Category Archives: Paris Breaks

Paris Breaks

Short trips by Eurostar on Paris Breaks with hotel and high speed rail travel.

Absinthe Paraphernalia
Eurostar booked for Summer Paris Breaks
South of Pigalle Paris Breaks Competition
Eurostar Paris trains from London getting busier
Gare du Nord in Paris
Paris breaks
Why is Samaritaine in Paris still closed?

Short trips by Eurostar on Paris Breaks with hotel and high speed rail travel.

Absinthe Paraphernalia

Absinthe Paraphanalia by AndyRob
Absinthe Paraphanalia, a photo by AndyRob on Flickr.

Can you just imagine what kind of havoc could be wreaked on a party by turning up with this Absinthe paraphernalia a couple of bottles of the 60% stuff? Ok, this is apparantly an absinthe fountain, which is used not for dispensing absinthe itself, but for water. Absinthe is rarely drunk neat, because alcohol at that strength burns flesh so an absinthe fountain is a neccessary accessory for delivering the right amount of ice-cold water into a glass of absinthe. The sugar cube and silver slotted spoon would appear a bit frivolous but no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time.

Spotted in Paris Breaks to the Marais

More Paris Breaks in the Marais

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Eurostar booked for Summer Paris Breaks

Concierge Paris Breaks

Originally uploaded by AndyRob

If nowhere else at least we are going to Paris this year for the first time since 2007. Early summer Paris breaks can be quite warm but by avoiding August should be just perfect. The trick with booking Eurostar deals now seems to be to book about four months in advance, as soon as the dates become available and before all the £69 deals sell out.

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South of Pigalle Paris Breaks Competition

Twitter Paris Breaks

I won a prize for decrypting the acronym SoPi as South of Pigalle for someone called @benjilanyado who is currently conducting an unusual Paris break by following directions from twitter users. The prize is “a big bloke on a house, rue Biot, 18th” so I suppose that means I can blog it here:

@aroberts wins! It is indeed "South of Pigalle". Your prize i... on TwitPic


Pigalle is the name of a metro station, a main street and an area of Paris famous mostly for the Moulin Rouge nightclub and other entertainments connected to a greater or lesser extent with the sex industry. It’s also a popular area for reasonably prices hotels popular with tourists on Paris breaks from London, being not very far from the Gare du Nord. The little quiet area just south of Pigalle has been undergoing a process of gentrification in recent years, with an influx of affluent and artsy foreigners. The nickname SoPi you will notice is not French. It was coined by an American as an act of cultural imperialism trying to make the whole world a bit more like New York (SoHo and NoHo)

#TwiTrip to Paris

Follow Benji Lanyado as he live blogs his way around Paris using tips gleaned from Twitter: Paris twitter trip #twitrip

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Eurostar Paris trains from London getting busier

I used to wonder what would happen after the Eurostar Paris trains were diverted from the interim Waterloo International station to the new St Pancras and now we are beginning to see the answer. International commuters in their thousands are switching from short haul flights between the two capitals to the fast St Pancras service by Eurostar. Paris has of course been moved 20 minutes closer to London since November last year, but it’s also the higher price of aviation fuel which has driven people away from the troubled terminals at London’s airports. So the situation now on an early weekday morning is that the waiting areas at St Pancras station are chock a block with people heading to Paris in time for a full day’s worth of meetings.

The Times business observes:

The airline industry has been crushed by the price of kerosene and deserted by passengers fed up with delays. After decades of disappointment, false dawns and virtually bankrupt Channel Tunnels, we have finally arrived at the age of the train and the evidence is in the crowd at St Pancras.

Eurostar Paris Train

Traffic growth on Eurostar increased by 21 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007, with growth in the second quarter supposedly at similar rates. So the combination of fuel prices, airport delays and the shaving of 20 minutes off the London-Paris Eurostar journey time has boosted income by 25 per cent according to The Times.

When the channel tunnel was first mooted in the 1980s, a lot of people were expecting a road tunnel they could drive through. More said they would be afraid to go into a long tunnel under the sea, and would stick with the ferries, though it was feared the ferry companies might be driven out of business by the new tunnel. The roll on roll off ferries from Dover are still running, providing cheap cross channel deals for slightly less urgent freight transport, but it’s the short hop airline routes between the south of England and the business cities in the North of France, Belgium and Holland which were always the main competiton for the Eurostar express trains, with their city centre to city centre advantage.

So the problem now is that the old award winning Waterloo terminal for Eurostar is closed while the new St Pancras Station is getting near to capacity already. So why didn’t they build it bigger or else plan to keep both running, giving travellers a choice between South and North London connection points for the Eurostar Paris trains?

I suppose the shortage of waiting areas at St Pancras might be eased when the Stratford International station comes into service, taking some of the strain for passengers heading for Paris breaks originating from East London and the City. I’ve heard it has already been built but can’t be opened because it’s in the middle of an Olympic Games 2012 building site.

If you’ve never been on a Eurostar Paris trip, here’s a longish video from youtube which gives a nice impression of what the journey is like.

