Meandering the lil Parisian cobbled streets and following the winding canals of Amsterdam this September, I felt the most relaxed and content I’d felt all summer. There’s something about exploring new places- and visiting old favourites- that makes you positively radiate with happiness. In the start of many a blog post to come about these two beautiful cities, I thought I’d compile together a comprehensive guide about our trip: where we stayed, how we travelled between countries, tips to keep things cheaper on a student-friendly budget and the best spots to explore what Paris and Amsterdam have to offer.
Some of you were asking me on Instagram whilst I was away how we planned the trip and the things we got up to, so I thought it’d make sense to have all o’ dis up in one place- so here’s a bumper, mahooosive blog post for you all. I hope it captures a flavour of what these cities are like, and gets you with the travel bug, because if there’s one thing we gotta do whilst we’re young, it’s to get explorin’ the world!
And just because I’ve got so much to type away- today, let’s just begin with my wee Parisian guide. Amsterdam shall follow in another blog post v v soon!
how we got there, where we stayed, what we did
Let’s start at the beginning. When booking our trips away, purely because we’re poor lil students, myself and my boyfriend always log onto Skyscanner. Instead of going direct through an airline of your choice, you can pop the month you’re planning to get on ya travels into Skyscanner, and the website will tell you the cheapest dates and airlines for your trip. We knew we wanted to head on our hols at the beginning of September, but because we were slightly flexible with dates, we were able to have the luxury of letting the cheapest flights determine our stay.
It just so happened that it was cheaper to fly into Paris than fly back from there, so we picked Paris as our first destination. The cheapest provider was Flybe, and the cheapest flight time was at 6 in the morn- so although it meant a disgustingly early arrival at airport time of 4am, we’d arrived in beautiful Paris by 9 in the morning, with a whole day of exploring ahead of us.
To get from Charles de Gaulle airport to our hotel, we chose Rideways, a transfer service. We’ve used them before in Paris, and have always found them totally on time, and incredibly helpful. I’ve gotta say though, this time- although the driver was there before we’d even arrived- it was a terrifying transfer journey. The dude was on his phone the entire time texting and scrolling through Facebook as he was driving us down a Parisian motorway, and he looked like he was almost going to crash about five times throughout the journey. But my experience of French driving is that they’re a lot less road safety conscious than us British, let’s just say. Take one look at the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe and you’ll realise that.
We stayed at an Ibis hotel near Gare du Nord station- the station we were travelling to Amsterdam from. This is right in the heart of the 10th arrondissement, and there is plenty of hustle and bustle, tourists and amaaaazing restaurants on your doorstep, not to mention two massive train stations nearby. So basically, right in the heart of Paris. As for bookin’ this hotel, I firstly decided I wanted to stay right in the centre near Gare du Nord, and then secondly used good ol’ Expedia for our cheap hotel deal.
Immediately, we unpacked and took a good ol’ nap. I’m sure Sam will testify for this- but I am AWFUL if I’ve not had enough sleep. I need at least my 8 hours otherwise you’ll meet a dragon of a woman. So the quick pitstop for a nap is just what I needed to get me ready to face the day in my favourite favourite ever city!!
After our nap, we got ready, freshened up and headed out to explore the local area. We stopped at Gare du Nord to buy our metro tickets, and to grab some lunch.
As for metro tickets, there’s a variety of options available for tourists in Paris. The ticketing system is a lil weird because even though you may not be in Paris for a whole week, the week pass option might work out cheaper for ya. This time, though, we ended up purchasing the Paris Visité card, which allowed us to travel on the metro for the full 3 days that we were in the city. It cost around 25 euros each, and allowed unlimited travel on the metro.
For lunch, we ended up in the incredibly British Five Guys- don’t judge, I was hangry and pining for a burger n chips.
The first stop for us sightseeing on day one was the Notre Dame. We hopped on the metro from Gare du Nord to Saint Michel, which is the stop for the Dame. The sun was shinin’, it was 29 degrees and as we emerged from the tunnels of the metro, we were greeted with the beeeeautiful Notre Dame, glowing in the sunshine. And that’s when I had my first lil happy cry of many on this trip.
Paris is my favourite city. I have never visited anywhere abroad that I’d move to in a heartbeat, until I arrived in Paris. The city holds a special place in my heart, and I was frankly buzzing to be back. We took a walk along the banks of the Seine, with the Notre Dame towering above us; we perused the lil street stalls that line the streets opposite the Notre Dame, selling vintage paintings of landmarks in Paris; and we stumbled across an orchestra playing in the park in the sunshine. That’s when I had my second happy cry, naturally.
After spending a good hour or so enjoying the area surrounding the Notre Dame (and not spending a penny, I might add- yay cheap student budget) we popped back on the metro to Champ de Mars. And what famous landmark would be here that induced me to another lil sob, I hear you ask? The Eiffel Tower, of course.
We spent the rest of the sunny afternoon basking in the sunshine in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower, watching the world go by. We sat on the banks of the Seine, watching the water lapping at our feet and glistening from the sun. We did nothing, yet I don’t think I’ve ever felt more content.
