Travelling Business Class on the Eurostar

On my two trips to Paris this year I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Business Lounge experience on the Eurostar. Thanks to my boyfriend and his #werkperks of gaining enough Eurostar points, it meant we could experience the luxury of the Business class lounge before both our train journeys between London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord.

I’ve only ever managed to travel Business Class once before and that was a fluke via over-booking on a train from Brussels, which I slept through entirety of due to a particularly bad Bruges-induced hangover, so this lounge experience was the real deal.

I wanted to write up what the experience is like here, just in case any of you are wondering if it’s worth it on your next trip to Paris/Amsterdam/Rotterdam.

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The Fast-Speed Access

On our trip, and with the promise of unlimited croissants, we arrived at London St Pancras as early as possible, but as we are complete novices at business travel we headed straight to the standard Eurostar entrance, only to be shouted at and pointed away as we were too early.

Not wanting to give up we attempted to enter via the business class entrance instead, and as it turned out, they welcomed us warmly and politely and we were swiftly sent through security and passport control and straight into the Business lounge. They pride themselves on this speedy service and advertise that you can technically be on your train 10 minutes from the entrance, which is pretty speedy.

The Decor

The interiors of both business lounges – at London and Paris – had the feel of a swanky bar (and the unlimited drinks to match, but more on that later…). With deep velvet armchairs, gold detailed lighted and even art deco style glasses, it looked like somewhere that would charge you about £15.50 for a small glass of wine. The interiors are very Soho-House-esque, with brown parquet flooring and velvet armchairs.

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The Service

Everyone there was polite and welcoming, and I saw on a few occasions people being delivered their food and drink to their tables (whereas I went up myself, so noone could judge as to how many salted peanuts I was really taking away with me…). Everyone was informative and helpful, and I didn’t see one eye roll when I went up for another free G&T when it was announced our train was delayed…

The Free Stuff

I mean, that’s what it’s all about really isn’t it? The real perks of the business and first class lounges everywhere is how much free stuff you can get away with indulging in before someone comes over to check if you’re really meant to be there…

Only kidding, (kind of), but it was a shock for me (someone who’s never been in before) that you can take away free glossy magazines (a copy of Vogue and Wanderlust magazine? Don’t mind me) – and not just to read, but also take away onto the train with you.

On our London part of the journey early in the morning, there were plenty of options for breakfast, but I mainly stuck to the free croissants. There was free coffee, tea, juice and alcohol (yep – #BritAbroad).

On our evening trip home the breakfast goods had been replaced with nuts, nibbles and fruit in addition to a help yourself bar that included a range of gins, beers and wines you could pour yourself.

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Looking back on our journey via the Business class lounge, would I go again? Hell yeah! Would I pay for the privilege? I’d like to think so, but it entirely depends on the price you can find – but at the moment there are some really good deals out there, of which we’ve even booked a last-minute weekend trip to Paris at the cost of £50 return so it really pays to look at what you can find! We booked recently to go to Paris and our outward journey was upgraded spontaneously to Standard Premiere, which meant a nicer area of the eurostar train and free breakfast onbaord!

Also, when you add up how much you would spend on a normal ticket with the addition of a magazine and some breakfast/alcoholic beverage, the extra price of a business ticket might even work out evenly. The other benefit of travelling via the business lounge was the quiet and calmness of the place. I’ve been on the Eurostar via Brussels before, and it’s not much of an enjoyable experience, but getting to wait out our trains (and the further delay on the way home) was massively improved by our stay here.

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Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post – if you’ve traveled business on the Eurostar to Amsterdam or Rotterdam, let me know! I’d love to experience those cities by train too. In the meantime, you can find my other Insta snaps on my Instagram @GrundyTravels

Thanks for reading! x

 

Hotels in Paris: Budget vs Fancy

My recent trip to Paris this Summer was my second trip to the City of Light this year alone (and of course the weekend where we got engaged!) My boyfriend (now fiancé) and I loved our last trip in February, and thanks to the amazing deals currently available on the Eurostar – and the fact we can travel business class – was a big factor in our decision to go again.

With travel (and free croissants) covered, the next step for planning a weekend away is accommodation. On our first trip back in February I followed my usual booking steps, and went for the gorgeous Hotel Rendez-Vous in Montmarte. However, this time round after following the ever-dangerous Secret Escape emails, I found myself booking us into an incredibly good deal for the 4-star hotel Hotel d’Orsay.

