I wanted to treat my 12 year old son to a break away for his brilliant work during lockdown and for being such a trooper. But what to choose?
We weren’t sure about flying so I thought a Eurostar trip to Paris might be the answer. Eurostar leaves from St Pancras which, as Londoners, was very easy for us to get to. It was also very easy to book and reassuring as they have an easy rescheduling option should you need to due to the uncertain times we are in.
Eurostar clearly explain their processes to keep you safe. They require you to wear a mask at all times, they thoroughly clean the trains and make sure social distancing is kept to in each carriage by spacing out the bookings with care throughout the train.
We had a table seat all to ourselves out and returning and felt very safe. The food carriage was closed to prevent people travelling up and down the train but they told us this very clearly so we were able to prepare and bring our own refreshments.
Unlike Air travel you can bring liquids and foods through security but there was also a Pret A manger open in the waiting area. There is a form you need to fill in when travelling back into the UK and Eurostar reminded us about this and had links to the necessary website. I was able to fill it in on my phone and produce the form on screen for the passport officer to check so no need to worry about printing bits of paper. It is important to remember to do it though or you cant get back into the country!
We booked a hotel at the Gare Du Nord, just in case! We stayed at an Ibis just outside the station and found they had good measures in place for safety including reserving the lift for going up only and the stairs for going down and hand gel available at every turn. During our stay no cleaners would be coming in and laundry baskets were provided on each floor should we want to deposit our towels and pick up new ones at the front desk at any time.
As an extra precaution I brought wipes and used them in our room on all the door handles, switches etc but I felt this was just an extra as the Ibis hotel and our room was very clean.
Parisians are taking mask wearing very seriously and I did not once see someone on the Metro without a mask. In fact there is a fine of 135 euros for anyone in an enclosed public space or on public transport without one. It was still quite cramped on the metro though and we found avoiding rush hour travel times was the best option by far. We carried hand gel with us at all times and used it copiously before during and after.
It was essential to book early for any activities. The websites for the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were very easy to use and having the tickets saved on my phone made entry super easy and efficient. For the Eiffel Tower there was no queue at all! No queues for the lifts and a very relaxed and spacious atmosphere to the whole tower. Having been before during summer several years ago I have to say that this time it was a dream how easy it was and how well they were limiting the crowds to ensure we could keep our distance.
We found this also in the Louvre. The queues were there but managed by timed entrance and spaced out well. The frustration is that there is many services closed for the louvre so no left luggage available, no cloak room and very few cafes open but they did not allow liquids so be prepared to be very thirsty if you stay in a long time! The famous Mona Lisa has never been so easy to see. There was no massive throng of photo taking tourists just an organised queuing system. Joining one of two quick moving queues you were able to get very close more easily than ever and take your photos up close and on your own.
Paris outdoors is always the best thing about Paris and wandering the parks and streets was lovely. Paris is full of beautiful parks and we had a relaxed time walking under the trees and eating ice cream. The view from the steps of the Sacre Cour cathedral is always worth the climb and the cafes and bars all have outdoor seating and were perfect for sitting in the sun outside. Paris was as beautiful as ever and very worth the visit.
I did question the wisdom in visiting a city during these covid times but now more than ever, big tourist attractions are taking extra measures to ensure visits are managed efficiently. The use of timed tickets sold in advance has almost eradicated the usual long queues and big crowds. Book early, come on time and bring a mask and you are able to visit attractions like you have never seen them, quiet relaxed and stress free.