Hi Frugalistas! I know it’s many people’s favourite place in Paris and it’s certainly one of the most famous places in Paris, but I must admit Montmartre has never really done it for me. It’s never been one of my favourite places to visit in Paris. Too many tourists, too many Paris scammers, too hilly, too everything…….But on my last visit to Paris I decided to take a Montmartre walking tour and try and find some things to do in Montmartre that would change my mind.
I started my walking tour of Montmartre using the recommendation of Janelle McCulloch in her interesting book Paris in Style (you can pick up a copy here). There is no Montmartre metro station per se, and most visitors will hop off at Anvers (near the Montmartre funicular), but Janelle suggested Lamarck-Coulaincourt instead.
If you get off the Metro at Anvers you can view the front facade of Sacre Coeur and see the carousel, but it’s easy to follow this walk and make your way to Sacre Coeur later
Immediately upon exiting the station I knew I was in a completely different part of Montmartre to the one I knew. Rather than follow her instructions and double back behind me immediately, I took a walk right along rue Lamarck, because it was just such a pretty Paris street. Beautiful Haussmann style buildings, trees. It was lovely.
Like the best experiences in Paris, I found that by just wandering I had come across an absolute gem. As I headed down rue Lamarck, the towers of Sacré Coeur came into view, so I decided to head up towards it.
The view of Sacre Coeur I found, quite by accident
And that’s where I found it – the reason I wanted to do a Montmartre tour.
It was the “real Montmartre”. Up a short street and some stairs was a little piece of hidden Paris. A small child’s playground full of little Parisians with their nounous (nannies), Mamans, and Papas. Then there was that quintessential French sporting “field” – a pétanque square. But it was at the top, right up near the rear of Sacré Coeur was the best of all – a bride having her photos taken. And I was the only person there to take it all in………………
Continuing my Montmartre tour
I dragged myself away from my beautiful Montmartre scene and back to Janelle’s walk.
Back at the Lamarck-Coulaincourt Metro I doubled back and headed up the stair case just as Janelle recommended. I headed across rue Caulaincourt, past the pretty Square Joël Le Tac, up even more stairs to Place Dalida. Such a pretty, tree lined walk.
Just off Place Dalida was a tiny walkway full of houses with gorgeous gardens called Allée des Brouillards. While there were quite a few tourists around, the neighbourhood was quiet, and really quite charming.
The view from Place Dalida
Rather than continue Janelle’s walk I headed up rue de l’Abreuvoir, past the Instaworthy La Maison Rose restaurant to the Montmartre Museum on rue Cortot.
Things to do in Montmartre: visiting the Montmartre Museum
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the Montmartre Museum. But seriously, I found it one of the most interesting Paris museums I’d ever visited. And the gardens were delightful.
The Montmartre Museum was once home to Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It was also home to Suzanne Valadon, one of the only well known female Paris artists of the nineteenth century. She is particularly famous for being the girl in Renoir’s painting The Country Dance (now in the Musée d’Orsay).
Close up of The Country Dance
I spent ages poking around the gardens. There are a number of different gardens in the Montmartre Museum.
When you first enter the Museum there is a pretty, traditional garden, full of classic European plants such as roses and rhododendrons.
The garden entrance to Renoir’s house
Rather than head straight into the museum it is well worth spending some time in the Montmartre Museum gardens. In addition to the pretty garden in front of the house, there are a number of other garden areas. On the other side of the walled garden there is a café with its own garden area, complete with pond. It was so fun to sit and watch the children playing under the protective eye of their Papa.
Beyond the café garden there is a path that leads you to a wooded area, which is protected as one of the last original woods in Paris. The only evidence of human intervention was a fence, the path and some beehives.
At the end of the path was more garden area, complete with the Museum cat (who unfortunately was on a mission and a bit camera shy). But it was at the side of this garden area that I got an unexpected view (although later I did note that the ever reliable Rick Steves had covered it in his Paris guidebook. You can purchase a copy of Rick’s guidebook below)…….
I had always known there was a vineyard in Montmartre. But I had never gone to look for it. And there it was. The last commercial grapevines in Paris. And then as I looked, just as exciting, the famous cabaret, Au Lapin Agile, literally just across the road. It could have looked a bit strange – a vineyard in what appeared to be a solidly middle class residential area, with a famous, traditional Montmartre cabaret directly opposite. But somehow in the tranquillity of the garden, away from the tourist hordes, it made sense…….maybe there was something to Montmartre that I had been missing all these years?
The vineyard in the middle of the city
I finally managed to drag myself away from the gardens and into the Museum. The Montmartre Museum shares the history of the Montmartre area as well as the story of the things that make Montmartre famous, such as the Montmartre artists, the Montmartre night life and of course, the famous can-can.
The jaunty Lapin Agile
I was particularly taken with the original sign for the Au Lapin Agile that I had happened across on my garden walk. His rakish air really was something to see up close. An original Montmartre bar, complete with zinc topped counter that you still see around Paris from time to time, was a fascinating reminder of how traditional some Paris eateries remain even now.
But what I loved the most, perhaps surprisingly, was the part of the Museum that focussed on the can-can. Along with the Montmartre painters, it was the can-can that put Montmartre on the map, and pulled it out of its sleepy, village-on-the-hill atmosphere.
Regular readers will know that I’ve never been to the Moulin Rouge or any of those other “traditional” Paris cabarets. All that glitz and glam designed for tourists is just not one of my favourite things to do in Paris at night. But the can-can exhibition at the Montmartre Museum was different. The Museum explained the history of the can-can and gave a name, an image and a voice to those original dancers. Row upon row of photos of the original can-can dancers. Plain, ordinary, working class women, so far removed from the painted, glittering professional dancers of nowadays. It was authentic, it was honest and it was quite touching. (Unfortunately, I found the old black and white photos just didn’t translate well into images suitable for a blog post).
Not an original photo, but a painting of the time – somewhat romanticized compared to the photos…….
Here are some final images of the Museum before we leave:
It was easy to spend a lot of time in the Montmartre Museum, but the day was still young, and I wanted to find more Montmartre things to do.
Rather than continue Janelle’s walk down towards rue de Martyrs (which I’ll definitely be doing next time), I swapped over to Rick Steves’ Montmartre walk, with some variation.
I headed down rue des Saules to the Place du Tertre area and to one of the most photographed Montmartre bistros, Le Consulat. (If you are following this walk, my advice is not to eat here, there will be much better options a bit later).
By pass the restaurants around Le Consulat and the Place du Tertre, there are better options down the hill on this walk
Passing on the main part of the busy Place du Tertre I headed down the stairs to rue Gabrielle. Turning left a rue Gabrielle I was afforded a good view of the funicular and back up towards Sacré Coeur. I then doubled back down rue Gabrielle to rue Lepic. Rue Lepic is an interesting Paris street. I’m the first to admit it’s not necessarily the prettiest street in Paris, or the prettiest street in Montmartre for that matter, but interesting nonetheless. And if you are following along on my Montmartre walk the walk will be all downhill – which is always a good thing.
There are a number of interesting nooks and crannies to explore around the top of rue Lepic.
Hi Frugalistas! Regular readers will know that I love having a luxurious experience that doesn’t break the bank when I travel. I believe that regardless of your travel budget you can have a first class experience. It’s all about deciding on your budget, and then finding the absolute best version of your treat or experience you can find. A recent trip to Paris provided ample opportunity to test my theory. And I found plenty of options. Here are four budget Paris food treats under $100, that I promise will be a wonderful food experience regardless of your budget. (This post is updated on 5 April 2019).
Getting ready for a first class breakfast at Angelina’s
A budget Paris food treat under $10
Unless you’re in Paris on the last day of your trip, I would imagine anyone who visits Paris can afford my ultra budget Paris food treat. My choice? Head to one of the high end patisseries. Think Ladurée, Fauchon, Le Notre or for the Rolls Royce of macarons, Pierre Hermé.