Considering these trips were barely 6 months apart and we experienced two very different hotels, I wanted to write up the comparisons between staying in Paris accommodation – budget vs luxury. So without further ado, here we go….

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Our balcony @ the hotel d’Orsay

Location

The Hotel Rendez-Vous is located in northern Paris in the Montmartre area which means it’s perfect if you want to experience a lovely and quieter area of Paris, with lots of little bars and of course – close access to the Sacré-Cœur.

However, if you’re after a more central location then the Hotel d’Orsay wins, as it’s right on the south of the river just next to the Musée d’Orsay. It’s in walking distance of the river, and then around half an hour each way walk along to either the Eiffel Tower or the Notre Dame.

I think each hotel benefits whichever type of holiday you’re after, the Hotel Rendez-Vous was perfect for our longer trip where we could explore all of Paris. But the Hotel d’Orsay was perfect for our stay as it was close to all the big attractions, and easy to get to.

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The bedrooms @ the hotel Rendez Vous

Price

Each place varies on price by quite a bit, but it’s also worth pointing out that we booked them both through different avenues. We used Booking.com to book Hotel Rendez-Vous which has the benefit of booking a room without having to pay up front, and always (to me at least) seems to have the cheapest prices. Hotel d’Orsay was booked using a deal on Secret Escapes, so the deal we had and all the extras thrown in were part of the price, but normally a room at the Hotel d’Orsay would cost a lot more.

Of course, prices will change on circumstance and dates, but we paid £177 (€ 198) for a two night stay at the Hotel Rendez-Vous which works out at £88.50 a night. For the Hotel d’Orsay this was advertised on Secret Escapes at £129 for a night, with a £5 booking fee. However, I also have to point out that we were upgraded (!!!) to a better room, with a balconySo I don’t think I can compare the rooms evenly as I thought I would’ve been able to, as we definitely got more than we paid for. In addition, the room included a lot of extra add-ons, which leads me on to….

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Reception @ the hotel d’Orsay

Extras

So, the Secret Escapes deal we picked included a lot of extras with the room – and I would definitely check out their website and newsletter if you’re looking for a holiday as so many different hotels have lots of different deals and packages with Secret Escapes.

For our stay included in the price of £129, we had accommodation in a Club room (although this was upgraded on our arrival to a room with a balcony, which was incredible), in addition to included breakfast and the free option to have it delivered to your room.

The deal also included a drink at the honesty bar – we chose a glass of Champagne – we were newly engaged after all! And there was also a bottle of rosé and little biscuits in the room for us. The deal also included coffee/tee at the honesty bar (however this was just included in our upgraded room) and also a bottle of water.

At the Hotel Rendez-Vous we didn’t have breakfast included, but it is an option you can chose for an extra cost. There was free tea and coffee you could grab in the foyer, in addition to free bottled water in your room. It’s unfair for me to compare breakfasts as we didn’t try this in the Hotel Rendez-Vous, but I would say in Paris it’s worth grabbing a Bed & Breakfast option with your accomodation, as paying for it in cafes or restaurants around the city can work out quite pricey for what you get!

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The bedrooms @ the hotel Rendez-Vous
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The bedrooms @ the hotel d’Orsay

Interiors

Despite the fact there is a big price difference between them, both hotels were gorgeously decorated in their own way. The cheaper of the two, the Hotel Rendez-Vous, did not have a ‘budget’ feel at all, considering it’s price – it was beautifully decorated in a deep blue all around the hotel, with velvet curtains and sofas that had more of a soho house feel. Even though our room was tiny it looked gorgeous, and the bathroom also fit into the theme of simplistic but chic – topped off with complimentary Clarins toiletries.

The Hotel d’Orsay was very similar for decor – with deep blues and greens around the hotel. Each room (that I can see from the website) has a piece of art hanging above the bed which makes a nice, unique touch. Once again, I have to mention our complimentary upgrade which included a balcony with a gorgeous city view.

Service

I can’t compare the service we received very well as they were both brilliant! We were treated politely and kindly by the staff in both hotels. I would say even though we were at the Hotel d’Orsay for less time we interacted with the staff more, but perhaps that’s because it’s a bigger hotel.