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Gare du Nord in Paris

If you’ve ever been on Paris breaks by eurostar then you’ll be familiar with the Gare du Nord mainline railway station because that’s where you first arrive in central Paris and it’s where you have to get back to in plenty of time for the train home. You’ll have waited in line there to be ticked checked and processed for immigration to the UK, through customs, police etc and then taken a seat in the lounge, on the other side, where you are no longer in France effectively. Sometimes that can be a sad place, depending on the circumstances, or it may be exciting.

** book online Eurostar breaks with central Paris hotel**

Do you have a special railway station?

I’ve no idea how many of my readers will understand what I’m talking about if I try to explain a sort of emotional response to specific large terminal railway stations. Perhaps if I begin by saying that I was brought up in Cornwall, so when I leave London from Paddington Station that’s like already being on the ‘last leg’ of a journey which marks a kind of homecoming.

Paddington Station is like Gare du Nord Paris

So for me, Paddington station is not a part of London, it’s almost a part of Cornwall through association, anticipation and all those memories of being away from home and then returning. You can almost smell the seaside there, well you can definitely smell the pasties these days!
People from the southeast of England might have a similar association with Charing Cross, Waterloo or Victoria stations. Northerners with Kings Cross and Euston. And so it is with Gare du Nord in Paris, the arrival point from Calais, the Dover ferries and now eurostars from St Pancras, Ashford and Ebbsfleet. Eventually, hard as it is to imagine, Stratford International Station will become a little door to France, implanted in East London.

Gare Du Nord, Paris

I arrived at Gare du Nord from Rotterdam on my first visit to Paris. I had no idea where to go, so I walked out of the station, crossed the road and walked slightly downhill for ten minutes. I needed to find somewhere to stay, and down a sidestreet spotted a 1 star Hotel, booked in, and stayed there for six months. That was in the Rue Faubourg Poisonniere, just off the main Rue LaFayette so I got to know the area around the Gare du Nord pretty well. The big boulevards Magenta and Madelaine, the pretty little churches and small leafy parks. The little north african grocers shops, bakeries, bars and tabacs, and further down the main road the magnificent Galleries LaFayette. I had little reason to visit Gare du Nord during day to day life except on occasion to visit the bureau de change which was the only one I knew about, open on a Sunday at that time. It was on one such visit that the idea of planning a trip home occurred to me after many months away, such can be the effect of being in the presence of one of these special stations.

Gare du Nord is not only an arrival point for Brits taking Paris breaks but also the departure point for Parisians visiting London for the first time, or perhaps on a weekly basis for those who work in the City finance industries and go home most weekends. There are about 300,000 French people living in London now, that’s a lot isn’t it! And I suppose for them, the new St Pancras eurostar station will eventually trigger a familiar sensation of being almost back to France.

Which is your special station?



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Paris breaks

Paris Breaks are not just for springtime

Last year I managed to take two Paris breaks, one in April and the other in the autumn. Both times Paris was wonderful, but quite different. The chances of a bit of sunshine during a short break to Paris are very high, but even on a slightly cold and windy day, you can’t help but be enticed to go outdoors and walk alongside the Seine, through the endlessly surprising streets and squares, crossing the magnificent bridges. You can probably tell already that I love Paris.

I love Paris

For so many people who have spent any time there, Paris is a very special place. In my case, it’s where I spent the first part of my life away from home. I visited on a whim at the age of seventeen and stayed for two years! For the first few months I lived in the North, off the Rue LaFayette near the Opera, big shops, and boulevards Magenta and Strasbourg. Then I moved down to the Latin Quarter, where the other musicians hung out. So I gradually learned enough about Parisian life to get right under my skin, and I’ve been going back irregularly ever since. Paris hasn’t changed that much since the 1970s, or for that matter since the 1870s after Haussmann laid down the plans for six story high buildings of slate and sandstone arranged onto an intersecting star shaped street map.


** book online Eurostar breaks with central Paris hotel**

Paris breaks from London.

In the old days, I used to have to catch the night Ferry. This was available at a special student rate for anybody under 23 but it took all night to get from Gare du Nord to Victoria, or back. At Victoria station you had to go right to the end of the far platform to a little office called “Transalpino” and buy a ticket for £10. The night ferry also took first class passengers in a special Paris Pullman carriage which was actually rolled onto the car ferry and onto the track to continue from Calais, so they could sleep the whole journey in their couchettes. But we had to wait around on draughty platforms for hours either side of the channel, and contest with winter gales and noisy children all night on the old British Rail Sealink ferries.

Paris breaks by Eurostar

But now we have Paris breaks by Eurostar, and what a blessing that is. Even before the St Pancras terminus was brought into service last November, the Eurostar was a huge improvement in comfort and convenience over the train and ferry system. And better than flying because you disembark in central Paris ready to catch a metro, hire a car, or just walk down the Rue Lafayette as I did. The new route means no more trundling though south London and Kent at slow speeds. The Eurostar train enters fast tunnels underneath North and East London, then another under the Thames, and before you know it you’ve passed Ashford and are about to enter the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone. Total journey time can be as little as two hours and fifteen minutes, which means I might be able to fit in a short Paris break at times which simply weren’t practical before now.

