With a whole bunch of Bank Holidays on the way, a quick trip to Paris to enjoy great food, arts and architecture might just be the mini-break you need. Writer Ena Miller tells The Cultural Exposé about her adventure to the City of Love and how she did it on the cheap….
London to Paris, Paris to London. All for £69 with Eurostar. A casual Skype chat turned into booking-a-holiday-chat. I was delighted, but fearful. With little cash, could I still have a decent holiday in expensive Paris? I relied on Travelzoo’s weekly top twenty email to find me a hotel deal. As much as we wanted cheap, we didn’t want scummy. When Hotel Gat Folies popped up, I was relieved. It was in a cool area called Opera, way less than half its usual price, far enough from the tourist traps, but close enough to still feel involved.
Free champagne and chocolates every night were thrown in for free too. Isn’t that a wonderful way to start an evening? The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet conveniently doubled up as lunch. Bon appetite – yes indeed. We dined on eggs (anyway you liked), toasted sandwiches, Madeira cake, fruit salad and cereal. We sneakily stuffed croissants with jambon et fromage and let the warm Parisian day melt the cheese.
We shared our feast at the top of the Le Sacré Coeur (The Sacred Heart) and joined the crowds to marvel at the view. Free entertainment was provided by an amazing Ghanaian footballer, who climbed up a very tall street lamp to show off his amazing skills.
Being cheap wasn’t depressing; it was all wonderfully fantastic. Transport options were limited to legs and bikes. Walking meant we spent most of our time wondering where we were. We found gems like Derrière (French for bottom or backside) on Rue des Gravilliers, a beautiful, alternative restaurant beyond our budget. But we oooo’d and aaaah’d, went in for a chat and I left knowing I’d be back. I figure you can still appreciate the good things without having to have it.
The temporary beach created down by the Seine was a treat. It gave us the opportunity to stop and watch Paris go by and remind ourselves we were actually here. In Montmartre, an artist told us about the Paris he knew as he helped us find the man in wall – Marcel Ayme.
We peeped inside vintage shops, resisted buying souvenirs and took a few too many pictures at the love wall where “I love you” is written in hundreds of different languages – nice.
To see the great sights you don’t have to get your wallet out. Just stroll. We passed under the Arc de Triomphe and did a happy dance at The Louvre – just to lighten things up. The Eiffel Tower looked better from a distance with a chocolate crepe in hand. Nutella – not champagne – seems to be the national treasure so we fitted in fine. When we weren’t walking, we cycled. 1 euro for 24 hours. Once you master the system and realise you’re allowed to cycle on the pavements – you can’t help but go downhill and shout whooooopeeee. The bikes come in handy at 2am. We had a magical ride through the streets, weaving in between cars as part of a cycling convoy of newly found friends. Oberkampf street was the street with some groove. Some shop windows and doors were left wide open and good tunes hit you as you walked past. Next stop – Chez Moune nightclub in Pigalle. Monday to Friday is female only. At the weekends it’s free for all. The vibe’s decent and the drink prices remained a mystery, as the cheap bottles of supermarket plonk we’d sipped back at the hotel still danced merrily through our veins.
Our last meal was in sophisticated-looking MacDonalds (What we ate was determined by how much money we had left in our purse). Staring out into the streets we munched on French fries, never wishing we could be anywhere else.
My friend Carolina spent about £55 over 3 days. I squandered a little more as I couldn’t leave Paris without buying a vintage French frock. I found a pretty one for a whole 10 Euros (about £8). I love it now and when someone asks “where did you get that dress from” I smugly reply “oh it’s just a cheap thing from Paris.”
They say money can’t buy you happiness and it certainly didn’t when Carolina and I invaded Paris. But with lack of funds we still managed to create a happy bubble we now seriously miss. (Words: Ena Miller)
Do you have a lovely holiday experience you’d like to recommend and share with The Cultural Exposé? Email firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear about it!