Table of Contents
Escaping Winter to Europe With a Quick Stopover in Hong Kong
Review: Qantas International Business Lounge Sydney
Review: Qantas A330 Business Suites Sydney to Hong Kong
Review: Conrad Hong Kong Junior Suite
Review: Emirates Business / First Lounge Hong Kong
Review: Emirates 777 First Class Hong Kong to Dubai
Review: Emirates Concourse B First Class Lounge Dubai
Travel: Exploring Amsterdam
Review: Hilton Amsterdam
Travel: Exploring Paris
Review: Drawing Hotel Paris
Review: Etihad First/Business Lounge Paris Airport
We took the high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris, which was a 3.5-hour journey. I really can't speak highly enough of the high-speed rail network in Europe. It is by far the most convenient way to get around and much more comfortable than flying.
As I bought the tickets in advance online, I splurged the extra 15€ and paid for 'First Class', which essentially is a slightly bigger seat. You also get some food and drink included, although the food was nothing to write home about. However, the extra room in the seat was welcome and worth the cost.
The beauty of catching the high-speed rail between countries in Europe is you get dropped off right in the city centre, so our train terminated at Paris Norde a quick check of City Mapper and we just needed to catch an RER train one stop and then transfer to the Metro for three stops to get to our Hotel. The stations are signposted pretty well, so making our way from the high-speed platforms at Paris Norde to the RER station was pretty easy, we purchased our tickets and made our way down to the platform.
On the platform, we got our first introduction to Paris, and it wasn't a good one. As we came down the escalators, the train was pulling up to the platform, so we hurried down to try and get on the train. It was very busy, and there was some form of loud commotion going on. Once we got closer to the train doors, it became apparent that there were two girls who were trying to get off the train and a large group of guys did not want what this to happen. The whole situation escalated very quickly, and at one point one of the guys chased after a girl grabbing her by the hair and dragging her back on the train! At this point I left our bags with Mrs B and went to see if I could assist or at least try and work out what was going on, however not speaking the language it was tough to understand the situation. Thankfully by this time several others got involved, and the two girls got off the train and exited the station with the group of guys staying back. The whole situation left both myself and Mrs B a little shocked and wondering what the heck the rest of Paris was going to be like. Thankfully that was the only sketchy situation we saw, and I am happy to say the rest of Paris was fantastic.
After the small drama at the RER station, we made our way to the Hotel, checked in, got comfortable and started to get our bearings for the surrounding area.
We ended up spending our first full day in Paris just exploring the gardens and parks that connect the Louvre to the Champs-Élysées, grabbing some take away to have a little picnic on the grass with the locals.
A trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Louvre, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The place is a maze, and despite spending the better part of a full day exploring it, I am pretty sure we only saw a fraction of what was on offer.
In my various googling about things to do in Paris, I stumbled across Montparnasse Tower, which has an observation deck on the 56th floor with uninterrupted views of the Eiffel Tower. It is 20€ to get up to the deck, but well worth a visit for the panoramic views of the Paris skyline. If you can, try and aim to visit around sunset as the view is spectacular and you get to see the tower light up at night!
After seeing the Eiffel Tower from afar, we figured we should go check it out up close.
Steak Frites & Cabaret
We wanted to go to a cabaret while in Paris and after reading several reviews landed on the Crazy Horse Paris as apposed to Moulin Rouge. The general consensus is that Moulin Rouge hasn't changed in years and isn't as good a show as Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse is located close to the Champs-Élysées, and as we were going to an evening show we took the opportunity to have dinner in the area at one of the famous Steak Frites places in Paris. Le Relais de L'Entrecôte now has several locations including a location in New York, and it only has one thing on the menu, Steak Frites! The only real choice you have is what you would like to drink. There was a massive line that wrapped around the building before the restaurant was even open, but once open, it moved fairly quickly.
We ordered our Steak Frite, and it did not disappoint. The secret sauce is magic and brings the entire dish to life!
The Crazy Horse cabaret was a 10min walk from the restaurant so nice and convenient.
The show was fantastic and worth seeing, but the bar prices for drinks were extortion so be warned and don't plan on getting anything whilist at the show.
Day Trip to Versailles
We had planned several day trips while in Paris, and the first was to the Palace of Versailles. The Palace is a ~1-hour train ride on the RER from the centre of Paris so easy to get there and back in a day.
By sheer luck, I bought tickets to the Palace online the night beforehand and paid the extra 10€ to get the guided tour which had a small note about skipping the line. Well, this was the best 10€ ever spent! When we got to the Palace, the line for general entry extended through the entire courtyard and didn't seem to be moving.
With the guided tour, we entered via a side gate to a waiting area to meet our group and guide and then we were off. The trip was fantastic and helped get a feel for the history of the Palace and included a visit to the king's chambers which is usually not open to the public.
The tour lasted for 2 hours and then we were left to our own devices to explore the Palace. We made our way out to the gardens, which need to be seen to be believed. How this place was built in the 1600s is mind-boggling!
Day Trip to Reims, Champagne
The second-day trip we planned was a trip to Champagne or more specifically Reims. Reims is a little further from Paris but still achievable as a day trip via high-speed train. It ended up being ~2 hours each way on the train.
Reims is a beautiful little town with a real medieval feel. After getting off the train, we wandered up the main street towards to towering cathedral.
I had booked a tour of the Ruinart champagne house months earlier as they book out fast and I wanted to go to one of the older houses, and it didn't disappoint. The chalk caves were really cool and the champagne tasting wasn't too bad either.
Paris was a fantastic city, with so much to see and do. With limited time we only scratched the surface, and I would certainly go back. I have heard so many mixed reports of people not enjoying Paris, either finding it dirty, expensive or just unpleasant. We certainly didn't experience this; for us, it was a great city to visit.