I can also confirm the service the Hotel d’Orsay provides of delivering your breakfast to your room free of charge was a definitely bonus! Also I think their honesty bar (where you pour your own drink and only pay for what you take) is a great idea – and it was well and fully stocked with different options for us to pick our drinks!

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Our balcony @ the hotel d’Orsay
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Our balcony @ the hotel d’Orsay

Before I wrote this post I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pick a winner, but throughout writing it I think it’s pretty clear I have… Although it’s not fair to compare them, because of the d’Orsay upgrade I can definitely confirm we got a lot for our money.

It was our first time using Secret Escapes and I would definitely recommend giving it a go if you fancy a luxury-style holiday on a budget. I’m signed up to the mailing list and the holiday deals that hit my inbox every day are seriously tempting.

Anyway, I hope this post comes in handy if you’re off to Paris anytime soon and looking for accommodation – as I could definitely recommend both of these hotels depending on which budget you’re on.

For more travel updates and pictures you can check out my Instagram @GrundyTravels. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Riding with Lime in Paris

I have to start this post by saying, if you’d have told me I would be riding around Paris on an Electric scooter, having the time of my life and then writing a blog post about it – frankly, I wouldn’t believe you. But here I am!

On my recent trip to Paris my boyfriend and I stumbled across a few Lime scooters dotted around the streets of Paris. What started off with ‘huh, what are these?’ soon turned into – ‘HUH, shall we give these a try?’. A quick google later, we found out that Lime is a US based company that has recently launched in Paris – as recently as two months ago in fact. So we downloaded the app to give it a go.

I have always been an adult scooter naysayer, because frankly I’ve never seen someone on one managed to push themselves faster than I can walk. However, I’d also never properly seen an electric scooter – and that is where the fun comes in.

So to start with the logistics – Lime can be downloaded as an app and then your account can be topped up in 10$/euro amounts at a time – with auto top-up as an option. It then operates in a method similar to Uber/Ofo bikes – whereby you can see a map of your surrounding location and the amount of available scooters there are to unlock. As they are electric scooters it also displays their battery percentage – which is super helpful to detect which ones are running low if you’re planning on going far.

Once you’ve found your nearest scooter, you ‘Scan to unlock’ and use the camera to scan the UPR code on the scooter to link it up with you phone. Once you’ve read the instructions it’s yours to play with.

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The general gist is to do a run up – as with a normal scooter – and when you’re on you can press the go button and whizz away as fast as you like. It doesn’t take too long to get a hold of, and it’s a really great way to speed along and see the sights without getting too hot. Of course, when we gave this a go the temperature was reaching 32 degrees in Paris, so it was a nice, refreshing break to have a breeze in your hair whilst whizzing along side the river.

Of course, when we gave our go with Lime a try, we only stuck by the riverside which has a pedestrianized zone where you can scoot and ride bikes as well. If you stray away from this you’ll need to use the cycle paths, which is up to you whether you want to give it a go, as I find cycling/scooting on foreign roads to be a bit hair-raising sometimes.

The only other slight drawback is that as the bikes are electric that also means they require charging, and therefore by the end of a day you’ll be left with less options to pick up and ride. We only spent half of our top-up amount on the morning ride with every intention to pick up another bike later in the day, but unfortunately we couldn’t find any around with enough battery and didn’t want to risk running around Paris on a treasure hunt for  scooters that might get picked up by someone else before we got there.

Those are the only slight hitches I can mention though, as overall I would thoroughly recommend giving Lime a go if you’re in Paris next. especially if you’re vising in hot weather it’s really good fun to pick up a scooter and ride down the river. It’s a great way to see the sights, and it’s so easy to use!

I hope this post comes in handy if you’re off to Paris anytime soon, as it’s something I would wholeheartedly recommend. For more travel updates and pictures you can check out my Instagram @GrundyTravels. Thanks for reading!

Photo Diary: A Paris Proposal

I have no idea where to begin this post – because I certainly didn’t think I would be writing it this time last week!! Of course I had plenty of Paris themed content I wanted to write – and they will be coming soon – but I wanted to make this photo diary of the weekend as it’s certainly not one I want to forget anytime soon…

If it’s not clear yet from the title, I got engaged this weekend! In Paris my lovely boyfriend (now fiancé…) took me completely by surprise and proposed! We ended up having the best weekend ever and so I’ve decided to write it up here as I can come back to this in the future and I’ll know I’ve written down my emotions and memories from the weekend when they’re still fresh in my mind.

