*I did not work with any companies in Paris, and everything was paid for myself. This is a guide dated from visiting in October 2019 so may be out of date at the time of reading. Contains affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of commission if you purchase or book through my link.*
Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well!
So, back in October last year, I took my boyfriend to Paris for his birthday! It’s a really popular destination for a city break, and I know when I was planning the trip I didn’t have any idea what we should do, or where we should go, and the amount of research I did basically means I could become a trip planner for Paris as my full time career. I’ve had a lot of questions from people who are going there, whether it’s a random city break, for a birthday or romantic celebration, so I’ve put it all in a post for you!
Getting To Paris
You can get the Eurostar to Paris, or fly; we flew just because we’d of needed to get about 3 different trains to London, and as it was his birthday, we just stayed at a hotel at Gatwick the night before and flew the next day on his birthday. It was so turbulent and I was screaming down the plane ‘I’M GETTING THE EUROSTAR HOME’ so I did kind of regret it, but I think there’d been particularly bad weather that day unfortunately!
One of the perks of flying was going in the lounge at Gatwick beforehand. Both myself and my boyfriend have a Curve Card which you can sign up to here https://dw92j.app.goo.gl/BTNGL – I’ve got a full blog post on the card here https://brightongirlproblems.co.uk/2019/11/28/an-exciting-new-part-of-my-purse/ if you want to have a look into it.
Where To Stay
I’ve had a lot of questions about where to stay, so thought I’d share where we did! I booked the Bradford Elysées Astotel which you can book here (literally click on the word ‘here’ and it’ll take you there!) and I was so pleased that I did because we absolutely loved it. It was a fantastic location – as you can tell by the names, it was located just off the Champes-Élysèes – which is a fantastic area with brilliant shops, restaurants and bars, and it’s easy to get to loads of other areas in Paris.
It was a lovely boutique hotel, with friendly staff, beautiful rooms (sadly no bath!) and a ‘help yourself’ style bar downstairs. I’d really recommend it.
To get from the airport to our hotel, we got a train to begin with; it was so difficult to work out where to go and absolutely RAMMED so a pretty stressful experience. We then got off and tried to get an Uber the rest of the way, and ordered about 6, all of which either got cancelled or took so long and didn’t seem to be moving. For the rest of our time out there, we mainly used Uber however they would take so long to get to us, and it’s not the cheapest way of getting around. We used the Subway once, and a man elbowed me so hard it winded me and he stormed off without apologising so we didn’t get it again! We got an Uber from our hotel back to the airport on the way back and I’m glad we did. Couldn’t be dealing with the trains again!
What To Do
I’d had an idea of a cookery class in Paris, but had no idea if such a thing even existed. In a city renowned for cheese and wine though, of course it did! I discovered Le Foodist, who do cooking classes, food tours and wine tasting all in one. They had a few different options, like pastry and baking classes, but I settled on a lunch cookery class, where you head to the cookery class in the morning, have coffee and pastries, then walk to the local market with the cookery teacher, where you taste cheese and bread, and shop for your ingredients for the cookery class.
We then headed back and in a class of 6, we cooked a 3 course lunch all together whilst being taught through each step by the teacher, and tasting wine as we went. We sat and ate each course together with more wine and just had a really good time. I think it was one of my favourite things I did in Paris to be honest, and I remember thinking how happy I was whilst doing it and what a great experience it was. I love moments like that where you acknowledge in that second just how perfect everything is and how sad you’ll be when it’s over!
You can get more information about Le Foodist on their website here https://www.lefoodist.com/
River Seine Boat Cruise
I did want to include a few ‘typical tourist’ activities on the trip, so I booked a River Seine Boat Cruise. I have searched all through my emails and gone through Google and I cannot for the life of me remember where I booked through. I actually booked a Champagne River Boat Cruise as it was his birthday, and I’m really glad we did. They give you a mini bottle of Moët with a plastic flute you put on top so you can drink straight out the bottle! We seemed to be the only people who had them and it was hilarious. The tour takes you all down the river and you see a hell of a lot of stuff so I’d really recommend it, as it’s not an expensive activity and it’s fun and you get to see a lot.
City Wheels Paris Tours
Speaking of sightseeing, something I’d really recommend you doing is booking a trip with City Wheels; essentially a company that have classic cars and drive you around Paris to see the sights. We had Laurent who was hilarious and took us to all the best photo spots and gave us a brilliant tour and commentary of the city, and he got some beautiful photos of us, one of which my boyfriend got on a canvas for me for Christmas! Everything we did in Paris was a surprise including this, and I’d told my boyfriend we were off out somewhere and waiting for our Uber, and then this amazing classic car pulled up and I was like ‘Right, the Uber’s here!’. When we go back to Paris one day, I would definitely book this again. I couldn’t recommend enough!
