Friday, 4 June 2010

Whistlestop tour of Paris

Up to now I have visited 56 countries (though one doesn't really count as it is a French overseas department - Mayotte in the Indian Ocean - so theoretically we were part of France when we were there.) All but one of my visits were recorded in my diary so I am now starting to post on this blog extracts to give a flavour of when we did and my thoughts on the place. I am starting with Paris.

My first visit to Paris was in 1997, then again in 2000, 2001, 2002 and in 2009. The diary extracts below are from 2009 and show a sense of disillusionment at the cost of eating out. Much of this was a shock reaction to the huge fall in the value of sterling. When last in Paris in 2002, the pound could buy around 1.6 euros. In 2009, it was buying about 1.1 euros. And I think Parisiens were also hiking their prices to soak the tourists.

As you can see I was impressed by the new international Eurostar terminal at St Pancras. That is work a visit in its own right. If you are going to Paris or Brussels, let the train, rather than the plane, take the strain. It's far easier, much more comfortable, and going city to city, just as quick, if not quicker, now that the high speed link is open through Kent. The only drawback of the train is that on busy days, join the queue in the buffet car as soon as possible.

Sunday 21st June 2009

8.30am: I'm on Eurostar travelling to Paris, having just left St Pancras. I'll be in France only for a one night stay. It's my first Eurostar trip since the international terminal was moved from Waterloo and having now seen St Pancras, it thoroughly deserves all the accolades it has received.

I'm not impressed with the buffet car on the train however. I joined the long queue and after 10 minutes, with the first customer still being served, I abandoned any idea of eating.

9pm. I am at Montmartre, Paris, having dinner. I have to confess I am horrified at the costs here. £10 for a pint for example. Over £10 for an omlette. Paris has gone up so much in price since I was last here in 2002. But at least the Metro is cheaper than the Tube!

We've done Eiffel Tower from a distance, Arch de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Pyramid at the Louvre, Notre Dame and now Montmarte. Having broken the bank, we'll try to find somewhere that does not measure its prices in astronomical units. Not even MPs on £400 a month tax free food allowances could survive here!

Monday 22nd June 2009

We went along to the Eiffel Tower in the morning, hoping the queues would be shorter, so we could go up. They weren't. We didn't go up. We walked down to the Louvre again, had lunch and eventually caught the train.

Diary ends

My advice if you are doing Paris on a budget: buy food and drinks in shops, not restaurants, and enjoy having picnics in the parks. Stick to sight seeing - there's plenty to see. If you want to go up the Eiffel Tower, get there as early as you can or don't do it at all.

Arc de Triomphe Jun 09 no 14
Arc de Triomphe - you have to pay and queue to go up to the top.

Louvre Jun 09 no 1
Pyramid at the Louvre

Paris Eiffel Tower Jun 09 no 41
Eiffel Tower - get there early in the morning if you want to go up to the top.

Notre Dame Jun 09 no 1
Notre Dame

Place de la Concorde Jun 09 no 3
The Egyptian Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde

Montmartre Jun 09 no 1
Sacre Coeur at Montmartre. This is the best place to get a free birds eye view of Paris.

One final point, Montmartre is my favourite place in Paris. Unfortunately it was packed out when we were there in June 2009. The restaurant prices were off the scale (we ended up throwing caution to the wind and had a meal there). Street artists work the patch. We had pictures drawn back in 2002 when we were there. We didn't this time. Quite what their pricing policy is now would be interesting to know.

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