“Paris is always a good idea!” –Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
After much time overseas, I was finally talked into going to Paris. I know I make it sound like I didn’t want to go, and really I have been dragging my feet. I have loved all of my experiences in France: Strasbourg, Metz, and Loire Valley were fabulous! However, Paris just seemed like a pain to go to. BUT, after my cousin told me she would like to go to Paris when visiting me in Germany, I got to thinking about it. After watching Midnight in Paris, I couldn’t stay away from the magnetic pull of the magical city. The drive to Paris is scenic and easy. We chose to avoid toll roads and make a stop in Luxemburg on the way, listening to French lesson CDs during our journey. We stayed in the hotel the first night and woke up early to catch a morning train into Paris.
We must have been in Paris on the sunniest day in March. It was beautiful! Once out of the metro station, we passed by an area swarming with paparazzi and people.
Was it a fashion show? We kept walking. Our first stop in Paris was a pretentious coffee shop for espressos. They did not appreciate the toddler in the stroller, but were cooperative and as close to friendly as I could realistically expect. People watching in that café was great! There were a few tables of business men and women dressed in crisp suits, but an equal amount of “cleverly” (?) dressed people. Wide legged high water pants and other droopy patchwork clothes in busy prints and large feather sweaters in awkward platform shoes made us feel at once very normal. From here, we headed a couple of blocks down to the river.
Paris is very easy to navigate using the Seine River since most of the important buildings were built along it. It is also divided into districts, called arrondissements. We had originally planned to do a bus tour but ended up walking instead since the weather was so nice! Next time I will just buy a day pass for the bus system though! We began on the right bank of the river near the Notre Dame in the 4th arrondissement and followed the river down past the lock bridge, many beautiful and important buildings and other bridges, the Louvre in the 1st arrondissement, and grabbed a muffin at a stand by the Musee d’Orsay on the left bank in the 7th arrondissement.
We knew the Eiffel Tower was on the left bank of the Seine in the 7th as well, just around the bend. We had wanted to make it our first stop and 3 miles later we made it to the Eiffel Tower!
There were surprisingly few people there, which was GREAT! We had prepared for pick pockets and rude people, but we felt safe and people seemed as friendly as anywhere else. The most uncomfortable situations we encountered were near the Eiffel Tower when people kept coming up to us with clipboards asking if we spoke English. We ignored them because I had heard about several scams that people try to pull and I was not about to let my guard down for a second. Most of those times, I acted confused, shook my head, and turned away. We were left alone other than that. Cherry blossoms had just bloomed and even the tulip trees were budding! We discovered that Paris is a beautiful, fresh, clean city (at least before the summer tourists)!
We did not go up the Eiffel Tower. The stairs would have been impossible with a stroller and the line for the elevator was way too long. If you want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, be there at opening time or pre-purchase your ticket online! We had lunch a couple of blocks from the Eiffel Tower before heading back across the river to the right bank. We had originally planned to take a river cruise, but there were no available seats on the top of the boat so we skipped it. Across the river, we discovered the Palais de Chaillot and Jardins du Trocadero, a lovely park with fountains that faced out across the river. We took photos while we rested and enjoyed the view. Here, we took a look at our map and checklist of sites.
There were a few main sites we still wanted to see: Arc de Triomphe (in the 17th arrondissement) and Notre Dame (we hadn’t actually seen it, even though it was near where we started). We followed the Champ Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe first, which was much further than we had expected (a mile). We stopped a couple of people to make sure we were headed the right direction and they were very friendly to help us. We walked around the Arc de Triomphe on the sidewalk, as the tunnel that lead under the street to it was not stroller friendly.
From here, we took a bus back toward the Notre Dame and it was the best 2Euro I ever spent! We got off the bus at the love lock bridge
then hustled to get to the Notre Dame before sundown. It was perfect timing-the last rays of sun were brilliant. We even made it to mass!
Slowly, we wound our way back through the darkening streets of Paris toward the train station, crossing a narrow bridge and overlooking the sparkling city of Paris at night. There is something magical and enchanting about Paris.
We grabbed a crepe on our way back as well.
Once at the train station, we were a little turned around and confused. Thankfully, everyone we encountered with questions was very friendly and helpful. (And they say Parisians are rude…) Once back at the hotel, we were so tired from walking that we just crashed. The next morning, we encountered some minor issues and the hotel staff and other guests were very helpful in helping assist us. One more reason to love France-as if I needed it!
IF YOU GO TO PARIS: A FEW TIPS 1. Stay just outside the city (but still close enough to take a regional train) if you are driving and concerned about traffic and cost. We stayed at the end of the RER-A line in Bussy St Georges (which is very close to Euro Disney) and it was perfect. 2. Buy a day pass to use public transportation. There are windows on the buses so you can still see the sights out the window and get out where you want to. Stay on the routes that border the river for most of the sites. Of course, another great option is the bus tour-this will tell you where you are going and take you directly to all the sites. You can get a bus/cruise combination ticket if you want to see Paris both ways. 3. If you plan to go inside museums, Eiffel Tower, or other attractions, buy the Paris Pass or other tickets in advance. 4. Be aware of your surroundings and the people who are trying to approach you. Do not be rude, but it is ok to ignore people who make you feel uncomfortable. Do not be an easy target. 5. Spend more than one day. We only had one day and did not utilize public transportation as much as we should have. Because of this, we did not have enough time to just relax or enjoy the sites as much as we wanted.
Extra Tips for Parents taking Kids to Paris: 1. Show your child(ren) a map of where you are and where you are going. 2. Watch a movie or TV show that takes place in Paris. Here are two suggestions: Madeline so that your child(ren) can pick up a couple of French words. There are a few episodes specifically about Paris that my daughter loved watching. Ratatouille also takes place in Paris. It is good for children to have a general concept of the city or a couple of major sites: ie Eiffel Tower. 3. Make a pictorial Bingo card or list of sites with photos so that as your child(ren) sees them, they can check them off and have something to relate their experience back to. I purchased an Eiffel Tower keychain for my 2yo and she loved it! She calls it the “Icicle Tower” (awww) and loves to carry it around and show it off. 4. Teach your child(ren) a few simple French words, such as hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. My daughter listened to the French CDs on our way to Paris and mastered “bon jour” and “au revoir”. Parisians LOVED this extra bit of cultural awareness! 5. When you get home, recall your trip-the map, photos, sites, and language. Watch the shows that take place in Paris again and point out the sites you were able to visit (or maybe some you missed). This will help the child(ren) make a more tangible connection to the experience and encourage memory building.