A Stress-Free Visit to Paris: Review of an Escorted Short Break Via Eurostar
A Long Weekend in Paris on a Coach Trip
A short, escorted visit is an excellent way to familiarise oneself with a new city, particularly for those who are less confident in a foreign place or who are travelling as a single person. Although I had visited Paris previously it was more than 40 years ago and in different circumstances.
I don't find holidaying without a companion particularly enjoyable, so I invited a friend to join me on a four-night escorted trip via the Channel Tunnel and coach. We met up with our travel guide for our long weekend visit to the City of Lights beneath the statue of the poet Sir John Betjeman in St. Pancras station. Shepherded to the Eurostar platform, we boarded the train for a journey lasting just 2 hours 35 minutes, including 25 minutes under the English Channel.
The train moved seamlessly on to French soil for a fast onward journey through the nondescript farmland to the Gare du Nord, where our group was picked up by coach. We were whisked to a Hotel Mercure located adjacent to the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles Showground where, coincidentally, the biennial Paris Motor Show was being held.
Summarised Itinerary for an Escorted Weekend Coach Trip in Paris
The article describes the following features of an escorted tour with Riviera travel.
Our first evening was free.
Morning: coach drop off in Montmartre
Afternoon: river cruise
Mid to late afternoon: free
Evening: escorted cabaret show with dinner included
Early morning: coach tour of the iconic sights of Paris
Late morning to late afternoon: coach drop off at Versailles
Late evening: coach tour of the floodlit monuments
Morning: free time
After lunch: coach pick up for the journey to the Gare du Nord
What Age Range Books an Escorted Coach Trip?
- Most of the people on the trip that I took were middle-aged couples.
- There was one single gentleman in the group.
- My companion and I were two ladies in our sixties.
A Morning Visit to Montmartre
After a buffet breakfast on Saturday morning, the coach dropped us off in Montmartre. My companion and I climbed the steep route to the Basilique de Sacre Coeur for a panoramic view of the city. The vista is fabulous, but a dispiriting haze of pollution that hadn’t been apparent on my first, long ago, visit hung over the buildings on the horizon. We consoled ourselves with a lunch of filled baguettes and then strolled around the nearby Place du Tertre, frequented in past times by the fin de siècle artists whose work now hangs in galleries across the world and sells for millions. Nowadays, a cluster of artists still gathers there to paint and to hawk their work.
Making our way back to our coach pick up point, we rested briefly on a bench in a small pocket park, enjoying ice cream cones and soaking up the local atmosphere before mounting the coach to be delivered to the embankment of the River Seine for a Bateau Mouche boat trip.
A Saturday Afternoon Spent in Paris
After leaving Montmartre, the coach dropped the party off at the Seine embankment, where we took the opportunity of an optional river trip (13 euros in 2018, collected by our tour guide before embarkation).
The trip lasted 1 hour and included a commentary delivered via audio headsets
Drifting past whispering young lovers on the embankment and the massive edifice of the Cathedral of Notre Dame was a restful and atmospheric Interlude in a busy day, giving a different perspective on the city.
The rest of the afternoon was free. Armed with directions from our tour guide about how to make our way back to the hotel, my companion and I visited the Canal Saint Martin, in a trendy part of Paris. A regenerated and atmospheric 19th-century part of the city, it is an area of great bars, restaurants, and fabulous boutiques. A leisurely stroll along the canal side and across the iron footbridges, pausing at a pavement cafe, prepared us for a memorable evening at a typical Parisian cabaret.
Communicating in Paris
Do not assume that all French people understand the English language. Au contraire! On my first visit, I still could remember most of the schoolgirl French that had been drilled into me for five years. But I had forgotten much of that by the time of my second visit so I resorted to a to refresh and expand my vocabulary. His credentials speak for themselves - during his lifetime he taught many famous politicians and actors to speak a number of different European languages. The Michel Thomas CDs are certainly worth consideration if you are contemplating a trip to a European country and need to either brush up your vocabulary or learn a new language from scratch. I have tried a number of different methods of language tuition and this in my opinion is by far the best. Michel Thomas language course
Dinner at a Traditional Parisian Cabaret Bar
We had tickets for an optional extra on the itinerary for the weekend—dinner and a cabaret at the Paradis Latin, a nightclub in the Latin Quarter. The coach picked us up at the hotel and delivered our group to the doorstep. My companion and I were slightly abashed when we found that we had signed up for a show that included a topless chorus line. Crossing the foyer, I was encouraged by the photographic black and white evidence that the parties of A-list movie stars from the 50s and 60s who had visited the place appeared to have enjoyed a jolly time.
