Monday, 25 February 2019

FAMILY REVIEW: Paris, France

The City of LOVE!


When we arrived in Paris, it was just as rainy as Ireland!

Even though we had never been to Paris or to France, it was still a familiar feeling returning back to mainland Europe.

We were already semi-used to driving on the other side of the road, we expected driving standards to be completely different to the UK (which it was) and we expected to know very little to no French.

After a bit of a hiccup with our car rental situation (more car rental dramas), we were finally on our way to our accommodation.

Where we landed was the Paris Beauvais Airport which is where the cheaper airlines land but it's over an hour away from Paris city. It took us 1 1/2 hours to get to our accommodation in a town called Chelles, about 40 minutes on the other side of Paris City. Our accommodation was perfect for our little family for the 2 weeks we had planned to be there and our AirBnb host, probably knowing we spoke English while she didn't, gave all our instructions via the app and we never met her.


Everything we did in Paris was pre-planned and pre-booked and pre-paid way in advance which was good for us as we had to watch every cent we spent while in Paris.

Our first stop was...

ARC DE TRIOMPHE 

Free, a bonus.


About 30 minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower. We headed to the closest metro station to the Eiffel Tower and headed towards the Arc for a quick visit to see how big it really is and if the driving around it was just as crazy as it's portrayed to be.

Anddddd it was. Both big and crazy to watch the driving around it. It's a roundabout but basically a free-for-all. They do try to time it so it's smooth driving around it but... for the short time we were there, it was just chaos.


We didn't go across to see it up close as there were barriers and structures around it being taken down after the Armistice Day commemorations that had happened a couple of days earlier. 

Worth seeing for a quick visit. But glad we visited it before the Paris riots that came two weeks after we left!

EIFFEL TOWER

Following our stop at the Arc, we headed towards the Eiffel Tower, having booked tickets to go to the 2nd level of the tower via the elevator (not dying walking up the stairs).

Prices via elevator to 2nd floor: €11 per adult / €4 per child up to 11 years old.

Prices via elevator to the top floor: €17 per adult and €8.50 per child up to 11 years old.

You can either go to the 2nd level (which we went to, which can also get you to the 1st level) or you can pay to keep going up further. We didn't do that. We were happy where we were.

We slowly made our way there, taking in the views of the tower when it came into sight.


Entering close to 5pm for our 5:30pm entry up to the 2nd level, we had to first go into the Eiffel Tower area through a security check - metal detector and personal search of bags - which, even though there is a separate line for those with already purchased tickets, it didn't seem to be going any faster than the other line!

Once through, there was yet another line to wait in for our booking time to go up. This line was just for our time slot and guys, I know it's the city of love and all but there were so many couples that seriously needed to get a room!! Maybe Nathan and I are PDA prudes!

It seemed pointless getting there early for your time slot to wait in a line to first get in, then another line for the booking to go up as when we're finally let into the area where we can go into the elevator, we had to wait in another long line. This time, for another security check - metal detector and scan of bags - before we finally got our tickets scanned for the first time to wait again at the elevator doors.

Right underneath the Eiffel Tower
Once you're past those lines and finally in the elevator, it's smoother sailing from there - until you have to wait in line to get into the elevator to go back down - which is also long.

But it's completely worth it to be a little higher and in the tower. Seeing the sun set was a bonus! Seeing more of Paris City from up there than we would ever get to see from the ground was also a bonus.

Inside the 2nd level of the tower, there are toilets, souvenir shops and a cafe there which is helpful after the cold outside (it was frickin cold up there!). Plenty of seats to sit on inside the tower and plenty of room to walk around the entire tower to see all views of the city. 

Recommend going close to sunset as the views are JUST INCREDIBLE as you watch the sun fade over the horizon while the city lights appear. If in November, remember you will need your gloves and beanies and scarves!



When we were leaving the tower and about to head towards the final exit into the streets, we took a bit of a break to rest our feet.  And there.... we met Remy... a French city rat that we assume was on his way to make Ratatouille! He was running past us and it gave us a HUGE fright how big he was. Then saw him run back past us again to meet up with who we assume is his brother Emile!