So, first things first – we got engaged in Paris! My amazing boyfriend (now fiancé) completely surprised me by getting down on one knee in jardin du Palais-Royal, on Saturday morning whilst we were walking from the Eurostar to the River Seine. Even though we’ve been together for 6 and a half years, I genuinely did not see it coming, so it does feel slightly surreal to write this up now.

Of course the engagement made this weekend 100x better than I could’ve imagined, but the whole weekend worked out so well it feels like everything else from then on was an incredible cherry on top of a gorgeous cake. From the proposal, to FaceTiming our families to tell them the news, to watching the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower – the whole weekend was perfect.

Not only that, but we were we surprised by Eurostar who upgraded our tickets on the way out (hellooooo free breakfast), and also our hotel upgraded us to a top-floor room with balcony. And not even because we were engaged! Clearly luck was on our side this weekend….

Speaking of which, the weather was incredible! Topping 35 degrees it meant we were meant with sunshine all day – which we of course had to keep bar-hopping to hide in the shade – in addition to a gorgeous pink sunset which we watched set behind the Eiffel Tower.

I also want to mention all three of the restaurants we ate at this weekend, and what an gorgeous time we had at each of them. The most special restaurant has to be Le Grand Colbert, which is where we went straight after the proposal and after we had called our families. We both opted for Moules Marinieres with frites and of course, champagne! It was the perfect lunch for the occasion, the restaurant was beautiful and the staff were super friendly and attentive – they quickly cottoned on that we were celebrating our engagement and soon they and other restaurant patrons were offering their congratulations.

For our evening meal we were looking around the Eiffel Tower, and stumbled across Bistro Saint Dominique, where we were able to sit outside – although the inside looked incredible too! We both opted for steak frites which was mouth-watering, and the staff were very gracious when I muddled up my wine order and accidentally ordered desert wine instead of a normal glass – and swapped it without charge.

For the Sunday we stuck with our initial plan (which obviously I made oblivious to the fact George knew he’d be proposing on the Saturday) and headed off to Bouillon Chartier as we really enjoyed our time there on our last trip. It was still just as good this time, although I have to admit some of the wider options on their menu are quite interesting…. Either way I went for the house pâté to start, and steak frites with peppercorn sauce for lunch (sorry, such a Brit abroad but the steak frites were too good to turn down!)

Also, our hotel – the Hôtel d’Orsay – was absolutely perfect the occasion – and being upgraded was an incredible way to celebrate. We were given a room on the top floor with a balcony – and that was even before we’d even mentioned we were engaged! It was a perfect spot to sit and drink a glass of Champagne and FaceTime more of our families to tell them the good news.

We also had breakfast delivered to our room the next day – which we of course ate on our balcony and watched the world go by on the Parisian streets below. Everything at the hotel was perfect, from the room, to the extras, to the service from the staff – we were treated so well and it was the perfect cherry on top of a wonderful weekend cake.

Before we went to Paris I had already told George I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night close up, so the plan was to take the (free) bottle of rosé from our room and wander down to the tower to watch the twinkly lights. We ended up doing this after dinner, and it was gorgeous watching the pink sunset behind the tower before it lit up at 10pm and was covered in sparkling lights.

Sunday was sent exploring Paris via Lime scooter (more on that on the blog soon…) and bar hopping to escaping the hot weather. It was brilliant just to mosey around in the good weather and enjoy the post-proposal bubble we were in. I think other people must’ve guessed we were on cloud nine, as we received really lovely treatment from everyone we met, and it made the whole weekend even better.

We ended our trip on Sunday evening in the business lounge at the Gare du Nord, treating ourselves to complimentary gin & tonics, and spending the ride home messaging more of our friends to tell them the good news.

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I know this post is filled with perfects, and amazings, and incredibles, but I can’t help it! It’s been possibly the best weekend of my life, and it was completely unexpected. I’m very grateful and lucky girl to have spent the past weekend with my fiance (!!!) and am so lucky that he planned this surprise.

If anyone is reading this I hope you enjoyed this post, sorry it’s a bit ramble-y and self indulgent but I can’t wait to read it back in the future months to come. And in the mean time… I guess we better start planning a wedding!