If you arrive in Paris Nord and have time before taking one of the new TGV Est lines out of Gare de l'Est then dump your luggage at the station and walk for five minute east to the Canal St Martin and grab coffee or lunch at one of the restaurants springing up on the Quai de Valmy, in this increasingly improving area.
The canal is also great for a walk if you've time.
Take a small amount of euros in coinage: specifically 1 euro, 50 cent & 20 cent pieces.
This will facilitate a speedy entrance to the Metro system using the automated ticket machines, and a fast exit from the mayhem of Gare du Nord!
For a cheap look at the Eiffel Tower and to beat the queues you can use the stairs instead of the lift. It costs only pence, means you don't have to wait and you get to stop and be alone on the way up and get to look at Paris without hoardes of tourists shoving around. There are a series of great snippets about the tower posted on the way up too.
In Montpellier, it is essential that you take the trams to the end of the line. If you get a pass it doesn't cost a penny extra, and when you reach the end of the line in either direction, prices drop dramatically.
This applies especially to the food, and there's no drop in quality - if anything I'd say that, out of the city, the quality is even better quality, as you get proper French produce. A case in point is the Auchan supermarket - it's brilliant. Plus, the tram lines are very inexpensive and very comfortable to ride.
For an interesting train journey, go by rail from London to Brussels on Eurostar, then overnight to Hamburg. The trains are lovely and new, and even have showers.
Next day, press on to Copenhagen by train and boat - the train drives onto the ferry between Puttgarden and Rodby. After that, it's over the Oresund Bridge to Malmo!
Book tickets through Ffestiniog Travel, who will hold the reservation for a few days so you have time to sort out your other arrangements! For those food emergencies, I recommend taking Ryvitas and a jar of peanut butter - no refrigeration required!
We travelled to Madrid by Eurostar to Paris, then sleeper from Paris to Madrid. It's a wonderful way to travel - straight from city to city, with no airport queues, and you arrive right in the centre.
However, don't do as we did and get your student son to book it for you - it's much cheaper to buy the tickets in France or Spain. He was there; so far, so good. However, the economy drive went a bit too far when we realised that rather than the comfortable two-person compartment we were expecting, we were separated into four-berth compartments - and no dinner in the very nice-looking dining car.
Oh well, it's all part of seeing life and living it to the full. We recommend it !
Turn up early at the station, because the concourse is pure street theatre. Where else can you see terrapins, high-speed trains and stunning architecture under one roof? Travel first class for not much more than standard class, and arrive at your destination with a Quixotic smile on your face.
If it's raining and you need a cheap umbrella, just go to London Transport's lost property office at Baker Street station and say you left a black umbrella on the tube. They just hand you a replacement one. And they have hundreds of black umbrellas to choose from.
Travelling by train to Europe has been very difficult for people living in the North. Combining a cheap ticket to London with a cheap Eurostar ticket is not easy. If you can only get a value ticket to London one-way, use Virgin Trains who now sell half-savers for flexible one-way travel.
On the subject of lodges versus camping, it really doesn't matter to the animals how much you have paid. I went on a budget camping safari and saw the big five within the first day - including both black and white rhino, so many lions I lost count and three leopards.
The most important thing is to talk to your guide beforehand and ask lots of questions. The more knowledge they have, the better your chances of spotting some amazing animals.
Don't rule out evening Eurostar trains to Lille or Paris. Tickets are often cheaper and, despite the clocks being an hour ahead, your break can still start that night, as there's plenty of accommodation near the Eurostar terminals and good restaurants that stay open late.
For example, microbrewery Les Trois Brasseurs (22 Place de la Gare, Lille) has cheap-and-cheerful local dishes, while you might also try the art deco Brasserie Terminus Nord (23 Rue de Dunkerque, Paris).
My tip is Bus 96, which runs between Gare Montparnasse and Porte des Lilas.
Even if you don't get off, and just take it from one end to the other, you'll get a wonderful insight into Parisian lives and times.
You can use the 96 to shop in the chic area around Odeon, or the wonderful market on Richard Lenoir, You can stroll through the famous cemetery at Montparnasse, where the illustrious dead include Serge Gainsbourg and Sam Becket.
Bus 96 is also a great way of taking in the Picasso Museum, or simply taking the weight off your feet. But remember to take account of one-way traffic system, which means that it doesn't always go back the same way as it arrived.
www.RATP.com (body overseeing public transport in Paris)
The best shop for wintersports, mountaineering, walking (they do many more sports) I have ever found is Au Vieux Campeur in Rue des Ecoles near the Sorbonne.
They have several shops in the area, and they constantly change which shop sells what. Just ask at the first one you come across for the one you seek.
The service and facilities are superb; they even have a climbing wall to try out mountainerring boots. The difference between their prices for skis and those of London shops has been the cost of the return fare for me several times.
Catch the early train from Ashford. Walk from Gare du Nord to Galleries Lafayette for spectacular shopping. Metro to Champs Elyses for coffee. Walk to Arc de Triomphe, lunch nearby ("Hippopotamus" is good value and has quick, attentive service).
Metro to Tour Eiffel for a river boat to Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame. Metro and funiculaire to Sacre Coeur with spectacular views across the city. Metro back to the Gare du Nord for meal in neaby restaurant and late return to Ashford.
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