A single macaron (and they will sell you a single macaron) will set you back a couple of Euro. Little cakes or tarts are closer to around €5.
Even if you savour yours sitting on a park bench with a bottle of water you bought at a supermarket, you too can enjoy the absolute best of the best pastry Paris has to offer.
A budget Paris food treat under $25
For my second budget Paris food treat I’m heading into the luxury 5 star hotel land. Yes. The Georges V, the Plaza Athenée, Le Meurice or even the Ritz Hotel Paris and the Crillon. All $1000+ a night hotels. But yes, within your budget.
My hot chocolate also came with two little chocolates, just in case my drink wasn’t chocolate enough
I’m the first to admit your choices are a little limited. But head to the bar, or ask for directions for where you can order a coffee/hot chocolate/glass of wine (or whatever your choice). I would suggest you avoid the cocktails or champagne, as that is likely to put you over your budget.
This will probably be the most expensive coffee or hot chocolate you will ever buy. But think of it this way. You can sit in the bar or lounge for as long as you like. You can wander around like you own the place: try out the loo (they have heated seats at the Meurice by the way and at the Ritz the hand basins sport gold swan head tapwear).
For an hour or so, you too can pretend to be part of the super rich.
I went to Le Meurice for a hot chocolate. At an eye watering €14, it was probably the most expensive hot chocolate in Paris. But what an experience! Served in a bar that was decorated like a gentleman’s club. Ultra polite, ultra handsome young waiters. My hot chocolate was basically bitter melted chocolate that I was then able to blend with the accompanying frothed milk and sugar to my taste.
Going in the mid afternoon the bar was less than half full. A Chinese family, a young Australian couple, and two tables of young French women. We were all doing the same. Spending a small amount of money on an experience in a very superior 5 star classically Parisian hotel. And yes, we all lingered. No one was in a rush to move us on. From what I could see, we all received excellent service. And I’m sure we all had a fun time. I know I did.
A budget Paris food treat under $50
It is possible to eat a first class Paris meal for under $50. I’ve done it. And I’m sharing my secret with you. You go to Angelina’s in the rue Royale. The same Angelina’s that people will queue out the door waiting for afternoon tea. But you don’t go for lunch. You don’t go for afternoon tea.
You go to Angelina’s for breakfast. Go early, during the week, and you don’t even need a booking.
Bookings are easily made on their English language website, if you feel you should.
The “full” Angelina’s breakfast will set you back €29, although more economical options are available. For your €29 you will get exemplary, smiling service from a pretty young waitress – all dressed in classic black with a white apron. You will also get juice, fruit salad (very delicious by the way), patisseries and a mini baguette, served with butter, jam and Angelina’s own honey. And then your choice of eggs.
The only downside? They do charge extra for a refill on your tea or coffee.
But it is utterly delicious, and a fun thing to do in a beautiful, traditional Paris tea room. That you don’t need to queue for.
My ultimate budget Paris food treat needs to be special. And it is. I’m going for afternoon tea – at Le Meurice. When I went for my hot chocolate I saw they also had afternoon tea. I saw that it was only €46 (or €60 with a glass of champagne.) So I made a booking, and off I went.
Yes, that is gold leaf on the éclair. What else did you expect?
A three tiered cake stand of sandwiches, scones, cakes and tarts. All served with a glass of champagne and the heaviest silver pot of coffee. It was luxe, the food was utterly delicious, and the serve was so generous, I could barely eat it all. But I did soldier on (in the name of research of course).
But of course, at €60 I want more than just the food. I want the experience.
I wanted, and got, the brilliant service, from those same handsome, polite young waiters. I wanted, and was offered, a copy of the latest edition of Paris Vogue, seeing I was on my own. I wanted, and saw, that my fellow diners were all Paris ladies taking tea, immaculately dressed business people doing deals and young French girls giggling over their champagne and scones.
Enjoying the grandeur of Le Meurice
What I didn’t know I wanted, till it happened, was a young patissière (pastry chef), come from the kitchen with a steaming hot, freshly baked tray of madeleines. I didn’t know that I would be made to feel like a queen. I didn’t know that I would enjoy it so much that I would need to write a dedicated post on it – you can read my review of Le Meurice afternoon tea here.
Budgeting for your Paris food treat
Budgeting for your Paris food treat is not difficult.
Don’t buy the tatty souvenirs. You really don’t need an Eiffel Tower key ring or statue. Buy the macaron from Pierre Hermé instead.
Don’t visit some museum you aren’t interested in. Have coffee or hot chocolate in a sublime location instead.
Don’t eat ordinary food at extraordinary prices in tourist restaurants. Have your breakfast at Angelina’s instead and then grab a baguette for lunch.
And most controversially, don’t bother with the Moulin Rouge. I promise it is cheaper and a more authentic experience at afternoon tea at Le Meurice (and you won’t need dinner afterwards).
Affording a first class budget food treat in Paris is a choice. You can choose to buy “stuff”. You can choose to bury yourself in the tourist’s Paris. Or you can join me and other savvy frugalistas in a glass of champagne at Le Meurice.
I know what choice I’ll be making. How about joining me?
If you prefer a guided tour food experience, I recommend The Paris Guy for quality, small group tours (and don’t forget to use FRUGALFIRST5 for your 5% discount).
Hi Frugalistas! If you’ve been reading frugal first class travel for a while now, you might know that I’m a fan of the microfibre towel in my packing lists. I like them even in non-beach locations as a picnic rug, a wrap or as a towel for my hair. But the reality is most microfibre beach towels are, well, best described as utilitarian in terms of colour options. And just like any towel, they definitely attract the sand at the beach. So you can imagine how interested I was when the team at Tesalate contacted me and offered to let me try their towel. It was different they said. It came in glam colours, and most importantly, it didn’t retain the sand. So is the Tesalate towel the best travel towel to add to your beach stuff, or add to your packing list? See my review and decide for yourself.
Disclaimer: The Lovelies at Tesalate were kind enough to provide me with my towel free of charge, but as you know, my opinions are always my own, and I don’t recommend anything I wouldn’t use myself.
My Tesalate towel in Hawaii
Tesalate towel review: the worst thing about the Tesalate towel
I’m going to be upfront about this – there is a big problem with the Tesalate towel. And that is, which pattern to choose? Going to the Tesalate website to choose my towel I was left with a bewildering choice of thirty plus different patterns. I spent literally ages before settling on the Bohemian. Regardless of your own personal taste I defy you to not find something that suits you. And you don’t even have to worry about your husband or boyfriend not wanting to use your very feminine towel if you go for something particularly girly – Tesalate towels reverse to a suitably masculine, stylish black and white on the other side of the towel.
The Tesalate towel in reverse
Traveling with Tesalate towels
The Tesalate towel is very easy to travel with. It comes in its own little drawstring bag, and packs flat into the bottom of your case. I packed my Tesalate towel into the bottom of my carry on sized suitcase on our recent trip to Hawaii and still had loads of room (and weight allowance) in my bag.
When it’s time to head off to the beach or that picnic, the Tesalate towel is easily thrown into a casual tote or daypack.
The Tesalate towel is small enough to throw into any daypack or tote Photo Credit: Tesalate
Using the Tesalate towel
Like the best travel towel, the Tesalate towel is nice and big, easy to use and quick drying. The Tesalate towel is very luxurious size – giving good coverage on the pool lounge.
Measuring a generous 160cm x 80cm (63 x 31 inches), slimmer purchasers can easily use their Tesalate towel as a colourful beach cover up and everyone can use it as a generous hair towel.
But, wait, there’s more. And it’s the reason why the Tesalate towel is among the best microfibre towels, and why you need one in your beach gear.
Sand doesn’t get stuck in the Tesalate towel.
Yes, you read me right. Sand doesn’t stick to the Tesalate towel. Even when it is wet.
We took our towel to the beach in Hawaii and all it needed was a shake at the end of our day for the towel to be as good as new. So handy for traveling.
