J.R.R Tolkien once wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost”.
What a fantastic quote! In fact, it pretty much sums up the last twenty four (oh god, almost 25!) years of my life. I’ve never been able to stay in the same place for long and like many of my friends and peers, I have vowed to see as much of the world as possible.
It is with this in mind that I launch the following little project:
I’ve been lucky enough to see a few new places so far this summer and have plans to see a few more before September. They may not be the hottest places to head on your summer holidays – but I’ll be giving an honest account of my experiences and who knows, you may even pick up a few tips!
Plus, if you’re trying to decide between a foreign jaunt in the sun or a staycation recession style – I’m giving both a whirl!
So, strategically pack your suit case, grab your guide book and enjoy the first installment!
Paris: the spectacular city of lights and one of the most romantic places on the planet. It conjures images of beautiful little cobblestone lanes, grand palaces, impressive landmarks, smells of fresh baked pastries and tastes of fine wine. Unfortunately it’s also frequently ranked as one of the most expensive cities to visit.
So, how can you take in all that Paris has to offer if you’re short on cash and time?
The idea for “24 Hours in Paris” started when a friend of my boyfriend said that he travels back and forth to Spain every couple of months to buy these cigars that he just loves. Sounds excessive right? But actually, he just goes over and back for the day on a Ryanair flight that ends up costing less than €50. For a tiny price he gets to soak up some Spanish culture (and possibly some sun) and be back at his desk for work the next morning.
We wondered if we could do the same thing with Paris and so the challenge was extended and accepted.
The advantages were clear: very cheap with no accommodation to book, just one day off work, no packing to do (just bring a handbag!) and the luxury of reading a city’s first impressions!
We looked at flights and realised that Tuesdays and Thursdays were the best times for a one day trip – where your departing flight is very early in the morning and you arrive back in Dublin at the latest possible time that same evening. All together we spent €47.98 each on flights to and from Beauvais airport including check-in, taxes and charges.
Not including air travel and getting in and out of Paris city centre by bus, we had roughly nine hours on holiday – and we didn’t want to waste time. This is where extreme planning skills really come into play. We made a big list of things to see and do in Paris and then brutally crossed off anything superfluous. There were lots of joint decisions and plenty of compromises, but we ended up with a pretty solid itinerary with options and back-ups for the day.
It may be tacky and touristy, but hopping on an open topped bus is one of the best ways to acquaint yourself with a new city and this was the natural place for us to start. For just €26 each, we could hop on and off at the main attractions for the entire day. Included in the price was a pair of headphones to take in the commentary – but it’s totally acceptable to enjoy the tour without this. From the top deck of the bus we took in the Lourve, the Eiffle Tower, Mont Marte, Champ de Mars, Musée d’ Orsay, and much more. Our tummies began to rumble at the Notre Dam stop and we decided to disembark in favour of some lunch.
In Paris, you’re truly spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants and cafes. We chose one on the corner of a quiet boulevard with a pretty basic menu, chatty waiters and white table cloths. To get a French perspective, we asked the waiter to select a red wine for us and we had a lovely slow paced meal in the sunshine. Parisienne cafes are also a great place to people-watch – with everyone from tourists, to businessmen stopping by for a bite.
When we were full to the brim, we decided to walk it off along the Sienne. We passed boats of all kinds and locals lazed, dangling their legs over the side of the river having a sandwich or a cup of coffee.
No trip to Paris is complete without running into a protest! We bumped into quite a large one, being contained by French police. It took us some time to figure out what was going on – but a very kind French journalist explained that the Judiciary of Paris were looking for more money and had taken to the street in their wigs! It’s not unusual to see a protest on the streets of France – I guess the revolutionary spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity still exists with the French!
Our next stop was the famous Lourve for a spot of culture. Unfortunately, the museum is closed on Tuesdays (one downfall of booking a flight on this day) and so we had to be content with wandering the fabulous grounds – rich in both art and history themselves. We examined the glass pyramid up close and personal and took a pit stop at a cafe in the square with another glass or two of wine.
One of our great debates on the trip was whether or not to climb the La Tour Eiffle – the quintessential tourist stop. Due to our short day, we decided not to waste time queueing but to view it from the open topped bus. We opted instead to climb the beautiful Arc de Triomphe at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. Standing at a height of 50m the Arc is no easy climb – especially since there is no lift and the 300 steps wind in a tight spiral. The trek is definitely worth it though, as the view is phenomenal and Paris stretches out from every angle.
After a stroll down the glamourous Champs-Élysées we were ready for some classic French crepes before finishing our day with a locally produced glass of beer.
At 7pm, we reluctantly boarded the bus back to Beauvais airport for the flight home. Although the airport is very basic, there is a fantastic little pizzeria there with the most delicious thin crust pies – the ideal way to top off your quick European break!
So what was our verdict?
The day was packed to the brim with Parisienne delights and the places we saw, the people we met and the food we devoured really cancelled out all the hassle involved in getting there. But, at the end of the day, we were wrecked. If you’re energetic and up for an adventure, this could be just the break for you – but if you hate trading comfort for value, then maybe plan a longer stay.