The food was good and the champagne and wine flowed. Semi-nudity notwithstanding, we had a fabulous evening. Whenever the bevy of beauties appeared on stage a single, slightly inebriated, middle-aged gentleman in our party applauded vigorously, loudly calling out 'Bravo! bravo!' I wondered what the apparently ladylike and demure actress Audrey Hepburn gazing from the walls had made of the spectacle all those years ago.
Would you visit a Parisien Cabaret Show With Topless Dancers?
A Day Spent in Versailles
On Sunday morning, after a coach tour of the iconic sights of Paris, we were dropped off close to the market in Versailles and spent our day browsing the wonderful displays of food produce on the stalls, devouring French onion soup at a pavement cafe, strolling in the gardens of the Palace, and admiring the goods in a nearby patisserie. Naturally, we were unable to resist the temptation to sample such works of art.
Most tourists in Versailles want to see the inside of the breathtakingly extravagant Chateau, built by Louis XIV, but the queues for admittance are very long. It is advisable to purchase tickets online prior to visiting in order to shorten the waiting time.
On Sunday the weather was very hot and we had spent much of it in the sunshine, so we decided to rest and eat in the hotel prior to an after-dark coach tour of the floodlit monuments.
Paris by night is magical. Dismounting briefly from the bus, I took the opportunity to stand beneath the massive edifice of the Eiffel Tower, lit by thousands of blue LED lights. A magical, never-forgotten experience on a balmy night.
The Paris Motor Show
On our final morning, with a few hours to spare before the coach that would return us to the Gare du Nord arrived, I and my travelling companion strolled a few hundred yards to the Paris Expo centre to explore the Paris motor show, agog at the many luxury vehicles that were far beyond our price range. A lunch of Pivithiers and a glass of robust red wine in one of the Expo bistros nicely rounded off four fabulous days in La Belle France.
Impressions of Paris
Recommendation for an Escorted Weekend in Paris
Do I recommend an escorted trip to Paris? It's not for everyone. Some people, particularly the young, might prefer independent travel. However, for the middle-aged (most of whom made up our group) and the elderly, it seems to me to be an ideal stress-free way to visit this wonderful city, particularly for a first-time visitor or if your French vocabulary is limited. Would I do it again? Definitely.
What to Wear for a Weekend in Paris
What you choose to wear in Paris will depend on the season, to some extent on how many stars you accommodation can boast, and on your planned activities. As you are likely to be doing quite a lot of walking, comfortable flat shoes are an obvious priority for daytime wear.
The place for sportswear is the gym or the sports field. Personally, for city travel, I prefer to aim for smart-casual separates for daytime wear. In Spring and Autumn, a top and tailored trousers with a raincoat, a trench coat, or a tailored jacket in a neutral colour would be my choice.
In the Winter months, a warmer jacket or coat will keep out the chill. For the ladies, a stylish hat and a pair of gloves will add a touch of Parisienne chic as well as keeping you toasty.
During the Summer months, separates in linen and cotton will keep you cool and comfortable. A jacket is usually unnecessary for daytime wear. Carry a packable waterproof or an umbrella if the sky is overcast.
Pack clothes for the evening that are appropriate for your planned activities - if you are going to a grand restaurant, a cabaret, or the theatre, the effort to look smart and stylish (it is, after all, Paris) is warranted. If in doubt, a little black dress is never wrong on these occasions and can be dressed up with a pair of heels, a statement piece of costume jewelry and/or a shawl, and a glamorous clutch. A gentleman escorting so well-dressed a lady should wear a suit. For dinner at a bistro or an evening stroll, smart-casual is fine.
Places Visited During a Long Weekend in Paris
Atmospheric, picturesque and trendy
- MONDIAL PARIS MOTOR SHOW 2018 | Billetterie officielle
Information about the Paris Motor Show and an online booking facility for tickets
- Tickets and prices | Palace of Versailles
Everything the visitor needs to know about visiting the Chateau of Versailles, including online booking facility
Questions & Answers
© 2018 GlenR