If you haven’t heard, last week, I was over to Paris along with my girlfriend where I proposed. Don’t worry, unlike Tom Cruise, this was not covered by network news, it was only on my blog and Facebook page. Since I am pretty much kicked about this trip, I am taking the liberty to cover this trip report ahead of some of the others I would have done, and bring up some hopefully interesting reviews and experiences for you around Paris.
To kick it off, let me admit, if you can keep your lips sealed, planning a surprise trip can be a lot of fun for both sides. For me, it was essential to map out all the little details, so I was at work since January 2014 on getting this trip worked out. First, I wanted to take care of the timeframe, and then start filling up the blocks such as hotel reservations and other commute.
Initially, I did think of adding up a couple of ambitious add-ons to this trip, such as the Men’s Final of the French Open (which was going to be played at Roland Garros on June 8), and a potential trip to Toulouse to visit the Airbus factory there, but blame it on the fact that a few things cut too close to the departure date, and hence, I did not book up either of the two.
Booking tickets between Mumbai – Paris – Mumbai
To travel to Paris, nothing could have come at a better time than Jet Airways’ new service between Mumbai and Paris, which was starting up mid-May 2014. Since we’d met on a Jet Airways long-haul flight last year, it was only poetic justice that this flight went to them. My first thoughts were to go to Brussels from Mumbai on Jet Airways on the A330-300 service, and take the Thalys train from there to Paris. But when they announced the route and started accepting bookings, I thought it was going to be a good idea booking up the introductory fares in Economy of INR 45,000. Double miles during the initial two months did add to the mix as well, I have to admit. Plus, this route operates on an A330-200, the older product from Jet Airways, which I do like better than their A330-300 service.
So, I did the maths, and figured I could get the best deal by booking up two tickets on Jet Airways’ with the Jet Airways’ Amex Platinum Card which would also get me a 5% discount and double JP Miles to book up the tickets. However, closer to launch date, Jet dropped the fares real low, and I was seeing an INR 30,000 fare in economy for the round trip. Gosh, I was going to be out of money by a whole INR 30,000. Call it the first movers’ curse maybe? Jet was not going to refund me any fare difference for this one.
Processing upgrades between Mumbai – Paris – Mumbai
Since I love the business class product on this service, I decided it was worth the upgrade on miles. So, when I saw 1 business class award space open on both the sectors on my dates, I called up Jet Airways to upgrade one of our seats to business class. They made me fill a form and fax it to them, and then, for 33,750 JP Miles each ways, they confirmed the upgrade. For your reference, the inventory used for award seats and mileage upgrades in Jet Airways is D-class and both use the same pool of seats available.
For the second ticket, I was pretty okay to sit in Economy and send my fiancée up front, but later I called in to place an upgrade request on my vouchers as well. Much later, I saw a second seat open on the outward sector of BOM-CDG, and after a lot of to and fro and rational and irrational arguments with Jet Airways, they confirmed an upgrade on the outbound leg. Inbound was still waitlisted, and I had many a heated discussions with Jet Airways’ call centre to get it confirmed. Someone got to justify this. There are over 5 open seats in business class, the needle did not move for days closer to departure, and the analyst on the sector still hopes to sell all the seats and hence would not release one for an upgrade confirmation. This was beyond me. Eventually, they confirmed the inbound two days before departure as well. Their beef, they don’t want voucher upgrades to be confirmed before the gate, god knows why.
So, we were all set with two business class seats in Jet Airways’ new Mumbai – Paris – Mumbai service.
Booking Hotels in Paris
Those who know me, know I am not a hostel kind of guy. I love my little luxuries in life, and when you’re planning a trip of a lifetime like this one, I obviously wanted the best to be lined up. But the best is usually expensive in a city like Paris. Very good hotels quote over 500 Euros a night, going way up as well sometimes. So, I decided I was going to use my stash of Hotel Points for this trip.
One of the right decisions in life was to get my whole family to open up Club Carlson accounts back in the day, and book up reservations for everyone long ago when they were offering 50,000 points for one stay. I always knew these points were good for something, and what better place to use them but Paris, where there are 5-6 Radisson Blu hotels, and mostly good ones. I was sitting on over 200,000 Club Carlson Points across family accounts, and I decided to go all-in on this trip.
The hotel geek in me also wanted to experience various properties, since this was my first long vacation in Paris. I wasn’t sure which was the best luxury property in Paris on points, and the most blogged about property, Park Hyatt Vendome was not in the consideration set because I did not have enough Hyatt Gold Passport points to cover the stay.
So, before the Club Carlson devaluation kicked in, I booked up a night each at Radisson Blu Champ Elysees, Radisson Blu Le Dokhan and two nights at Radisson Blu Le Metropolitian, which directly faced the Eiffel Tower. Each night costed 50,000 Club Carlson Points then, now costs 70,000 Club Carlson points.
For the rest, I looked at my stash of IHG points, which used to be easy to generate. the InterContinental Hotel Group, which has a fabulous network of tiny Holiday Inns around the city, but also one of the best InterContinental hotel out there, the Paris Le Grand. They also had a Crowne Plaza on Avenue Marceau, which they reflagged as an InterContinental a couple of years back. This is the smallest InterContinental hotel around the world with about 50 rooms, even smaller than the InterContinental Mumbai which is a 58-key property. I thought these would be worthy of an experience each. So, I booked up both of these as well at 50,000 IHG points per night.
Getting around Paris
Paris is a walkers paradise. And there is a nice train network to take you places as well. I used it a lot, and then for late nights or long trips, I would just order a ride on Uber, which has multiple products there such as a ultra-low cost UberPop or the UberBlack, which is their limo-on-demand product. No need to depend on the taxi network, which was anyways striking on some of my dates there purely to protest against Uber.
Moments like these when you drop the ball don’t deserve selfies. Ever since I am back, the story of this proposal has been told numerous times to friends and family. So, I needed a photographer as well, who would be available for the date at the venue of my choice in Paris. I had heard a lot about Flytographer, and this was my opportunity to use their services. They are like the Uber of photographers. I paid up for the service online, and heard from them the next day to plan out the details of the fly-on-the-wall shoot I booked.
There are of course many more nitty-gritties that I would share with you along the way, but for the moment, get set for the trip report where we will discuss how can an expensive city such as Paris be covered on points and miles. If there are any specific aspects you want me to delve upon in detail, do feel free to drop me a comment here.
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