I use any excuse to travel; so when I realised it was a bank holiday and we had no plans, my boyfriend and I hopped in our camper van and headed over to France for a couple of nights. Though I have been to Paris a few times before it was our first time taking van and also using the Euro tunnel – so was extra exciting.
I have put together a little video so you can see what we got up to, which mainly involved A LOT of driving since our van’s max speed is 60 mph; despite this we also managed to squeeze in some sightseeing, picnicking and Disneyland.
I thought with the combination of becoming experienced road trippers and visitors to France I would share some of my tips:
On the Road
- You will need to get a European Driving kit which includes ; Hazard warning triangle, first aid kit, headlamp beam converter, reflective emergency jacket, Magnetic GB plate/sticker and breathalysers. It is illegal not to have all of these in your car and if you are caught without them you will receive an on the spot fine. Though they are available on the ferry it is often cheaper to pick them up before you go. (Halfords, Argos, AA, RAC are just some of the stockists).
- Service stations are super well equipped with snacks, car tools and gadgets, however they do often lack toilet seats, soap and toilet roll so be prepared to squat, take tissue and sanitiser.
- When there is a height restriction on the road take it seriously, there is no wiggle room. We learned this the hard way after almost loosing the roof of our van in a tunnel, setting of alarms and having to take the side slip of shame past the other motorists.
- Stay alert as exits come out of nowhere.
- Have cash ready for tolls sometimes they will close the card payment lanes with no explanation or alternative.
- If you plan to get the ferry or tunnel be early rather than late. When available they will move you to the next crossing so you don’t have to wait around, if you are late you pay big bucks to cross the channel £££
- If you are heading to Calais get there early: there is a great outlet with stores such as Zadig and Voltaire, Adidas and Quicksilver. Also stock up on booze and food at the mega Auchan where you can get a decent bottle of wine for as cheap as €4. There is also a Sephora opposite which is an added bonus if you are as addicted to their make-up like I am.
In Paris – Attractions
- If you do want to go to attractions such as Notre Dame, The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower go early in the morning – the queues get insanely long.
- If you are feeling fit and want to miss the queues at the Eiffel Tower you can get cheaper tickets with less of a wait if you choose to walk up it.
- Mona Lisa is tiny and people crowd around to see it, just something to be aware of if you are heading to The Louvre. There are plenty of other wonderful pieces to admire.
- The love locks are no more, but Paris is still romantic if you are into all that.
- Though bus tours are a great way to see as much of the city as possible, I would advise doing a little research on where the locals go, walk or cycle. It is the way that we have stumbled across the best hidden gems like the Siene side bars at Berges, Pink Flamingo Pizza and Omaya Vintage.
- If you are doing Paris on a tight budget shop in local boulangeries and the well stocked supermarkets, then eat in one of the lovely parks or along the Seine, it is super cheap and a great way to take in the city.
- If you are into Street Art there are some great tours, and live paintings; you can download a free walking tour from Spotted by Locals.
- Book your tickets online in advance to avoid queuing and to receive discounts.
- Disneyland is not the same as in America it is smaller and a bit dirty but still fun. (I will have a post up on this shortly)
- If you plan on doing various tourist attractions it is often cheaper to buy a Paris City Pass.
Paris – Getting Around
- Plan your journey from the airport if you are getting a late flight, public transport and the airport shuts down which can be quite disconcerting, however there is a bus if you can find it!
- If you are getting the Metro it is often cheaper and saves time getting a day ticket or buy a book of 10 tickets instead of individual journeys.
- Lots of people do not pay for the Metro and will squeeze through the barrier with you; don’t fight it, they will only push you out of the way it is much easier to go with the flow and let people pass by.
- I have witnessed a few people reliving themselves in the Metro walk ways – not really a tip just a heads up.
- If staying outside of central Paris be aware that trains get cancelled with no explanation so don’t be surprised if you have to wait around for a long time. Try to arrive at stations way before the last train or pay for a very expensive taxi.
Paris – General
- Watch out for Pick pockets! We met a lovely expat on the train who not only got off and guided us to his favourite burger place, Lou Lou’s but was very insistent that we watch our belongings as there is an ever increasing problem with theft.
- There are lots of ‘deaf’ children walking around asking for tourists to sign a petitions or make donation – this is a scam.
- Though Paris is fairytale beautiful it is a city so there are some rough areas and a mix of people so stay alert, and try not to look too much like a tourist. Basically, don’t walk around with a map out and a camera around you neck as I can’t stress enough that, though idyllic, Paris is a city filled with opportunist thieves.
- People will speak to you in French but quickly switch to English if you do not respond back in French or look overly confused, they are not being rude, they are French (this may seem obvious but I have had a few people saying that French people are rude for speaking their native tongue instead of English, which is simply absurd).
Remember that you are in a different country and therefore things are not the same as the UK – if something unexpected happens, roll with it. One of my number one frustrations is overhearing people say ‘Well this would never happen in Britain” as if the UK is the rule maker for the entire world, please don’t pack your superiority complex.
Read blogs (not just mine) and search Pinterest for local knowledge and unique places instead of following the often fun but well trodden tourist trail!
To summarise, plan ahead if you want to do popular attractions, if not grab a bike or put on your walking shoes and explore, remember that though Paris is pretty it is still a city so don’t make yourself a target by having your belonging in obvious places, embrace the cultural differences.