River Seine, Paris, France

My Solo Trip to Paris – The Good and Bad Parts

Before summer, I booked a trip to Paris for me and my cousin. We’ve been abroad before to Fuerteventura, so decided to do it again as being singles, sometimes going alone is boring, especially if you go for more than a couple of days. We had decided that Disneyland would be fun, but that we wouldn’t have enough to do for 5 nights, so we booked 3 nights near Disney and 2 nights in Paris.

Unfortunately, near the departure date, she had to cancel, so it turned into a solo trip, which did mean that I wouldn’t be going to Disneyland Paris as a 29 year old male with a beard. Until I asked an old friend who lives in Bordeaux to see if he fancied coming up on the TGV (high speed train). It turned out there was a quality deal, which meant that he could get a return ticket for a tenner and the journey was only 2 hours each way. The hotels were already booked so he literally had to buy a Disney ticket and pay the tenner for the train, so he was game for a couple of nights.

As he was only staying for 2 nights, and leaving early on the Wednesday, I had a lot of free time to fill up. With French being my second language, it wasn’t hard to communicate with people so I wasn’t totally on my own as I started chatting to people in pubs and just around the city. I’d say if I had to spend a few days alone in a country where I didn’t speak any of the language, it’d have been a lot harder to find things to do of an evening.

Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre & The River Seine

I walked for about 30 minutes from the hotel near Disney to the train station, paid 7.10€ to get to the centre of Paris and jumped off at a station called Châtalet Les Halles, which is underneath a shopping mall. This shopping mall has seats with USB ports in, meaning you can grab a coffee or a tea (make sure you ask for English Breakfast Tea or Black Tea, or they’ll give you Earl Grey) and charge your phone.

As you walk out of Les Halles, you’re in the centre of Paris, and there are hundreds of restaurants, food stalls and cafes. Paninis and sandwiches will set you back about a fiver, whereas a meal will be about 15€ for lunch. At most of the stalls a bottle of water will cost 3€, but there are men spotted near all of the attractions and landmarks with cold buckets of water filled with bottled water to buy for 1€ each. I bought a few from them, they are friendly and the water is cold, which is much appreciated when it’s hot. During the first couple of days, the temperate was in the mid 20s, and around 20 for the final couple of days.

I walked to Notre Dame first to see what was going on and to get a video, and spotted a couple who had just been married getting photos taken, which I remember seeing last time I was in Paris. From Notre Dame, I walked towards Le Louvre, but decided not to go in as I’ve been in before and remember being quite bored as I’m really not into art. From Le Louvre, I walked into the gardens adjacent to Le Louvre’s glass pyramid and then down the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower. On the way, I needed the toilet and spotted a public toilet – one of the little cubicles at the side of the road. Beware of these as you may get caught out. They are totally free, but DO NOT run in after somebody has walked out, let the door close, then wait until it lets you go in again. They clean themselves after every use, so if you do run in, you may get washed. I’ve never seen it happen, and not sure if there’s a safety on it, but I can imagine that would be an awful experience.

Bao Burger

Bao Burger

International Food Festival on the River Seine

I continued my walk towards the Eiffel Tower and spotted an international food festival, which are my favourite things to stumble upon as I love street food and trying food that I’ve never had before, which is exactly what I did. I had a bao burger, which was amazing. If you’ve never had bao, it’s a type of Asian bread, which is pretty much white. The bao was filled with pulled pork, salad and a spicy sauce – it was as amazing as it sounds.

At the food festival there were so many amazing cuisines to try, including countries like Comoros, Niger, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba and Argentina.

After filling up on some amazing food, I continued on my walk to the Eiffel Tower as I wanted to get some photos. I checked my phone, and I had already walked 11 miles that day, so my feet were getting sore.

When I arrived, I just took some photos and sat down on the grass leaning against a fence for a while looking up at the tower, until my feet felt a bit better, then I set back off towards the town to find a pub to watch the football. I found a pub called O’Sullivans, which had the football on, so I grabbed a pint for about 8€, grabbed some food, for another extortionate amount of money, a few more pints, watched the game and then headed back to the hotel on the train, for a 30 minute walk from the station to the hotel. I slept very well that night.

Disneyland & Disney Village

The hotel was about 2 miles from Disney, so I decided to walk one day to check out Disney Village as I’d heard there was some stuff to do there, but as I got closer, I realised the 2 miles was as the crow flies, and only delivery trucks could get through the road that I wanted to walk down, so I walked back and jumped on the bus which cost 2.50€ return directly from the hotel, directly to Disney Village and Disneyland which are next to each other. A really useful bit of information that you may not be aware of is that the train station for Disney is at the entrance for Disney Village and both theme parks, so if you do stay in Paris, jump on the A(4) line to Disney and it takes you right to the door. The train ticket will set you back about 7€ each way and takes about 20 minutes or so.

