With my husband’s 40th birthday this month we treated ourselves to something very rare and special…two nights away without the children.
Specifically two nights in Paris!
We took the girls to Paris last summer, spending a day at Eurodisney and then travelling in by train the next day to do some sightseeing. This means that we had already done the Eiffel Tower (well worth it), a hop on/off bus tour (again, worth it, especially as both girls fell asleep and we all had a rest!!) and we had explored every park we could find (the sand pit alongside Notre Dame was an unexpected gem!).
So now it was the grown ups turn. We loved our time in Paris with the girls, but as we had raced from one adventure to the next those café’s had called out to us, people sitting drinking their wine and watching the world go by. I’ve got to admit it did look very appealing. I had been lucky enough to go on a hen-do in Paris earlier in the year, so I had a few ideas about to where to go.
Here is our little guide on how to do two nights in Paris (without the children!):
- As we live in York, we travelled to London on the Monday evening (my husband’s birthday was on the Tuesday). We love the Eurostar but it can be a bit much all in one go – though that is exactly what we did on the way home with back to back trains so it is do-able.
- We stayed at the Ibis London Euston St Pancras, which was actually about a 10 minute walk from St Pancras. I was really impressed, for a ‘stopover’ hotel it was nicely decorated. The lobby area was better than the bedrooms themselves but it was an overall pleasant stay (at £120 it was also very reasonable for the location).
- The best thing about travelling down the night before was that we could unwind, it had been a hectic weekend with a surprise birthday party for my husband on the Sunday afternoon (I think he’s just about forgiven me!) and lots of excitement for the girls. We went for a quick dinner at Zizzi’s in Covent Garden and then to Brown’s near Leicester Square for champagne to toast my husband’s last evening in his 30’s! I could tell you we then proceeded to have a crazy night, but the truth is we were shattered and the thrill of not being woken up by our youngest at 5am was just too exciting, so we got an early night!!
- We were thrilled with our 6.30am lie in (I know, very tragic) and caught the 8.19am Eurostar. I must admit I really don’t like flying (I do it when I have to) so the Eurostar is my preferred mode of international transport! With some more birthday cards to open on the train, some little surprises along the way (Crazy Horse tickets from my parents, thank you!) and our large hot chocolates, we soon arrived in Paris and jumped in a taxi. It was all very relaxed (which has to be the single biggest difference from our last visit with the girls – fun, but not relaxing!).
- We stayed at the Novotel les Halles. I had stayed here before and knew it would be perfect for us – it is a 4* modern, stylish and comfortable hotel, while it possibly lacks in typical Parisian charm, it makes up in location (5 minutes from the Louve and 1 minute from the Rue de Rivoli). We even had a balcony with views over the rooftops – unfortunately we also overlooked a building site (not noisy at least) – I guess you can’t have it all!! The price was also very good and all rooms come with sofa beds, so it would also be a great option for travelling with children too.
- We arrived at lunch time so were very pleased to drop our bags and head straight out. First stop was a typical Paris café for “deux chocolate chaude, svp” and lunch – being vegetarian in Paris has never really been a problem (except in one ‘posh’ restaurant when the chef begrudgingly offered me a plate of vegetables – I had to basically devour the bread basket!). I know it’s a cliché but I love the Paris café’s, we saw so many interesting characters, staying on for a second drink as we didn’t want to leave!
- After agreeing that some exercise after lunch would be a very good thing we carried on past the magnificent Louve to the Jardin des Tuileries, beautiful gardens that stretch from the Louve to the Place de la Concorde. We were so lucky with the weather, despite being November the sun was warm enough for people to sit out and enjoy their surroundings. I love most city parks but this is by far my favourite, if you like people watching this is the place to come!
- One of our main objectives for the trip was to relax and with that in mind we decided it was time for a drink! We headed to Da Rosa on Rue du Mont Thabor, just off the Rue de Rivoli and opposite the Jardin des Tuileries. Da Rosa is a lovely restaurant, though we just had drinks, very Parisian in style – think lots of dark wood, brass, worn red velvet furnishings. We got a window seat and drank Prosecco whilst watching the world rush by.
- I’m not ashamed to say we headed back to the hotel for a ‘nap’ after drinks, anyone with small children will agree that is a true luxury!