As evening was approaching, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for the night. As we were still super sleepy from our early start, we decided to stay local for dinner and opted for one of the many restaurants near our hotel. The areas around Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord have plenty of options for dining, and the restaurant we picked had a 2-course deal on that eve. I tucked into pizza, Sam into pasta and we both had a dessert. I gained a food baby, but I couldn’t have been happier.
Some tips from today:
BEST WEBSITE FOR BOOKING FLIGHTS – Skyscanner
BEST TRANSFER COMPANY TO USE – Rideways
BEST APP FOR NAVIGATING THE METRO – Paris Metro Map by Bappz
towering above Paris, dinner with a view and some dodgy wine
We set out on Monday morn with intent to get an early lunch somewhere in the trendy district of Le Marais, purely because we ended up in a lil café there last year and ADORED the baguettes on offer. Sadly, the metro station we used last year was shut this time, and we couldn’t work out our route to the café from another metro, because we couldn’t remember the name of it. Nice one. So we ended up in a French McDonald’s instead. The irony.
Our wanderings around Le Marais were being dragged out as long as possible by me, purely because I was terrified of the activity we were goin’ to do after lunch. And that activity was going up the Eiffel Tower.
I’ve got a thing about heights, me. If I’m in a plane, I’m fine, the height doesn’t bother me once we’ve taken off. But if I’m in a big ol’ shopping centre like the Bullring in Birmingham, and I’m looking over the edge down to the floors below, I feel positively nauseous. For some reason, if we’re so high up the view looks like a cartoon and not actually real, I’m fine. But give me some heights that are conceivable to my lil brain, and I’ll want to vom. Hence why I was brickin’ it for the Eiffel Tower.
When we went to Paris last year, Sam desperately wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower, as the views are meant to be amazing. I chickened out. This year, I felt like I owed it to him to get up ze Eiffel. And ya gal did it! The tickets are super cheap, with a cheaper option being taking the stairs, but we took the lazy option of the lift, ofc. You can prebook tickets online, which gets you in the attraction quicker, but we walked up on the day. Because we were just outta peak season, the wait wasn’t that long. However, I’d advise you to prebook if you’re going during school holidays, because I can imagine those queues are pretty horrendous.
Now aside from the lift that takes you up to each floor (the anxious thought of getting stuck in it kinda took the fun away for me) the whole experience was incredible. The view is INSANE, there’s gift shops galore, champagne bars some more and the most ADORABLE macaroons you can purchase. I don’t think much needs to be said about this, other than the fact that I ate a macaroon and a doughnut (that was the size of my head) literally up in the clouds on the Eiffel Tower, and it was wonderful. Fear of heights (almost) cured.
After our afternoon on the Eiffel, we popped home to get ready for a fancypants date night out. We’d already scouted out a wee restaurant near the Eiffel Tower that had a view of eeet that we wanted to try for dinner. Last year, I desperately wanted to eat somewhere, anywhere with a view of the Eiffel Tower, but we didn’t come across anywhere that was cheap enough for us poor students. This year, I made it my mission to find somewhere, and we came across Café Le Dome, which is a stone’s throw from the Champ de Mars park which is next to and faces the Eiffel Tower.
It was a beautifully warm summer’s evening (pretty sure the temp was still 25 ish) and we ate outside at the restaurant, overlooking the Eiffel. We had wine, lotsa food and it was v romantic. I was absolutely lovin’ life. We decided to seat ourselves at the restaurant at around 8:30pm, so that we’d still be enjoying our food by the time the Eiffel Tower started sparkling. Now for those of you that don’t know, the Eiffel Tower sparkles every evening from 9pm, on the hour, until 1am. It is the most beautiful thing to watch. I couldn’t even take a bite of ma food whilst it was sparkling for 5 mins – I just wanted to take it all in.
After dinner, we headed to Champ de Mars park to sit and watch the Eiffel Tower, til literally 11pm. And I didn’t get bored once. You’d think staring at a landmark would get borin’ after a while, but the sweeping lawns are literally filled with happy people all relaxing, enjoying a warm summer’s evening, and it was beautiful.
Now, a word of warning here: don’t take my advice on this next chapter, unless you’re careful ya know. There’s a lot of men that walk around the parks near the Eiffel Tower, trying to flog light up Eiffels, souvenirs and all that jazz. What some of them also try and flog are bottles of wine and champagne. They carry the bottles in buckets of ice, they have bottle openers, plastic cups and all that stuffs. They’ll sell you these drinks at ridiculously low prices, so long as you’re confident enough to barter with them, and they’ll pester you for most of the eve trying to get you to buy some.
Last year, we avoided these men like the plague. But this year, sitting at the Eiffel Tower saying how much it would be nice to have a bottle of wine to enjoy, we caved. We made sure to check that the bottle was definitely sealed before they gave it us, and that it was definitely not a dodgy bottle of wine- and we purchased two bottles. We got v drunk and had the most hilarious evening just sat watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle every hour, and it was just the nicest time. Another of the sellers made Sam give me a rose and I spent 10 minutes drunkenly laughing about how cliché and cringe this whole situation was. I’d recommend doing somethin’ similar if you come visit Paris- but as I’ve said, make sure to be vigilant and check the wine they’re selling you isn’t gon’ make you poorly.
