As I write this on the 12:13pm Eurostar to London I can’t help but feel sad to be leaving so soon. We’ve been in Paris for 22 hours and couldn’t have imagined how much we would love it here.
The last time I visited the city of love I was 5 years old and my memory of the trip is nought so this trip felt like the first. What I can tell you if you’ve never been here is that everything they tell you in books, on the tv and film… is true. Even though I was here with my 9 year old son rather than on a romantic getaway with Pierre (where are you Pierre of my dreams??) it still felt as lovely.
We arrived in to Gare Du Nord yesterday afternoon and be one thing that I will say is sadly there is a tension in the air that I haven’t felt in London. There are armed (with bloody huge machine guns no less) police and soldiers all over the station. I can’t quite work out if that made me feel more or less safe… but with our heads held high we marched through the station and out on to the busy street looking like we knew where we were going… we didn’t.
Using the map on my phone we walked the 18 minutes to the Guest House Opera (or Chambres d’hôtes Opéra) where we were greeted by the lovely Arthur who showed us to our room “the loft”. There is a very steep and narrow spiral staircase up to the rooms which would be tricky for someone either very large or wheelchair reliant.
The room… wow… it was gorgeous and the view… double wow… it couldn’t have been more Parisian! There was a cute little balcony over looking the quiet street. The bed was comfy, the room was very clean, the shower was hot and roomy and the breakfast was beautifully French and absolutely delicious! I drank my morning coffee on the balcony listening to classical music from a nearby apartment – parfait!
For a closer look here’s a little room tour:
We had dinner at the Restaurant Victoria Station located on the nearby Grande Boulevard. As you may already know Leo is an absolute train enthusiast and when I found this restaurant on TripAdvisor I knew we had to try it out.
The inside of the restaurant is made up of original vintage train booths and the interior is decorated in a way that really does make you feel like you are on an old train. The music is gentle and old and the seats are right alongside the cooking area where you can watch the chef cook pizzas in a proper wood oven. The menu is varied and there are a number of French specialities available. My French is mostly limited to words and very few sentences so I opted to keep it simple and we both had pizza, Leo’s had ham and mushroom and mine was topped with mince, mushrooms and an egg! We also had some french fries on the side. For dessert Leo had creme caramel which he wasn’t overly impressed with but probably because he’s used to the cheapy English ones we get back home and I had homemade profiteroles which were yummy!
The whole experience was amazing, from the relaxed ambience to comfortable seating that made you feel like you had lots of our own space. I ordered white wine but was given red… which was a pleasant surprise and that too was délicieux (see, I’m a one word at a time french speaker!).
The next day Leo was desperate to try out the Metro so we headed under ground to find our way back to the Gare Du Nord. It was pretty easy to figure out how to use but the one thing I did notice is that there were lots steps and little to no lifts available. There was also a “lovely” aroma of toilet down there which all added to the experience I guess!
(Taking a break from typing as I’m starting to feel a bit train sick)
Ok, I’m back (for now as we’re currently on a coach and I’ll probably have to stop again)! Where was I? Oh yes, the metro. So we rode a couple of stops of line 8 and then changed on to the line 4 that took us to Gare Du Nord where we wandered about for a bit before I realised we were in the completely wrong area of the station and had to make a dash for it to Eurostar check-in. We actually made it with quite a bit of time to spare and we were soon back on the train speeding along at 340km/h through French countryside, under the English Channel and then back to London. We marched to the underground, marched some more to the station and then marched our way to the coach with five minutes to spare, phew!
Travelling with Eurostar was a breeze and really fun, we travelled in Standard Premium which includes a meal and drinks. The ride was smooth and the service was pretty good. There is a check-in process and border control at your departure station but when you get to the other end it’s just like arriving on a local train. Each adult can take two pieces of luggage as well as a small piece of hand luggage.
As we were only in the city for one night I can’t tell you an awful lot about Paris’ accessibility apart from the fact that the metro was not accessible. Gare Du Nord was much better and had lifts and ramps available to access the trains.
One really great thing we did find was that at street crossings there is a button for people with sight problems that lets you know when the green man is lit (meaning you are safe to cross). It is in French but it didn’t take long to understand that when it started beeping (instead of talking) it meant we could go. It also tells you the street name. A nice touch that Leo loved.
I’m off to google schools in Paris now…
Au revior mes amis.