Travel: Walking on air in beautiful city with so much to see...
The only problem with travelling to Paris from some regional airports '“ Doncaster Sheffield in our case '“ is that you get spoiled.
Park next to the terminal, stroll a short distance to check in, sail through security without queuing and relax in the premium lounge, before wandering a few yards to the gate.
Then a thrilling amble across the apron to a Flybe jet before clambering aboard.
It might have been 6am, but we were giddy at the prospect of an hour-and-a-half’s hop to the French capital. That’s how air travel is meant to be, a part of the trip to be enjoyed, not endured.
But it was down to earth with a bump at Charles de Gaulle, one of the busiest airports in the world. Huge, confusing, teeming. We waited an hour to get through security. But then we were in.
Paris is one of the great capitals, with a lifetime of things to do. You could spend a week just studying the hundreds of statues on the outside of The Louvre, the world’s biggest museum.
So we gave it a miss and went to the Musée d’Orsay on the other side of the Seine, a former nineteenth century railway station with a wide selection of art - and a floor of impressionist paintings. And all done in two hours.
Big cities invite big hikes and many a day out has been ruined by attempting to do too much on foot. This is where a boat ride beautifully fits in, offering the time-poor tripper the chance to have a sit down and still see the sights.
We boarded a Batobus which chugged past Notre Dame and the stunning Eiffel Tower.
It might be the ultimate ‘touristy’ thing to do, but that boat ride was one of the highlights of our trip.
Les Halles, where we were based, is a district of quiet roads and small shops and squares, and a large, mostly underground shopping centre with a giant, gravity-defying curved glass roof.
In a short walk the neighbourhood offered a huge range of shopping, from the mainstream, such as Gap, to a secondhand book shop where we bought French comics for the kids.
Later we dined outside in a charming restaurant popular with young professionals. Right on a small crossroads, it was the scene of several hair-raising near misses as scooters sped through. We think our waiter explained that everyone gives way to the right, but who knows?
From our hotel it was a short walk to the second island in the Seine, Île Saint-Louis, a tranquil haven with quaint shops on quiet roads. A very different kind of experience to its busy neighbour which is home to Notre Dame and one we found ourselves returning to on the last day.
From there, we discovered the riverside roads flanking the Seine. Free of traffic, they are a picturesque way to get around away from busy routes.
It was also a short stroll to the still impressive Pompidou centre, now in its 40th year – offering fantastic views from the top floor.
We failed to work out which was the fast train to the airport, waited a good while to check in and walked a long way to the gate.
But nothing could dim the memory of three days in one of the most exciting cities on the planet.
Footsore we might have been, but after Paris worked its charms we were walking on air.
- Book flights at Flybe.com
- lydsa.co.uk for car parking and Premium Lounge at Doncaster
- Novotel Les Halles: novotel.com
- Musee d’Orsay tickets in English: musee-orsay.fr/en/visit/admission/ticket-purchase