End of November, mum and I met up in Paris for our (almost) annual mother-daughter weekend. I mean, a Christmas weekend in Paris? What could be better? We were both looking forward to it. Making travel plans in the current climate is a bit risky, so when booking, I ensured that all could be cancelled until the week before. Just to be safe. But, against all odds (with Covid cases on the up again, we were a little worried until the last minute) we made it to Paris. And it does seem it was last minute, as travel restrictions were tightened again in the UK whilst we were on our Christmas weekend in Paris.
Have you ever been on a mother-daughter weekend? I don’t mean as a kid. I mean as an adult. Once you’ve been old enough to travel on your own. If not, you definitely should give it a try. For quite some years now, mum and I try and get away on a mother-daughter weekend every year. It all started out as a birthday present for mum’s 60th (no worries mum, I won’t tell the whole world how many years ago that was). And as we both enjoyed it, we made it an annual thing. Or at least tried. We didn’t quite manage every single year. 2020 was a total wipe out obviously. And we missed others before. But it is something we both look forward to. In the past, we had been to Vienna (twice actually), Prague and our last mother-daughter weekend was to Budapest (including a relaxing afternoon at Szechenyi Baths) two years ago.
So, when I suggested a Christmas weekend in Paris a few months back, it took less than a minute to convince her. In fact, mum’s only reply was ‘When’.
Back in the day, our first ever mother-daughter weekend was also a trip to Paris (although not a Christmas weekend in Paris).
Paris is super convenient for both of us to get to. I take the Eurostar from London to Paris and mum hops onto the ICE from Mannheim in Germany. Although we would arrive at different train stations in Paris, Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est are only a five-minute walk apart from one another. So, easy peasy really.
Christmas weekend in Paris: Friday
Mum and I would both take trains on Friday afternoon. Mine was due to leave from St. Pancras at 14.30 and I had it all worked out perfectly. I would work half a day, take the train into London, then hop on the tube to get to Kings Cross St Pancras. All perfectly timed and not an issue at all.
Well, all perfect, until I learned the evening before that a tube strike was set to go ahead in London that day. And just like that, the journey wasn’t quite as quick and straight forward anymore. Pair that with potentially longer waits at check-in and border control and I started panicking about missing my train. As if… when have I ever missed a Eurostar (or flight)? But it doesn’t matter how experienced I am as a traveller; I tend to play it extra safe. I am just not a final boarding call kinda girl. I am the one already in line before check-in even opens. And this mother-daughter weekend was no exception. In the end, the tube strike wasn’t as bad as feared and I made it to St Pancras in good time. Security would open at 12 for the 14.30 train, I arrived at 11.55 (and yes, they did make me wait those five minutes before letting me through).
Once through, I headed straight for the Eurostar lounge. A coffee (as the cocktail bar was closed unfortunately) and a magazine later, I settled into my seat and waited for boarding to commence. Meanwhile, mum kept updating me on her travel progress. She made it to the train station and onto the train, all good. Unfortunately, both our trains were rather busy. Seems we weren’t the only ones planning a Christmas weekend in Paris.
Mum’s train was scheduled to arrive in Paris about an hour ahead of mine, so she would pick me up at Gare du Nord and we could then head to our hotel together.
During my eight months of weekly commuting to Paris, I’ve had hotels all over Paris. But for our mother-daughter-weekend, we picked a hotel in the 18th arrondissement. In walking distance of Sacre-Coeur and just below Cimetière de Montmartre.
Being a little lazy, we took a cab from Gare du Nord to the hotel (at 30 Euros for the short ride, I wouldn’t normally do it, if I am absolutely honest, but we both enjoyed not having to schlepp suitcases up and down stairs or onto busses).
With hotel check in done, it was time to head out and explore Paris.
Weather forecast for our Christmas weekend in Paris wasn’t the best, with rain predicted for most of the weekend. But as it wasn’t raining yet, we chanced it and started to walk towards Sacre-Coeur. I love walking around Montmartre in the evening. I’ve stayed in the vicinity several times before, so kind of knew my way around.
Heading in the rough direction of the basilica, we were also on the hunt for some dinner. Coming past the very picturesque Maison Rose (not just a perfect Instagram opportunity, but it also happens to be one of the Emily in Paris filming locations), we chanced it and hoped for an empty table. Well, empty tables they had, but obviously nothing available without reservation. Better luck next time (maybe). But with plenty of options around, it didn’t take long to find another brasserie. One that did not only have empty seats, but also some live music.
After food and red wine (we are in Paris after all), we went to admire Sacre-Coeur by night (and the stunning view over Paris you get from up there), before heading down the narrow roads and in a long circle back towards the hotel. Not without a quick cocktail nightcap.
Our Christmas weekend in Paris: Saturday
As we didn’t leave Montmartre on Friday evening, it wasn’t until Saturday morning that we bought ourselves a 2-day Carte Visite, to enable us to get around Paris on all public transport (picking the right ticket when visiting Paris can be a little confusing, but once you’ve worked it out, it is fairly straight forward).
