Though my long weekend trip was nearly three months ago now, and I need to apologise for not posting much since then, I’d really like to share some of my tips for Paris with you!
First of all – don’t go to paris in July/August!
It’s so hot and humid
It’s overrun with tourists and has very few locals on which to practice your rusty French/ confirm or discredit the long-held stereotype of Parisian rudeness
Prices remain astronomical, maybe even more so…
However, Paris is still beautiful with long hours of daylight to wander around the various arrondissements or laze on a Seine bateau-mouche/ summertime only riverside (man made) beach. Such a concentration of people from all over the world that is hard to find elsewhere and the iconic Champs Élysées finish of the Tour de France do reduce the frustration of the heat-induced fatigue you will definitely experience!
As you may know (see Tour de Yorkshire posts here and here) I am cycling mad and couldn’t resist the opportunity (and cheap flights) to experience the Grand Finale of the world’s biggest cycling race for the first time.
The experience was somehow less fantastic than the Grand Départ a few weeks earlier (maybe the heat was getting to me) but still quite entertaining (especially the 70 year old Frenchman who invited me to join him in Mauritius for 3 months!).
The excitement started with the first edition of La Course – a women’s race consisting of a 13 lap circuit from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde and back. It was incredible to see world champion Marianne Vos in action!
Next up was La Caravane (yes, it was as boring as the first time) and finally the men’s race – 9 fast laps of the same Champs Élysées circuit as La Course. The speed making it harder to identify the riders, not knowing what was happening on the rest of the circuit, and the crowds made this experience less enjoyable but I’m still glad I got to be a part of it all at least once!
Tips for watching Le Tour de France in Paris:
Pick your spot early! If you want a front-row position on the Champs Élysées then the earlier you arrive there the better – I would say 4-8 hours before the expected arrival of the race. For spots near the finish line or podium you may need to be there even earlier although this area is usually taken up by VIP seating anyway.
Bring your own seat! Or be prepared to sit on the ground (possibly in the sun, shade is hard to come by). There’s a lot of waiting involved. Bring your own food, drinks and book, and most importantly enthusiasm – make friends with everyone around you, it will help to pass the time!
Shout Allez! Allez! Allez! (go, go, go) when the race passes.
Try to be in Paris for a day or two before the race – to adjust to the heat!
Where to stay: Paris is full of accommodation options! I stayed in a hostel in Montmartre, a fun area near Sacré Couer, but a bit far from Paris’ main attractions. Of course that’s what the metro is for!
Where to eat: Food is expensive! Go to supermarkets, fast food restaurants and takeaways when possible. However I still treated myself to a crêpe au chocolat in the touristy Place du Tertre at the top of Montmartre – worth it!
Where to drink: On the steps of Sacré Couer as the sun is going down, with the whole of Paris spread out before you. There’s always some kind of music and a great atmosphere. Bring your own drinks or even a picnic!
Coffee: Try a hazelnut café au lait from Pomme de Pain found all over the city.
Getting around: Buy a 10 ticket ‘carnet’ for the metro for €7 valid for all of zone 1 i.e. the city centre.
Avoid: Walking too much – so tiring! – and the Eiffel Tower – I’ve never seen so many lines! Go to Sacré Couer instead.