Looking forward to a return to Paris in 2014, and another trip to the South of France (including a new cycling adventure in Provence), set me thinking about the wonderful self-guided cycling adventure my husband and I had in Provence in 2007. It was fantastic, and it occurred to me that there may be others contemplating a similar trip who might find our experience useful.
As a couple of fifty-something New Zealanders who had never been to France, we were certainly going into unfamiliar territory. I had five years of schoolgirl French under my belt, but have been fascinated with France for as long as I can remember. Somehow I just knew I would love it and I managed to persuade my husband he would love it too – thankfully, he did, and he is now as keen to return as me.
We began our trip by taking the Eurostar from London to Paris because we love trains and I wanted to face my fear of going into a tunnel surrounded by sea! I found there was nothing to fear – the approach happens so quickly and before you know it, you are are hurtling into the Channel Tunnel from the English side, and voila! – in almost the blink of an eye, you are in France! Now I can’t wait to do it again.
Arriving at the Gare du Nord we felt a ittle apprehensive as we had to make our way to our hotel via the underground and I had to trial my limited French – imagine my surprise when I made myself understood! However, the woman I spoke to in the ticket office spoke back to me in English! And so it was in many other interactions, but no-one laughed at my attempts and my confidence with the language grew. In reality, finding our way to the hotel was eventually fairly effortless, and soon we walking towards our delightful Left Bank accommodation Hotel du Levant, which is an absolute gem.
Hotel du Levant is located in Rue de la Harpe and the metro station exit is right at the top of the street – very convenient!. This is a family-run hotel – it is absolutely charming – clean and comfortable, with friendly and helpful staff who speak excellent English, and best of all? – the location. It is so central to all the the historic sights, many of which are within walking distance, depending on how fit you are.
Our first day was spent doing a doing pre-arranged bus and Batobus trip – both were really great for getting our bearings. Over the remaining two days we walked and walked -exploring, taking in the sites, visiting the Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, relaxing in the Jardin des Tuileries, meandering along the Champs-Elysees, eating crepes on the roadside, tasting French cuisine, drinking French wine – it was everything we had dreamed of and more. In those three days, we barely even scratched the surface – but we felt completely at home in Paris – to us it felt like the right place to be and we knew we would go back…. however, Provence was beckoning – but that’s another post away…..