31st May 2019
Paris may not be the first destination that springs to mind when planning a motorhome minibreak. But, you will save yourself a fortune in hotels and getting back to your motorhome at the end of a long day’s sightseeing, with all your home comforts and your own cosy bed is a great way to do it.
If you want to take in one of Europe’s major cities and you have a van, it makes absolute sense.
At just under 4 hours from Calais we hoped that visiting in our Advance 76-4 motorhome would be both an economical and exciting Autumn adventure, and we weren’t disappointed.
As with all major cities, Paris is not terribly motorhome-friendly in the centre. A wrong turn on the banks of the Seine took us into the heart of the capital at rush hour, putting our arrival at the site back another 45 minutes.
But by sticking to the correct route on your satnav there are several campsite options within striking distance of the heart of the French capital, allowing you to avoid the most congested areas of town.
We chose Camping de Paris, set right on the banks of the Seine in natural parkland. As with all Caravan and Motorhome Club sites the facilities are top quality and an on-site shop, restaurant and seasonal food trucks make for a very comfortable stay.
Once hooked up we didn’t move our motorhome for the 3 nights until we left. A shuttle bus outside the campsite takes you directly to Porte Maillot metro station. Just a short bus journey through the pretty Bois de Boulogne park and the whole of Paris is at your feet.
And our feet were certainly aching after 3 days seeing the sights of this iconic city, (if you are after a more child centred break the world-famous Disneyland Paris resort is just 45 minutes-drive away).
We had done a trip there in our pre-motorhome days, when Lois was an excitable 8 year old. The 14 year-old Lois is far too cool for Mickey Mouse and princess parades now!
There are plenty of options to get around Paris
Paris had 18 million visitors last year. With so many iconic attractions on offer, first-time visits can be quite overwhelming. But with a bit of planning it’s very easy to get a taste of this beautiful city in just a few days.
Shopping was not high on our agenda (much to the teenager’s annoyance), and neither was revisiting the Eiffel Tower.
We had popped in and done that on our Disney trip a few years earlier. But if it is your first time in Paris, nothing beats the view from the top, or even the middle platform. Just be sure to book online in advance to avoid the massive queues.
Of course things can be expensive in Paris. But if you enjoy walking and taking in the buildings and sights there’s plenty to do at little or no cost. Wherever you are in Paris it’s impossible to avoid the River Seine, defining the Right and Left Bank and creating two small islands where the Parisii first settled 2,300 years ago.
We enjoyed a day just wandering around the Ile de la Cite, admiring the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral (we were there only months before the devastating fire that ripped through the building in April 2019) and taking a tour of La Conciergerie where Marie-Antoinette spent her final days.
Travelling by water on the Batobus
There are many ways to enjoy the river, but we chose the most practical. Buying a day ticket for the Batobus gives you a hop-on, hop-off way to travel around the city by boat. With nine stops on the route at all the main tourist attractions it was the perfect way to see the city and rest our aching feet.
The 130 art museums mean you are spoilt for cultural choice. We strolled around the bohemian village of Montmartre, enjoying the views of the city from the Sacre-Coeur and watching the artists at work in the cobbled streets.
Later we visited the Musee d’Orsay on the Left Bank opposite the Louvre. Housed in a grand railway station, the architecture is a sight to behold, even for those less interested in the art (Ryan!)
Returning to our van each evening was simple as the shuttle bus ran past 11pm. But we only ate out once, when Ryan insisted on having snails. The other nights consisted of popping into the huge supermarket just a few minutes from the site and rustling up something delicious in our cosy van for just a few euros.
Snails for supper
We even managed to squeeze in one more French adventure on our way home. Nausicaa is the biggest aquarium in Europe with over 1,600 animal species. Located in Boulogne-sur-mer, we were able to park the van just outside for free and it made for a fabulous last day before jumping onto the ferry and heading home.
Meeting the sealife at the Nausicaa