I’ve got a couple of conflicting goals, this year: travelling more, and saving money. I guess I don’t do things the easy way, huh?
However, when a colleague told the team, earlier this year, that she’d never been to Paris, the choice was clear: a work trip to Paris on a budget.
And that’s how, at 6.18am, I found myself wedged into a Eurostar seat, with barely enough caffeine to stop me from scaring the unsuspecting public, dozing my way to Paris. Armed only with a map I’d created (take a peek here, or see the embedded version at the bottom of this post), filled with sights and foodie hotspots we’d all discovered, we set off.
It was 9.50am when we lurched into the Parisian sunshine outside Gare Du Nord, and our whistle-stop tour of the city finally began, with nothing but the map I’d created (with suggestions from the girls!) to guide us.
It was a beautiful day, so we chose to save money on a metro pass, and soak up the sunshine alongside the culture, and get in 30,000 steps, in the process. Gotta make room for all that food!
Hour One: Sacré-Cœur
Three hundred steps above the Monmarte region is the stunning Sacré-Cœur, a church nestled upon a hill that overlooks Paris, and which offers, in my opinion, one of the best views of the city. The climb is steep, hot, and brutal, so we planned it in to the start of our trip so we a) had energy, and b) wouldn’t have to deal with the sweltering midday sun. As it turned out, we were still tired & sweaty post-climb, but the breathtaking view eased the pain a little.
Hour Two: Crepes and a Little Pink House
Just behind the gorgeous Sacré-Cœur is a thriving square called Place du Tetre. Full of eateries, souvenir shops, and an eclectic mix of Parisian natives and tourists from around the world, it’s a great place for a wander, and we found ourselves doing just that, after a quick stop for some rather disappointing crepes. All was not lost, however, when we stumbled across La Maison Rose – which, despite being closed, made for some pretty great pictures, and brightened our moods a little, too.
Hour Three: Moulin Rouge & Eclairs Straight from a Genie
So, after our disappointing crepe experience, we decided we’d earned a more satisfying sweet treat, and luckily, one of the suggestions we had found was right en route to our next tourist stop, so it was meant to be as far as we were concerned.
Let me introduce you to one of my new favourite Paris eateries: L’Eclair de Génie.
With flavours on offer ranging from mango cheesecake to matcha and white chocolate, it’s no wonder this chain was so highly recommended – and all the praise is highly deserved. From left to right, the above elcairs are combinations of raspberry and lychee, passionfruit and raspberry, and salted caramel butter. All were divine, and we were all divided as to our favourite, but mine was the passionfruit and raspberry, which was so light and refreshing – as someone who’s not much of an éclair girl, usually, I was pleasantly surprised.
So, it was with full stomachs, and sugar-enhanced energy levels, that we made it to our second sight of the day, just a hop, skip, and a jump away (disclaimer: Erica can’t jump and had injured her foot anyway, so we may have just walked) – the Moulin Rouge.
It’s actually one of my bucket list goals to get to see a show at the Moulin Rouge (mostly because the film of the same name is one of my favourites), but even if that’s not your cup of tea, I’d recommend just going and looking at it. The giant red windmill, the lights, the huge flowerpots. It’s breathtaking.
Hour Four: The Louvre, Laduree, and Le Terrible Customer Service
The sun was scorching, by the time we were done in Monmarte, so we stopped for as cold a coffee as we could find, Erica downed some painkillers for her foot, and we uploaded a few sneaky Instagram updates over on the Talented Talkers page, before heading off to our next spot: the Louvre.
….which just happened to be straight past a Laduree. It would have been rude not to pick up a macaron or two, to snack on whilst wandering the Jardin du Carrousel, right?
The Jardin du Carrousel is a gorgeous – well, garden – surrounding the grounds of the Louvre, and is honestly the most perfect spot to wander on a sunny day.
Full disclosure: we did not go on the carousel. I wish I had. We did, however, managed to soak up some Parisian sunshine whilst enjoying our view of the Louvre, and planning where we’d be heading to for lunch, so all was far from lost. We didn’t feel much like joining the hour-long queues to head into the Louvre itself, but the gardens alone are worth a little detour.
The place we settled on for lunch? Delicious, and home to the one downside to our entire trip: horrid customer service.
We ended up in Eric Kayser, an artisan boulangerie just a short walk from the river, and dined on obscenely good olive baguettes with mozzarella and tomatoes, managing to avoid the temptation of some of the sweeter treats so we had room for our other stops. Like I say, the food was great, but the customer service was so vile that I actually found myself leaving a negative Trip Advisor review – something I try to avoid where I can.
Ah well, onwards and upwards.
Hour Five: A Riverside Stroll and Group Shots
There is one route that will always have my heart, in Paris…the walk along the Seine with all its souvenir stalls, from the pyramid at the Louvre, past Pont Neuf, and all the way to Notre Dame. It doesn’t matter which side of the river, whether walking on the cobbled path at the riverside or along the main road, or whether it’s day or night. Something about seeing the riverboats, the cafes and bookshops…it’s so bloody Parisian, to me.
Plus, if you plan it just right, you just might get to glimpse the Eiffel tower through the trees.
And, seeing as we didn’t opt to make a massive detour to actually climb the Eiffel tower (Erica and I had been there, done that, and Chloe wasn’t particularly bothered, seeing as we’d had the fantastic view from Sacré-Cœur), it was the cherry on top for an already incredible day.
…and yes, we did stop and ask someone to take a group shot of us, and I did manage to look both awkward and as if I was in pain at the same time, but memories.
Hour Six: Notre Dame…and a Stop for Ice Cream
And so, our wander along the River Seine lead us right to Notre Dame, and despite the now greying skies, we managed to stop for a while, take a few more tourist photos and rest our (very) tired feet.
The long walk had been exhausting, and it was still warm despite the sunshine, so we decided the next stop ought, really, to be for ice cream…unfortunately, by the time we got to O Sorbet D’Amour, I’d given myself a bit of a stitch and so didn’t opt for any, but both the girls really enjoyed theirs. It’s on the map, below, so let me know if I missed out!
Hour Seven: Rain…and a Spot to Drink
We’d been pretty lucky, with the weather, for most of our trip, but it was at this point that the heavens opened, and we experienced a very Parisian downpour.
Luckily, we’d settled right in the centre of a road full of cafes and restaurants, and so we made the executive decision to stop for a glass of wine, rest our legs, and wait out the rain.
Hour Eight: Well, If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…
Now, the walk from Cafe L’Etincelle, where we stopped for wine, and Gare du Nord, where we needed to catch the Eurostar home, would have take about an hour, maybe slightly longer, and we’d left enough time to get there.
What we hadn’t accounted for was the torrential rain, and so, we ended up grabbing a one way metro ticket, and hopping on that for a few stops, instead. The walk isn’t bad, and I’d recommend it if you head to Paris on a more walking-friendly day.
Hour Nine: Bon Vonyage!
So, exhausted, our weary travelers found themselves, once again, at King’s Cross station. Tired, full, sore, but happy, warm and fuzzy, we went our separate ways, secure in the knowledge that we’d just completed the best day trip to Paris on a budget.
30,000 steps; 9 hours; 6 stops for food and drink; 1 incredible trip to Paris.
And, all for under £140 – Eurostar, food, wine, and last minute metro ticket included.
Feel free to use my map, below, if you’re planning on trying something similar!
What’re your favourite Parisian sights? Are their any on our map you’ve never checked out?
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