Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Paris in pieces – the basics

How did we get here?

To say I love the Eurostar is an understatement. I have many fond memories of great (and easy) mini-breaks to the continent pre-children and of business trips travelling first class, supping on bubbles and reading glossy mags (and that’s what they are now – just memories…!!). 

Keep up Mummy!

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that this is not the first time we have headed off to Paris 'en famille' using this dream machine. But, there are a few things you need to know before you book your tickets! First up, seats on Eurostar core routes like Paris (and Brussels and Lille) can only be bought four months before the departure date. And they sell out fast. Don’t wait for a week or two so you can book a return journey all at once. Get your trip out the day it is released to be sure you can choose the most suitable journey time, get the best price and reserve the seats around a table (essential if you are a family of four). And then – do exactly the same for your return! The tickets for the Disneyland Paris service go on sale six months in advance (I like to think that’s just like buying a ticket to heaven…).

Bedding down

We booked our apartment via Holiday Velvet; the service was impeccable and I would certainly use the company again. It has a whole host of apartments of different sizes in different arrondissements with clear descriptions of the location and facilities on its web site. Reading between the lines (which I don’t advocate since squinting causes wrinkles) the same apartment is also available via Perfectly Paris

Worth waking up for

The apartment suited our needs well – it has two bedrooms, plus a well-equipped kitchen and bathroom with both a shower and a bath (daughter one is a ‘showerphobe’) and a dining room and living room. This meant that there was plenty of space for the kids to play (and make a mess). It was also architecturally beautiful with gorgeously tall windows, high ceilings and intricate cornices. But while we had narrowed our search down by arrondissement we hadn’t given any thought to things such as – is it near a Metro? (luckily, our apartment was very near two stations, which was just as well when you have spent all day walking about Paris in a heat wave and your five-year-old has really had more than enough of walking thank you very much!) or what sort of sights were nearby (Montmartre since you ask…). Those sorts of things really make a difference to a holiday – we were lucky this time but next time I will double check (what I really mean is, I will delegate this job)!!!


Getting around

I feel bad saying this, but I think the Metro could be better than the London Underground. It just seems so much less crowded and there is quite a lot of (multi-lingual) staff around to help out. We survived by buying a 'carnet' of tickets rather than individual tickets which saves about 30 per cent. The carnet gives you 10 tickets that can be used by the whole family (as well as the same person just taking 10 trips!). Maps are up on the walls, but you can ask for one at the ticket office to help you work out your route. We got about ten, since my girls do like to collect things - and I'd rather it was maps than old sweet wrappers or yoghurt pots (no, seriously, this is my serious face). 

A ticket to ride

If you and your family are physically capable of knocking off a lot of top sights in a small space of time – and that is how you like to spend holidays – then the Paris Pass might be an option for you. We looked into it, and downloaded the free on-site guide to the city, but decided our kids couldn’t keep up the pace needed to make it worth the price (yeah, that’s right the kids couldn’t keep up, not that we wanted to laze around supping wine in the shade every lunchtime). However, once I had visited the site and downloaded the guide, I did go on to receive an offer of 10 per cent off a pass (so if it is for you, do try and hold out and see if you get the same offer…).
As chilled as the wine...

And finally a word of thanks to the people at Holiday Velvet, within our apartment was a fantastic street map, which helped us no end. It was a Michelin Paris Par Arrondissement and it is well worth buying if you are heading off to the city.

This is just the first write-up of our family trip to Paris; I still have the major sights, Disneyland, Paris for kids and shopping bits to file. Not sure which to do next though – so let me know which you would prefer in the comment box below…

My Disneyland Paris review can be found here.


  1. Disney please! Have promised kids will go one day and always thought when we go we'll do it the once and stay in resort for several days. Then, inspecting the resort hotels closer, and the food available. I suddenly just can't face 4 days in commercial hell. Am I being mean? Is it possible to combine the gastronomique delights of Paris and Disney? Or should I just go all out and immerse myself?

    1. That's a tough one! I think every family gets different things from Disney. Now there are 2 parks, but the film studio would be meaningless to mine, so we really only needed one (long) day. mine would also not actually want to talk to the 'princesses' let along anything that looked like a monster or alien!! I really enjoyed Paris with the kids, there's so much to do, so it's a shame to go there and only do Disney. That said buying park tickets alone has really gone up in price in the last three years, so tacking it on to an all-inclusive deal might make financial sense. Whichever way you go though, you do need to 'let go', put on some sparkly ears, drink from enourmous(e) coke cups and leave your sensible side at home! And finally I found the food in Paris generally awful! There's just loads of cafes serving massive baguettes with either smelly ham or brie in, pizza and chips. I ended up shopping in the supermarkets and packing lunch just so we could eat fruit and veg during the day.

  2. Disneyland write up can be found here:

  3. You make it sound easy, really must try it for myself. What about the shopping. I imagine it's all very expensive but perhaps I'mm wrong

  4. Hello Vanessa,

    Thank you for your lovely comments and I am glad you enjoyed your stay at our Quartier de l'Europe apartment. I am the owner/manager of PerfectlyParis and had communicated with your husband during your stay.

    1. Lovely to 'meet' you - and thank you for commenting. We had such a wonderful time! Merci beaucoup.