We made a very early morning start for our first trip to Paris last week with Shearings. Our feeder coach took us down to Hythe, stop 24 services, where we were linked up with our holiday driver and coach for Paris. Stop 24 has plenty of food outlets and a few stores to occupy you while you wait for the announcement that your coach is ready. Our coach was ready quicker than the initial estimated time, which was great. We then travelled by coach about another 5 minutes to our Eurotunnel crossing destination at Folkestone. Eurotunnel was another first experience for us. I can only describe it as an odd experience. As we were chatting to other passengers I was unaware we had even moved until my phone pinged with a message welcoming me to France, There was some side to side rocking and my ears popped then 35 minutes later we were in France. Our coach journey from Calais to the Paris area of Alesia, where we were staying, took just over 3 hours. Absolutely shattered from our journey, when we arrived we had no trouble sleeping at all just before 10pm.
Our first morning in Paris after breakfast our driver dropped us near to the Arc de Triomphe. There was a guided tour offered and a Seine cruise at an additional cost of £15 and 14 Euros, respectively, but as there were not enough people interested we were left to explore on our own. Firstly, we went to the underpass to gain access to the Arc de Triomphe (11 Euro). We spent over an hour in there and marvelled at the fantastic views of Paris from the terrace. Well worth the visit. We then made our way down the Champs Elysees, popping in and out of the shops as we went. Security was high and our bags were checked and hand scanners used in every shop. When we reached the bottom of the Champs Elysees, we were met by the sight of all the Markets in their Christmas glory. We had a lovely time browsing, sampling lots offered, including foie gras, aromatic tea, chocolate, ham, chestnut and other wines. We also managed to buy a few gifts along the way. We then walked to the Alexander Bridge and Seine river area then made our way back up the markets on the other side of the Champs Elysees. We had a lovely enjoyable day and just had time to pick up a delicious hot chocolate before heading to our coach pick up point and back to the hotel for dinner and drinks.
Our second day in Paris we had the morning free after breakfast until 1 pm, when our driver was taking us on an included trip to the Palace of Versailles. We decided to spend these couple of hours exploring the area we were staying and made our way to the Jardins de Luxembourg. This would be a lovely place to spend some time especially in the spring or summer.
The Palace of Versailles was spectacular, visually and ornately beautiful. The hall of mirrors stunning. We enjoyed a coffee (3.5 Euros) and eclair (5.60 Euros) in the cafe. The gardens were amazing and on a summers day you could quite easily spend the day walking around there, I imagine. However, as this was a bracing November day we made our way into the town of Versailles for an enjoyable look around before our coach return to the Hotel.
After dinner we joined the additional Paris by night tour (£15). This was well worth doing, as new visitors to Paris we were able to see sights we hadn’t seen yet and get our bearings around Paris. We also had time for photo stops en route and the tour lasted for 3hrs till 11 pm.
Our third day in Paris we opted for the additional trip (£15) to Fontainebleau, which was over 1 hour out of Paris. After breakfast we had a couple of hours before our trip left at 12.00. We decided to make our way around Montparnesse, as there was not enough time to take the metro into Paris and spend any length of time seeing the sights. We ended up at the Galleries Lafayette, for a bit of shopping, then back for our trip to Fontainebleau.
Entry into the Chateaux de Fontainebleau, was 11 Euros. In some ways I thought it surpassed the Palace of Versailles. There were certainly a lot more rooms to visit. Again, like Versailles the gardens and lake were beautiful and we enjoyed a lovely walk around before heading the short walk into Fontainebleau town. It is a lovely little place, like Versailles, worth the visit. The Patisseries, as with every where we went, were very tempting, so we couldn’t resist a lovely Apricot croissant before heading back to journey to our hotel.
After an early breakfast on our final day, our short break over far too soon, we headed back on our return journey home. We loved Paris and there is much more for us to see there so hopefully we will make a return trip in the not too distant future.
Our driver, Vance, for Shearings, was very knowledgeable and helpful. An excellent driver with many years experience driving and living in France who gave us some interesting information. The most disappointing thing for me was that we did not get to taste real french cuisine. I think Shearings should look at this and maybe offer an option not to dine in the Hotel. There were so many Brasseries close by offering French/European/ Morroccan food, that it was a shame not to experience that. Alternatively, they could introduce a voucher scheme whereby guests could upgrade and use there vouchers, if they wished, to partake from the main hotel menu. This would allow them the option to dine elsewhere also. I would have much preferred this option than the set menu available.
Paris is a beautiful city and I look forward to a return visit and an amuse-bouche experience.