As I went during term time, Disney Village and Disneyland were pretty much dead and the queues for the rides mostly said 5 minutes. We got a fastpass ticket for 1 ride as the queue was 30 minutes.

It’s clear that Disneyland is for children when you get there; there are only a few rides that are really worth going on as an adult, which are: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Star Wars Hyper Space. It’s worth going on some other rides like the Pirates of the Caribbean and Phantom Manor, but they’re pretty tame and not worth queueing up for. We were told that the other park, Disney Studios wasn’t worth getting a full day pass for, and I took this as it wasn’t worth going to at all, which it turns out is a bit wrong, as there are a few rollercoasters in there.

Disney Village has some restaurants, a lot of shops selling stuffed toys and key rings, you know the usual Disney stuff. But apart from that, it’s only worth going if you’re going to one of the parks. However, if you’re staying at a Disney hotel around the lake, there is a sports bar, a cinema and some restaurants there to entertain yourselves during the evenings.

The other side to Paris, the part you don’t hear about

When people talk about Paris, you often hear about how beautiful it is, how romantic the trip was, how amazing the sights were like the Eiffel Tower, and how interesting the museums were, but how often do you hear about the bad parts? Rarely.

I booked two hotels for my trip, the first near Disney, and the second in what I thought was the centre, but turned out to be northern Paris, which I can honestly say is the worst place I’ve ever been to and I mean this sincerely, it is probably the worst place I’ll ever go to, as I don’t plan on going to any war-zones.

First of all, every part of it is filled with litter, mattresses, homeless people, drug addicts, drug dealers, thieves, scammers and gangs. I am not exaggerating, it is truly awful. I had no idea about this when I booked, as I just looked at a map and thought, oh that’s near the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur Basilica, it’ll be fine, and I can get the Metro or walk to the other parts of Paris. I was absolutely wrong. If you ever take any advice from a blog, take this advice.

On arriving at Gare du Nord (train station), we realised we were not in a good area, and the closer we got to the hotel, the worse it got. The streets were just filled with gangs, and pretty much every gang shouted something different at me in French, Arabic and some other language that I couldn’t make out. The language depended on the group, obviously. Put it this way, as a white Englishman, I stood out like a sore thumb. At one point, I had to push an man out of my way as he would not move from my path, facing me, shouting at me in what I assume was Arabic. I’m pretty sure he was asking or telling me to give him money, which I did not do.

These groups of men just didn’t seem to go anywhere, more and more came and it was just filthy and horrible. I spoke to some locals, a taxi driver, and the staff in the hotel who all said it was an awful part of Paris, if not the worst. Take my advice, and do not book northern Paris, stay further south, near the main landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre and so on, where it’s safe and populated with tourists.

To add onto how poor the area was, the hotel had a train track right outside so sleeping was difficult and the wifi did not reach the room. When you’re travelling alone, wifi is definitely a necessity.

Sacre Coeur Basilica

I took a stroll one morning to Sacre Coeur Basilica which was less than a mile away from the hotel, but this time I cut down the first side-street I could find to get away from the gangs of men on the main road, and it was a much more pleasant, but still filthy walk. When I arrived to the Basilica’s stairs, I started walking up and noticed a group of lads frisking an Asian couple, and one of them stopped to stare at me – I walked the other way as I didn’t fancy losing my wallet, as they were absolutely not staff or security. As I got to the top of the stairs, I was greeted by a girl holding a piece of paper on what I thought was a clipboard, but turned out to be a piece of cardboard. The paper was to donate money to the Deaf Society of France. It was a poorly printed table with a made up logo at the top. I moved it out of my way and she waved it in my face and followed me. Then another girl with the same thing joined her and both were waving them in my face grabbing my arm and shouting ‘Just one Euro, one pound, one dollar, anything’. After a short while of having paper and cardboard waved in my face I smacked one of them out of their hands onto the floor. I later saw the security guard in the area pretty much tell them to piss off. This is a scam, do not give them money. They also have signs saying ‘Syrian Family’ and they stand in the middle of the road during traffic jams knocking on windows asking for money.

After getting away from the scammers and thieves, I was actually able to enjoy a short while listening to a musician play on his harp, whilst overlooking Paris as you can see in the video below.

To Summarise

  • Do not go to northern Paris, which is anywhere near Gare du Nord.
  • I’d say if you really want to visit Sacre Coeur Basilica, just guard your valuables and prepare to be harassed.
  • If it’s not very busy, go to both Disney Parks in the same day.
  • Use Chatâlet Les Halles train station as a centre, and it’s the A line towards Disney if you’re going to the parks. 7.60€ from there to Disney.
  • It’s expensive to eat and drink.
  • Irish pubs show the football.
  • Pretty much everybody speaks English, as other foreigners use our language to communicate whilst on holiday.
  • Everything is quite far away from each other, so unless you like walking, use the Metro during the day. The 1.90€ ticket is Universal inside Paris and takes you to any station, once. You need the tickets to get out, so don’t throw it away.
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