The Tesalate towel is big enough to use as a beach cover up. Just give the towel a shake to brush off the sand and you are good to go. Photo: Tesalate
We used our towel on a couple of occasions. Once it was very windy and the towel did dry pretty quickly on our hotel balcony. The second time it was less breezy, and drying time was definitely slower, but consistent with my usual experience of microfiber towels.
Tesalate reviews: Is Tesalate one of the best quick dry towels?
I do think the Tesalate towel is a worthy addition to your beach gear for your next trip to the beach. It is light, packs easily and takes up little space in your suitcase or beach bag. It’s easy to throw into your bag as a “just in case” to be used as a picnic blanket or hair towel at the beach or pool.
With bright colours and great all over patterns, the Tesalate towel doesn’t show the dirt when you are traveling. Drying time is reasonable. And it doesn’t collect sand – so important when you are traveling.
The Tesalate towel is sure to become a must pack for us on our trips from now on.
Buying your Tesalate towel
You can buy your Tesalate towel directly from Tesalate on their website. The Tesalate towel costs AUD79 for Australian readers and USD59 for my American friends. Tesalate offer free worldwide shipping.
Just make sure you allow plenty of time to shop – like me, I’m sure you’ll find choosing your Tesalate towel no easy task!
Hi Frugalistas! As much as I love travelling to Europe, I do like to visit other destinations, particularly when it is for our family holidays. MissG, Mr Frugalfirstclass and I had the opportunity to experience the Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class on our recent trip to Hawaii. While I definitely love my favorite airlines, it is always fun to experience and write about other airlines. My Hawaiian Airlines Business Class review is no exception to that.
A warm welcome on board Hawaiian Airlines Business Class
Hawaiian Airlines check in at Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith airport is serviced by Qantas ground staff. There was a dedicated Business Class check in with two counters open. Despite there being no one ahead of us in the queue we wait ages to be served. Once we are served I understand why – the service can be best described as “lacklustre”. So slow and lacking in any enthusiasm, our agent sits with her chin on her hand for what appears an eternity. Finally we receive our boarding passes and Express path cards and she dismisses us. So, yes, I do ask where the lounge is, and even though it is the Qantas Business Class Lounge she seems amazed I had asked.
As is normal for evening departures from Sydney Airport we whiz through Immigration and security screening and arrive at the Qantas Business Class Lounge in no time.
Regular readers of my airline reviews will know I’m no great fan of the Qantas Business Class Lounge. On this most recent visit I was pleased to see that some changes had occurred. Gone is the old, tired Ikea-style furniture. Because it was evening, the lounge was quite busy and quite noisy, but we were able to enjoy a small snack and drink before our departure.
On our return flight from Honolulu to Sydney we were able to experience Hawaiian Airlines’ own ground service. Again it seemed inexplicably slow. But in stark comparison to our Hawaiian Airlines Sydney airport experience it is smiling and friendly, and more importantly, interested. Without needing to ask, we are given detailed instructions on how to reach the lounge.
There was no need for any special Express pass through TSA screening as Hawaiian Airlines have their own screening queue for Business Class and high value frequent flyers.
As would be expected, Hawaiian Airlines have their own lounges in Honolulu. The Plumeria Lounge is open to International Business Class travelers only. Despite that, when we visited the lounge was quite busy. The Plumeria Lounge consists of a range of sofa and table based seating. A small range of late breakfast/early lunch snacks were available for our lunch time departure, along with a variety of non-alcoholic drinks and a red and white wine. It was a small choice, and while I didn’t eat anything the filled croissants and fruit platters did look appetising.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class inflight experience
Boarding our Hawaiian Airlines Sydney to Honolulu flight at Kingsford-Smith was via a dedicated Business Class queue. This allowed us to board our flight quickly. On our return leg from Honolulu we needed to take an internal shuttle to our gate, which delayed our arrival. There was no separate queue and they were already calling Economy (Coach) travellers so we were forced to insert ourselves (ie push in) into the queue. Fortunately this didn’t cause any problems.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class seats
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class seating is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration in 3 rows. Despite booking our flights with ample time to spare the cabin was already half full, so in order to book 3 seats together I needed to book the first row. Looking at the seats I suspect there is more storage and foot space in the seats in rows 2 and 3.
The seats themselves are different to anything I’ve experienced before. Despite being side by side there is a small space between the end of the footstool and the wall or seat in front, so in theory there is room to step around, rather than step over the person seated in the aisle seat. Unfortunately at 183cm (6 foot 1 inch) tall Mr Frugalfirstclass’s feet hung over the end of the footstool. Combined with the barrier on the aisle footstool (which works well to stop feet being bumped by people moving along the aisle) it meant my step over on the trip to Honolulu was actually more difficult than normal.
The tall MissG and even taller Mr Frugalfirstclass stretch out
Seats are fully lie flat, and I while they are probably not the most comfortable lie flat seats I’ve ever experienced, I must say I did find the Hawaiian Airlines lie flat seats absolutely fine for the overnight flight to Honolulu and the day only trip back to Sydney. Mr Frugalfirstclass found them a little narrow for sleeping, but agreed that for a 9 and a half hour flight they were comfortable enough. Combined with a mattress, large soft pillow and homely cotton duvet I found the seat quite comfy for the duration of the flight.
No engineering degree required to manage the seat settings
What I did like very much was the simplicity of the seat to move it from seating to lying and in between. I find some airline’s Business Class seats almost require an Engineering degree to work them. The Hawaiian Business Class seat was moved via a simple dial on the arm of the seat. It worked perfectly. In seat lighting was a similarly simple reading light attached to the side of the chair and an over head light which was activated by a button in the interior of the seat.
For a flight the length of ours there was adequate storage consisting of a side pocket big enough for a water bottle, amenities kit and book. There was a mesh pocket on the other side of the seat which I suspect would be sufficient for a slim laptop or tablet. I found the additional storage space under my footstool perfectly big enough for my shoes, and I was thrilled when the flight attendant encouraged me to place my handbag there as well, rather than put it up in the overhead locker.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class amenities
The Hawaiian Airlines Business Class amenity kit is quite generous
We received two different amenity kits on our flights. On the way to Honolulu our kit was a slim bag. Along with the usual eye mask, and ear plugs we were treated to a mini toothbrush and toothpaste, wooden comb, facial spray, lotion, lip balm, tissues, a pen, and a rather natty pair of socks with a flipflop pattern knitted into them. On the return journey a softer kit replaced the socks with ear buds – which were somewhat redundant given the noise cancelling headphones that we were handed.
On both legs we were also treated to a pair of slippers. Despite them being adjustable in width, they were too small for Mr Frugalfirstclass.
What is Hawaiian Airlines customer service like?
A welcome mai tai
I must say I do think the service we experienced on Hawaiian Airlines really did represent the spirit of Hawaii well. Like many flagship airlines, the flight attendants on our flights were more mature. We were also fortunate to be looked after by both Customer Service Manager, Lynn, and attendant Sandy on both our flights. Amazingly Sandy remembered us on our return flight (even though it was almost 2 weeks later), and proceeded to take it upon herself to offer us hints on what to order for our meals.
When we first boarded our late evening flight to Honolulu I did find the pace of service somewhat rushed, resulting in our pre-supper drinks being served at the same time as our meals.
Having said that, our attendants smiled through our flights and nothing was ever too much trouble. Water bottles were replenished promptly, and they even managed the traffic around the single Business Class loo, so no one needed to queue. They also made the effort to address us by name, rather than just Sir or Madam as is often the experience on bigger planes, even in Business Class.
As we were coming into land at Sydney Sandy took the time to speak personally to every passenger in the almost full cabin, pausing to ask questions, and in our case, wish us a safe homecoming and the hope of a return to Hawaii soon. It was just this smiling personalised service that definitely endeared the Hawaiian Airlines Business Class service to us.
I must say that while the Hawaiian Airlines Business Class menus were generous, I did find the food a bit hit and miss. Our supper on the Sydney to Honolulu leg of egg and rocket sandwich with potato wedges was quite tasteless and the wedges were inexcusably soggy, while the accompanying pumpkin soup was tasty.
