Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Viva la France!

Day 6 (Sat, 7 June 2014)

We're off to Paris! Our train was scheduled to leave at 2pm so we decided to have a leisurely brunch at the hotel. Premier Inn offers a buffet breakfast at £9.75 per adult but what makes it a super deal is that kids eat for free with each paying adult.

The main reason we chose to stay at King's Cross is that St Pancras International (next to King's Cross) is the station for the Eurostar, which was our ride through the Chunnel to Paris.

Likewise in Paris, we booked a hotel near Gare du Nord, the Eurostar train station, as we didn't want to be dragging luggage all across Paris. This is the frontage of Gare du Nord.

Paris in recent years hasn't had the best reputation, especially with hostility towards PRCs rising due to bad economy. So we decided to book New Hotel Gare du Nord, which offers a family room for a reasonable rate. But more importantly, it has an ideal location- it's right across the road from Gare du Nord via a zebra crossing, and the metro station is  literally 20 steps away from the hotel (you can make our the red metro sign in front of the cafe). We were especially thankful since when we arrived, it was raining. Glad we didn't have to drag our bags a long way!

It's an old building and we were quite amused to find that the tiny lift opens right at a stairway!

New Hotel is only 2 stars and very basic but the room is a good size by Paris standards. The bathroom looks new and recently renovated. The only slight inconvenience is that there's no kettle or fridge. However, there's a Carrefour right around the corner of the building so it's easy to buy snacks and drinks.

It was already 5.30pm by the time we checked into the hotel and after dumping our bags in the room, immediately headed out for dinner. We knew where we wanted to go and asked the very friendly and helpful receptionist, Ben, to help us make reservations for Le Petit Cler near the Eiffel Tower. We then took the metro to Ecole Militaire station. Tip: It's cheaper to buy a carnet (book of 10 tickets) for the metro instead of individual tickets. One carnet costs €13.70 for adults and €6.85 for children.

We wanted to try Le Petit Cler because it's popular with the locals and has great reviews. Reservations are recommended, especially if you wish to eat outdoors. Or go early because the French tend to eat dinners late (around 8pm).

It did not disappoint. The charcuterie platter, consisting of cheese, pate and various sorts of ham with bread, was delicious.  

So was the flank steak with sauteed potatoes.

The waiters were super friendly and cordial, always checking to see if we needed anything. I don't know if things have changed from 15 years ago but the French service staff at least, are a lot more service-oriented than I remembered.

It was a hot summer evening and we strolled in the park to see, what else, the Eiffel Tower! There were hordes of people around, having picnics. The fact that it's a Roland Garros French Open viewing area probably had something to do with it. That was the night of the women's finals. Dig the huge suspended tennis ball within the Eiffel Tower!

How many angles can one take of the Eiffel Tower?

Crossing the River Seine towards Trocadero for a different vantage point.

Andre's all caught up with taking selfies during this trip and it's quite hilarious to catch him making silly faces at his phone.

The Eiffel Tower at sunset - one complete package of elegance and romance.


Rachel Tan said...

I am suffering from a severe sticker shock just doing preliminary research on bringing the family to Paris. Few hotels can accommodate 4 in a room and those I have seen charge like US$300 a night at least!?!

London feels a lot better with Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express. Plus I lived in London for 3 years (studied there) so I know how to eat cheaply there.

monlim said...

Rachel: I think you just need to search a little more. Paris hotel rooms are definitely smaller in comparison but you can definitely find a reasonable one for less tha US$300. The hotel we were at was less than SGD300 a night and that was for peak period (summer). Granted it was only 2 stars but I'm sure you can find a 3-star one for a little more.

And everything else - food, attractions, gifts, etc was MUCH cheaper in Paris than in London.

Rachel Tan said...

My risk appetite is not very big with accommodation with kids in tow (sans kids is a different proposition altogether).... I'm reading like 24 square metres for deluxe rooms in Paris (whoa.....tighter than cruise ship cabins huh) and many are wanting me to book 2 rooms. I shall look harder...

Ah the next time you are in London drop me a note I'll share how to feed the family of 4 comfortably under 30 quid for lunch or dinner.

monlim said...

I understand, with small kids you have different considerations. I feel you get a better class of hotel if you book a room for 4 vs 2 rooms (for the same budget). Keep looking!

Haha, I think my budget is even more austere than yours! We mostly did spent less than 30 quid in London for each meal (except for the splurges). But in Paris, you can eat at the same level for significantly less. You can even get gourmet 3-course meals (with snails and steak) for 18 euro! Even eat-in cafes, you can get crepes for 4euros, no tax. Amazing deals.

Rachel Tan said...

Gulp I meant 30 quid to feed 4 hungry fellas and not per pax! heh. That said London's a great place to try out Michelin star restaurants (like splurge on 1 or 2 meals)

I feel a little unsafe booking 2 rooms unless they are interconnected. You know, I don't really wanna deal with whose sleeping with whom and packing to suit this split room arrangement. I'm definitely gonna poke around for a quad. We're still okay with sharing one bath.

monlim said...

Yes, yes, I meant 30quid for whole family too, haha! The cheapest was when we had pizza - 16pounds to feed everyone! The 18euro deal was only to give an idea of how cheap even high end food was in Paris compared to London.

I agree with you, esp with kids, a quad room is better. The only benefit with 2 rooms is that you get an extra bathroom which is sometimes convenient!