Is a major European city the ideal family touring destination? John Rawlings and co think so after exploring the French capital
Romantic, chic and historic a centre of art, fashion and gastronomy, Paris is one of the world’s most fascinating cities – and within easy reach for most of us here in Britain. But does it make a good destination for caravanners and motorhomers?
Caravaning des 4 Vents campsite
For many, Disneyland Paris is the pull to visit this part of France – indeed, we enjoyed a trip there a few years ago when our two were little. On that occasion, we stayed at the Caravanning des 4 Vents campsite as it’s only about 20 minutes’ drive from Disneyland and is a nice, green and tranquil place to return to after a busy and noisy day enjoying all the rides and entertainment.
Now our kids are teenagers, and we returned during this February half-term to see our son sing on his school choir’s trip to the city.
It takes just three to four hours to drive to Paris from any of the Channel ferry ports/Eurotunnel, so as well as a destination in its own right it makes the ideal stopover en route to the south of France.
Like London’s M25, the Paris périphérique can get very busy. Plan your time of arrival and your route, keep calm and everything should go smoothly. We travelled on a Friday afternoon and, although it was busy, we reached our campsite, Camping de Paris, without feeling stressed.
Camping de Paris campsite
If travelling from the ferry ports in Normandy, the Huttopia Versailles campsite, about 12 miles to the west of Paris, makes an excellent base. As its name suggests, it is close to the grand Palace of Versailles, the former residence of King Louis XIV. The site has a heated indoor pool, restaurant and activities for children in the summer. From the nearby train station you are whizzed into the centre of Paris in only 20 minutes.
For our February trip, we needed a campsite that was open all year, and Camping de Paris fitted the bill perfectly. Located in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne public park on the banks of the River Seine, the site was undergoing extensive renovations during our stay, but the new, modern reception building already looked very smart. Note: as Paris is a low emission mobility zone city you will need a Crit’Air sticker for your vehicle (see certificat-air.gouv.fr).
From the campsite, it is only a short, flat walk to a bus stop from which you can travel into the city centre. During the main season, the campsite provides a shuttle bus to this bus stop.
An Eiffel eyeful
Paris, taken from the top of the Mount Pranas Tower. Photo by member Chris Bradley
The Eiffel Tower is, of course, first on most people’s list of things to see in Paris. On the south side of the Seine to the west of the city centre, it is an awe-inspiring sight. From here you can follow the river eastwards in the direction of the Notre Dame cathedral which, of course, is undergoing extensive renovation work after the big fire in 2019.
There are some great museums along this stretch of the river. Most offer some kind of special/free family tickets or fun activities for children to keep them interested. On the river’s south (‘left’) bank, the Musée Rodin with its tranquil sculpture garden and the Musée d’Orsay containing its large collection of Impressionist paintings are two we found of particular interest.
Alternatively, cross to the north side of the Seine and visit the Paris Museum of Modern Art or the city’s most well-known museum, the Louvre, where of course da Vinci’s Mona Lisa takes pride of place.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while then head for one of its parks or gardens. Classical and elegant, they often contain play areas for children, cafés for refreshments or space to take a break with your own picnic of fresh bread, cheese and cakes. A great way to relax and watch the world go by.
We whiled away some time in the Jardin du Luxembourg, one of the largest gardens in Paris, en route to the 15th-century Saint-Étienne-du-Mort church where our son’s choir was performing. The church is near the imposing Panthéon monument – climb to the top of the 83m-high dome for fantastic views over the city.
The choir performed in some beautiful churches, but one in particular, the magnificent Église de la Madeleine near the Place de la Concorde and the stylish shops on the Champs-Élysées, was especially memorable. Built in the style of a Greek temple and boasting elaborate paintings on its high ceilings and many large religious statues, it is open every day and hosts various concerts and organ recitals throughout the year.
Wandering the streets and visiting the attractions of Paris is both exhausting and fascinating. We could have seen so much more – the Sacré-Coeur in the artsy hillside district of Montmartre for example – but we’ll have to save that for our next visit. We will definitely be back.
- If John has inspired you to visit Paris, please visit camc.com/overseas to book the featured campsites (and others). Remember, if you book an overseas site, Eurotunnel or ferry crossing through the Club, you’ll get the lowest price – guaranteed. To find out more see camc.com/lowestprice. And if you book a package holiday with us you benefit from ABTA protection. See camc.com/confidence for more information.