48 Hours In Waterside Paris

There's plenty for water babies to do in the city of romance, from trips along the Seine to lazing on the beach, says Rhiannon Batten


WHY GO NOW?

WHY GO NOW?

You can't avoid getting wet in Paris. This is a city that boasts steamy hammams, parks that cascade with gushing fountains and, in summer, even a beach. You don't have to go far to enjoy Paris's Age of Aquarius: many of the city's best sights lie on or near the banks of the Seine (or can be viewed from a boat, directly on it).

BEAM DOWN

Paris has two main airports: Orly, which is 16km to the south, and Charles de Gaulle, 27km to the north. Most flights from British airports land in Charles de Gaulle, which is served by British Airways (0870 850 9850, www.ba.com), FlyBE (0871 700 0123, www.flybe.com) and Air France (0845 0845 111, www.airfrance.co.uk). In addition, easyJet (0870 600 0000, www.easyjet.com) operates services from Liverpool, Newcastle and Luton; bmibaby (0870 264 2229, www.bmibaby.com) from Nottingham and Cardiff; and BMI (0870 607 0555, www.flybmi.com) from Leeds Bradford and London Heathrow.

From Orly, there are regular Air France shuttle buses to Invalides métro station (€12.75, or £9, return) and from Charles de Gaulle to the Arc de Triomphe (€17, or £12, return) or Montparnasse (€19.55, or £14, return). Or there are RATP shuttles from Charles de Gaulle to Opéra (€16.40, or £12, return), from Orly to the nearby train station (€14, or £10, return) and from Orly to Montparnasse (€11.40, or £8, return). The other option is Eurostar (0870 518 6186; www.eurostar.com), which offers services from Waterloo to the Gare du Nord in just under three hours (from about £90 return).

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Use the Seine as your guide. The central section runs from the Eiffel Tower in the west to the new national library in the east, with the Ile de la Cité just about in the middle. Traditionally, the north of the river has been home to Paris's more stately attractions, with the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysées and the Louvre, while the Left Bank, to the south, boasts the more bohemian Latin Quarter. For more information, visit the tourist offices in either the Louvre (open daily, 10am-7pm) or the Eiffel Tower (open daily during May-September, 11am-6.40pm) or call for information (00 33 8 92 68 31 13; www.paris-touristoffice.com). You can pick up free maps of Paris, useful restaurant guides and, if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, museum and monument passes. These start at €18 (£13) for a one-day adult pass; most museums are free for under-18s.

CHECK IN

Water babies with plenty of cash should book into the Four Seasons Hotel George V at 31 Avenue George V (00 33 1 49 52 70 00; www.fourseasons.com). Not only is it one of the most luxurious hotels in Paris, it also has one of the city's best spas, with a swimming pool, steam rooms and a list of spa treatments that includes a tequila massage. Doubles cost from €680 (£486) per night, excluding breakfast. Or rent a houseboat moored near the Eiffel Tower ( www.quai48parisvacation.com). This costs €1,820 (£1,270) for two people for a week. For more affordable options, contact the tourist office or visit www.expedia.co.uk. I recently booked a double room at the Star Hotel Etoile, next to the Arc de Triomphe, for £68.

TAKE A RIDE

Get closer to the water with Bateaux Parisiens' one-hour Seine cruises, starting from the Eiffel Tower every hour from 10am-11pm, costing €9.50 (£7) for adults and €4.50 (£3) for children (00 33 1 44 11 33 44; www.bateauxparisiens.com). Vedettes Pont-Neuf runs trips from the famous bridge at similar prices (00 33 1 46 33 98 38, www.pontneuf.net). For a more unusual ride, book a two-hour boat trip up the pretty Canal St Martin. These run at 9.45am and 2.30pm, leaving from the Port de l'Arsenal, and cost €14 (£10) for adults and €8 (£5.50) for children (00 33 1 42 39 15 00, www.canauxrama.com). In the summer, Batobus also runs a hop-on, hop-off water-bus service between the Eiffel Tower and the Ile Saint-Louis, which costs €11 (£8) for a one-day pass (00 33 1 44 11 33 99, www.batobus.com).

TAKE A VIEW

From La Grande Arche at 1, Parvis de la Défense you get a panoramic view of the city. A ride up to the top costs €7.50 for adults (£5) and €6 (£4) for children and it's open from 10am-7pm daily (00 33 1 49 07 27 27, www.paris.org).

