A year or so ago, my boyfriend decided to take me to Paris as a birthday gift. ‘How romantic’, I hear you cry. But alas, as soon as he told me I started to panic.
You see, I have a very rare disorder which means I am completely incapable of letting other people plan my travels. I like to research everything down to the price of a cup of coffee myself, and make sure I’m getting the best deal – after all, as a budget backpacker, it’s in my blood.
Nonetheless, I decided that it was completely irrational of me to want to plan my surprise weekend away, and in the spirit of romance, decided to let my boyfriend go ahead and surprise me.
What an error.
I’d like to share my experience with you if I may.
Alarm bells started ringing when I first discovered that we were scheduled to FLY from London to Paris. And from Luton airport, which is miles from both where we live and work. In my book, everyone knows that the fastest and cheapest way to get from central London to Paris is by Eurostar. Never mind, it’s the thought that counts, right?
So after checking in and joining the scrum for a seat on our Easyjet flight, we were on our way!
Except no we weren’t and there was a 3 hour delay where we sat on the tarmac of Luton airport.
Never mind, as long as we get there by the time the last train leaves Charles de Gaulle airport for Paris city centre, I thought.
Except that didn’t happen either. Leaving us waiting around at France’s largest airport for a taxi at 11.30pm on a Friday night. Not that many cabs were forthcoming, sadly. And the ones that were around had absolutely no idea where our hotel was. A few phonecalls to the hotel also proved fruitless as we just got some horrendous hold music over and over.
The only research that my boyfriend had done on where we were staying was that it was ‘between the city centre and DisneyLand Paris‘ and it was ‘near to public transport’. So with our options running out, we took a bus to a train station where we boarded a train which took us past none other than Gare du Nord – the very same station we would have arrived into if I had been planning this trip (except about 6 hours later).
So now we know we are to head east, but have no idea where or what station we were aiming for. The time is 12:50am and I am cold and tired, and we see a sign which warns us this is the last tube of the day. We hurriedly get on.
At this point we are on a scary tube with loads of drunks, heading into the ghetto. We decide to play Russian roulette with the stops as to be fair we have no clue where we’re going. We get off at Vincennes, on route A.
Here a helpful ticket lady showed us the way to our hotel. ‘Phew!’, I thought. Little did I know at that point that the way to our hotel would involve a scary night bus and a 45 minute walk through the East of Paris (famously unsafe) in the rain. Had I known this I might have just turned around then and there.
When we finally arrived to what google maps told me was our hotel in Rosny-Sous-Bois, there stood….
At this point i have to admit I lost it. However a frantic phonecall to the hotel with my rusty A-Level French finally paid off and we arrived safe and sound to our little love-nest at a rather spritely 2.30am.
If, unlike us you would like to plan your trip properly, here are some tips for travelling to Paris from London:
- Book your Eurostar travel well in advance for the cheapest rates
- Find a reasonable hotel / hostel in a central location. Some good ones are Absolute Budget hostel, Lindbergh Hotel and The Ampere.
- Ensure you have a plan to get to your hotel. Trains run from Charles de Gaulle airport to the city centre from around 10 Euros. See Paris by train for more information (and those all important running times!)
- If you’re going to be using the metro system a lot, pick up a packet of 10 tickets in one go to save cash
- Bear in mind that all national museums (including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou) are free to enter on the first Sunday of each month, and are usually closed on Tuesdays
- If you’re planning to head up the Eiffel Tower, the least crowded time to go is first thing in the morning, ideally before 9am (the first admission is normally 9.30am)
Despite the initial hiccup, we found that Paris is indeed a beautiful city, so enjoy every second.
You might be wondering what became of the boyfriend who started all this fuss? We’re still very much together (must be the ‘Paris effect’), but now he lets me plan all our trips…