Paris in Easter is a soggy affair, yet no other city incorporates the rains of early spring into a short break free of the typified touristy framework.
Many cost-effective opportunities are at the will of the European tripper, and Paris is a logical first step for the budgeted student, setting off in want of the bank of mum and dad. If efficiency is no factor, numerous coaches offer delivery via the Eurotunnel or cross-channel ferry, for less than forty pounds a return journey. Admittedly, bussing it is incredibly long-winded. The trip from London is about eight hours, and as the cost of flights tumbles, you’ll certainly unveil tempting alternatives via the most helpful comparison sites, Skyscanner and Kayak.
Integral to running down costs is planning. If, like me, you’re incapable of taking action on anything that comes beyond a forty-eight hour window, you’ll shed far more cash on travel than necessary. The same, of course, goes for hotels. The central district of Le Marais is home to an incredible hybrid of mainstream outlets and quirky independent stores, a network of cobbled, pedestrianised streets lined with dominantly vintage, intricate architecture and awesome eateries. Here, rooms are in justifiable demand. The typical instalments, Holiday Inn and whatnot, overstep the mark. As is often the case the best deals are to be found hidden deep in the side streets. The Tonic Hotel Du Louvre is an example of such. A five minute stroll from the shopping districts, metro and Le Louvre, Tonic implants modern, plentiful facilities within a beautifully archaic terrace. If you’re looking to saturate your short time in Paris with experience and are merely looking for a place to rest your head, the Tonic is perfect.
Le Marais, in general, is perfect. The trauma of cross-country bus travel is well abated by an evening spent strolling about vintage record shops and Le Halles mall, followed by a meal. You may be adventurous, and settle in at one of the district’s many traditional corner eateries. Or, go for one of the more reassuringly identifiable restaurants, in consideration of your sub-par mastery of the French language. Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Hard Rock Cafe and the like present a minimal language barrier, one larger and more prevalent at smaller, natively French businesses.
Language should be a minimal concern. After all, an estimated thirty percent of French citizens are fluent in English; such people appear to entirely populate the major tourist attractions in one form or another. An immeasurable army of chuggers, street merchants and outright pains in the arse that dot, like land mines, a two mile radius surrounding the Eiffel Tower are certainly fluent. Undoubtedly the most frustrating element of Parisian tourism, hundreds of street-sellers brandish giant key-ring hoops adorned with several Eiffel Tower models, threatening to impale you as they’re waved in your face. Others adopt a more nuanced approach. Moving to sign an innocent enough petition and contribute three or so Euros to an apparent advocate of a children’s charity, passersby strongly advised that this was unwise, that many scammers worked this way. For what ultimate motive I was sought remains unclear, but the shadowy disposition of the charity lady became apparent, as she threatened to sue me for three Euros as I pulled away from the clipboard.
The rain became a saviour. Intermittent downpours flush chugger and tourist alike into corner cafés, museum lobbies and grand archways, rendering expanses to will of the acclimatised British, and a few other tenacious travellers. It is in these moments that Paris is truly experienced. The dispiriting gleam of rain on concrete and slushy din as cars break surface water is abated by intricately cobbled streets and massive pedestrianisation. Paris is self-aware, of its state and history. Rain here evokes contemplation, of the sober sort. It is as if the jagged cityscape was engineered to channel and subdue every drop. There is something distinct about precipitation in Paris.
But you should be realistic. There’s appreciating the allure of a brooding city and stubbornly flailing about in immense wind and torrential deluge. Don’t be dismissive, but use common sense. Paris is renowned for her museums, and of such there are over a hundred. Spanning the sprawling ossuaries of Paris’s Catacombs to the similarly winding trails of the Sewer museum, your washed-out days are easily exhausted exploring unique collections and exhibits of every kind.
The Louvre is of course essential. Like me you may find time for only one museum, and though predictable, my advice is to make the Louvre your ‘one’. However ‘one’ is somewhat of a misnomer, the museum is colossal. Composed of three sections, each of which could constitute its own museum, the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo are both conveniently located within the same section. It really is easy to underestimate how much time you’ll want to spend trawling the grand galleries, for even the fellow philistine.
Impervious to rain are the winding trails of humans that circle the largest glass pyramid that adorns the Louvre forecourt. Avoid two-hour queuing with a fast-track ticket, which can be bought as part of a bundle from a Parisian tourist centre not ten meters away. Such deals are great value for money. For around sixty Euros, you’ll not only receive a Louvre fast-track, but also a city-wide, hop on and off bus tour and Seine river cruise. The benefits of a coach tour speak for themselves. Stopping at all sites of interest, you’ll have completed the whole touristy thing within an hour, with historical context provided via an inclusive audio tour.
A Seine river cruise is a wonderful follow up to the coach. Sleek vessels protect against the elements, furnished with a café lounge and indoor seating, allowing you to experience the Seine from the comfort of your own latte. The upper deck is exposed to the elements, and a foray of rabid Instagrammers, taking full advantage of exposure to spectacular architecture. Spanning about an hour, the cruise climbs upriver as far as Notre Dame, circling for the return journey. Take in the detailed auditory information provided on your way up, and console yourself with a coffee on the return, in anticipation of the inevitably gruesome souvenir photos that were taken of you before setting off.
Your saturated day of gawking is rounded off nicely with a nice ‘n’ easy Hard Rock. You may want to continue the fully French experience at one of the countless, quaint little cafés that dot most street corners. But, there really is nothing more soothing for aching legs than sliding into a Hard Rock booth and indulging in a classic, incredibly unhealthy burger. Order some drinks, settle in, and reflect on your inexpensive yet unforgettable time in soggy Paris, to a soundtrack of classic rock’s seminal tunes.