#25: London and Paris Highlights

Sainte Chapelle Paris
Sainte Chapelle Paris

Travelling in off-season has real benefits. I travelled to London in early January and stayed for 4 nights before heading off to Paris for 16 nights via the Eurostar train. I loved taking the train. While there was security, it was very short and I did not have to get to the station hours ahead of time like one does when one is flying.

Taking The Eurostar From London To Paris

For this trip to England and France, I wanted to experience what it was like to take the Eurostar high-speed railway which connects London (Pancras station) to Paris (Gare du Nord). 

There are three classes:

  • Standard—basically an economy seat
  • Standard Premier-more comfortable, spacious seats; light 2-course meal served at your seat
  • Business Premier- business lounge; more comfortable, spacious seats; fully flexible ticket, 3-course meal served at your seat

I booked my tickets 53 days in advance in order to get the cheapest price (55 Euros). Because the train ride is only about 2 hours 15 minutes, I didn’t really need to get Premier class. 

There are real advantages to taking the Eurostar:

  • all classes have power outlets but in Standard class, it is only available in coaches 5 and 14
  • no worry about getting to an airport hours ahead of time
  • no worry about checking your luggage; you can carry 2 bags with no weight restrictions plus one piece of hand luggage
  • cost: much cheaper than flying
  • the train takes you from the centre of London to the centre of Paris. No need to get from the airport into the city.

Benefits of Travelling In January

  • Weather:  When you know it’s going to be cold you dress and pack accordingly. There were days I did not use gloves and I never used the hat or boots that I brought. No slush, no rain (almost) and sunny weather occasionally.The weather was great for walking around and sitting outside having a coffee or hot chocolate (or vin chaud!).   The temperature in London and Paris was mild (0-5 degrees C in London and 8-12 degrees C in Paris) and it only rained once.
  • The price of hotels (and apartment rentals) are lower than any other time of year and this helped particularly in view of the low Canadian dollar.
  • Not as crowded: I only lined up once at a museum in Paris and it was likely because it was a Sunday afternoon and it was the last day for the exhibit (Jeu de Paume)

London Highlights

Millennium Bridge, London England
Millennium Bridge, London England

I hadn’t travelled to London in 25 years, so it was like the first time for me. Besides having fish and chips at Mickey’s Fish Bar (excellent) and pub grub at The Victoria, both in Paddington, in 4 1/2 days I was also able to:

  • Visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  • Take a tour of Wimbledon and see the Tennis Museum
  • Take a tour of the Churchill War Rooms
  • Take in the musical “Beautiful”, about singer/songwriter Carole King, at the Aldwych Theatre
  • Do a Free Tours By Foot tour of London (excellent)
  • Visit Covent Gardent, the Tate Modern, Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, London tower bridge
  • Walk along the Thames at night

Paris Highlights

Paris Passage
Paris Passage

Most people would assume I’ve seen everything there is to see in Paris. Not at all. I saw so many new places over my 17 days and had many new experiences including the following:

  • (Finally) visiting the Jeu de Paume to see the Halsman photo exhibit
  • VizEat: a unique dining with locals
  • Discovered some  new markets (Marché des Enfants Rouge and Marché Aligre) and reasonable/great cave bars (5e Cru) and oyster/wine bars (Le Baron Rouge)
Le Baron Rouge Paris
Le Baron Rouge, Paris
  • Doing a tour of Les Caves du Louvre and doing a champagne/wine tasting at O Chateau
  • Wine Tasting At O Chateau Paris
    Wine Tasting At O Chateau Paris
  • Visiting Fondation Louis Vuitton (designed by Frank Gehry)
  • Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris
    Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris
  • Discovered some new stores with kitch items at Merci and Bu
  • Visited all major covered passages (historic shopping arcades) that were constructed in the late 1800s
  • Visited the boulangeries where the 2015 Best Baguettes and Croissants in Paris were made….and of course bought some and ate them!
  • Visiting and talking with Denise Acabo, the owner of the renowned chocolate store, À L’Étoile d’Or
  • A L'Ètoile d'Or, Paris
    A L’Ètoile d’Or, Paris
  • Tried out a new place for hot chocolate (Charlotte de L’Isle on Saint-Louis en L’Isle)—but I would not go back (service was just OK and the hot chocolate wasn’t anything exciting)
  • Visited the (free) Musee Curie—museum highlighting the work Madame Marie Curie did including her work on radiology.
  • Went to a gigantic flea market (antiques) in the northern part of the Marais.
  • Returned to Sainte Chapelle, the Pompidou Centre and La Conciergerie—places I had not visited in at least 20 years.
  • Trip #25_ London and Paris Highlights