I Took a $199 Flight to Paris on Low-cost Airline French Bee — Here's What It Was Like
This summer, when France opened for visitors, I spent a few lovely days in Paris, flying from Newark Airport on French Bee. The airline had just introduced flights to Orly from the New York Metropolitan area at astoundingly low prices, and I was among the first to take advantage. I boarded their departure around midnight, sipped a glass of Champagne, and woke up in Paris.
French Bee now offers departures from Newark Airport to Orly starting at $199 each way for its basic fare, which includes one 26-pound carry-on bag. Passengers can also choose additional price levels with options for checked bags, in-flight meals, and seat selection. Outbound flights operate three to four times weekly, depending on the season, departing at 11:55 p.m. and arriving in Paris Orly Airport at 12:05 p.m. the following day.
The airline's new Airbus A350-900 aircraft features mood lighting which mimics sunrise and sunset, comfort-focused design, temperature control, convenient USB and electrical ports, extra-large HD touch screens for in-flight entertainment, and optional Wi-Fi. French Bee also flies to Paris from San Francisco and serves Pape'ete, Tahiti in the South Pacific.
Late autumn and the December holiday season are great times to visit Paris, with Christmas markets, dazzling lights, concerts, and dinner cruises on the Seine. Department stores, shopping centers, and hotels are decked out in festive decor beginning in early November. The chill in the air only adds to the holiday atmosphere.
Where to Stay in Paris
Hotels in every price range from budget to total splurge are available throughout Paris.
In central Paris, the InterContinental Paris le Grand is a luxurious five-star option, offering spacious guest rooms and suites as well as views of the Opera Garnier. Stunning ballrooms, sumptuous decor, and the charming Café de la Paix were enough to tempt me to stay longer, but in the interest of journalistic research, I reluctantly moved on.
The Hilton Paris Opera, located near the Galeries Lafayette and the Louvre, is set in an opulently restored 1889 building. A glass of Champagne in Le Grand Salon was the perfect introduction to the hotel.
At the Hotel Barrière Le Fouquet's, the newly refurbished guestrooms are gorgeous settings for the hotel's remarkable collection of black and white photographs. A cocktail on the rooftop, a peek at the sumptuous Spa Diane Barrière, and a delicious dinner at Le Fouquet's made for a perfect visit.
The new Hôtel Maison Mère is a boutique hotel in the 9th arrondissement designed in a comfortable, home-away-from-home style with top-quality bedding, the latest technology, and charming personal touches. Superb cocktails, excellent restaurant, and friendly staff complete the picture at this family-owned hotel.
My last night was spent at The Ritz Paris, a magnificent hotel with opulent decor, an indoor pool, Bar Vendôme for all day dining and afternoon tea, and for late-night cocktails, the classic Bar Hemingway, named for one of its most famous guests. The new Ritz Bar and Le Comptoir, a patisserie full of the finest French sweets, are other must-see spots. The beauty, atmosphere, and hospitality at The Ritz created the perfect last day in Paris.
For another option, Sonder Atala is a 48-unit property featuring Art Deco design, contemporary artwork, fitness center, rooftop terrace, and a variety of guest rooms, located steps from the Champs-Elysées.
Things to Do in Paris
While simply strolling along Paris's streets, stopping at a café, or finding a spot along the Seine for people watching are fine ways to spend a day, Paris offers lots more to put on your itinerary.
I took a thrilling ride through Paris streets in the sidecar of a motorcycle with Retro Tour Paris. What fun to see heads turn as we flew by, and even better to wind our way to Montmartre for a splendid view of Paris and a visit to the Sacré-Coeur basilica.
A food tour on the Rue des Martyrs took us past produce markets with tempting displays of ripe fruits and vegetables, through cheese shops, bakeries, meat markets, and wine stores, with tasty samples along the way.
A visit to the Galeries Lafayette is a must, even if you're just there to admire the magnificent dome, the stunning displays, or the view from the roof. Recently reopened, La Samaritaine is another landmark that makes shopping or browsing a beautiful experience.
Of course, no trip to Paris is complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Along with hundreds of others spread across a wide lawn, I relished seeing it sparkle in the night. During the day, catch a glimpse of the iconic tower from a variety of spots throughout Paris.
Planning Your Trip
This part is easy. Daydreaming of Paris and anticipating your vacation is part of the fun. Check hotel websites, French Bee schedules, and Atout France, the tourist agency of France, for the latest travel details and requirements. Brush up on a few French language phrases, and then bon voyage!
As an update since COVID guidelines have changed, vaccinated travelers from the United States are welcome in France, and others may visit with some restrictions. A negative test is required for return to the United States after all international travel. Be sure to check the latest information before traveling.