- Dinner on the first night was a simple pizza at Pizza WaWa across the road from the hotel. I had discovered this restaurant on a previous visit and knew my husband would love their Calzone. It really doesn’t look much from the outside and the small downstairs appears a little sparse, but the food is amazing. Ask for a table upstairs as the decor is dramatically different with exposed brickwork and comfy seating.
- As we had an hour before our taxi arrived to take us to the Crazy Horse Show, we crossed the road to a lovely bar called Carpe Diem, it is a great mix of traditional Parisian and modern style; despite being a Tuesday night there were a good number of people, a great atmosphere – and for Paris it is very reasonably priced!
- Our tickets to Crazy Horse were a present from my parents, which was lucky as the tickets were not cheap! After booking I discovered that Conchita Wurst (as in bearded lady and winner of Eurovision 2014) would be making a special appearance – I had heard that Crazy Horse was an erotic version of the Moulin Rouge so I really wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of Conchita’s performance! We had great seats at the caberat and it didn’t disappoint. There was quite a lot of nakedness but to be honest it wasn’t erotic at all, it was a clever display of dancing and lighting tricks. The audience was a total mix of generations and groups. Conchita was amazing – the singing was great and all of the acts were entertaining! However, beware the complimentary ‘champagne’ – rocket fuel springs to mind!!
- After not getting back to our hotel until 1am (way past my pathetic bed time) we thoroughly enjoyed our lie in until 8am! We didn’t actually leave our hotel until after 10.30, crazy, I know. We walked until we found ourselves at the Starbucks just opposite the Louve – even with all the lovely Paris café’s, I’m afraid you sometimes can’t beat a Skinny Starbucks hot chocolate with just a little bit of cream!
- We decided to spend most of the day exploring the Ile Saint-Louis, one of two natural islands in the heart of Paris and further to Notre Dame. Although inhabited by thousands of tourists, the area has lost very little of it’s charm (perhaps we were lucky to visit mid week), alongside very obvious touristy cafés and shops there were plenty of local gems and we had a great time exploring the narrow streets.
- We had visited Notre Dame with the girls last year but not ventured inside – the queue was too long and the park that runs alongside was too tempting. This time we decided the brave the relatively short line to climb the tower (the entrance is to the left of the cathedral). It was absolutely worth it, quite a climb but we were greeted with amazing views; not only of the scenery but also of the gargoyles and building itself.
- We gambled on dinner and just took a walk from the hotel calling in at a restaurant that took our fancy – we’ve come to realise you can’t go too wrong to choose somewhere that already has a few customers and smiling staff. Our theory paid off as we had another lovely meal, slightly off the tourist trail so not too expensive.
- I had been told to pay a visit to a bar called Le Fumoir and I’m so glad we did. Firstly, it has an amazing view of the Louve and along the Seine. Secondly, it is a great mix of locals and tourists. We got very lucky, arriving just in time to get seats at the bar, it was very busy and we had a great view of all the comings and goings. To be clear, we are not cool people but sitting at that bar drinking my champagne, I could have believed it for a second. Le Fumoir is quietly cool without any of the pretence! The single American lady along the bar (visiting on business apparently!) kept us amused for a couple of hours with her steady stream of French suitors, it’s clearly the place to be to meet someone – she eventually left on the back of a middle aged man’s scooter!
We left Le Fumoir with a slightly painful bar bill but it was the perfect last evening in Paris.
- We had one more morning to enjoy in Paris, so decided on a walk along the Seine to enjoy a view of the Eiffel Tower and the boats. After much meandering, we finally made our way along the Rue Saint Honore to ogle the famous designer boutiques before dropping back down onto the Rue de Rivoli to buy the girls some tourist tatt! We have a thing about buying a fridge magnet whenever we go away somewhere – we now have a rather blingy Eiffel Tower, very classy!
- I was slightly dreading our return journey – Paris to London, run over to Kings Cross and up to York; we were looking at about 4 and a half hours train time. To be fair it went about as well as it could, no delays and our 25 minute turnaround in London was perfect, just enough time to grab some dinner from M&S at the station. We got home just before 8pm, our eldest was awake waiting for us which was lovely.
- The best thing about going away is coming home, fully recharged and all so happy to be together again.
- Paris is a great city – with and without children. I can’t pretend we saw everything, but as we had been before (and will no doubt visit again) we didn’t feel the pressure to do it all – something we have been guilty of in the past and ending up frazzled!
- I’ll leave you with one final picture – rollerblading Policemen, as I said, Paris truly is a great city!