Who would have thought that 2 cheap nights in Leeds and Harrogate would lead to a luxury weekend break in Paris? Whilst this trip wasn’t exactly cheap, it’s nice to splurge every now and then and we definitely got excellent value for money.
As you might remember, I’m an IHG Rewards Club member and every quarter they set targets for earning mega bonus points which can then be used to pay for hotel stays. You can read about how I planned to pay for this trip in this post from last year. The difference between then and now is that we only stayed 2 nights in Paris rather than 3, as the Jet2 flight back to Leeds was at 9pm. So in the end, I didn’t use the points I earned in the promotion but decided to save them to use on a future trip (San Francisco, anyone?).
We had a reasonable time flight out of Leeds Bradford Airport on the Friday morning. The security staff at the airport were refreshingly pleasant, who knew that was a possibility? Heathrow and Manchester staff could certainly learn some lessons here!
Leeds Bradford has 3 paid lounges ranging from £25pp to £35pp. We went with the cheapest of the 3, The Yorkshire Lounge which I booked through Topcashback. We were in the lounge for just before 9am and it’s a pleasant enough space. The lounge didn’t get busy at all whilst we were there but there was only a scrap of fruit in the buffet when we arrived. Bacon rolls did come out but only 4 at a time so service was slow, and the rolls weren’t very warm. Having said that, the bacon was tasty, if fatty. During our short visit, we packed away 2 bacon rolls, 2 teas, 2 pastries and a glass of juice! Easy worth £25pp considering the amount me & mum paid for 2 bacon rolls and 2 teas when we went to Sorrento.
Taxis from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the centre of Paris are quite expensive and I’m nervous of them having seen the Liam Neeson film Taken, so we hopped on the Roissybus which handily drops a few hundred meters from the hotel we’re staying at. The bus ride is slow though, picking up at every terminal before heading in to Paris. The bus only makes 1 stop in Paris, right outside the Opera so if you’re staying in that area of the city, it makes a lot of sense to take the bus.
After the longest bus ride in the world (well, about 90 minutes) we arrived at the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel at about 3.30pm. Our room still wasn’t ready, but we had Club Lounge access so chilled in the lounge whilst we waited for the room. The lounge was fabulous with free-flowing champagne, wine of all colours, soft drinks as well as a coffee machine with multiple options and hot chocolate. As we arrived at the end of the afternoon tea service, there were finger sandwiches and little cakes on the buffet. The sandwiches were tasty but some of the cakes a bit strange, although they looked amazing. The lounge has a nice view of the Opera, although there’s currently scaffolding in the way whilst they do some refurbishments.
The room was fantastic! We only had a view of the winter garden, not the Opera, but it was a lovely, big room with an excellent bathroom, separate bath and shower and a huge walk-in wardrobe. The super king size bed was very comfy, and we had a separate sofa area. The hotel is refurbishing their rooms at the moment and I don’t think ours was one of the new rooms, but it was in excellent condition. I was a bit nervous of the hotel’s traditional style before I arrived, but it actually works very well in reality.
As this is Paris, we thought we’d indulge in some retail therapy and walked the short distance from the hotel to the Galeries Lafayette department store. Not that we bought anything from Galeries Lafayette, that’s all far too expensive. No, we hit the sales in Zara and H&M! After shopping, we scoped the area around the hotel for restaurants and I loved looking in the bistros and pavement cafes. It’s nearly 15 years since I worked in France, but it felt strangely familiar and it was great to dust off my language skills!
Before heading back out for dinner, we popped our head in to see what was on offer in the Club Lounge and have a few drinks. The evening buffet was very fishy which the other half didn’t enjoy but I tucked in to poached salmon, tempura prawns, salmon soufflé and crudités with tapenade. Whilst it was all delicious, it was a very limited choice; not everyone likes fish and seafood. We both enjoyed the high-end spirits like Grey Goose vodka and Bombay Sapphire gin, but no slim line tonic though!
There was only a 10-minute wait for access to the towers, so we thought we’d give it a go and burn off some of the breakfast and last night’s booze. We ascended the 387 steps fairly easily and the climb was worth it for the fantastic views over the city, even on such a dull and grey day. It was great to see the old bells in the tower and art work depicting the cathedral’s most famous resident – Quasimodo.
Not being 100% sure about what just happened, we worked our way to the Eiffel Tower, stopping for a lunch of croque monsieur and madam in Gustav’s bistro. We didn’t go in the tower itself; the top was closed for refurbishment so I thought I’d save going inside until I could experience the whole building. Instead, we walked around the gardens and across the road to Trocadero for the best view and photo ops. Despite the dull sky, the building still looked magnificent and much bigger than I expected. Paris isn’t a very high-rise city and the tower is visible from lots of areas, but it was still bigger than I imagined.
We crossed to the Arc di Triompe and climbed another 289 steps to the top. I was impressed by the inside of the building, the ceiling looked icing smooth and it was bigger than I thought it would be. The view was spectacular if not a bit foreboding with the grey sky. Much like the best view in New York is from Top of the Rock because you can see the Empire State Building, the best view in Paris is surely from the Arc di Triompe because you can see the Eiffel Tower.
Not far from the hotel, near to Galeries Lafayette, we stopped by a little bistro that looked busy. I wasn’t very hungry so went with escargot starter, salmon and vegetables for main and a creme caramel for dessert. The other half had French onion soup, a cheeseburger and tarte au pomme piled high with cream. The food was excellent, and our waiter had a great French campness. The meal was from a fix priced menu, 3 courses for €24 each which was great value.
In 90 minutes, we covered the building’s original purpose as a fortress, exploring its hidden foundations and moat, beautifully preserved, they almost look new, before flashing by a pink granite Sphinx, one of only a few in the world.
As an IHG Ambassador member, I got 4pm check out of the hotel which was handy asVenice last winter and now Paris, I’m thinking of Rome next year, what do you think?
Date of trip: January 2019
Price paid: £25.00pp for lounge access and fast track security at Leeds Bradford Airport. £105.00pp for the flights booked through Jet2 with a 10% discount code. £210.00pp for the first night at the InterContinental Le Grand including Club Lounge access, with the second night costing £80.00pp, booked direct. Entry to the towers at Notre Dame was €10.00pp but entry to the main building is free. Entry to the Arc di Triomphe was €12.00pp. Entry to The Louvre was €15.00pp plus €12.00pp for the guided tour.
Points earned: 1269 Virgin Flying Club points for paying for everything on my Virgin Atlantic credit card. Approx. 6000 IHG Reward points for the hotel plus contribution to last year’s Accelerate target. The hotel stay will also credit to this quarter’s Accelerate target.
You can learn more about IHG Ambassador membership here.