In mid March 2022, I took a five-day break to Paris. It was most pleasant even though it rained for all but one of the days. Paris remains such a gorgeous city. I was reminded of the movie Midnight in Paris where the main character remarks on the beauty of Paris in the rain.
Eurostar has been offering reduced rail ticket prices to encourage people to travel again, so the journey only cost £70 return for each person. Typically the fare is about £160 return in March.
What was interesting was how lax the Covid regulations were. To get into France I had to complete a printed sworn statement saying I did not have Covid signs and symptoms. But no-one looked at or asked for the document at either end.
The French have instigated a “pass sanitaire” that people are supposed to show to get into a restaurant or cafe or public event. In all the places I visited I only got asked once, at the entrance to a performance in Music City. The auditorium there is said to be the biggest in Europe.
On return to the UK I had to complete a passenger locator form. The French authorities did not ask to see it. Neither did they ask to see my Covid vaccination certificate, which has been demanded of me in every country I’ve visited in Europe this past year. Ah, the French! Vive la difference.
On my return to London St Pancras I encountered no security or passport checks. All are done before people depart Paris. Just a short stroll to a rail connection to Brighton.
The Eurostar trip was so smooth. The train travels about 250 km/hr except for the 20 minutes when in the Chunnel where it slows to about a third to half of that speed. The journey between London and Paris takes 2.5 hours. I remember years ago when it took a full day to get to Paris via train then Channel ferry and another train, often at night surrounded by cigarette smoke.
Paris is so beautiful. We stayed in Montmartre, the former bohemian area made famous by the movie Moulin Rouge. It’s ironic and typical of the expense of Paris that this entertainment venue cost only a few francs in the 1890s, but costs 140 Euro a person now. Shows run every 2 hours from 1pm until 11pm. I did not take in a show.
Did not fancy the 234 steps up to the cathedral. After the fire at Notre Dame this cathedral probably the most visited church in Paris, with daily services and such sweet voices from the choir.
Montmartre museum is excellent, with views over the city and next to the Clos de Montmartre, the smallest vineyard in France (only 200 vines). Despite the rain I noted lots of tourists, mostly French with a smattering of young Americans. The cafes in the area were doing good business along with the shops selling berets. They appear to be making a comeback (if they every left) and are available in about 10 different colours beyond your classic black.
Monday was the only sunny day. We walked in the Tuileries and along the grand boulevards. Even got a bit sunburned. The other days I needed a raincoat and scarf.
Meals in good restaurants are expensive so we relied on the prix fixe model, and had some OK to good food. Hotels in central Paris have got very expensive, starting at £220 a night for a single and typically £300 a night minimum for a double.
That’s why Montmartre was better, where we paid £100 a night for a tiny room. The hotel was called Belle Vue Montmartre, and the view from the room was one of the ugliest sights I have encountered anywhere in the world. Not as bad as a rubbish tip in India, because that is the ultimate in ugliness, but pretty awful. An example of French irony, perhaps?
The price of the room for an alleged three star hotel reflects the reality of staying in an expensive city. A cup of coffee in central Paris, if taken sitting down, costs £5 or more. Sometimes it’s necessary to pay the high rent for a chance to rest tired legs. But it still hurts the back pocket nerve.