Breakfast prior to arrival in Honolulu was similarly generous, and to my taste, far more successful. A tasty frittata (which was really more like a quiche) was certainly one the better egg based dishes I’ve been served for breakfast on a plane.
Breakfast is served
Remembering us from our flight to Honolulu, Sandy took us under her wing and conspiratorally suggested we try the shrimp udon noodles for lunch on our return leg. It was something I would never had chosen myself, but was pleased I had taken Sandy’s advice. The shrimp was well cooked and fresh, and there was just enough spice to make it interesting.
Our pre-arrival snack on the return leg was a chicken and sushi served in a lettuce leaf. It was sort of a cross between a taco and a san choy bao, and was definitely the most interesting dish we were served. Again it was very tasty, if a little awkward to eat.
The Hawaiian Airlines Business Class wine list was small – three reds, three whites and a prosecco. Choices were a good mix of old and new world, and different grapes. Tasting notes were reliable.
In addition to the wine list there was a choice of three cocktails and a good range of spirits. While the cocktails were of the pre-mixed variety, they were served prettily, and the mai tais we were offered as a pre-take off drink (and we may have also had the odd one in flight) were genuinely among the best ones we enjoyed during our entire trip.
Hawaiian Airlines entertainment
The Hawaiian Airlines entertainment system in Business Class utilises iPads and noise cancelling head sets. The iPads are circulated during the flight and are the nice, big iPad Pro model.
The range of movies and TV shows on offer were a bit limited. I managed to find two films to watch on each leg, but was somewhat pleased to have a good book to read on the flight home when we didn’t need or want to sleep.
While what was there was up to date and perfectly respectable, for a nine and half hour flight (particularly if you aren’t sleeping), you need a good book, or to bring something downloaded to watch. MissG downloaded some Netflix content onto her iPad Mini and set it up on the iPad housing, with the noise cancelling headsets for the trip home. She plugged her iPad into the in seat USB and was quite happy.
Some of the movie choices
What I think of Hawaiian Airlines Business Class
The Sydney to Honolulu route is one of those with not a lot of competition. It could be tempting of Hawaiian Airlines to not bother much with comfort, amenities or service. But with a modern A330 plane, good amenities, reasonable food, and of course the charming Sandy in the Business Class cabin, they clearly do make an effort.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class is a good way of getting into the Oloha Spirit before you arrive in Honolulu, or prolonging the moment until you arrive home.
As a family, we all agreed that we can’t wait to return to Hawaii, and I know we will be booking Hawaiian Airlines the next time we do.
Author’s note: We paid for our own flights on Hawaiian Airlines
Hi Frugalistas! If you know me you know I love afternoon tea. I particularly love afternoon tea in Paris. My favorite Paris afternoon teas have included Le Meurice afternoon tea (my first high tea in Paris) and the Ritz Hotel Paris afternoon tea in the Salon Proust. So why am I writing about afternoon tea at the Ritz Paris again? Because at the Ritz Hotel Paris afternoon tea comes with a choice of venues – the very formal Salon Proust, or the more casual, but just as fabulous Terrace. On my most recent trip to Paris, my friend KB and I treated ourselves to a traditional afternoon tea on the iconic Ritz Hotel Terrace.
KB and I had spent the morning and early afternoon sightseeing and shopping and had missed lunch. It was around 3.30pm when we turned up unannounced to the Ritz Terrace and asked for a table. In early May the Terrace was only about a third full, so we were quickly seated without a booking.
Unlike the Salon Proust, the Terrace at the Ritz Hotel is a casual dining area with an extensive menu. Fortunately the French afternoon tea menu is quite straightforward – afternoon tea, or champagne afternoon tea. As with the Salon Proust afternoon tea and the Ritz London afternoon tea, champagne is the Ritz Hotel’s own champagne, with a choice of brut or rosé. The tea menu features a good range of choices, but KB and I went quite traditional – Earl Grey for KB, and Darjeeling for me.
What is included in the afternoon tea at the Ritz Paris?
For a French afternoon tea the afternoon tea at the Ritz Paris is quite a traditional English style afternoon tea. Served on the classic 3 tiered cake stand, we were treated to a range of light and tasty sandwiches – even a tiny smoked salmon baguette. We were also served a range of scones with a choice of jams, and of course, like the best English tea, thick unctuous cream. I must say, the scones were particularly delicious – so light and fluffy, they literally melted in the mouth.
Classic 3 tiered cake stand – Ritz hotel afternoon tea
While everything on our 3 tiered cake stand was lovely, I couldn’t help but think something was missing. Any afternoon tea menu worth its salt surely had cakes? And a high end afternoon tea, that some would think should be the best tea in Paris would surely have cakes, and possibly tarts, and certainly pastry, non?
Fortunately we did not have to worry about any lack of cake for long. No sooner did he sense our 3 tiered stand was nearly done, than our handsome, young waiter reappeared to offer us – cake! Bringing us a tray of the cakes and pastries on offer for the day we were able to make our choice seated at our table. While everything looked fabulous we finally settled on our choices: a coffee pecan mille feuille for KB, and a wild strawberry cheesecake for me.
KB’s elegant mille feuille
Both cakes were delicious, but as it often the case, our ambition was greater than our tummies. Just as the case in the Salon Proust not being able to finish our afternoon tea was not a problem. While we attended to our bill they were whisked away and returned to us in the Ritz Paris signature doggy bag to take home for later.
My wild strawberry cheesecake with Ritz Paris chocolate
What I think of the Ritz Paris afternoon tea
Make no mistake, I did enjoy my afternoon tea at the Ritz Paris Terrace. The afternoon tea itself was tasty and high quality. The service was professional, yet smiling and chatty. It was great to wander into such a popular and iconic place to eat in Paris without a reservation and spend an enjoyable afternoon.
But here’s the BUT……..
The Ritz Hotel Terrace afternoon tea is not the best afternoon tea in Paris, and here is why. The Terrace itself is certainly a lovely destination, but it can’t compete with the sense of occasion that the Salon Proust offers. And with its glass roof and afternoon sun, I’m sure it must be terribly hot in summer. At €85 (including champagne it is the same price as the Ritz Paris Salon Proust afternoon tea, and while it is a better balanced tea than the all sweet Salon Proust offering, it just wasn’t as special.
I don’t think the Ritz Terrace afternoon tea is quite as nice as the traditional afternoon tea I enjoyed at Le Meurice. Le Meurice’s afternoon tea was more generous, the setting was unbeatable and I loved the sheer gentility and people watching in the Lounge where the tea was served. And it was significantly cheaper.
Where to have afternoon tea in Paris? Well, it depends on what you are after. If you want a smart, traditional afternoon tea, I would book a table at Le Meurice. If you want to indulge yourself and have a special treat, then the Salon Proust would be my current pick (although I’ve not been to the Crillon as yet). However, if you want to enjoy an afternoon sitting in the sun enjoying a good afternoon tea, then the Ritz Terrace afternoon tea could be the one.
All prices are correct as at May 2018. KB and I paid for our own afternoon teas at the Ritz Hotel Paris.
Hi Frugalistas! The other week in my Plan Your Trip to France Facebook group (you can sign up here if you aren’t already a member), I posted an article from the New York Times which demonstrated a $1000 (US) day in Paris for just $100. Group member Hollie was so excited by the article, as it proved to her that her goal was achievable – she wanted to spend one week in Paris (well, 5 nights in Paris and 2 days to travel to and from) for just USD1000 per person. She then went on to describe how she is going about planning a trip to Paris for $1000 per person, including airfares and accommodation. So, with her permission, I’m showing everyone in this Paris travel blog how they can do the same. Australian readers can make the same trip for about AUD2000 per person.
One week in Paris for $1000 – how to book discount airfares to Paris
Hollie’s first tactic to book a budget trip to Paris is one that I appreciate not everyone can do. But if you can be flexible with your dates like Hollie you can potentially make huge savings on your airfare to Paris.
