Travelling fast is not my style. I’ve never been one to opt for the Contiki tours – seeing ten cities in as many days. Not that this isn’t a great way to see the world for some, but I know what I’m like, and what I enjoy. I know that for me, feeling like I haven’t had enough time somewhere, like I haven’t been able to appreciate it, and to leave it without feeling satisfied that I have really seen that place, is one of the most frustrating things in the world.
This weekend, for the first time, I experienced rushed travel. I had an utter whirlwind weekend in Paris. I have a girlfriend from home living there for a few months, so I decided to make the most of the situation and visit the famous city over the weekend – still something unfathomable for a girl from New Zealand. It would usually take me a weekend just to get to Paris. One of the easiest-to-get-to and most popular travel destinations for Brits, I get the feeling I will have ample opportunity to re-visit the city of love while based in London, so I was content this once to try out something I’d never usually do.
Pausing for a quick photo by the picture-perfect Notre Dame with Tash.
I arrived, I photographed, I walked until I felt ready to collapse, and my poor friend Tash nobly accompanied me in my frenzied pursuit to see Paris with a deadline. She’s a superstar. I was incredibly lucky with the weather and season... the city was full of blossoms at their very prettiest. Paris struck me as a very feminine city, in the way a place never has before, and the pink flowers in bloom everywhere just emphasised it all. Parisienne chic indeed. It was a gorgeous, surreal, very full-on few days, in which I learnt some valuable lessons about how to get the most out of a brief holiday. Below are my recommendations for any of you planning or embarking on travel with time constraints.
Comparing train and bus prices, I chose to travel by the much cheaper bus from London to Paris, but do not recommend it. When you are going somewhere you think you’re going to love, or even somewhere you don’t expect much from, you don’t want to spend any longer than you have to just getting there... Especially when you’re not going to be there for long.
Going to visit someone who lives in your destination / has been there before / has family there / whatever, you are guaranteed to get more out of your limited time. For me, going to stay with a Kiwi girlfriend living in Paris was perfect – she is still new enough to the city that she finds everything exciting, but she has had the time (in the calmer, off-peak season – bonus) to explore and discover the best stops for me.
Considered the best free view in Paris, the top of a central department store is not somewhere I would have thought to prioritise without Tash!
And the impressive cieling inside upmarket French department store, Galeries Lafayette
Delicious macaroons were bought at historic favourite, Ladurée
They were then eaten under the Eiffel Tower. Just a little bit dreamy.
Just because rushed travel is... well, rushed, doesn’t mean every moment of your trip has to feel frantic. It is important to choose one spot on your list of places to see where you allow yourself some time to just chill out. Holidaying is about relaxing as well as exploring, so make sure you get in some quality R&R! Besides, I’ve always loved just sitting around and people-watching to soak up the atmosphere of new places.
The view from our down-time resting area... Not too shabby.
I know at the end of a 12 hour day on your feet, all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry silently in the corner, but hold those thoughts! Most anywhere is worth seeing at night, cities perhaps above all. There’s some sort of magical quality of night time; something that has the power to make a place seem completely different to that you see in the light of da;, an environment filled with different people, a whole new atmosphere. You won’t regret postponing sleep for a few hours to learn this first hand.
While having someone to show you around is fantastic, if there is something in particular that really interests you at your travel destination, make sure you put this at the top of your to-see list. I ran out of time quicker than I thought on my last day, and only managed a walk (slash jog) up to Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur where I had about ten minutes to sit on the steps, enjoy the beautiful view and listen to a crowd-pleasing harp player. If I could go back, I would make this my chill-time spot, and recommend it to anyone visiting Paris. It’s stunning!
I hope the above tips come in handy if you find yourself visiting a new place with less time to play with than you might like! I'd love to hear any of your tips on fast travel or what to do on my next trip to this gorgeous city, so feel free to leave comments below! x