Travelling to the Ireland games against Sweden and Belgium next week? Francophile David Gorman spent a summer in Paris and Bordeaux and has all the travel tips you need to make it an unforgettable trip.
Paris is the cultural hub of all things French and one of the cosmopolitan capitals of Europe
If you hastily booked with Ryanair, it is worth noting that it flies to an airport called ‘Paris Beauvais’, situated 90km from Paris, which is like having an airport in the midlands and calling it ‘Dublin Athlone’. They also charge €18 for roughly a one and a half hour journey from the airport to Paris. Michael O’Leary strikes again.
With Aer Lingus offering direct flights to the centre of Paris, this is undoubtedly the most comfortable option, although comfort comes at a cost.
Once you reach Paris, it quickly becomes apparent how spectacular the city is and you learn to understand why even Adolf Hitler could not bear to destroy its beautiful architecture.
There are a number of fairly obvious sites to see such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Versailles. All main sites are easily accessible by the Metro, the French underground service.
Top Tip: Spend some time to bask in the glory of the Champs-Elysee.
Paris is the most visited city per year by tourists so this means waiting in queues for hours for most of the obvious attractions. However, most of them live up to the hype, particularly the most famous one of all – the Eiffel Tower.
If you have never been to Paris before and have time for some sightseeing then going up the Eiffel Tower should be on your agenda. The view of the whole of Paris lives up to its billing, especially if it is sunny and if you are travelling with a significant other.
If you have any time to relax then I would recommend visiting the Luxembourg Gardens with its immensely pretty selection of flowers and fountains.
The closest Irish pub to the stadium is King Lewis which is about a twenty minute walk to the stadium. Otherwise, there are plenty of Irish pubs dotted around the city to visit.
So although Paris won’t come cheap, it’s undoubtedly worth the trip for Irish fans looking to combine atmosphere with scenery.
From Paris, Ireland travel to Bordeaux on June 18th to face Belgium in what is the highlight of our group stage encounters.
Bordeaux is best-known for its wine; it is the world capital of the wine industry. While there are many wine-tasting bars to visit, which is sure to please the older audience, Bordeaux has much more to offer than just that.
There is a vibrant atmosphere in a city that has a high student population that is sure to come to life when Ireland and Belgium visit in June.
The main Irish pub in Bordeaux is called the ‘Connemara’, which is quite near one of the main squares – Place Gambetta. However, while the ‘Connemara’ is good fun, we always found it to be a little bit away from the heart of the city.
The city really comes to life in the little streets just off the quays leading up to the main promenade, Place de la Bourse.
In particular, I would suggest the pubs Houses of Parliament and Charles Dickens to visit which, despite their names, are bustling with Irish and other nationalities alike.
All pubs however should be absolutely packed when it comes to near the match day so it may come down to where you can get into!
For shoppers, Bordeaux has the longest shopping street in all of France. Rue Sainte-Catherine is 1.2 km long and caters for all your shopping needs.
If only there for a night, Place de la Bourse is a must-see with its beautiful 18th Century architecture that lights up at night.
Its main feature is the Miroir d’Eau, the world’s largest reflecting pool. The tiny waves rising from the water are the perfect way to cool off from the summer heat, which should be around 25 degrees in mid-June.
Transport in Bordeaux is easily accessible by an efficient tram system. Trams are the best way to travel through Bordeaux. Buses are similar to Irish transport systems in that they can be volatile and sometimes late so be careful if you’re running behind time.
On the downside, Bordeaux is not a particularly cheap city either. Most pints will set you back over €5, meaning cut-backs must be enforced on accommodation once again.
However, there is a massive gap between the price of alcohol between shops and bars and the alcohol in supermarkets like Carrefour is cheaper than Ireland if you fancy saving money.
Top tip: If recovering from a hangover, heading to a boulangerie to get some of the best pastries France has to offer and chilling in the public park Jardin Public is highly recommended.