US readers will take Hollie’s advice and use the Hopper and Travel Pirates apps to seek out discount flights to Paris. This is where she found flights to Paris for just over USD300 per person. Australian readers looking for cheap airfares to Paris need to subscribe to I Know the Pilot and Secret Flying. Both sites send through daily emails with some fantastic airline discounts. Expect to pay around $1000 to Paris (sometimes a little less) from the East Coast if you are quick and flexible.
Traditional Paris cafes and brasseries don’t have to break the bank
Paris travel blog: how to find discount accommodation in Paris
Hollie was able to book her Paris accommodation for a total of USD485 for five nights (she chose an apartment). Australian readers should be able to find plenty of choice at AUD200 (or less) per room per night depending on the time of year and regardless of whether you are searching for a Paris apartment or Paris hotel. (Prices and budgets are based on 2 people sharing). Which arrondissement to stay in Paris? My Paris arrondissement guide will help you choose the best neighbourhood to stay in Paris.
Your Paris trip cost so far: using Hollie’s actual expenditure, US readers have currently spent USD542.50 per person. Using my tips, Australian readers can have their 5 days in Paris for $1500 (or less if you are frugal with your accommodation).
Paris itineraries: 5 days in Paris for just $500
The NY Times article is very similar to an article I wrote on frugal first class travel some years ago about enjoying Paris on any budget. It takes a day in Paris, then shows how to do some very expensive things on a budget. I’m going to take the same approach here.
Budget around EUR30 for a decent bistrot or brasserie meal. Boeuf tartare is a bistrot classic
In the article, the author recommends the Blé Sucré in the 12th arrondissement (it is just a short Metro ride from my current favorite Paris hotel) for breakfast. While my Paris hotel does a very good breakfast at a reasonable price, it can’t compete with the €3.26 (less than USD5) expresso and kouignamann (a Breton caramelised pastry). And it definitely can’t compete with the patissier’s pedigree as a pastry chef at the 3 Michelin star restaurant at the Hotel Le Bristol.
Eating in Paris on a budget is easy if you do your research. In fact, you can eat surprisingly well for surprisingly little. One of my favorite ways to save money on restaurants in Paris is to eat my main meal at lunchtime. Even very expensive restaurants usually offer a fixed price lunch menu of 2 or 3 courses at a significant discount to their à la carte lunch or dinner menu. The NY Times article suggests Le Timbre in the 6th as a 3 course farm to table lunch alternative to the €340 farm to table 3 Michelin star L’Arpège. Three course fixed price lunch at Le Timbre is a far more budget friendly €26 (plus drinks).
Market purchases always budget friendly options
If you eat your main meal at lunchtime you probably don’t need a fancy big dinner, so a simple brasserie meal at Le Bistrot du Peintre in the Bastille area is a good choice. (This brasserie was the one highlighted in the newspaper article, but it’s also becoming a firm favorite with members of my Facebook group). For a high quality Paris meal on a budget a shared entrée (appetiser) and main (entrée) with a bottle of wine to share is around €30.
Lunch and dinner for US readers comes to around USD70, and comes to approximately AUD90-100 for Australian readers.
If you are looking for a night cap in Paris, after dinner at Le Bistrot du Peintre the nearby Hotel du Nord offers €5 wines in a hip location not too far from Le Bistrot du Peintre.
Place de Vosges in the Marais. You don’t need an expensive guide to enjoy this very Parisian garden
There are so many free things to do in Paris. Surprisingly, in the NY Times article going for a walk is not a free thing to do in Paris – no, apparently you need to pay a Paris tour guide €240 for a walk in the Marais. Travelling on a budget to Paris means doing a free walking tour. Paris being so popular means you have multiple options, but my favorite free walks in Paris come courtesy of Rick Steves. Either follow Rick’s Marais walk in his guidebook, or download his Paris walks app from your app store.
Unless you have visited Paris many times, or have no interest, you will want to visit museums in Paris during your stay in Paris. The best Paris attractions pass for those on a budget is the Paris Museum Pass. How to make the most of your Museum Pass is easy but does take planning and organisation. The Paris Museum Pass is available for your choice of 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days. The more days you buy your pass for, the cheaper it becomes each day. In order to keep to your budget of USD100 per day, only buy a pass to cover the number of days you need to visit the places you want to visit. Allow at least 2 hours each for the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, and long half day at least for Versailles. Smaller sites like Ste Chapelle or the Opera Garnier can be enjoyed in about an hour.
The Opera Garnier
A 2 day Paris Musée Pass is currently about USD60 (or AUD85) per person. Save money on your meals by trying a filled baguette for lunch (around €4-7 and often big enough to share) or choosing a light meal in a museum café (budget €15-20 per person). You can also visit a market and buy small amounts of meat or cheese to fill a bread roll from a bakery.
Many visitors to Paris are tempted to buy the Paris Pass because it includes your train and bus fares. But, unless you are planning on spending an awful lot of time on the Metro, I don’t believe most travellers will get the value out of this pass. (It is approximately twice the price of the Museum Pass for a 2 day pass). The best way for budget travellers to save on public transport is to buy a carnet of tickets that can be used on both the Metro and the bus. Carnets are bulk purchases of tickets that are cheaper the more you buy. Carnets can be shared by travellers. Budget around €1.30 for a single ticket purchased in a carnet.
Gardens in Paris are free. Popular choices include the Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens, but my favorite, for its ambience and setting is the garden in the Palais Royale. Add in the quirky shops in the colonnades that surround the garden and it’s an easy way to pass a couple of hours right in the heart of Paris.
The Palais Royale is my favorite garden in Paris – and it’s completely free
For excellent people watching on a budget head to Place de Vosges in the Marais. Take a seat on a bench and watch Paris come and go. Toddlers on the play equipment with their Mamas and Nou-nous (nannies), groups of high school students enjoying their lunch and lovers stealing a kiss. Again, under the colonnades pricy art galleries and minimalist fashion boutiques make for good window shopping (or leche la vitrine – literally lick the windows, as they say in French).
For a day in Paris that will cost almost nothing head to the Père Lachaise Cemetery and enjoy one of the most atmospheric and evocative places in Paris. Then follow my walk to find the real Paris from Père Lachaise up to the Buttes Chaumont park. Both the cemetery and park are free and you will find that meals in this part of Paris are somewhat cheaper than the more touristy parts closer to the city centre.
Pere Lachaise is free
Markets can be as cheap or expensive as you like. For flea market shopping you don’t need to go all the way up to the famous Clignancourt market. Multiple Paris flea markets are open depending on the day of the week. The Village St Paul in the Marais is in a terrific spot which can be combined with other activities in that part of Paris. A specialist Paris market book can help you find the right markets for you:
Apart from Versailles as part of a Museum Pass, I have not allowed for any day tours from Paris. But planned well, it is quite possible to take any number of day trips from Paris on a budget. Consider a day trip to Reims or Rouen, or even a self guided trip to Giverny.
If you do your own trip to Giverny it is still budget friendly
This post will work equally well for a budget weekend in Paris if you use the principles and methodologies I’ve worked through.
I think Hollie is going to have a great time in Paris and still stick to her budget without depriving herself of all the wonders Paris has to offer.
What are your favorite tips for visiting Paris on a budget?
Hi Frugalistas! I love the French Riviera and Mediterranean vacations, and I’m always looking for new French Riviera travel destinations to explore. While there are many daytrips from Marseille, my friend KB and I decided a day trip to Cassis would make an interesting comparison to the city. So Cassis it was.
French Riviera travel: how to travel to Cassis from Marseille
Marseille to Cassis is an easy drive, but not having a car, KB and I took the 30minute Marseille Cassis train from Marseille’s St Charles station. The quaint, very rural, Cassis train station is about 3km from the main town. There is a shuttle bus, but KB and I had worked out that the walk down into the town was through vineyards and olive groves, so we thought that might be a more interesting way to reach the town.
