Retro Chick is back from her European jaunt. I had a few days of unrivalled luxury, all on a budget of next to nothing. Some things I was very lucky with and others required a little hard work and budgeting.
Hairband - Topshop * Sunglasses - Wilkinsons * Silk Dress - M&S via a Charity Shop * Leather Belt - Vintage * Scarf - Lowie from Cerise UK * Boots - Shoe Zone * City Tote - Lulu Guinness
I’m sure you don’t need to know every detail of my trip, but I thought maybe a few handy tips on how to live like a Princess on your next mini break without the budget might be handy.
I was lucky enough to win Leisure Select tickets on Eurostar in a Little Break, Big Difference competition meaning we had big comfy seats, food and wine served at our seats and a selection of magazines to browse through. We also did a bit of research in advance and figured we could walk to our hotel rather than get the Metro or a cab. I may possibly have regretted this slightly on Friday as I ended up walking about 8 miles that day and I was very glad to be able to sit down on the train for 2 hours at the end of it.
Tips for travel:
- Research your times and dates. If you can be a bit flexible you might save enough money to upgrade yourself to the next level or have a lot more to spend on arrival.
- Check out the area. If you can walk to your hotel you’ll save money, and if your hotel is reasonably central you won’t need to worry about the expenses getting to and from attractions.
- If you can’t upgrade them give yourself a taste of in seat luxury by packing a picnic. Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches and a mini bottle of fizz will make your journey feel more luxurious than an overpriced cardboard sandwich from the buffet.
Thanks to Mr Chicks job involving a lot of travelling we booked the Intercontinental Le Grand using priority club points earnt from stays at UK Holiday Inns.
Before we arrived we emailed the hotel to let them know it was our Anniversary and to ask if it would be possible to have a room upgrade. Cheeky, but worth it. On arrival we were upgraded to a Junior Suite with a view of the Eiffel Tower and sent a “Welcome” gift of a half bottle of Champagne a box of Petit Fours and a handwritten card wishing us a Happy Anniversary which was unexpected but very pleasant!
Top Tips for Accommodation:
- If you don’t ask you don’t get. If it’s a special occasion make sure you let them know and ask for an upgrade if one is available. After all, the worst that can happen is you’ll get exactly what you paid for.
- Use websites like Tripadvisor to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money. Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s good.
- Remember you pay a premium for location so make sure you do your research and get a good balance between location and value for money.
- If you stay in hotels even occasionally in the UK it’s worth checking if they have any loyalty schemes you can join.
EATING AND DRINKING
I like food a lot, and Paris is a great place to go and eat. I spent 2 days tucking into crepes from street vendors, croque madame in tiny cafes and cheese topped french onion soup in restaurants and I am now far too scared to get on the scales, especially as I returned to the UK with a handbag stuffed with cheese. We steered clear of ordering anything in the hotel as 12 Euros for a beer seemed a little excessive to me!
I wish there were more bars in the UK that offered table service, though possibly having to stand up to fetch more drink is a good idea to remind yourself how steady you are on your feet! We spent a pleasant hour or so in a little cafe with a bottle of wine where olives were brought to the table for free and constantly refreshed (salty olives, they’re not stupid!) and even managed to find an actual pub serving draught Guinness, though it turned out to be 7 Euros a pint, so possibly worth sticking to wine….
P.S. My hair comb here was given to me by Abilu Creations. If you like it then keep your eyes peeled for a great Christmas giveaway in a couple of weeks!
Top tips for Eating and Drinking
- Don’t eat or drink in the hotel. It will likely be hideously expensive. Find a local super market and stock up on in room drinks and nibbles rather than opening the mini bar. When you’re drinking your glass of fizz you won’t care where it came from.
- Keep an eye on your location. Eating in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, for instance, is probably going to bump up the prices. Yes, I paid over 5 Euros for a coffee, and it wasn’t even in Starbucks, I am that fool.
- Check out the set menus. You can save money and you’ll find it easier to stick to a budget if you go for one of the “3 courses for 25 Euro” type offers.
- Plan ahead. If you want to eat out that evening then make sure you keep your eyes open during the day for places that look nice with reasonably priced menus. It’ll save you wandering the streets starving before finally picking the most expensive restaurant in Paris on a whim.
- Take advantage of Happy Hour. Many Parisian bars have reduced drinks prices between 5-8pm. Cocktails and beers could be up to half price if you check what’s included.
Fun things to see and do in Paris for NOTHING
- Wander through the Jardin des Tullieries, admire the sculpture, relax on a seat by the lake and soak up the atmosphere.
- Window shop in the roads around the Place Vendome. Cartier jewellery? Don’t mind if I do….
- Play dodge the tat sellers at the Eiffel Tower. Stand still and look at a map and then run away when they start towards you jingling their big rings of model Eiffel Towers.
- Pose for photographs that make you look like major landmarks are growing out of your head. Even better, take someone elses photo and subtly arrange THEM so major landmarks are growing out of their heads and they won’t know till later.
- Visit the Sacre Couer and run up and down the steps pretending you’re in Amelie.
- Walk along the Seine. Hold hands and kick through the leaves if it’s Autumn. Aw, how romantic.
- If someone comes up to you in the street and tells you they’ve found a ring just tell them how lucky they are and walk away. Don’t give them any money.
- Get your walking shoes on. Wearing shoes you can actually walk in means you can save on metro fares and see more of the city while you wander.
- Don’t forget a map. You might feel like a big fat tourist studying your map, but that’s better than feeling lost. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch you can download apps with a map of Paris you can access offline, or use Google Maps.
- Spend your change. Familiarise yourself with coins and don’t just hand over your notes for all transactions. It’s much easier to change notes back when you get home meaning your not just throwing away perfectly good money.
- Don’t forgo the luxury. This is all about having a trip that feels luxurious without spending a fortune, so pick your luxuries wisely. If you’ve saved money by buying in room nibbles at the super market, walking everywhere and begging for room upgrades then make sure you spend some on something that will make you feel special like hot chocolate at Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli or a glass of Champagne at Cafe de la Paix.
- If you want to avoid returning home feeling all smug about your reasonably priced luxury then being smacked with a big fat phone bill then DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE even more importantly don’t check your emails. If you’re desperate to keep up to date then McDonalds offer free Wi Fi you can connect to and keep in touch.