Paris is the best date I’ve ever had. It’s stylish, forward thinking, delicious and awe-inspiring. Its energy will make your heart palpitate with excitement and its beauty will fascinate you. Paris will charm your pants off with its allure and its adoring French ways.

My first visit to the city of love quickly affirmed that I should have bid it visit long ago. I was immediately enamoured with its people, its art, and its endless bread baskets and wine. I vowed to return as many times as my travel budget would allow. As such, I have found some ways to keep our love affair alive on a shoestring.

Getting there:

With WestJet’s direct flights to London Gatwick airport from YYC, getting to Europe has never been easier (or cheaper). I’ve often found roundtrip airfares in the $700 ballpark range. Use this airport as your gateway to the continent and its über-affordable airlines. You can often find EasyJet roundtrip fares from London Gatwick to Paris for approximately $150 return – the earlier you book, the cheaper you fly. Transferring your bag between the two airlines is painless with a designated luggage counter near your WestJet bag pick up that will facilitate the tagging and switch for you.  Better yet, save money and time by traveling light with a carry on.

WestJet has also just announced a new service to Paris – a direct daily flight to Paris from Halifax starting this summer. An easy connection there from Calgary means flights to Paris have never been easier – or cheaper. A quick search shows some available for $700 return.

 

What to eat:

 

If you travel like I do, food is a central part of your experience. Investing time in research will pay dividends here – avoid letting your growling stomach rush you to the nearest disappointing tourist trap. Take my word on the following places if you’re looking for some great Parisian eats:

L’Abipo:

Specializes in 3 to 5 course meals. Choose the ‘déjeuner’ (lunch) option for an affordable and delectable meal in a great neighborhood.  The options change according to what is in season.

Le Verre Volé: 67 rue de Lancry

Reservations are highly recommended at this tiny wine bar – its main dishes change constantly, and its menu is small – a big OUI in my books. Ask your server for recommended pairings. Sit outside near the canal in this local hotspot for some people watching whilst swirling your glass of vino.

Les Grands Verres:

Located inside the outstanding Palais de Tokyo art museum, this meal was easily the best for value that I’ve discovered thus far. The daily special runs for a very affordable 13 Euros – I was lucky enough to drop in on duck day. The. Best.

Daily duck special, jet’adore.

What to see:

Palais de Tokyo: After taking in some delicious duck/ other special du jour, why not explore this modern and contemporary arts museum? Always bold and thought provoking with a dash of weird. Changing exhibitions feature the work of both up and coming and established artists. A visit here will tickle your brain and make for great fodder during your next coffee + pastries break (because what would a trip to France be without coming home a bit ‘fluffier’ than when you arrived).

Pompidou Centre: Another fantastic modern arts museum, which will feature some better known artists, such as Kandinsky, Matisse and Picasso. A full day can easily be spent navigating its impressive collection of permanent and temporary exhibits. Make your way to the rooftop for views of the city that will make you wish you never had to leave this magical, cobblestoned place. Street performers are often found in its surroundings when the weather is cooperative.

Buttes Chaumont

Described by a local man as the most beautiful park in the city, which I will take his word for. Subsequent visit gave enough evidence to support this claim. Pack a picnic (with some wine and cheese, bien sûr) and spend a day on its green hills, enjoying the fanciful Parisian scenery.  There are also bits to explore, such as caves and small waterfalls, if you’re more of the “I like to be active” type over being of the “I enjoy wine and books on a blanket” variety.

See. Told you. Nice views.

Boat tours on the Seine

Loads of companies offer boat tours of the Seine River.  They will offer daytime or nighttime views of iconic buildings, such as the Eiffel Tour and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Some included a glass of champagne, others a full blown meal with a 5-piece band. The experience can certainly be a pleasant one, though not unmissable. Do the budget tour by walking on the river path with a bottle of bubbly in hand instead.

Where to stay:

Most of my stays have been via AirBNB – a great way to make your home base a part of the city that has less of the touristy feel. Definitely go this route if you enjoy walking and taking the subway to get around. The longer you’re willing to commute to the central area, the more affordable your stay will be. I’ve found the subway to be very safe and reliable, and oftentimes faster than battling your way through traffic with your French Uber driver.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my stays in the following areas: le Marais, Belleville and La Bastille. All equipped with beautiful cafés and boulangeries, and easy to navigate.

If you need a French-speaking tour guide:

Option 1: Slide into my DMs.

Option 2: If I am unavailable, I can offer the following advice:  it always helps to make a minimal effort of speaking the language. Here are some helpful phrases:

“L’addition s’ilvous plait” – pronounced “L’AH-DEE-SEEON SEAL VEW PLAY” means, “check please!”

“Quel vinrecommandezvous?” – pronounced “KELL VAIN RUH-COMMAND-DAY VEW” means, “what wine do you recommend?”

“Toutes les patisseries, s’ilvous plait” – pronounced, “TOOT LAY PAH-TEE-SURI SEAL VEW PLAY”

means, “All the pastries, please”.

There. You’re covered. Amusez-vousbien!

 


 

Chantalle Bourque

Teacher and world traveler who lives in Calgary. Loves working out in the city, hiking in the mountains, scoping out new places to have food and drink in the city. Listener of live music, lover of coffee and meaningful conversation.

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