and then make our way to finding a bus. The bus we were meant to get on was completely packed (we did not know at this point that it was somewhat the norm for Paris for their trains and busses to be filled like sardines), so we decided to walk a bit to get on a different bus hoping that it would be less like a sardine can. We were in luck as it was, no seats available, but definitely less squished.
So, we get the bus, get off the bus at our stop, look around and voila! We are at our hotel. Luckily, the hotel we were in was right next to a bus station and train station! It is were the M-3 train terminates at Gallieni. Fairly far on the outskirts of the city-center, but compared to paying prices for a more central hotel, the 1 euro 90 train ticket wasn’t so bad. (Our hotel, the Hotel Campanile Paris Est – Porte De Bagnolet for two nights was about $150, split between three of us was $50 a piece or $25 a night – it was safe and clean. There was even a small kettle in the room – so classy.)
We drop our bags off and decide to head down to the Eiffel Tower. Obviously this is going to be close to the top of someone’s go-to list for Paris. Sometimes when you travel a lot you forget how something can excite you still. I’ve been to Paris, I had been to the Eiffel Tower, but goodness gracious, it is still magnificent. We decided to take the elevator (lift) up. It costs a bit extra but it was pretty cold out and those stairs just didn’t sound like fun in the cold. For Christina and I it was 16 euros, for Amanda as she is in the 24 and under category it was half price.
We take the lift up, to the second floor, explore a bit, decide to not buy any souvenirs there as they are quite expensive, and then take the lift down to the first floor. This part was super fun as the lift operator randomly decided that I should get to press all of the buttons! He gave me his official Eiffel Tower jacket and scarf to wear (so warm, sooo warm), and had me make announcements to the guests. Alas, my Spanish is lacking, and in that moment of being put on the spot my French was extremely lacking. But! I got to press the buttons on the Eiffel Tower! (Little kid Iris is really excited).
We come back down, check the Eiffel Tower off of our list and make our way to the Arc De Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. This is where all the expensive stores are, we walk by Louis Vitton, Bulgari, a random BMW dealership, Hermes, and some other ones. We decided to get a bite to eat a restaurant that for food was fairly affordable, for a drink was a bit much. The Bistro De Champs. At this restaurant I had ravioli (a shock to no one), but it was Ravioli Dauphine and holy hell it was amazing. So good. Savory good. Side note: most Paris restaurants are open far later than what we are used to in the US. For instance, we were at this restaurant until 11:00ish at night.)
Then we went up to the Arc De Triomphe, watched the cars (and a bicycle) make it’s way around the insane massive roundabout, took a bunch of pictures and the make our way back to the hotel. Found a metro station, did our connecting trains, and ended up right outside our hotel.
The next morning we decide to start at the Louvre. So, we make our way down to the Louvre. Today for the metro we decide to get a day pass – it’s 7 euro 50 for unlimited stops within the first 2 zones of Paris (the city center area). Considering it’s normally 1 euro 90 for each trip, we just need to use it four times in a day and it will be worth it.
We make it to the Louvre, and as three people who are not that overly into museums, we had a wonderful time. It is about 15 euros to get it, but is well worth it. They, as do many Paris attractions, offer discounts for young people as well as those with documented economic hardships. I thought this was nice that just because you don’t have a lot of money there is still a way for you to enjoy the culture that this country has to offer. It only applies to those from the EEA (European Economic Area), which makes sense, as if you can afford the plane ticket over, you probably can afford (if you get really honest with yourself) the price of admission.
We go in, make our way to the Mona Lisa, the lines in January aren’t very long which is nice as she is certainly the most popular attraction. The whole museum is incredible though. We particularly enjoyed seeing Napoleon’s apartment as it is so incredibly opulent. Just paying the price of admission to help maintain the buildings of the Louvre, as well as the history captured within makes it feel a bit worth it.