The pretty and quaint Cassis railway station
And we were certainly not disappointed. The walk was truly pretty. On a sunny Sunday morning there was little road or pedestrian traffic. We passed small vineyards and olive groves and admired the landscape of the surrounding hills. As we got closer to the centre of town olive groves and vineyards gave way to houses in extensive gardens, before reaching the centre of town with its typical multcoloured, shuttered, French Riviera townhouses.
On the way to Cassis
What to do on a day trip to Cassis
Down at Cassis harbour we were tempted by the small cruisers offering short trips out to les Calanques de Cassis but we decided we would stay on dry land and explore the town. It was quite busy on a Sunday May morning, but we still managed to find a quiet square to sit and enjoy a drink in the sunshine before we explored.
The soap shop and factory is as pretty as a picture
Like most places in Europe, the best way to explore Cassis is to head away from the crowds and explore the back streets. Being a small town of some 8000 people it’s hard to get lost in Cassis. And remembering that heading downhill will take you to the harbour also helps.
Sunday morning in Cassis and the locals are out
We spent a wonderful time wandering the backstreets of Cassis. We found gorgeous Provençal architecture, ladies out gossiping, cats and tiny hole in the wall restaurants and cafés. Wandering out to the harbour we enjoyed a local craft market (which if it is on is good option for local souvenirs) as well as the picturesque view back to the town, complete with bobbing fishing boats.
The town was so crowded that I was pleased I had booked our table at Restaurant Gilbert for lunch. I don’t normally seek out restaurants on the main tourist trail down by the water, but Restaurant Gilbert had such a high approval score on The Fork app (called La Forchette in France, it’s easy to download) that we agreed it was worth a try.
Arriving for our booking at 1pm the joint was jumping with happy French diners. Our Sunday lunch was a fixed price three course menu for €34 plus drinks. (The menu was not available in English, however, the waiting staff seemed to speak English without any problem). We thought a local Cassis wine was in order given our walk through the vineyards. There being only twelve wineries in the Cassis AOC region, the wines were not listed by maker, but just a single listing on the wine list. Our wine was fabulous with the local food. The French couple at the next table to us (the charming Frederique and Bernadette, also on a Cassis day trip from Marseille where they lived) cooed with approval when they saw our choice, and pronounced it an excellent Cassis wine.
Typical fish soup
We started with a typical Provençal fish soup. Not to be confused with a classic Marseillais boullaibaisse it was served with croutons, garlic mayonnaise to spoon on the croutons, and grated cheese on a separate plate. The soup itself was served by our waiter with great flourish from a large silver tureen.
Our main course (entrée) was simple grilled fish with vegetables which our waiter deftly filleted for us at the table. Dessert was a chocolate mousse cake.
Dessert is served
We spent a happy time chatting half in English, half in French to Bernadette and Frederique and our waiter. French family groups laughed and ate. Despite Cassis being a busy Mediterranean resort town no one rushed us on. It was relaxed and friendly, and the food was excellent.
After lunch we wandered around the shops and I treated myself to a colourful silk scarf from Provençal brand Soleido. Every time I wear it, it’s a reminder of a happy and enjoyable day.
The beach at Cassis is a typical Mediterranean beach (ie stones not sand), but the harbour is definitely welcoming
Practical info for travelling to Cassis
Although it is a little further than Antibes and Cannes, Cassis is still one of the easier day trips from Nice and is a simple 30min train ride from Marseille. Despite it being Sunday the trains were not crowded. The biggest problem we had was the lengthy queue to buy our ticket at St Charles station (the ticket machines rather annoyingly don’t take overseas credit cards). If you are planning on taking the Marseille Cassis train, I suggest planning ahead and booking your train ticket before you leave home.
Cassis also makes a great stop on a driving trip along the Cote d’Azur.
We ate at the Restaurant Gilbert down at the harbour. You do need to book a table for Sunday lunch for Cassis restaurants, and I would suggest booking one any day during the summer when Cassis swells to over 40 000 inhabitants. Download The Fork app, and book online.
Although it is more popular with French visitors you can, of course, stay in Cassis and enjoy the charms of this French Riviera resort town a little longer.
Hi Frugalistas! I love the South of France and am always looking for new things to do and see in Provence and the Côte d’Azur. I’d travelled through Marseille to Nice by train, but never visited, despite it being one of the largest South of France cities. When I told people my friend KB and I were going to Marseille on our recent trip, most people were a little perplexed. Gritty was the term that got used. The word dangerous was used more than once. What was there to do in Marseille? Were there any things to see in Marseille? Is Marseille worth visiting? Well, we found plenty of things to do in Marseille on a weekend stay in Marseille…………
Arriving in Marseille
KB and I flew to Marseille from Amsterdam arriving quite late on Friday evening. The airport is quite a distance from the city (in fact it seemed to be about half way to Aix-en-Provence), but given it was so late, the €60+ taxi fare to the Vieux Port was money well spent in our opinion.
Our first sight of Marseille
If you are travelling from Paris to Marseille you will find the train a much better option than the plane. The Paris to Marseille train is a TGV which will drop you at the central St Charles station (from the Gare de Lyon in Paris) in about three hours.
Where to stay in Marseille
We stayed at the Escale Oceania Marseille Vieux Port centrally located at the Vieux Port. Arriving at almost midnight, our long day’s travel was well rewarded with the magnificent night time view from our hotel balcony.
While there are literally hundreds of Marseille hotels, I think the best places to stay in Marseille are around the Vieux Port area. It’s a vibrant part of the city, with easy public transport access, and close to most of the places you will want to visit on a weekend in Marseille.
Although it is one of the largest cities in France, most visitors will focus their Marseille sightseeing around the Vieux Port area. Given it was Saturday we decided to start our Marseille sightseeing with a typical French Saturday morning activity – a trip to the market. While there were a number of options nearby, we went for the Marché Place Jean Jaurès, on, you guessed it, Place Jean Jaurès. Choosing it because it was in an “up and coming” neighbourhood, we weren’t disappointed. In addition to the usual fruits and vegetables, we loved the North African stalls with their vibrant coloured clothes. It reminded me a bit of the Marché Barbès in Paris, but without the attitude.
Fabrics in the market
Prices in the market seemed pretty modest – I picked up a packet of 3 pairs of socks for just €5 for example. If you like authentic, local markets, this is a great one – I think we were the only tourists there. (Later in the afternoon we stumbled across a craft market right near our hotel, where there were a good range of local, handmade souvenirs also at good prices if that is more your bag.)
Le Panier is probably one of the most popular things to see in Marseille, so after the market that was our next stop. Le Panier is an old Marseille neighbourhood on the south western corner of the Vieux Port area. It’s a place to do what I love to do – get lost. You don’t really need a map for Le Panier – just wander in, and use your map to pick out some of the obvious landmarks. Some of the streets can definitely best be described as “gritty”, but others are pure, pretty Provence.
Probably the most Instagrammed spot in the Panier, but it’s obvious why
What I particularly loved were the flower pots suspended on shutters, which I’d not seen elsewhere in Provence to my memory. In addition to the pretty buildings and artisan shops, we particularly enjoyed our visit to the Centre de la Vieille Charité, an 18th century workhouse which is now an exhibition space. It was quiet, and very enjoyable to wander around the cloisters (and provides some very welcome shade on a warm afternoon).
Centre de la Vieille Charite
Having been the European city of culture in 2013, the art museums are among the most popular Marseille attractions, with a number of new options down by the Vieux Port. There was an Ai Wai Wai exhibition at the Villa Mediterranée but with so many other Marseille attractions we decided to pass on the art, and enjoyed exploring the older attractions in the Vieux Port and Panier area, such as the Fort St Jean and the very Italianate Cathédrale de la Major. Because we only had limited time we decided to concentrate our efforts around the Vieux Port and Le Panier, so we also passed on the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde.
The lighthouse. Don’t you love the colour of the water?
