Au Revoir Paris…Hello, Europe!
NY Mama Ami Cadugan returns with a new series about the ease of European travel – when you are lucky enough to have Paris as your home base! A huge lover of travel, Ami and her family visited over 60 destinations over the course of three years. That’s more than most people do in a lifetime! The reason was simple – Paris is about a two-hour plane, train or car ride from pretty much anywhere. And, since our family was on an “ex-pat contract” we knew that we would only have a few years to explore. So explore we did! Now I’m back to share some tips and insider information with our readers. Whether it’s a weekend or the longer “vacances scolaires”, look no further! “Au Revoir Paris…Hello, Europe” is here.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Let’s start off by discussing some low-cost air carriers. A personal favourite is Easy Jet. They fly out of both Orly and CDG and go to popular destinations such as Berlin, Barcelona and Budapest. They’re efficient, publish Traveller, a fun and informative in-flight magazine and are big into social media. Score!
There are a host of others reflecting the names of their home countries- and are usually a good bet: Iceland Air (Warm and cozy blankets – one of two may not have made the return flight); Aer Lingus (high tolerance for drunken passenger antics), and Finn Air (Best blueberry juice ever. Seriously). Notice that Air France did not make the “short list”. It’s a great airline, but unless you book well in advance, they’re just not that cost efficient. Tip: It’s also much easier to fly out of Orly , since it’s closer to Paris. That means a faster and cheaper taxi ride (35€ versus 55€). Use your savings at the Duty Free shop!
One of the easiest and most fun ways to travel with a family is by train. Happily, Paris is a huge train hub, with seven easily accessible Gares (or train stations) to jump start your trip. French company SNCF runs the largest network of trains, including Thalys (France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands); TGV (high speed trains running throughout France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland) and the Eurostar (Chunnel over to Swinging London. Yeeeah, Baby!). Tips: Booking in advance will always get you the best fares. Sometimes First Class and Business Class can even cost less than coach. You’ll never know unless you check!
Discount cards are also available for frequent riders of all ages. If possible, book a “four top” ( a group of four seats surrounding a table). Makes travel with kids much more pleasant when they have a place to do some activities and eat a snack. And speaking of eating…it’s really easy to bring your own drinks and snacks on the train. All trains have a “food car”, but that gets pricey pretty quickly.
Fighting traffic to get out of Paris on a Friday afternoon can be brutal
Exception to the rule- if Mama needs a glass of vin rouge or un café…Mama gets one! Train travel also allows everyone a chance to stretch their legs, use “larger than on a plane” sized toilets and get lost in the scenery as you are whisked through the countryside. Wifi and outlets for your devices are available on most lines. Makes watching a movie or catching up on social media a breeze!
Fighting traffic to get out of Paris on a Friday afternoon can be brutal (especially in May, the month of the four-day weekend). But once you’ve made it out, the rest of France is at your fingertips. Within about two hours (after the aforementioned traffic), you can get to the Normandy region (Monet’s Giverny , WW2 sites , Mont Saint Michel ) and even The Loire Valley (Châteaux , Châteaux and more Châteaux , with some wine thrown in for good measure).
Popular rental car agencies are Sixt , Avis and Hertz . Most cars can be picked up one of the seven major Gares, as well as storefronts throughout Paris. If your destination is within an hour (Ikea , anyone?), setting up an Autolib (electric car) account is a good bet. Not only is it eco-friendly, but it holds up to four people in “relative” comfort. The trunk (or boot) is also decent if you’re a light packer or shopper. ‘If’ is definitely the operative word
Our next post will go into more detail about travel throughout the beautiful (and large!) country of France, including the best way to get to specific destinations, what to do when you get there, and, most importantly, what to eat and drink! Bisous, Ami
For more great tips on places to explore within reach of Paris check out some of our top posts like our ten day trips from Paris and places to hike just outside the city, oh and our fab post about Lyon!
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