Thursday, April 3, 2014

Paris Transportation, Accommodations, Tours and Tips!

Getting There
We chose to fly from Zurich to Paris, rather than take the train, for the cost savings and convenience. An hour and fifteen minute flight on AirFrance was cheaper than the four hour train ride. However, we realized we'd failed to account for the cost of Metro tickets from the airport to central Paris and back - another 20 euros each. The wait time for flights and baggage and the extra cost and time for a Metro ride to central Paris negated most of the time and money we thought we'd saved by flying. Next time we're taking the train.

St. Merri Studio
St. Merri Studio
After our fantastic experience with the Bed and Breakfasts we stayed at in Rome, I decided to search for similar deals in Paris. The best reviewed B&Bs on Trip Advisor most often can't be booked online, so I began the process of emailing back and forth with B&B owners until we found one available - Chambres d'hotels Delareynie. We booked the St. Merri private studio apartment for 110 euros/night. The location was absolutely perfect, on the edge of Le Marais and surrounded by cafes, bars and shopping. From our doorstep, we were a five minute walk from Notre Dame and two Metro stations, and a more leisurely 20 minute walk to the Louvre. The studio was small, but with enough space for a queen size bed, sitting area, kitchen and our things.

Can't beat the view from St. Merri!

Considering a stay at Chambres d'hotels Delareynie's St. Merri Studio? Keep in might that the studio is in a very old building in a very hip neighborhood. That means lots of noise. On Friday and Saturday night, the bars and clubs kept the streets busy well into early morning. Since we packed earplugs, this didn't bother us a bit. Also, the studio is a walk-up, so be prepared to carry your luggage up three flights of stairs. Finally, this is definitely a budget hotel. We had everything we needed for the long weekend, but there were no frills and we cleaned up after ourselves. If you're looking for a bit of luxury during your Paris stay, St. Merri is probably not for you.

Overall, St. Merri's price and location made it ideal for our budget trip to Paris. When we return to Paris, we'll definitely be staying there again!

Sleachmour Travel Tip: The best budget B&Bs in Europe don't always have online booking. Email owners and search for reviews. It's easy to find a more authentic experience for a lower price than chain/large hotels.

Night Tour of Paris
Our host was running a bit late to meet us when we arrived at St. Merri studio (another tenant's flight was late), so he sent Karyn Piasek to let us in. Karyn, a Parisian and neighbor in the building, also happens to run her own Paris tour company with incredibly reasonable prices. She mentioned this while we were settling in and let us know that her Sunday evening was open if we were interested in a night tour of Paris. We were! And her price was so reasonable that we booked it immediately. For 40 Euros, Karyn drove us in her personal car all over Paris, giving us the best views and photo opportunities. She was very entertaining, had fantastic stories and a wealth of knowledge about Paris. We highly recommend Karyn's tour. The price can't be beat and neither can the beauty of Paris at night!

If you're interested in Karyn's tour, please leave a comment with your email address and I can send you her contact information!

Sleachmour Travel Tip: We highly recommend booking a guided tour during vacations. Matt and I are savvy travelers and tend to think we can wing it on our own. Our default is often to guide ourselves. However, we've recently come to find that a day with a tour guide can provide a fantastic base on knowledge about the city you are visiting. Our time with Karyn gave us a list of places we hadn't considered visiting during our trip. Unfortunately, we only had a day left to squeeze them in!

Public Transport in Paris
Hey there, 1970s!
Matt and I used only public transportation to navigate Paris. We currently live without a car, so it feels natural at this point to jump on trains and trams. Overall, the public transportation was easy to navigate in Paris. Metro trains come by frequently and we used the RATP iPhone app to plan our routes (since we have Swiss mobile phones, we are able to use our phones across Europe for small fees, if you won't have a working smart phone, plan your trips before leaving areas with free Wifi).

Sleachmour Travel Tip: Make sure you travel with cash in Paris, especially large denomination coins. We occasionally found ourselves at ticket machines that wouldn't accept credit cards or paper money.

Public transportation leads me to my one MAJOR complaint about our trip:
Trash through scratched up windows

Paris is filthy. And stinky.

Metro trains look like they've not been cleaned or updated since 1970. Seats are ripped. There are stains you don't even want to think about. Stations smell like urine and garbage is everywhere. So are the homeless. They set up camp in the nicest neighborhoods, complete with mattresses and garbage bags of belongings. Don't get me wrong - it's terrible that Paris has such a large population of displaced people. And not one of them ever bothered me (unlike the souvenir guys who endlessly harass). But, they did make me very uncomfortable and generally impacted my overall impression of Paris and how the city treats its least fortunate citizens. It's crazy.

I was never so happy to ride a clean Swiss train to our fresh (cow) smelling station in Schwerzenbach. I'll take the smell of manure over human piss any day....

So, that's a wrap on our trip to Paris! Anything we missed? Any questions for those heading there soon?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Becky,
    We're heading for a vacation to France next week. We're only going to be in Paris a couple days but would love to get the contact info for your tour guide Karyn. Love your posts! keep it up!