We stumbled back to our hotel near to midnight – and I’d recommend you check your metro routes and opening and closing times before deciding to head back so late because we ended up having to get lost for 40 minutes on the metro as we worked out an alternative route back home, drunk and v confused. We got some food from the French version of Dixy’s Chicken on our way back to the hotel, and we crashed in our comfy hotel bed.
Some tips from today:
ADDRESS FOR CAFE LE DOME – Le Dome Cafe, 108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 Paris, France
BEST WAY TO FIND OUT UP TO DATE INFO FOR THE METRO – Paris Metro app
shoppin’ ’til we were droppin’, the best pizza I’ve ever put in my belly and a romantic boat cruise
As we were v much on a budget with this holiday (6 days across two cities is expensive work) we decided to leave any souvenir shopping/high street browsin’ until our last day in Paris. Thatta way we could decide whether we had some disposable money to chuck at nice clothes- or not. Luckily, we realised we did have a lil extra cash to spare, so we 110% made the most of it on day three.
Last year, we ended up taking waaaay too many euros to Paris with us on our trip, and we had a field day shopping along the Champs-Élysées, accruing a lil Parisian shopping haul to bring home with us. It was a helluva lot o’ fun.
This year, we didn’t go aaas cray, but we headed back to the Arc de Triomphe for a sightsee and a shop. Wandering along the Champs-Élysées, it’s v v busy, but you don’t get the same claustrophobic vibes as you do at Oxford Street in London. The streets are beautifully wide, and the shops that line the streets lie in the ornate, classic Parisian buildings and just feel a joy to shop in. There’s also an eclectic mix of high street and high end, with faves like Zara and H&M tucked between your Diors and Cartiers. And as for the Parisians that are wandering the streets, they are dressed SO well it’s just a joy to people watch. You can tell the rich people pop to the Champs-Élysées for a splurge.
Sam bought a Levi’s top (I restrained myself from getting one also – we’ve both been on the hunt for one for a while, and I reckoned us both getting one might just be a bit too matchy matchy for my likin’) and I got the most adorable lil bag from Zara- a steal at 19 euros. I came across the most BEAUTIFUL, buttery soft Zara leather jacket, but held myself back from purchasing, as we still had a whole other holiday in Amsterdam waitin’ for us. I nearly did a lil sad cry at the thought of havin’ to leave said jacket behind.
After we shopped ’til we dropped, the day was gettin’ on. We’d planned to go to a sunset cruise in the evening, and we had to fit dinner in beforehand, and a relatively early night before Amsterdam the next morn, so we had to rush back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. But before we did that, we stopped by the Louvre (which by the way, is free for students – but we already went last year so we didn’t head inside this time).
Now, dinner might just have been one of my favourite parts of the whole holiday. You may think I’m exaggeratin’, but if you’da eaten the pizza I ate with a view of the Arc de Triomphe, you’d have agreed in a heartbeat. Dinner for us on day three was at the Vesuvio Italian restaurant on the Champs-Élysées, and the freakin’ restaurant had a view of the Arc de Triomphe as the sun was just lowering in the sky, and the pizza was the cheesiest, most delicious thing I’ve ever put in my belly. Imma not kidding. I was over the moon kinda happy. Everything about this dinner date was heaven.
After the ecstatic happiness of dinner, we headed back to the Eiffel Tower for one last time. We watched the sun starting to set from Trocadero, a beautiful area that basically exists as a viewing platform to see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, and I purchased a red beret, my third to add to my collection. This evening was particularly special, because we wanted to get on a boat cruise at sunset. We went with Bateaux Parisiens, a boat company which moors just below the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine- and my goodness me, it was just the most beautiful evening. I adored it.
If you purchase a Paris Visité metro ticket like we did, it comes a Paris map and a tourist information leaflet, as well as discounts to major Paris attractions- one being the Bateaux Parisiens. You just have to show ya metro pass at the ticket office, and voila- your boat trip now costs 10 euros each instead of 15!
Now we planned it perfectly, as the boat ride left the Eiffel Tower as the sun was setting, and the sky was all kinds of reddy orange. We travelled south down the Seine, past major Parisian landmarks such as the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Notre Dame, sweeping round and coming back once sun had set, lights were on and the city was aglow with the romance of Paris at night. I’d never witnessed anything more beautiful. And I’d never felt more relaxed.
We disembarked the boat just before 10pm- enough time to race up to Trocadero, we purchased some popcorn from a lil street vendor, and sat down on the grass to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle, one last time. And I don’t think I’d ever felt as happy as in that moment. Paris is just beautiful beyond comprehension, and you’ve got to go visit the city as soon as you can. You will not regret it.
Tips from today:
VESUVIO RESTAURANT ADDRESS – Vesuvio, 144 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France
I hope you enjoyed my lil (well mahoosive) guide to Paris, with some snapshots from our holiday. I hope it’s made ya get the travel bug to explore more of the world on your next trip away! And there’ll be an Amsterdam guide comin’ for ya v soon, I promise!