No pictures because those two rats were gross.

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Be warned, when we finally exited the tower into the streets, were a lot, a lot of street sellers right at the exit doors waiting to sell you stuff. It's quite confronting really, as you can see all their sparkling Eiffel Tower trinkets that they want to sell you and they come right up to you waving their things in front of your face. You just have to push past them and say "Non, merci" over and over again until you get to the street. They do not try to scam you but can just be a little persistent in trying to sell their things to you.

LOUVRE


A tick off our bucket lists (Nathan and I) and worth going to see.

We booked late on a Wednesday night because we researched that Wednesday's and Friday's were open later. But in hindsight, it's better to book for earlier in the day because it's so large you can literally spend all day there... yet, at the same time it was not as busy when we went late in the afternoon and they do open until around 11pm so there is still time.

Unfortunately, just before our visit here I got a cold and wasn't feeling the greatest so our time there wasn't as long as we had hoped. Also, Hadrian doesn't appreciate museums as much as we do!

We used a car parking app that booked us a car park closest to the Lourve and drove there instead of public transportation as we knew it would be a late night and we wanted to feel safe afterwards. (There are plenty of car park apps for Paris and because there is no driving limitations within Paris City, you can drive into it without any issues).


When we arrived, there were signs everywhere in the square to tell you not to buy anything from the street sellers. Doesn't mean the street sellers don't try to sell you other things - like fake tickets into the Louvre. Even after telling the same guy 4 times that we don't need tickets, he still kept coming back. Beware of them. They are persistent.

Once you take in the beautiful square and the pyramids and everything around it (another Arc there too - just smaller) you can enter the main entrance. There was no line for us - possibly because of the time we went in or because it's not peak holiday time - and you go through a security check there as well - bags scanned, metal detector.  You go down the escalator to the main lobby of the museum.

Everything so far has been breathtaking - from the architecture to the buzzing hub of people in the square, then as we entered, we saw this bold mystifying gold piece called "Throne":


Even at this point, your tickets have still not been scanned. Once in the lobby, you have various different entrance points to enter the museum and only then are your tickets scanned for entry.

*NOTE OF IMPORTANCE*

When buying the tickets online (we bought them direct from the Louvre, not a third party website), don't make the mistake we did. It states on the official page that children under 18 is free under the main heading of the tickets page. Like we have all been guilty of when we sit exams, we did not read the instructions clearly and skimmed past the section that mentions that children under 18 are free as our eyes are automatically taken to the calendar and time slots and by the time we did all of that and went to the ticket area, it says "General Admission" as the only option which we thought, ehh - we are all the same price. Wishing things were a little clearer in the ticket selection area but then again, it's not their fault we skimmed through it without looking properly!

Prices: €17 per adult 18 years and older

When entering the lobby of the Louvre, get a map at the information stands to help you find your way around the museum. It is so large that you have a lot of different areas to cover if you want to see the main pieces.

Because I was sick with a cold, we didn't get to see the entire museum (Nathan did a quick tiki tour on his own to see a bit more than Hadrian and I) but we did challenge Hadrian to choose 5 pieces to write about which helped him appreciate what was there and fight the boredom. It kinda worked.

Above: The colossal scale of the "Wedding Feast at Cana" painting
and then the crown jewel: the very tiny "Mona Lisa"

Above: One of the many beautifully architected and painted ceilings

Above: The coronation of Napolean


Worth every single Euro - even the extra ticket we accidentally paid for Hadrian. Highly recommend!

DISNEYLAND PARIS


This is a bucket list tick for Nathan. But I'm also glad we included this in our trip!

Prices: €49-53 per adult 12 years + and €49 per child up to 12. These are the prices for one day/one park MINI ticket (MINI tickets only able to be used during weekdays) plus €30 for all day parking.

A bit pricey to visit Disneyland - but we kinda expected that and put enough aside to pay for it in advance.

Disneyland is about 50 minutes away from central Paris and about 20 minutes from our accommodation. It was easy to find with a lot of directions on the highway to get you to where you need to go - English on the signs included.