So…the controversial one. The Moulin Rouge is obviously synonymous with Paris. I booked the show with dinner for the Friday evening and honestly? I’m glad I went so that I can say I’ve been, but I’d never go again, and I’d say don’t waste your money if you’re thinking of going. First of all, when I say you are crammed in like sardines, I mean that in the strongest sense of the term. I cannot stress that enough. We assumed everyone was together in big groups; no no, it was mainly couples, it just looks like you’re in a big group because your table is shoved next to the next one, they are touching, in fact it’s pointless having individual tables as they look like one long one. When trying to eat, your elbows are touching the person next to you. My boyfriend and many others were seated with their backs to the stage so had to turn around all night.
As for the food, it was awful. When any food is made in bulk, I find it’s never going to be amazing, but this really was just crap. The service was horrendous, and my glass had a huge lipstick mark on it like it hadn’t even been rinsed, let alone properly washed. The show was…well, it was fun I suppose. However if you are looking for French glitz and glamour, you’re in the wrong place. I’d say it’s quite tacky, it’s just topless women in thongs dancing with men in clown costumes and equally random get ups, with breaks for people to come on stage and juggle and perform acts. They also use live animals – snakes for one, and Shetland ponies in a few more acts. The ponies really concerned me, as it is absolutely not the environment they should be in, and also they let them off the leads they were on and they filed back off stage in a perfect line, and I find it bizarre that an animal wouldn’t be running manically around the stage – it leads me to believe they’re so used to that life they know what to do and that doesn’t sit well with me.
The dancers are talented, and it is a fun show like I said it’s just not what I expected at all, and the dinner show cost me nearly £400 which I’d much rather have spent on something else.
I also complained and found the people I dealt with ridiculously unprofessional. I got refunded a small amount which they said was for the meal but that’s it – and this was after months of going back and forth.
We didn’t actually go up the Eiffel Tower, I’ll start with that; everywhere I found to book online beforehand was so expensive, working out at about £140 altogether so I thought we’d get tickets when there, but it was so rammed whenever we headed down there we didn’t in the end. It’s really lovely to look at, but a lot of pickpocketers hang around there and people selling things so it’s pretty rammed, so be careful!
Next time we go, I would like to go up it, but I’d just book in advance next time.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Paris Bespoke Fragrance Creation
I saw one of my favourite Instagrammers, Lorna Luxe, had taken her husband here to create his own bespoke fragrance and I knew my boyfriend would love to do the same. I’m sure there’s places in the UK, or all over the world, that you can do the same thing but I thought it was a bit different so I booked it and I’m so glad I did. He got to smell loads of different ingredients on this really cool iPad type thing that blows out the fragrance for you to smell, and select which ones he wanted to be included in his scent.
If you’re looking for something a bit different to do, have a look into it – it was a really enjoyable experience and there’s loads of places nearby to grab something to eat with a wine afterwards!
Where To Eat & Drink
Mandarin Oriental Paris
On my boyfriends birthday, I wanted to go somewhere really special for a cocktail before dinner, and extensively researched loads of places in Paris. Some incredible places came back, but a lot of them were really far away from where we were eating, however the Mandarin Oriental was just around the corner. You can’t reserve a table for drinks so you have to just walk in but we managed to get a table quite easily. I don’t know why but I thought the bar had an amazing view however it was actually on the ground floor – it’s a pretty special hotel though so we didn’t mind!
The most incredible hot chocolate – it’s literally like pure melted chocolate – and interior, but we had awful service. It was packed in there, so if you are going you 100% need to make a reservation as there was a huge queue outside but thankfully we’d booked. I think you can get takeaway hot chocolate too if you don’t want to sit in. It’s pretty expensive but the hot chocolate is definitely worth it – it’s just a shame about the service.
We were recommended Vaudeville so opted to go there on my boyfriends birthday. It had a great atmosphere and the food was brilliant. I’d pre-arranged them to bring a birthday dessert with a candle out for my partner which they didn’t end up doing which was a disappointment but aside from that it was lovely, and not overly expensive for the quality and type of restaurant.
La Maison Rose
Someone on Instagram recommended La Maison Rose, which is a gorgeous, authentic little French restaurant up in Montmartre, with pink and green exterior. We had a really nice meal here – it’s small inside so definitely book, and I think it would be amazing to go in the Summer and sit outside and eat.
All in all, we both adored Paris and would definitely go back. I think it could definitely be done on a budget if you booked an Airbnb rather than a hotel, and cooked for yourself, but equally if you want to go all out on a celebration then it’s the ideal place for it.
I didn’t include a section on shopping as we didn’t really do any aside from a quick trip to Sephora, but the shopping is amazing there, and there’s a tonne of designer shops if you have a higher budget or just want to window shop.
I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you for reading!
All my love BGP xx