For our summer holiday this year we took the train to Spain, after stopping over one night in Paris. We stayed in a little 3 star hotel near the Bonne Nouvelle Metro Station, just 0.6 miles from Gare du Nord. We did take a taxi from the Eurostar terminal to the hotel, in fact we had to take two. When we first arrived we were besieged by drivers offering us vehicles so we didn’t have to join the official taxi rank. The queue was very long, so this did seem an attractive option but the cost was going to be 90 Euros! This did seem a bit steep, and they eventually went down to 70 Euros. In the end we decided to stand in line for an official taxi after all, but there wasn’t a car big enough for us and our luggage. So we took two, each of which cost us 12 Euros. And so we avoided making a rather expensive mistake on our first evening.
Our hotel was fine for one night, but we wouldn’t have wanted to stay longer. The single beds were very narrow, but it was clean and tidy and had WiFi. The kids were happy because we had McDonald’s for dinner.
Then, after we had spent a couple of weeks exploring Spain (Barcelona, Sitges and San Sebastian), we caught the train back to Paris for a couple of nights.
The two oldest girls have actually been to Paris a couple of times before, but they were too young to remember anything. And we have taken the girls to Disneyland Paris about 8 years ago, when they were 1, 3 and 5 . Again, their memories of this are non-existant/fuzzy. I’m glad we took them when they were little, even if they have little or no recollection of the trip, because I have photos that PROVE we all had a fantastic time. Travelling with older children, especially tweens and teens, can be tricky. We found it much harder to balance our desire to stop and look at things with their desire to only do what they thought was going to be fun. When they were little, they had been happy to run around in circles and explore where ever we happened to take them. Now there has to be a whole lot of compromise going on.
For the last three nights of our summer holiday we stayed at an Air Bnb apartment near the Pantheon; there was more than enough room for all of us and it had a piano for DD2 to practice her exam pieces on. The location was fantastic and the lure of all those famous French places just outside our door made it relatively easy for the kids to put down the internet and explore.
Paris is full of great buildings and things to see and do, but we only had two full days there so had to be careful not to overload our schedules. The only thing worse than dragging a reluctant toddler from tourist attraction to tourist attraction, is trying to do the same thing with teens and tweens!
We walked down to Notre Dame and joined the ridiculously long queue that folded around on itself many times so we could take a look inside. Some of the kids were more tolerant of the queuing than others, but it moved pretty quickly and we were inside within 20 minutes. DH and I would have liked to look around a bit longer but the kids were impatient, and wanted to go and feed the pigeons instead.
These birds weren’t the filthy, disheveled London-variety pigeon. They were fat and glossy and still had all their toes. There was a man hanging around doling out hand fulls of birdseed if you gave him a few coins. The kids loved the birds using them as a dinner table and no one got pooed on.
By this time people started getting hungry so we wandered across some seriously lock-heavy bridges in search of lunch.
Lunch was very French, which meant only half the family ate anything, and then we got cabs to the Eiffel Tower where we had a tour booked. This enabled us to skip the line for tickets at the bottom of the Tower and we went up to the 2nd and 3rd floors as a small group.
We all wore headphones which made it possible to hear what our guide was saying at all times no matter how far away from him we were, so we all learnt a lot about the history of the tower. Even the kids paid attention, although DS spent most of the tour pretending he was a spy.
I’ve seen, and been up, the Eiffel Tower a handful of times now, but I always love it. And the look of the kid’s faces when they first saw it, was worth every tantrum and argument. DD1 really wasn’t keen on using the elevators to go up, but she coped and managed to recover enough to pose for cheesy group photo at the top. I know, but it’s got to be done!
We spent about 3 hours at the Tower until everyone started complaining of tiredness/hunger/boredom, then we grabbed taxis and headed home for dinner.
During our second day in Paris, we visited le Jardin du Luxembourg and paid out some money so the little kids could sail boats on the boating pond. There was no technology involved, just sails, wind and sticks. Looking back we should have probably hired them a boat each. Either that or made them share a stick.
Once our time was up and we’d retrieved the boat, we headed off to the Musée d’Orsay for some Art.
I love Musée d’Orsay. I think it might be my favourite gallery in the world. It’s fairly compact but it has space for kids to explore, and a lot of the art exhibited is really interesting. It’s also got a cafe and plenty of loos and places to sit. We spent a good three hours meandering from room to room and recognising works of art here and there. Even DD2, who had made the most fuss about having to put the internet down and leave the apartment, was impressed when she saw this hanging on one of the Gallery walls.
Being a Dr Who fan, she wanted to inspect it closely for a concealed Krafayis; luckily she managed to do so without setting any alarms off.
I could have spent another couple of hours in this Gallery, but again the kids were getting hungry and tired so we decided to quite while we were ahead.
That was pretty much all we did in our two days in Paris. Kids slow you down quite a bit, but the good thing about Paris is that it’s only a couple of hours from London by train, so we almost definitely will be back to visit some bits we didn’t get to see this time.