There are two main ways to get to Disneyland - by car or by train as there is a train station right next to the entrance. We chose car but......... with a flat fee of €30 for parking(!), we may have been better off looking into getting there by train. So if you're heading there, look into all options in case it's cheaper and better via public transport.

When we arrived there, it was freezing guys... and we were only half prepared for those temperatures! We didn't bring our gloves which we should have as it is so cold waiting in line for the different rides.


And yes, I was colder because I was still wearing my trusty jandals!

There was literally no sun that day. It felt like it was close to sunrise or sunset but for the entire day with a blanket of cold fog covering the entire park.

But it didn't stop us from enjoying our time there and going on nearly all the rides whether together or mixed pairs or alone....


...including the annoying-yet-infamous ride It's a small world which even had Maoris from NZ in it!


We also spent a bit of time in the numberless shops - mainly to get warm between rides and to pretend we could afford all the Disney merch. (We had to get a few nicknacks and some lego of course!)


We were there until the end so we could see the Christmas tree being lit for the first time and their laser light show by the Disney castle which was JUST AMAZING to watch especially when they played some of the Disney songs in French.


We left a few minutes before it ended to try and beat the foot traffic to the carpark but were distracted by the Disney Village with shops and restaurants and in the end we didn't beat anyone. But it was very busy with more people coming into Disneyland than leaving it - even though Disneyland had closed. We had no idea why people were coming in while less were leaving. We never solved that mystery.

If you haven't been to Disneyland and happen to be in Paris and nowhere near getting to California, take the opportunity to go to Disneyland Paris! It was a great (cold) day together as a family. Highly recommend.

PALACE OF VERSAILLES

This Palace was so grand! We didn't get to see inside as it was an extra cost we hadn't planned in advance and we were so close to flying home that our budget was pretty tight.

But the grounds of the Palace were free and we were able to go and visit the grounds on a brisk Sunday afternoon just as the sun was setting. It was beautiful... and cold. And it was worth it.

Thankfully the car parks just outside of the Palace were free for Sundays but they were also limited. If you want to park closer to the grounds, you can drive into the Palace grounds but there is a cost to parking. We didn't park inside the grounds. And with the free parking, it also meant the walk to the Palace and the grounds was longer but still worth it!

The walk up to the Palace may be the most picturesque walk we ever saw in Europe. We caught the end of the autumn season and the trees were amazing. The walk is free and even though we didn't know really where we were going, we basically followed everyone else - they were all walking towards somewhere so we assumed it was to the Palace!


When finally making it to the main grounds, the grandness of the size of the grounds can take your breath away.


The Palace itself is so large that you can only capture it in its entirety by taking a panoramic shot! And the garden is so big that you can't even capture the grandness of it. It really has to be seen to be believed. We did our best to capture it but the photos just don't do it justice.


It was pretty cold there though at the end of November so scarf yourselves and keep warm! There was a lot of people there, walking the gardens which is to be expected but it doesn't take away from the experience at all.


Worth taking the trip if in Paris! Highly recommend... and the gardens are free!

FINAL REVIEWS

H: It was cool. The Eiffel Tower was nice. Disneyland was cool! I liked Paris!

N: Cava bien, merci. That's the extent of my French... but Romantic, non?  So is being in the city of love which lived up to every expectation. Of course it can be touristy at times but the enormous amount of history, museums, things to see and do well compensate. As always, it will be what you make of it. For us, it was très magnifique.

T: I loved Paris! It was cold but not a wet cold like Ireland. We felt warm in our accommodation and we enjoyed seeing our first snow fall! The language was the most difficult for me as I knew very little and a lot of French spoke very little English (not surprising or expecting otherwise). The transport was easy to follow; the drivers were similar to Italian except they had a ton more moped drivers around that pushed their way through traffic; the architecture and history were amazing. But two weeks was enough there and we were so close and yet so far to flying home that those two weeks were long and drawn. Didn't like the overabundance of street sellers but little did we know, the worst was yet to come! Would return to Paris again to experience more! 




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