Anywho, we spend way more time in there than we planned on, and head out to buy one of my friends perfume, go to Angelina’s, a cafe specializing in amazing (and super fricking expensive) hot chocolate. A side note: if you don’t speak French it’s okay, you could get by on some patient English. I feel like I could do a whole blog post about non-verbal travel communication. Hint – don’t just repeat the exact same phrase slower and louder. It doesn’t work.
Back to topic, so we stop at Angelina’s for the really expensive but good hot chocolate and then one of my friends checks her phone and finds out that the Opera House, the next stop on our journey, closes before we’ll be able to get there. Okay, I need to say this – if something is on your “bucket list” you need to check what time the place closes and plan around that. If something will “break your heart” if you don’t get to go, you need to check ahead of time. Period. Anywho, so we get there and walk around the outside a bit, it’s incredible, it’s big. It makes you think of songs from Phantom of the Opera on repeat.
We decide that we are going to make our way to Notre Dame. Many of you may remember last year when the Notre Dame famously caught on fire, and the spire from the 13th century fell tumbling down into the center of the church. Billionaires made massive donations to rebuild it and the whole world was in an uproar. It’s been used in quite a lot of meme’s this year as it received more donations in a day than the Australian bush-fires have received in months. Anywho, we made our way to the Notre Dame.
It’s a bit of a sobering experience to go to Notre Dame. You can’t get very close to it as they have a wall set up around it. On the wall though they have pictures of the fire, the rebuild process, with descriptions in French and English. You can see past the wall though the charred stain glass windows, bricks, and you can see the big gaping area where the spire used to be. When you walk around the back of it you can see where they’ve started to rebuild portions of it, although from the sounds of it they are still removing and categorizing some of the debris.
After Notre Dame we make our way to the Sacre-Coeur. This is a church up on a hill. This proved to be a bit more challenging using the metro. So, there are a bunch of strikes going on in Paris right now, which has affected the timing of various metro trains, busses, as well as closing some metro stations all together. One of the trains we wanted to take to get to this church was one of those affected and we ended up going a bit of a round-about way to get there.
We get there, walk up the stairs – all the stairs, and it is quite beautiful. As you are also at a higher elevation it is quite lovely because you can look out over Paris. When we got to the top the Eiffel Tower happened to be doing it’s light show and was glistening quite incredibly.
While I must say I couldn’t live in Paris the way we were in Paris – trying to fit as much into a day as possible – I could live in Paris the way Parisians do – where they sit at a cafe and eat a croissant and have hot chocolate. My allergy would certainly be challenging with all the pastries and what not. There is something about Paris that has the excitement of New York with the laissez-faire of well, France.
After the Sacre-Coeur, we make our way down the hill and stop at a little restaurant to have dinner. We tried a bunch of French cheeses we had never had, shared a bottle of wine, and sat and chatted. It was lovely.
We decide to make our way back to the hotel and call it a night. Mind you, we are back to our hotel after midnight, so I’d say we made quite the day of it.
The next day we wake up at about 8:00am, get packed, dressed, and ready to make our way to the Opera House to take a look around. We have to stop at the main train station – Gare du Nord, to drop off the girls suitcases, and then we are off.
We make it to the Opera House, or for the correct term “The Palais Garnier – Opera National de Paris” and explore and it was absolutely worth taking the time. It is beautiful. A bit expensive – it’s 14 euros. But beautiful.
Now, remember those strikes that we ran into that stopped our train from making it in from the airport? I have that to potentially contend with on my way back to the airport (whereas the other girls are catching trains), so we make our way from the Opera House to the train station where we say our goodbyes and part ways as I get the RER-B back to the airport. Luckily this all goes smoothly! The girls make the trains, I make my plane, and so ends the story of our weekend away in Paris.
To Sum Up:
- Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees
- Notre Dame
- Opera House (Palais Garnier)
- Used the metro and bus systems successfully
- Bought my brother a t-shirt (he gets a shirt from nearly every country I go to)