Romance was the last thing on our minds when we visited the love capital of Europe. We wanted adventure and culture and fun!
And we got it and in spades. Paris is such a special city, it can seduce the hardest of hearts and in any season too.
From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the gushing waters of the River Seine, it just oozes class. It had been Ruaridh (7) who had wanted to go to Paris, French lessons at school had impressed him so much he just wanted to see the place for himself, and always ready for an adventure, dad Kenny and sister Flora (5) decided we would make the short hop across the channel.
There are lots of ways of getting to Paris, but the Eurostar is one of the most convenient, with an excellent link up with the London St Pancras Terminal via Virgin Trains from Preston. Last year the Eurostar celebrated its 20th anniversary and is a popular mode of transport, because its fast, environmentally friendly and allows you the chance to take more luggage than allowed on a plane. And by buying a ticket, you can get great two for one ticket offers for Paris’s main attractions. New routes to the South of France are planned for May.
There was great excitement as we boarded the 400 metre train, officially 90 metres longer than the London icon The Shard is tall.
And you are soon on your way, through the Kent countryside and into the Channel Tunnel, which surprisingly you are only in for 18 minutes.
The train is spacious and well kitted out in the standard class, with a little more room, peace and a light meal served up in premier standard and there is business class, if you really want five star treatment!
We arrived in Paris in just over two hours and a short hop on the metro took us to our base for the three day trip at the Citadines Apart’hotel in the district of St Germain, on the banks of the River Seine and just a short stroll to the Boulevard St Michel.
The beauty of this hotel is that you have an apartment inside a hotel room, with a number of options on offer and ours comfortably accommodating four people, with a lounge, bathroom and a small kitchen. Breakfast is a typical French affair with plenty of croissants and pancakes served in the main dining hall and there is a laundry service and self-service drinks and food machine in the hotel lobby, with fitness facilities too. The hotel is top notch and is a great option for its accommodation and location which is close to the main attractions of the Louvre Museum and the Musée d’Orsay.
Our first stop was the nearby Pont de Neuf, the original bridge to be built over the River Seine and now home to love locks. The craze started a few years ago and the idea is couples write their names on a padlock, lock it to the bridge and throw the key into the Seine to seal their love forever.
It’s a short stroll from the Pont de Neuf to the Louvre, the home to probably the most famous picture in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the lady with the enigmatic smile. Housed on the first floor, the picture is framed in a clear box and roped off to stop you getting too close, but its worth the wait to see, as is the rest of the museum which contains some of the world’s finest art, sculptures and antiques.
The Louvre was our token big museum as we decided the trip had to be child-friendly so Ruaridh and Flora could see all the things they wanted to.
But before we let them loose on the science museum, French equivalent of Madam Tussards and a chocolate museum, we hopped on to the Big Bus Tour, allowing you to see all the sights on a whistle stop tour of the city. It’s a great tour if you are short of time and we chose a nice quiet Sunday to avoid the traffic.
Before long we were passing the Eiffel Tower, heading through the Arc de Triomphe and passing the famous Notre Dame cathedral which is well known for its “Hunchback of Notre Dame’’ story.
The beauty of the bus tour is you can hop on and off at all the landmarks including the Grand Palais, a lovely building and the stunning Place Vendôme, an impressive square.
After our spot of culture it was off to the Cité des Sciences, the biggest science museum in Europe with an impressive array of hands on activities and interactive exhibits of science and technology to keep the whole family happy. Ruaridh and Flora loved the driving simulator and the tight rope!
From there is was to the Museum Grevin, the home to France’s Madam Tussards, what fun we had here! Although most of the waxworks were French, there were lots of well-known superstars for the family to stare at! And all well set out in different galleries from a catwalk full of model superstars to a sporting section with France’s best stars.
And the grand finale, a visit to the Musee du Chocolat, the children’s favourite museum, packed full of fascinating facts about chocolate and where it comes from, finding the Playmobil characters scattered around the museum and a great demonstration of chocolate making, followed by a lovely cup of hot chocolate, which summed Paris up to a tee, tempting, delicious and memorable!
Accommodation: We stayed in the heart of Paris overlooking the River Seine in the Citadines Apart’hotel in the district of St Germain. There are lots of different hotels in the chain across the city and promotional offers available. Check out www.citadines.com
Louvre museum – home to the famous Mona Lisa - www.louvre.fr/en
Big Bus Tours – a chance to hop on and off and see the best of Paris - eng.bigbustours.com/paris
Science museum - www.cite-sciences.fr/en
Grevin museum – home of the French Madam Tussard - www.grevin.com
Chocolate museum - www.museeduchocolat.fr/en
Transport: Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris with return fares from £69. Fastest London-Paris journey time is 2hr 15 minutes. Tickets are available from eurostar.com or 03448 224 777.Child fares start from £49 return and children under 4 years-old travel free (not allocated a seat). With the option of flexible fares, Standard Premier offers the freedom to work, think, or simply unwind. You will be presented with calm, spacious surroundings with on-board staff offering a light meal and a selection of magazines. Standard Premier fares start from £189 return.
Tourist information: The official Paris Tourist Board can be found via www.parisinfo.com