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After my trips to Blackpool and London, I decided that I wasn’t going to let the holidays go to waste even though I didn’t make plans. So, on a whim, I started planning a trip to Paris for the second week in January.
I figured everyone would have been back to their respective homes and the holiday spirit would have subsided a bit which of course would mean cheaper flight tickets. So I drafted a budget and quickly bought a £54 EasyJet return ticket.
Tip: One of the best ways to get the best travel deals including cheap travel tickets is by booking as far in advance as possible. It might seem inconvenient at that moment but it would save you so many coins in the long run.
Pin this first!
Just before my trip, I heard about the ongoing strike among transport workers in France and it put me off a bit. But I had booked my flight and accommodation and there was nothing I could do about it. I figured there would be delays here and there but it wouldn’t be so bad.
Getting to Paris
On the day of my flight, I took the day off work so I had a few hours to burn before heading to the airport. So I finished packing my carry-on using my Packr app which is amazing by the way. I didn’t forget anything for my trip. Then headed to the gym for some intensive sessions since I wouldn’t be working out for a couple of days. When it was about two hours to check-in, I took a 20 minutes Uber drive to the Manchester Airport. I have an irrational fear of missing flights so I tend to go really early.
Thankfully, I went early because, by the time I got to security, I couldn’t pass through. This was because I had packed way too much skincare products. (I know, I know!) Even though I had decanted most of my products into 100ml transparent bottles, they were just too many to pass through. I was sent back to the Easyjet Bag Drop to check in my carry-on luggage. This costs me about £6 for each flight. See why you need to get to the airport early enough?
Anyway, after successfully passing through security, it was time to move to the boarding gate. I waited about an hour in the lounge before it was finally time to board. My flight took out at about 5.25pm UK time and landed in Charles De Gaulle Airport one hour later. Turns out, Paris is one hour ahead of Manchester.
Moving around Paris on a budget
After landing at the airport with my new friend/seatmate Ellie, who thankfully happened to be a British Parisienne, it was time to find my way to my hostel. Ellie had given me a lowdown of the current situation of things with the strike and how to navigate the city. So we consulted Google Maps and she picked the best route for me. We said our goodbyes and it was time for me to find my way around Paris.
Before my trip, I had budgeted £64 ~ €75 which was the cost of unlimited transportation through all the major modes of transport in Paris for 3 days. But Ellie told me to save my coins and not bother because the strike would not allow me maximise the Travel pass.
Now, Paris has a wide variety of transportation from bicycles to scooters to tricycles, trains and buses. But the major mode of transportation was the Metro underground train ( the fastest which was mostly affected by the strike. They literally stopped operating after 5pm), the RER overhead train (which was decently fast and went everywhere) and the slow bus (which you had to resort to when the Metro stopped operating).
From the airport, I eventually took the RER train (which was about an hour-long) and a bus to my hostel. I had a bit of difficulty navigating my way around the Gare Du Nord train station. Plus the strike didn’t help matters at all. After walking all around the station, I found out that the Metro wasn’t operating anymore. I had to resort to the bus. After about two hours till midnight, I arrived at my hostel to check-in.
I eventually bought a bundle of 10 universal tickets (they’re called carnet) for €16.90 (€1.90 each) which I used all through my trip. I used these t- tickets on the Metro, RER and bus. For some reason, I didn’t need to buy anymore (except once at Versailles) until I came back to Manchester.
My planned Paris itinerary
While on my way to Paris, I had planned to use the transportation zones as my itinerary.
Zones 1 – 3 covered the Paris City Centre which included most if not all the major attractions like the Effiel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre Museum, etc.
Zones 1 – 5 covered the Paris City Centre as well as the airports and the suburbs which also included Disneyland and Chateau De Versailles.
As you can see this was a great itinerary but like everything in life, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Out of excitement, I ended up mixing up the zones and just winging it.
What to eat in Paris on a budget
When people say Paris is expensive, what they actually mean is there is not enough street/fast food so you have to eat at restaurants most if not all the time.
All through my stay in Paris, I saw only one KFC restaurant in Versailles. Then I understood how expensive Paris can be and where European beauty standards came from. But that’s a conversation for another day.
Now, for someone like me with a very limited budget, I wasn’t about to spend all my coins on restaurants even though I knew some might be reasonably priced. I just wasn’t interested in finding out.
That left me with two meal options: my free breakfast of freshly baked croissants and baguettes with coffee and orange juice at my hostel and cheap sandwiches and pastries from Patisserie Boulangeries. (According to Le Cordon Bleu, they are pastry and bakery shops) Yup! Best believe I ate so many croissants, I started to feel them grow on my head.
So, between croissants, baguettes, pain du Chocolat, baguette sandwiches and rotisserie chicken, I did not starve. While I’m not so much of a foodie, I did not forget to indulge in some French treats like macarons and crepes and some ice cream here and there.
Even though I was slightly worried about all the calories from all the flour, I burned them somehow by walking about 35000 steps in two days. (Yes, my fitness tracker is fairly accurate.)
What to do in Paris on a budget
I started to write about this section which covered all the ten plus major attractions I visited over the course of two days. But I stopped because I realised it was gonna make this post very long and I wouldn’t want that.
Please lookout for the second part of this post which I will link when it’s up.
Going back to Manchester
While I had a swell time in Paris, my return trip to Manchester almost ruined the entire trip.
On my first night in Paris, I stayed in a mixed-dorm because the hostel had accidentally cancelled my female-only dorm reservation. I was about to be completely mad at them but somehow they made up for this with their customer service so I let it slide. By the next morning, I was moved to my normal female-only dorm. Now it was time to make some friends. Yes, I had Ellie but I needed just one person to make the trip a success. When I checked in, the two girls weren’t in the mood to make new friends so I just left and went about my itinerary for the day. When I got back, the girls had checked out and were replaced with a new batch. My fave was Kawatsura; a Japanese who couldn’t speak English.
At first, it was challenging to communicate. I’ll confess that she was the first to initiate the friendship. Eventually, we settled on Google Translate to communicate with each other. By the time, I was checking out, it was a bittersweet moment for both of us.
I figured two hours was enough before take off to get to CDG airport. Turns out, I was wrong. I should have settled for an Uber. Long story short, I walked from my hostel to Gare Du Nord train station before fighting a space on the RER train to the airport. It was such a crazy day. Right there and there, I promised myself to always use a cab when I need to catch a flight.
Naturally, I missed my flight to Manchester and had to wait in the airport for about 9 hours while Netflix and chilling to catch the next available flight to Liverpool. I eventually took a National Express coach from Liverpool to Manchester and got home at midnight.
Regardless of what happened, I’ll definitely be going back to Paris to visit and get my French fluency back.