Day trips from Marseille
Because we managed to find so many things to do in Marseille in one day, we decided that a day trip, rather than exploring the city further was in order for Sunday. Plus the weather was going to be great, so we wanted to be out and about.
On the way to Cassis
There are plenty Marseille day trips you can take. Many people will recommend the nearby Calanques for swimming and hiking, but we decided to go further afield. Passing on Aix-en-Provence where we had both been before, KB and I took the 30minute train trip to Cassis just east of Marseille.
I’ll be writing about Cassis in more detail on a future post, but in summary, we had a fun day enjoying this pretty seaside town – which is very easily visited as a day trip by train. There were some enjoyable shops, pretty squares to sit in, and quaint Provençale streets to wander. We enjoyed another local craft market on the foreshore before one of the best lunches ever at Café Gilbert, where we sat next to the friendly Frederique and Bernadette, a couple from Marseille. We had such fun chatting with them, half in English, half in French, while we enjoyed our lunch and some of the local appellation controllée Cassis wines.
The best Marseille places to eat
Obviously with just one weekend in Marseille, we are definitely not experts on the Marseille food scene. But having said that, we ate extremely well.
Our lunch on Saturday was in Le Panier, at an outdoor café on the courtyard opposite the Centre de la Vieille Charité (I’m sorry, I didn’t get what it was called, but it was the first café on the left as you face the courtyard.) Our waiter didn’t speak English, but he went through the menu nice and slowly so I could translate for KB. The menu was a mixture of burgers, quiche and salads. We both ordered salads and were not disappointed. With a glass of local red wine, we passed a delicious and relaxing lunch.
Modern salade Nicoise with fresh anchovy
We found an absolute treasure quite by accident for our dinner on Saturday night. After the market on Saturday morning we found a café to sit and enjoy a coffee away from the market crowds at the bottom of the cours Julien. Our waitress happened to be a young Australian woman, married to a local. She recommended the Bistro du Cours a little further up the street at number 13 for dinner. And boy, what a recommendation…..
Pork belly for dinner
We arrived a little early for our reservation, so wandered into the Le Tire-Bouchon wine bar next door at number 11 for a pre-dinner drink (owned by the same people as the restaurant we discovered). We sat up at the traditional zinc bar and sipped a vibrant pinot noir that the waiter recommended. He spoke English well, and we spent a lively time chatting with him while we enjoyed our drink and waited for our booking.
Le Tire-Bouchon had a good range of bottles available for take away at reasonable prices, so it’s a good place to buy some nice wine to enjoy back in your room or as part of a picnic.
We sat outside for dinner, and again, I’m sure we were the only tourists in the place. The menu was a fixed price table d’hôte with a choice of just three entrées (appetizers), three mains (entrées) and four desserts (including a cheese plate). The menu was not translated into English, but our waiting staff did speak some English. So delicious, and such wonderful service, it was definitely worth the walk from the Vieux Port for its authentic experience.
After our day trip to Cassis and our fabulous lunch there we weren’t terribly hungry for Sunday dinner, so went for a wander around the backstreets near the hotel to find somewhere. We landed at Le Fuxia, an Italian traiteur on rue Saint-Saëns on the eastern side of the port where we enjoyed a charcuterie share plate accompanied by an Aperol spritz. I know, not very French, but still great.
In summary, is Marseille worth visiting?
Friendly locals in the Panier
I have to say, absolutely yes, Marseille is definitely worth visiting. In fact, as you can see, we found a weekend was just too short to cover everything. With inexpensive accommodation, great food, and delightful, friendly people I think it’s one of the best cities to visit in France. When you visit Marseille you will have an opportunity to speak French, without being replied to in English, which I know for some of you will make it one of the best places to visit in France. Yes, when you pass through on the Marseille to Nice train it does look a bit gritty, and I’m sure that like most big cities, it may even be dangerous in parts, but Marseille is also pretty, authentique, modern, vibrant and friendly.
When I was a teenager there was an well known Australian band called The Angels who sang a song called “Take me away to Marseille”. I for one, can be taken away to Marseille anytime – it’s a great place to visit.
Hi Frugalistas! I’m thrilled to bring you this special British Airways First Class review from David C. Moore, author of Turning Left Around the World. David and his wife Helene started their special trip in a very special way – in the British Airways 787 Dreamliner First Class from London to Santiago. I’ve had the opportunity to try the British Airways Business Class, but never the First Class, so I was so pleased to be able to commission this British Airways 787 Dreamliner review of David and Helene’s experience in the BA First Class.
New British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
British Airways First Class Review: setting the scene
My wife Helene and I had been planning our once-in-a-lifetime adventure for nearly a year – 10 months Business and First Class travel around the world visiting 15 countries to explore the history, landscape, wildlife, people and food of each destination across South America, Australasia, the Polynesian Triangle, Southeast Asia, China and Japan.
Our journey was to include the Atacama Desert, Galapagos Islands, Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Ayres Rock and the Great Wall of China, but our start was British Airways newest and longest direct route of 11,645 km taking over 14 hours from London Heathrow to Santiago, Chile.
The flight was on the airline’s latest and most high tech plane, the Boeing 787 – 9 Dreamliner. It is 7 metres longer than the 787 – 8 accommodating 216 customers including just eight technologically advanced and very private suites in First Class, the fewest in any of the BA fleet.
This was too good an opportunity to miss, so we upgraded to First Class at the airport for a very reasonable £500 each. The single ticket would have usually cost over £9,400, bizarrely more than the total cost of the Business Class OneWorldExplorer tickets we were using to travel around the world for 10 months.
British Airways First Class Lounge Heathrow
This gave us the opportunity to visit the newly refurbished Concorde Room (note ‘Room’ not Lounge) at Heathrow’s T5 and enjoy the ‘first class wing experience’ as BA calls it. Unlike the other Galleries First Lounge, the Concorde Room is reserved exclusively for British Airways First Class passengers. We were expecting the bar to be raised very high for the other lounges we were to visit during our 53 flights around the world, and were not disappointed.
British Airways’ Concorde Room at Terminal 5, London Heathrow
Leaving the frenetic chaos of T5 Departures we were ushered into the calm and serenity of the First Class Wing and escorted quickly and efficiently through security. The lounge, because that is what it is, is vaguely reminiscent of a London gentleman’s club with its high end spirits, vintage wines and free flowing champagne – Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle no less.
It was surprisingly quiet when we arrived and the staff were extremely attentive as we explored the best BA can offer, including the Boardroom for a last minute catch up with the office, the Elemis Spa – that had we known we would have booked – and private cabanas with comfortable sofas, television, bathrooms and private shower. If it’s privacy you want then the British Airways First Class Concorde Room certainly delivers.
The dining room is divided into private booths for two and there is a more casual eating area for larger groups. We opted for our own booth and shared a delightful Pouilly-Fume while perusing the excellent menu to match any of London’s most premium restaurants.
We decided to select a main course only; there is always the onboard service to look forward to. Helene chose the ox cheek bourguignon with potato puree and savoy cabbage, while I ordered the pan fried sea bass with butternut squash and cranberry and chilli salsa, both were beautifully presented and delicious.
It is difficult to fault the service, ambience and quality of the Concorde Room, in hindsight only one other came close; the Miracle First Class Lounge at Bangkok Airport, but with a name like that it has to be good.
British Airways 787 Dreamliner Review: British Airways First Class inflight
As we boarded the aircraft more champagne was served along with a warm greeting by name from our cabin crew – always a nice touch. The new BA First Class cabin is as technologically advanced as the fuel efficient use of carbon fibre in the fuselage, they are designed to maintain privacy, clearly an important requirement BA has identified their first class passengers expect.
British Airways First Class seat
There is a lot more space in the British Airways First Class seats than in a Club World seat with large windows where those awful pull-down blinds have been replaced by the passengers own electrochromic dimming facility. Also included are two useful USB sockets and a power point, a large wide screen 23 inch television and bags of storage space. With all this technology I would have expected onboard wi-fi, but no, we would have to make do with the in-flight entertainment which given the length BA has gone to with the wide screens and headphones I thought may be a little more extensive and up to date in its offering.
