Holiday Money Diaries: What I spent on a birthday weekend in Paris with a baby in tow -

Holiday Money Diaries: What I spent on a birthday weekend in Paris with a baby in tow -

Holiday Money Diaries: What I spent on a birthday weekend in Paris with a baby in tow -

Posted: 20 Dec 2019 12:00 AM PST

Welcome to the latest instalment of Holiday Money Diaries, a series in which travellers reveal every penny they spent while away. This week: a romantic weekend in Paris (with a new baby). The total spent is at the bottom. 

I spent the dawn of my 39th birthday enduring the final throes of a labour that had been induced 12 hours earlier.

By 10:08 I had a brand new daughter snuggling in my arms, so it wasn't all bad, but it wasn't exactly the birthday I had planned.

So when it came to my 40th a year later, I was calling the shots. We'll have plenty of opportunity to spend birthdays at Peppa Pig World or wherever else toddler obsessions take us. But this year, while the little one was still oblivious to the whole concept of birthdays, I had my heart set on Paris. 

My partner and I had to make a few concessions here and there to travelling with a baby, chiefly the time we retired to bed, but we still managed a little romantic birthday splurging to ease the pain of my embarking on a new decade.

Getting there

Total: £194.08

Eurostar was our preferred option to save faffing about in airports. We booked return tickets for a total of £156 back in May, nearly six months in advance. Our daughter travelled for free, sitting on our laps. We went for as early a departure as we could bear, setting out from St Pancras at 09:24, and pulling into Paris Gare du Nord bang on time at 12:47.

The baby hadn't slept all morning, but opening her and my birthday cards provided some entertainment for the journey. No sooner had we arrived than she conked out – typical – so we let her snooze in her buggy and frittered away £10.88 on drinks, bananas and crisps from a station cafe.

Staying there

Total: £970.14

We wanted a small, friendly hotel, with a touch of Parisian flair, in a fairly central location – and Hotel Saint Marc delivered on all counts. It was located in the Ile de France, a stone's throw from Opéra Garnier, and a 20-minute walk from the Louvre and the Seine. 

When I booked I had visions of using the spa and the swimming pool, which didn't materialise. But Paris was on our doorstep, and there would be other spas. 

Breakfast wasn't included: we paid £35.70 for both of us per day, but given there was a tempting spread of pastries, fruit, yoghurt, cheese, ham and eggs on offer, and they didn't charge us for anything we fed the baby, it felt like the best plan to start the day with a strong coffee and a relaxed breakfast on site.

The hotel had a lovely calm ambience, with a scent-filled lobby and cosy restaurant – I only hope we didn't spoil it with our babbling and occasionally grumpy baby. We certainly appreciated the absence of any disapproving looks, given the extra cleaning which had to be done on the floor around the high chair once our daughter had attacked the breakfast buffet with gusto.

Hotel Saint Marc

Getting around

Total: £68.85

The hotel was within walking distance from the Gare du Nord, but, unfamiliar with the area, a taxi seemed like the best option to deliver us, two suitcases and a buggy there so we paid £10.20 for the privilege of door-to-door service. On the homeward journey, we also ordered a cab to the station from the hotel, which ended up being £17 including a generous tip. 

Mostly we walked our socks off around the city, wheeling the buggy along narrow pavements and over cobbles, but we did spend £12.75 on a taxi back to the hotel when we needed to make a speedy exit from an aquarium (more on that later). 

We also spent £28.90 on two 24-hour hop-on, hop-off boat tickets, a very useful way to travel between Paris's key sights. 

Day one

Total: £69.69

We didn't linger long after checking into the hotel, keen to see something of Paris before nightfall. We opted for a scenic boat trip with Vedettes du Pont Neuf, leaving from the opposite side of the river to the Louvre. Frustratingly we missed the 16:15 departure by a mere minute or two – we were lugging the buggy down the steps to the pier as it pulled away. So we booked tickets for the next departure at 17:00, and settled down at the pier bar with a drink. Formula for the baby, rum and coke for dad, glass of birthday champagne for mum. We felt pretty fleeced by the prices – £27.20 for the two alcoholic drinks – but this was Paris's tourist heartland. 

