How to take a three-night trip to Paris over New Year without breaking the bank
Where to stay?
Having stayed in Paris before, we decided to stay in an area we had not spent a great deal of time in previously. We wanted a cheap yet clean and comfortable room, preferably boasting a good view. Having looked on numerous hotel search websites we decided upon a quaint hotel, Le Regent Montmatre, based in Montmatre which, given an upgrade, had unrivalled views of the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart). We paid around 80 euros per room, per night but this included an upgrade to a room on the top floor with a balcony / terrace views of Basilique du Sacre-Coeur and private bathroom (which was huge), and it was only two stops from Gard Du Nord on the metro line to Anvers Station. Paris is filled with low cost accommodation and so long as reviews have been checked before booking I have never been disappointed.
What to do
Returning to our stop at Anvers it appeared other people had decided upon our own little idea too - the streets of Montmatre were buzzing with excitement of a new decade within grasp. Armed with a bottle of cheap wine from the supermarket and two plastic glasses from our room we followed the wave of people climbing the 130 meters of steps to the hill top plateau awaiting us. Once at the top, the views were spectacular. The Eiffel Tower, although not as close as we had anticipated, was in clear view and the light show which counted us down to the New Year was a sequence I will never forget. Meeting other like-minded people on the top of ‘this hill’ there seemed a sense of community and togetherness and people cheered and wished each other "Happy New Year" in the many languages we all called our mother tongue. Sitting a little longer than perhaps we needed to we watched the selection of home bought firework displays as they welcomed in a new decade over the French capital.
Exercise, on holiday?
On the arrival of the next morning we decided to venture on foot down further down Montmatre Hill until we reached the banks of the River Seine and the Hôtel de Ville (town hall). Taking in the different districts we felt as though we had truly been welcomed into the Parisian lifestyle. Bistros and shops spilled out onto the pavements and little alleyways turned themselves into curious arcades bending and weaving, intersecting the blocks of apartments and offices. This became my favourite experience of this visit to Paris. Our lack of expectancy allowed us to admire a life that seemed so seamless. Visiting the numerous brand stores around the Town Hall we had found our purpose of this walk, the ice rink.
The ice rink is set up in front of the town hall every year and, although is advertised as free, you still do have to hire skates so is more low cost than no cost. Still my first experience of ice skating in Paris on New Year's day is magical moment I never thought I would have experienced and, although my skills are not quite as honed as some of the other skaters, it's just as - if not more - fun trying not to go over and onto the ice.
Cultural things to see - it has to be done
Other places we chose to visit on this occasion included the Musée D'Orsay, a converted railway station which now houses many of the art greats including Gauguin, van Gogh, Degas, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec and Manet. To our delight whilst we were here the Art Nouveau exhibition was on display when we visited so was a great opportunity to see the extension of what had begun in Paris in the 1800s which had made such a vast impression it was still visible today on many of the iron railing and Metro signs littered around the city. Also, a little tip if you visit this museum on the first Sunday of the month - it’s free although if you bring ID as proof of age anybody under 30 gets a discount. Although either way I would come early. Unfortunately we did not take our own advice and spent a good hour queueing to gain entrance, albeit very worth it!
Another great activity we did on our whistle-stop tour of Paris on the cheap was to hire bikes. On previous visits I have noticed an array of cream and silver coloured bicycles which seem to be furniture along all of the streets we walked along. I found out that with the help of a credit card these bikes can be hired for the day, for the week, month etc and for very little money! Although easier with two people we selected our two bicycles and followed the onscreen instructions which are present at every bike station remembering to ‘validate’ all of our selections. We managed to collect two bikes (with more good luck as opposed to good planning) and ventured along the banks of the Seine taking in the beauty of the riverside views which could so easily be missed altogether.
Eating and drinking - again it has to be done
Many of the main tourist drags have numerous bars and restaurants, which are more than willing to fill your stomach and empty your wallet at the same time. We stuck to eating in many of the back street bistros by our hotel, which boasted three-course set menus from 9 euros. This was also the case in the Latin Quarter. The cobbled streets and ballooned eateries are fighting to get you in and at very reasonable costs. Our favourite was a small Chinese restaurant, L'auberge des Trois Saveurs, (01 43 21 39 20) we visited on previous trips and does a charming egg fried rice - however this does contain meat so be careful if you are a vegetarian (my partner is vegetarian so we learnt from our last visit).
A strange little corner bar (Les Caves Populaires) also featured the only inside grass carpet that I have ever come into contact with - it must play havoc with the punters after a few drinks! We did spend a lot of time in local cafés watching the world go by and found that even the seats outside were warm and comfortable thanks to the invention of outside heaters.
We tended not to drink at night much - only what we had with our meals - and then retired for an early night and a resumption of our take on the Parisian lifestyle.
We aimed to enjoy a European city cheaply for New Year and Paris completely filled all of our requirements. All thanks to a bit of research and all that the city has to offer!