**** Check out our guide on Where to stay in London – Close to Famous attractions for First time visitors – start your holiday off right!***
Recently I went to England to visit some family an a sick little granny (don’t worry she is okay now), while there I decided to spend a few days sightseeing in London and that then expanded to a “quick” day trip to Paris from London via the Eurostar.
Bonus tip! I would highly recommend checking out Planning a Family trip to Paris for those with Kids!
When I told friends what I was doing, they asked me why would you travel to one country to day trip to another? Why did I think a day trip to Paris would be a good idea? I think because I didn’t know when I was going to be in Europe next, so i wanted to take advantage of being on that side of the work. I thought I’m so close I may as well take a quick day trip over and get a feel for Paris. So I decided to make another booking through Viator (who provided me with a small discount).
The Train from London to Paris
I arrived at St Pancras International station at the crack of dawn (5:30am) – Hot Tip, if you plan to catch the tube make sure your nearest station is operating or you are carrying cash as you may need to catch a taxi – I got in line and waited for our tour guide from Premium tours to “whisk me away to the train” however this didn’t happen. We each went through the line and were provided with an envelope that contained 2 train tickets (to Paris and back to London) and an itinerary for the day. We were provided with no direction as to where to go from there and ended up in the wrong line (it seemed that I wasn’t the only one with this issue). Finally with some direction from the train station staff I went through security and passport control (customs) and waited for my train.
I sat there fuming a little as I felt a little lost without a guide – not that I travel on guided tours often but being in a new country for the first time alone was a little scary…. and being a guided tour, I thought the guide was supposed to meet us and take us through for the day.
An announcement came on the loud speaker to say that the train was ready to board and I jumped up and headed to the train, when I got on there was someone sitting in my seat which I was a little confused about but moved along anyway, I started to unpack a few goodies to enjoy on the train and heard an announcement that this train was going to Brussels, I looked at the gentleman next me and confirmed this. I quickly got up grabbed my bag and jumped off the train – as it turned out, I got on the wrong train.. whoops! I made it onto the right train and off to Paris we went! While on the train, our guide Charlotte found us, apparently this was the way these tours were set up with the tour guide meeting us on the train. The guide explained that she would be with us for the whole day and let us know where to meet when we got off the train in Paris.
Approx 2 hours later we arrived in Paris and met the guide, we walked out of Gard du Nord station and headed for our bus, where we were introduced to our driver Jerome.
Jerome drove through the narrow street of Paris like a pro! I would have been terrified of taking out a building or two (driving a bus!). We drove past the The Place Vendôme Column which has a its veneer of 425 spiraling bas-relief bronze plates that was made out of cannons taken from the combined armies of Europe and many the monuments in Place de la Concorde including the Luxor Obelisk and the two Fontaines de la Concorde.
We continued on our tour towards the Arc de Triomphe but unfortunately due to the heavy congestion of traffic we weren’t able to make it to the Arc de Triomphe otherwise we would have been late for lunch at the Eiffel Tower. I was really disappointed as this was one of the main highlights I really wanted to see it (oh well this will give me an excuse to come back to Paris!). On a side note, the traffic in Paris is manic! There is no order or structure, there were cars everywhere!!! Our tour bus sat in the intersection waiting to cross and had cars coming from every direction.
The Eiffel Tower
When we arrived at the Eiffel tower, the line was enormous (although I’m sure it gets larger!) however we were lucky to have express entry tickets as we were going up for lunch on the first floor. The line to gain express entry was still fairly long, I would suggest taking the stairs if you are fit enough and if it’s not too hot, there are only 328 steps to the first floor! We went through a security check point and took the elevator up to the first floor (the elevator was jam packed with people, holding 25 people, very “cosy”!). When we got to the top the tour guide showed us to the restaurant and told us where to meet after lunch.
Our tour group was seated together near one of the windows facing into the Eiffel Tower, which while the view wasn’t as good as the other side of the restaurant, it was still pretty cool. The waiters were very friendly (and pretty good looking too!), they brought around glasses of champagne for us.
