After a fun weekend in Madrid, the next stop on my “Catch The Points Guy” itinerary was Paris for some fashion, fine dining and a visit out to Champagne.
To get from Madrid to Paris, I decided to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Avios again and redeem them for a flight on BA’s partner airline, Iberia. Flights for the day I needed to travel were running around $500 one-way, which is pretty expensive for a two-hour flight! However, an economy ticket from Madrid to Paris requires just 7,500 Avios according to BA’s distance-based redemption formula. This redemption would have gotten me 6.7 cents per Avios, a really good value in my book.
As you know, I’m quite tall, so I searched for business class award seats instead, which cost double economy awards, so 15,000 points total for this route. As soon as I found an available award seat, I transferred my Ultimate Rewards points to my BA Executive Club account instantaneously and booked the ticket.
Now, intra-European business class is basically the same as coach just at the front of the plane with the middle seat blocked off, but at least it gives me that little bit of extra legroom I need not to be crumpled up and miserable, and I still got a great value from my points using just 15,000 Avios and $26 for the flight.
I thought 15,000 was a bit of a splurge, but the extra points for business class also got me lounge access at Madrid Barrajas and a nice meal onboard.
As I talked about in this post, there are a few tricks to using British Airways Avios to book partner awards – mainly because it’s difficult searching for award seats on partners using britishairways.com, especially in Europe since the system will prioritize routing you on BA flights through London, but when you search routes not serviced by British Airways, you can search partner airlines and find your award ticket that way.
I flew directly from Madrid Barrajas to Paris Orly, which I like better for intra-European flights since it’s closer to the city and accessibly by Air France bus and RER, though I took a taxi because I was in a hurry.
Points for Priority Club
I planned to spend three nights in Paris, but since it was July (high season!) hotels were extremely expensive and award night availability was tight.
In fact, there were no nights available at my favorite hotel in the city, the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, at which I could normally redeem a free night by transferring 22,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt Gold Passport.
Instead, I ended up booking one night at the Intercontinental Le Grand and two nights at another Priority Club property, the Crowne Plaza Republique.
I had the option of redeeming Ultimate Reward points directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents each, but since rooms were close to $800 at the Intercontinental Le Grand, one night would have cost me 64,000 points. Instead, I was able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to my Priority Club account and get a standard room for either 50,000 points outright, or a cash-and-points redemption of 40,000 Priority Club points + $70. I took the cash-and-points because that $70 saved me 10,000 points.
For my other two nights in Paris, I stayed at the Crowne Plaza where rooms were quite high as well, so instead, I transferred Ultimate Rewards points to my Priority club account and again used the chain’s cash-and-points option to reserve a room for 25,000 points plus $70 per night.
So all in all, spending $210 saved me 30,000 points, which works out to the equivalent of paying .7 cents per point to keep those points for another higher-value redemption in the future.
Of course, it wasn’t all about redeeming points – this was Paris, after all! The weather was gorgeous during the few days I spent in the City of Lights, so I spent the days strolling the grand boulevards, shopping around the luxury fashion boutiques along rue St. Honoré, and got sorbet on the Ile St. Louis, and hung out in the Tuileries Gardens.
In the evenings, I took full advantage of the Sapphire Preferred’s 2x points category spending bonus on dining with full-on feasts at great restaurants like cozy Mon Vieil Ami on Ile St. Louis, a little bistro in the Marais called Les Philosophes, as well as at celebrity chef Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon on the Champs-Elysees where I ordered the eight-course tasting menu so I could taste specialty dishes including a foie gras mousse with parmesan foam and shaved white truffle; fresh Brittany lobster in a creamy cauliflower veloute with colorful Alpine flowers; quail caramelized with apple puree, and for dessert – well, one of the desserts – citrus cheesecake with Tahitian vanilla, pineapple coulis, summer berries and basil sorbet. It was expensive, but at least I was earning my double dining points on the Sapphire Preferred.
I wanted to get out of the city one day, so I took the TGV high-speed train 45 minutes east to the ancient city of Reims, capital of the Champagne region in whose cathedral the kings of France were crowned for centuries.
After a brief historical walk around, though, it was time to get to the real reason for coming here: the wine.
I spent the morning touring the sprawling underground cellars, or crayeres, at Pommery a famous champagne house that pioneered the brut style of champagne. They also display rotating art exhibits like one that I saw exploring the interaction of art and sound in their cellars, which makes the tour that much more interesting.
After my tour and tasting, I went for a leisurely lunch at one of Reims’s best-known restaurant, Brasserie du Boulingrin, a 19th-century brasserie with a huge menu of champagnes and classic French dishes.
Full and happy, I got back on the train to Paris and prepared for the next leg on my journey. So check back in on Chase Sapphire’s Facebook page next week to see where I was headed and for more chances to win weekly prizes and the Grand Prize trip for two to Paris.
Note: I was compensated by Chase for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions expressed are completely my own.