Ladies’ First Class amenities kit
The excellent menu and selection of wines carries on where the Concorde Room left off and was as good as can be expected from a meal served at 35,000 feet. Helene and I were able to eat together in the sizeable suite and as usual on a long haul flight we were both looking forward to our flat-bed sleep.
Was it the free flowing champagne, the fine wines and the two excellent meals within only a few hours of each other or the very comfortable pyjamas, the soft mattress and warm duvet that gave us the best night’s sleep on a flight we had ever had? Either way it was excellent.
BA First Class Review Final Thoughts
The overall experience of the British Airways 1st Class may not quite have reached the standards of Etihad or Emirates First Class but it’s not that far from it. If its privacy and attentive service you want then the first class Dreamliner service more than delivers, I’m looking forward to the roll out across other long-haul routes.
About the author:
David C Moore is the author of a new book ‘Turning Left Around the World’ based on their 10 month adventure visiting 15 countries. The book is published by Mirador and available now on Amazon.
Claire Ashton from Book Blogger.co said “It’s a great journey, full of laughter, a few tears and lots of heart. It’s romantic and adventurous, amusing and understanding, a story to enjoy”
Hi Frugalistas! I get many enquiries from readers about ways to find discount Business Class airfares. Long term readers may recognise this old post from 2014, which I’m updating with my best ways to find discount Business Class travel, regardless of where you live and where you are planning on traveling too.
On the shorter day time flight I wore my pyjama top with my travel pants. In the Qatar Airways bar and lounge
Use point aggregator Sites to buy discount Business Class airfares
Websites like Fly Luxe for Less and the Australian I Fly Flat buy frequent flyer mileage points from multiple sources, aggregate them together, then offer them to you at a discounted rate. These sites only offer Business and First Class seats, and depending on your requirements you have a limited choice of airlines. The other downside is that you can’t earn mileage points yourself on your flight, as it is deemed to be a flight reward. When you consider savings on your ticket may be as high as 70% (depending on a number of factors), not getting points yourself is a very small price to pay for a potentially massive saving. The other thing is that these companies tend to work best for long haul international travel, rather than short haul or domestic routes.
I have never used one of these sites myself so cannot comment on the experience, or how reliable these sites are.
Use comparison sites to find cheap Business Class airfares
There are many comparison sites where you can shop around for a cheap flight. I personally like Skyscanner. Comparison sites often seem to have fares that the airlines themselves don’t offer on their own websites, and that it would take you hours to identify if you went through the individual booking websites.
Book through one airline, fly another
If you use Skyscanner or other sites where you can compare discounted Business Class airfares you will notice that often the best deals on Business Class airfares are for flights where you book through one airline and fly on another.
Often when a quality airline offers incredibly cheap Business Class flights to Europe, it is a code share on a different airline. The best deal I’ve found so far? Business class to Europe return on an Air France ticket, that actually has three sectors on Etihad (which regular readers will know is one of my favourite airlines). For $2000 less than the cost of an Etihad ticket on the same website I know this is a true bargain.
If you are interested in this strategy, I think it pays to check the fine print on your ticket before taking the plunge. Make sure you understand where you stand in case of cancellation, and whether you are eligible for mileage points.
Use mileage points to upgrade to Business or First Class
If you’ve got a few mileage points, but not enough to buy a First or Business class ticket, consider buying an upgrade. If you don’t have enough for a round trip ticket, prioritise which leg will get you the best value for money. My choice would always be on a night time leg, to get that nice flat bed and comfy pillow to sleep with.
This strategy works best for the super-organised traveller. It also works better for solo travellers, rather than families, as it is easier to find one redemption seat rather than four or five.
Check the details of the ticket you purchase to make sure it is a fare that is eligible for an upgrade – if you buy a super discounted ticket many airlines do not allow an upgrade. Also make sure that if your flight, or any leg on your trip, is on a different airline that you can still purchase an upgrade using points – again, different airlines have different code share rules. My other tip for this strategy is to travel midweek, as upgrades are more likely to be available (a friend of mine who travels on Qantas swears she gets an upgrade every time by flying on a Tuesday for example). Buy your ticket early to give yourself the best chance to purchase your upgrade and remember that if you can’t get your upgrade, you’re in cattle class.
Etihad Airways Business Class seat in day mode
Get on mailing lists
I subscribe to a number of mailing lists from different booking websites and airlines. While I’m not always in a position to purchase, I do see what tremendous deals can be on offer. What I also start to understand is just how low the airlines will discount – sometimes the discounts are good, sometimes they are great. By receiving these discount Business Class airfares regularly I’ve learned what the best Business Class airfares are when I see them. Europe from Sydney in Business Class for anything up to a 20% discount is possible. Most of these offers don’t last long, and are often for small windows of flying time, so be ready to be flexible and act fast.
Some airlines and some travel agents will offer companion fares in Business Class from time to time. If you are travelling with a companion (usually for your whole journey) always ask if there is a companion fare on offer. I’ve seen fares where the companion just has to pay the taxes, so these can be amazingly good offers if they work out date and destination wise for you.
Often these fares are not advertised, so always ask if you are traveling with someone else.
Ready for beddy-byes on Qatar Airways Business Class
Early bird fares
Most quality airlines will offer early bird fares for organised travellers. In Australia, early bird fares start in October/November for Europe the following year. The fares are limited in number and in time availability. Further offers normally happen in December, then again in early January (when everyone is on holiday and not paying attention). If you are in a position to move, an early bird fare in Business can save you 20% easily depending on the airline, route and timing.
This is another time when being organised saves you money. Subscribe to the newsletters of airlines you are interested in, or for travel agents you would like to book with to find out about the best offers. It is not common for the airlines to be offering early bird seats at the same time, so it’s hard to compare. If you see a discount Business airfare you like (if you are subscribing over time, you should be able to recognise a very good fare when you see it) on an airline you like, you need to get on and book.
These Business Class airfare deals can have quite strict conditions and large fees to change or cancel your flight. If you are unsure of your dates, or unsure whether you will be travelling, consider whether buying an early bird fare is the right thing to do.
Buying mileage points
Some airlines allow you to buy mileage points, often at a significant discount to their face value. In my experience, it is mainly US airlines who do this. Not a member of their mileage program? No problem. Sign up, and then use the points to book seats on your preferred affiliated airline. I’ve seen discounts as high as 30% on these programs.
Points for these fares are purchased in US dollars, so if you are not a US resident you do need to consider the exchange rate when making your purchase. The other thing to remember with these fares is that the ticket you buy will be considered a redemption, so you will be subject to the airline’s rules regarding flight redemption.
Book a cheaper airline
I realised when I flew Vietnam Airlines Business Class to Vietnam last year that it is possible to find comfortable Business Class seats with a 1-2-1 configuration and a lie flat bed at a reasonable price. No, these airlines are not Emirates, Singapore, or Etihad, but they don’t cost their prices either.
The panelling does provide some privacy – Vietnam Airlines Business Class lie flat seat
Australian readers should consider Vietnam Airlines to Paris or London, or Scoot Airlines Business Class to Berlin or Athens (although in fairness, Scoot is probably more a cheap Premium Economy than a cheap Business Class). North American readers can check out Condor (2-2-2 configuration and the seats are not completely lie flat, but still a big improvement on Economy/Coach) or Norwegian (like Scoot, more a cheap Premium Economy than a true Business Class.) Chinese airlines, such as China Airlines (part of the Star Alliance group), or China Eastern and China Southern (both part of Skyteam) are also worth considering for cheap Business Class airfares to Europe.
Discount Business Class travel is still not cheap, unless you have someone to pay for your ticket or lots of mileage points to use, but it is possible to save, and save big on discounted Business Class airfares, with a bit of planning and keeping your eyes peeled.
What’s your best Business Class deal? If you have any other travel hacks for discount Business Class tickets I’d love you to share!