Dinner that night was a disappointing £42.49 on two cokes, a pizza, two bowls of pasta, some over-cooked garlic bread, and a plate of butter (something was lost in translation!). Disappointing because the maitre'd was grumpy and we didn't feel welcome. But with a hungry, tired baby we didn't have much choice close to the hotel. I kicked myself for not researching better options in advance, but a list of baby-friendly restaurants in Paris is not a website I've stumbled across yet.

Avoid restaurants in Paris's tourist heartland Credit: GETTY

Day two

Total: £151.94

We walked all the way to the Eiffel Tower, which took over an hour, but when we got there one of the two lifts was out of action and the queues were painfully long, so we aborted our plan to go up. We consoled ourselves with a chocolate crepe each and a jam one for the baby, which cost us £12.75.

We had pre-booked tickets that afternoon for Van Gogh, La Nuit Etoilée at L'Atelier des Lumieres, so we needed to get all the way up to the 11th arrondissement. Our boat ride the day before had been a lovely way to travel while seeing some sights, so we invested in a 24-hour roving ticket (£28.90), which got us as far as L'Hotel du Ville. Then we walked the rest of the way, which took nearly 45 minutes. It was well worth spending £26.09 on two tickets for this multimedia spectacle, combining music and projections to immerse us in the colourful world of Van Gogh. 

On the way there we had spotted a French cafe-style restaurant, Le Louis Philippe, back down near the Hotel du Ville and the river, that we hoped would prove more successful than the previous night's Italian. And it did. We happily paid £84.20 for two steaks, a plate of ravioli, two cokes, a coffee and a good bottle of Cotes du Rhone given that the staff were so friendly and the food so tasty. They even threw in a slice of tarte tatin on the house.

Van Gogh, La Nuit Etoilée Credit: getty

Day three

Total: £121.55

Back to the Eiffel Tower, where the queue was mercifully shorter. We made it up to the second floor 30 minutes after joining the queue to buy tickets (£43.37). Getting up to the summit took a lot longer and tested our patience more. 

We grabbed lunch from a food truck on the other side of the river – £17.43 for a shared panini, two portions of chips, one coffee and two bottles of water. 

The Paris Aquarium, in the same location, seemed like the best baby-friendly option, but no sooner had we paid £34.86 to get in, she promptly fell asleep for 45 minutes. So we sat and waited, given that we were primarily here for her benefit. 

Once she woke up, the larger sharks, some rainbow coloured fish and the jellyfish all provoked some sort of reaction from her, and so we chalked the visit up to being a success... until we reached the open pool where you could lean in and pet the fish. Cue a baby vomiting disaster. 

That put the breaks on our the rest of our day, and a romantic final dinner in Paris was put on hold. Deliveroo came to the request with two pad thais (£25.89), which we ate in the empty hotel restaurant area, the staff kindly supplying china plates and linen napkins. 

Paris Aquarium Credit: GETTY

Day four

Total: £16.58

A final mooch around the streets gave us the opportunity to spend our last few euros on 20 postcards (£8.50) and a Van Gogh painted tin tray (£2.55). A final £5.53 on drinks and crisps in Gare du Nord to snack on the Eurostar and we were on our way home. 

The grand total: £1,592.86


We definitely spent more on the hotel than we might have done, had it not been a special birthday weekend. But it balanced out – having a baby in tow meant we drank a lot less, because we didn't have any late nights propping up the bar. We also benefited from the baby being discounted from all entry prices. Without the time to do much research, I'm sure we did end up paying tourist prices, and we could have ventured further off the beaten path. But I had been keen to soak up the magic of Paris, and that for me is all about seeing the usual suspects like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Seine and Notre Dame. 


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