Photo: The Eiffel Tower at Midnight
Welcome back to thebettinsonblog’s Travel series
After last week’s introduction to Interrailing, we’ve finally left the country with culture in our sights, so where better to stop first than Paris?
Interesting fact: Paris has been known as The City of Lights since the 18th century, when it was a place of enlightenment.
As I flew into Paris from Bristol, the interrailing aspect to our trip has yet to begin. From this experience however, I learnt that Paris is extremely well connected – the Métro from Charles de Gaulle airport to the city centre was frequent and easy to use, although it did cost about 10€.
Every week, I’ll write a short profile for each location – giving you some of the essential facts before we go in a little deeper. And yes, the price of a pint is an essential fact.
Location: Paris, France
Language: French, like you couldn’t have guessed. While most people will speak English to you, effort goes a long way.
Common words or phrases in French:
- Hello/Good Day: Bonjour
- Goodbye: Au revoir
- Thankyou: Merci
- Please: S’il vous plaît
- How much? (Crucial for thrifty travellers): Combien?
These are the key phrases I’d learn for every place you visit! Manners cost nothing and ignorance won’t be taken kindly.
Currency: Euros / €. Current exchange rate can be found here.
Price of a pint: 7€
Best mode of Travel: Walking is the best way to see things in Paris – we were quite keen on our first day and walked 27 miles, never again – however, one trip on the Metro costs 1€90 for long or night journeys.
Things to Do:
After walking that 27 miles on the first day, it was safe to say that we thought we’d ‘done’ Paris. But we were honestly surprised at how much more this city has to give. Here are just a few of the things you should think about doing during your time in Paris:
- The Eiffel Tower – visit by day and by night, it’s worth it.
- The Louvre
- The original Statue de la Liberté can be found to the west of the city.
- Notre Dame
- Sacre Cœur
- The Arc de Triomphe
- Browsing book stalls along the River Seine
- The Latin Quarter
- A visit to the Moulin Rouge – not for the faint hearted!
- Enjoy a ride at the Tuileries Gardens
Places to Eat and Drink:
As the capital city of France, it’s obvious to say that there’s a wide range of food and drink on offer in Paris. However, if you’re looking for a fun place to eat before going out for a few drinks, I’d recommend looking along Rue St Denis. It’s right between the Chatelet and Les Halles metro stations, where you can find shops aplenty too. One street could keep you occupied all day!
While planning our trip, we decided it would be best to book our hostels – especially as we were travelling during peak times – and although you might decide to wing it for your adventure, planning can definitely be more cost effective. I paid between 10€-35€ per night for hostels, so account for this in your travel budget.
When looking for hostels, cut to the chase and visit Hostelworld. It really is the best site to use, you just type in the place and dates and it’ll bring up a list of every available hostel – scored out of 10 by other travellers.
Of course, you don’t have to use hostels if you don’t want to – there are airbnb’s and hotels everywhere – but I’d highly advise it. There are a range of sizes and gendered rooms to make you comfortable, but in honesty? By the end of the trip I forgot that anyone else was in the room – even in 16 bed dorms. Plus, you get to meet a wide range of people from different countries, which can spark up a world of opportunities.
We stayed at the BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau in Paris and it was a really nice hostel. It was quite quiet considering the season, but other than that I couldn’t really fault it.
(Note: I won’t be recommending hostels that I didn’t enjoy staying in – only one in honesty – but I shan’t be slating them either. Pay attention to ratings and reviews, be warned!)
How to be Thrifty on a Budget:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Paris can be quite expensive. And this was one of the reasons we decided to go there first – when you’re already spent out at the end of your trip, make sure you’ve got a few cheaper options available.
However, there are a few things you can do to save money in Paris:
- Buy food and drink a couple of streets away from landmarks – you’ll see prices drop dramatically.
- If your time in Paris coincides with the first Sunday of the month, many museums across the city are free to visit. During the off peak season, this includes the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe too: October 1st to March 31st.
- Supermarkets are sparse in Paris, if you see one grab a 2L bottle of water for less than a euro. Street sellers of H2O are prohibitively expensive and have previously been moved on by the police for selling tap-water in refilled bottles. Gross.
- If you can get accommodation with breakfast, book it now. Having one less meal a day to think about makes paying a little more for your hostel bearable.
- Don’t buy the cheap wine that they sell at night from outside the Eiffel Tower – they’re bargaining with you for a reason.
- Eat a larger meal at lunchtime rather than dinner when it’s more expensive. Prix fixe menus – or fixed price – are also a bargain to be found.
- Stand up for yourself, outside the Sacre Coeur a street-seller started wrapping a threaded wristband on me – without permission. He demanded 5€ but I didn’t give him it because I didn’t ask for it. Walk away. (He didn’t cut the wristband off me either, so obviously wasn’t that bothered).
This week’s tip: Keep something from every location that you visit, whether it be maps, train tickets or even a tasty restaurant’s business card because while pictures remind you of the good times, having physical memories can really bring it back, especially if you decide to revisit. I’m looking at my travel box that’s filled with general crap – including a plastic cup from a steampunk club in Prague – and it makes me happier than any photos. Try and see if you can do it with things that you don’t have to pay for.
See you next week when it’s time to face Amsterdam.
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