Our first stop of the day was the Eiffel Tower. As you can’t really spend a weekend in Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower up close.
But after that, the rest of our day was pretty much dedicated to all things Christmas. There are so many things to do, when spending a Christmas weekend in Paris: Christmas shopping, seeing the Christmas lights, visiting at least one Christmas market….
We started with Christmas shopping. Galeries Lafayette Maison et Gourmet for some chocolates and other French goodies.
Then over to the main Galeries Lafayette building for more Christmas shopping and to see the amazing Christmas decorations and tree in the dome. A little bonkers and very colourful, the Christmas tree sure is an eyecatcher and I did enjoy seeing it.
Up to the roof top for more stunning views of Paris (although it was still a little early in the day, so the Christmas lights on the Grand Boulevards weren’t on yet).
Once we had enough of Galeries Lafayette and Christmas shopping (somehow, we spent half an afternoon in there and didn’t really make it to the neighbouring Printemps, let alone any of the other shops), we headed straight down Auber station and took the RER to La Defense. To visit the big Christmas market there. Originally, the plan was to go and see the Christmas market by Notre Dame de Paris. But last minute I discovered that it wouldn’t actually open until 10th December. Well, that would have been a disappointing discovery. I mean, a Christmas weekend in Paris without a Christmas market? Nah.
The entire Christmas market was fenced in, and everyone had to show their pass sanitaire (French vaccination certificate) before entering. And even though the market was outdoors, we were required to wear a face covering at all times. Which was a good thing, since keeping your distance proofed rather tricky, when trying to look at the stalls.
We did a round, looked at all the stalls, but didn’t really linger for mulled wine or bought anything.
As it was late afternoon, we decided to head to Champs-Elysées next, for the next point on our Christmas weekend in Paris to do list: see some Christmas lights and decorations there.
It wasn’t quite dark enough when we arrived, but once we walked up and down Champs-Elysées and did some window shopping, at five o’clock sharp the Christmas lights lit up and bathed the entire streets in twinkling red Christmas lights. Beautiful to look at, although quite tricky to photograph. I mean, for the best angle you really would need to stand in the middle of Champs-Elysées and ideally have no car in view (and not get run over) … not likely to happen on a Saturday afternoon.
As we have been on our feet all day, we eventually headed back towards the hotel, but not without stopping along the way for dinner and cocktails.
Christmas weekend in Paris: Sunday
The final day of our mother-daughter-weekend. Our trains back would be late afternoon, so we still had almost an entire day on our Christmas weekend in Paris.
We booked tickets to go and see the Dali immersive experience at the Atelier des Lumières. But since we somehow fell out of bed extremely early, we headed towards Notre Dame de Paris first. For a little walk around (and to see how the rebuilding work on the cathedral was going).
Eventually it was time to enter the exhibition. I’ve yet to see the Van Gogh immersive exhibition (I didn’t get a chance when it was on in Paris but have now bought tickets to go and see it in London in the new year), so was really looking forward to the Dali one.
We spent a good hour in the dark room, looking at the artwork appearing and moving all around us (it wasn’t just Dali by the way. At first there was a short experience on Gaudi to start with). It is difficult to describe what you see and experience, so I won’t even attempt. But if you get a chance, I would urge you to go and see it (it is only on in Paris until early January, but I guess it will be shown elsewhere after that).
By the time we came out of the exhibition, the rain had eventually caught up with us. As we didn’t really have any further plans for the day, we decided to head back towards the Grands Magazines. For some more shopping and a spot of lunch (and to stay dry). So, after we completely failed the previous day, we eventually did make it to Printemps on Sunday. On the hunt for food, we went straight up to the 6th floor to have lunch at the Printemps Brasserie. First time I’ve been there but having lunch under that magnificent glass dome was pretty special (albeit a tad pricy).
By the time we finished lunch, the rain had gone, so I decided to head up to the Printemps roof terrace for another beautiful view over Paris. Although next door to Galeries Lafayette, the view is a little different… you see less of the Opera Garnier, but therefore you get a nice view of the Eiffel Tower.
In the afternoon, we picked up our suitcases from the hotel and headed back to the station. Mum’s train would leave about two hours before mine, so we went to Gare de l’Est first. After one last coffee it was time to say goodbye (at that time, we still thought it wouldn’t be for long, as Mr T and I were meant to come home for Christmas, but we now know that this won’t happen … sadly). Mum boarded her ICE back to Germany (thanks to travelling within Schengen area, there is no border control or safety check to pass when travelling between Paris and Germany by train). And I walked over to Gare du Nord for my Eurostar back to London (not without another visit to the Eurostar lounge obviously).
Having enjoyed our pre-Christmas weekend in Paris, I am already thinking about where to head for our mother-daughter-weekend next year. So many beautiful cities to explore, let’s see where we’ll end.