It gave me a good chance to get to know some of the other people on our table, there were a total of 12 people per table and I was the only Australian on a table full of Americans! I quickly made friends with a lovely couple and a few other single travelers (like myself) and we agreed to stick together for the day as, if one of us gets lost it might be missed but if a whole group of us gets lost it will be noticed. It was also a great idea to stick together as we were able to take photos for each other.
The food wasn’t bad either, we were served a main meal Roast chicken with fondant potatoes with what looked like dish bubbles and Chocolate cake and chocolate mousse. While everyone was enjoy their lunch, Charlotte (our guide) came around to ask if anyone wanted to join in on the private guided tour of the Louvre or if we would prefer to have free time at the Louvre to go on your own or to wonder around the area. The private tour was approx 30 pounds payable to Charlotte who later on purchased our tickets.
After lunch myself and my new group of friends wondered around the first floor of the Eiffel Tower taking photos and chatting, as we had a little bit of free time left, we decided to take the stairs to the second level as the lift line was fairly long. There are 669 steps to the second floor and then if you want to go up to the top you have to take the elevator. We got what felt like half way to the second floor and decided we were going to run out of time and headed back down. By the time we got to the bottom we were all giggling because we had jelly legs, one of the couples in the group was surprised at what a good work out going down the Eiffel Tower stairs were because she worked out regularly. We stopped off and bought some souvenirs goodies from the little store at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, although I suspect these prices are jacked up but tourists don’t care.
After lunch, we made our way down to the piers for our 1 hour Seine cruise, we were able to take advantage of the extra time we had by taking a few silly photos with the Eiffel Tower behind us. We lined up for the cruise and hopped on, there were 2 sections, undercover and open, we opted for the open area thinking we would be able to see more. It was lovely to seeing the city from the river, however if you travel in summer make sure to take a hat and some sunscreen.
We glided past The Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and so much more. On the side of our seats were large metal listen devices, this looked a phone from the 80’s, on this you could listen to the recorded commentary about the attractions we glided past and fun facts about them. I would suggest standing on the side of the boat or at the back or the very front as your views can be obstructed by the poles and roofing of the boat. We made our way back to the Eiffel Tower and back to our bus where we proceeded to the Louvre.
We arrived via an underground car park so when we actually walked into the Louvre it was a little breathtaking! (Cliché I know!). Walking through a wide room showing ruins of an old palace that used to be where the Louvre is. Charlotte left us at the Upside down Pyramid while she went to collect our tickets and then we all entered together. It was much easier having a guide showing us the main attractions than navigate this huge museum on our own, the line to get in would have taken longer than the time we had free at the Louvre.
To be honest the tour was all a blur of paintings, sculptures and bodies… Unfortunately I wasn’t really able to hear Charlotte speaking about certain pieces due to the enormous crowds around us (and the noise levels) so instead I wandered around the rooms we were in taking photos and looking around.
It was still worth going in as a private group as I was able to ask questions and Charlotte took us straight to all of the highlights. We saw the Mona Lisa which was beautiful but extremely crowded, I don’t see what the big fuss is around the Mona Lisa, there was so much in the museum that I found to be much more impressive such as enormous intricate paintings or sculptures.
One room really blew me away, the Galerie d’Apollon Gallery, everywhere you look is gold, gold, gold! Just before we left we stopped by at the Venus de Milo statue, I learnt that she was actually made in 2 pieces and put together!
We all headed back to the bus which took us back to Gard du Nord station where we filed out our departure forms, went through French customs and then English customs and headed back to London.
So after that LONG story, Is a 1 day trip to Paris worth it? TOTALLY!
You don’t get to see everything; I would have loved to see the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame Cathedral, up close however this was a good way to give you a quick taste of Paris.
Bonus Tip! If you have come extra time make sure to check out the Paris Catacombs.
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