Favourite places in Paris

Everybody has their own favourite places in Paris, and maybe I have more than most so I won’t list them, but maybe it’s worth explaining that you don’t need to plan everything in advance. One of the biggest pleasures in Paris is simply to take off on foot and wander off in a new direction around the streets, stopping to notice anything that intrigues. It works every time, North or South, in the Marais, the quartier Latin, the big boulevards, little street markets, around Montmartre, the little parks, churches, and of course the cafes, bars and restaurants.


A recent innovation is the Batobus service, which is meant to be part of the transport system rather than a visitor attraction like famous Bateaux Mouches. It’s a hop on hop off service and the passes are priced in such a way that you might as well buy one that covers the whole period for short breaks in Paris. The trip itself is spectacular and enjoyable, and the route allows for easy exploration of Jardin des Plantes, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, and many other important destinations. I tried to do the full round trip twice in one day, but one boat terminated at Eiffel Tower, so I caught the metro back from there. No problem.

Choosing a hotel

Ever since that day when I was seventeen, wandered down the street from Gare du Nord, checked into a hotel off the rue Lafayette and stayed there for three months, I’ve never bothered to book a hotel in Paris. I’m not saying that’s the best thing for everybody, it’s just because I can. These days I generally have an idea of which area I want to head for, and sometimes choose a Hotel I’ve stayed in before, because I know the rooms look out over an interesting quarter. But if they’re full, I can find another, maybe better. Probably best to book if you’re arriving after 4pm though. Location is more important than having the biggest indentikit modern room with trouser press and everything, so get out the map and make sure your intended hotel is either located near one of the interesting central areas, or else perhaps by a fast RER metro station that’s only one or two stops from for example St Michelle.
Le Buci

** book Eurostar breaks with hotels in central Paris **

Getting to London first

St Pancras station is right next to Kings Cross, so if you are setting off from Luton, Watford, Milton Keynes, Rugby Birmingham, or anywhere in the Midlands it’s easy to transfer. Likewise the East coast line makes Paris breaks from York, Leeds, Sheffield or even Newcastle or Edinburgh very easy. From South London, Surrey, Kent or Essex though, you can board the Eurostar at Ashford or Ebbsfleet. Coming from the West, you’ll need to make your way around on the underground and here’s a good tip for Paddington Station. When you get off the train don’t follow everybody else down the platform towards the main part of Paddington Station and the escalators down to the tube. Instead turn around and go up the stairs and over the bridge. This leads directly to the platform for the Hammersmith and City Line, which follows the same route as the circle line straight to Kings Cross St Pancras for the Eurostar.

Food and drink on Paris Breaks

I’m a bit of a foodie so restaurant dining and cafe bars are one of the main pleasures of Paris breaks. It’s also a great opportunity to buy some good wine, baguette, camembert, saucisson and salads and have a delicious picnic in the hotel room, or maybe in the park. I take a corkscrew, glasses and cutlery to make this possible. There are both fine restaurants and cheap and cheerful tourist menus everywhere, including most cafe bars which double up as brasseries at lunch and dinner times. The concentration of restaurants in the pedestrianised area of Rue La Huchette in the Latin quarter is also a magnet, with their brochettes of giant prawns and lamb chops out on display. The prevalent theme changes every few years, from North African couscous, through Greek Cypriot to Swiss fondue, and currently featuring a newly fashionable ethnic cuisine – regional French! Unlike in England at this period, you can order a Pastis without getting blank looks, red wine will be in the classic style, not new world, and Leffe beer is always served in chilled glasses. One of my passions is to champion traditional cider so is this a problem in Paris? No, because there are Breton pancake houses everywhere, Creperies which serve savoury buckwheat pancakes with bowls of breton cidre bouchee. That’s lunch on arrival sorted then, one of the things that make Paris breaks an instant change of gear for relaxation and inspiration.

Paris Breaks blog

I realise I’ve gone on a bit in this post, which is not really central to the theme of this research blog, whatever that’s supposed to be, but I haven’t even covered the half of what I was intending to write about Paris, there’s so much to go into. I could just write and write about Paris whenever I have some time or need to escape into memories so what I’ll do from now on is to try starting up a new Paris Breaks blog and post a short series of articles and images occasionally over there as well.

**eurostar breaks to Paris**

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Why is Samaritaine in Paris still closed?

When I was taking an Eastertime short Paris break this year, I found the Samaritaine flagship store by the Pont Neuf to be closed. Galleries Lafayette was closed too, but the Samaritaine building had a sign up saying something along the lines of closed indefinitely for security reasons.

the Samaritaine building in Paris from Pont Neuf

I was back in Paris last week for a few days and guess what – it’s still closed.

Any idea what’s up with this grand old Art Nouveau / Deco building next to the Seine? On one of my recent Paris breaks I noticed that it still looks spectacular at night from the left bank, all lit up except for the giant letters of the name Samaritaine.

** Online bargain Eurostar Breaks to Paris **

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about Paris Breaks on the DARnet Blog