TAKE A HIKE

Along the Promenade Plantée, two-and-a-half miles of old railway viaduct that's been converted into raised parkland running down towards the Seine. The start is best approached from Avenue Daumesnil, near the Bastille métro.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

Sweat it out in the Paris mosque's hammam, and then have something to eat in the Moroccan-style tea room in the foyer. €58 (£40) will buy you an all-in deal, including use of the hammam, a massage, a plate of couscous or a tagine, a slice of sticky baklava and a glass or two of mint tea. Entry on its own costs €15 (£10). The mosque is at 39 rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire and is open to women on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10am-9pm and on Fridays from 2-9pm. For men, it's open on Tuesdays from 2-9pm and on Sundays from 10am-9pm (00 33 1 43 31 38 20).

WINDOW SHOPPING

L'Artisan Parfumeur at 24 boulevard Raspail (00 33 1 42 22 23 32, www.artisanparfumeur.com) is the place for sleek glass bottles of perfume. For more old-fashioned scents - and prices - make your way to Guerlain at 68 Avenue des Champs Elysées (00 33 1 45 62 52 57, www.guerlain.com).

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

The Musée National du Moyen Age sits on the site of an old Roman bathhouse at 6 place Paul-Painlev (00 33 1 53 73 78 00, www.musee-moyenage.fr), and houses the exquisite 15th-century The Lady and the Unicorn hangings. The museum is open daily, except on Tuesdays, from 9.15am-5.45pm and entrance costs €5.50 (£3.80) for adults (it's free for under-18s). For a completely different, and smellier, take on Paris, try a tour of the city's sewers, " les egouts". The entrance is opposite 93 Quai d'Orsay, just to the east of the Pont de l'Alma, and it's open daily except Thursdays and Fridays from 11am-5pm (00 33 1 53 68 27 81). Entrance costs €3.80 (£2.60) for adults and €3.05 (£2) for under-12s.

AN APERITIF

There may be water everywhere in this city, but if you want a drop to drink, head to Batofar, an old lighthouse ship that's been transformed into a funky bar and club. It's on Quai Francois-Mauriac, in front of the national library, and is open nightly except Mondays (00 33 1 56 29 10 33, www.batofar.net). For a more upmarket - and sanitised - version of the floating bar-cum-restaurant, cross over to the opposite bank and book a dinner cruise from the Marina de Bercy (00 33 1 43 43 40 30). These start at €59 (£42) for adults and €39 (£27) for children. Or, if that sounds a bit tame, head to Les Bains, Paris's most stylish nightclub, at 7 rue Bourg-l'Abbé (00 33 1 48 87 01 80).

DINNER WITH THE LOCALS

L'Encrier, near the Bastille at 55 rue Traversière (00 33 1 44 68 08 16), is a cosy neighbourhood restaurant offering rabbit casserole or roast lamb from about €12-€15 (£8-£10), as well as good value set menus from €15. It's open for dinner from 7.15-11pm daily except Sundays and, with its exposed brick-and-stone walls, tiled floors and Van Gogh-style chairs, you get atmosphere as well as substance. Closer to the water, Les Pieds dans L'Eau is a characterful place in a quiet corner of the city at 39 Boulevard du Parc on the Ile de la Jatte (00 33 1 47 47 64 07). It's open for dinner on Saturdays, but closed on Sundays. Another good option is Relais de l'Entrecote at 15 Rue Marbeuf (00 33 1 49 52 07 17). For about €21 (£15) a head you can eat as much as you like of the evening's set meal.

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

Notre-Dame is the obvious choice; it's a majestic part of the city's skyline and is almost on the water. It's open from 8am-7pm daily, but there's an international service at 11.30am on Sundays.

BRACING BRUNCH

The funky Café la Jatte on leafy Ile de la Jatte is an airy restaurant in an old brick building at 60 Boulevard Vital Bouhot. It's five minutes' walk from the Pont de Levallois métro, and does a popular Sunday brunch for €25/£18 (00 33 1 47 45 04 20).

A WALK IN THE PARK

The Parc André-Citroën was built on the site of an old car factory 10 years ago and is a successful horticultural mêlée of geometric walkways, rustling bamboo hedges and computerised fountains. It's open daily and entrance is free. To get there, take the métro to Javel and walk south along the Quai Citroën.

WRITE A POSTCARD

Buy a panoramic picture of the Pont Neuf straddling the Seine from one of the shops on the Ile de la Cité and, when you've walked round the island to see it from all angles, come back to a bench on the famous bridge and write your impressions.

THE ICING ON THE CAKE

If you like your water frozen and served in a cone, a €1.80 (£1.20) scoop of fig, blood-orange or prune-and-armagnac ice cream from Paris's most famous parlour, Berthillo, will be hard to top. It's at 31 Rue Saint Louis on the Ile Saint Louis (00 33 1 43 54 31 61).

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