The City Of Light With Kids

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.

Paris sunset

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!

kids outside Notre Dame

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.

feeding pigeons Notre Dame

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.

Locks on Parisian bridges

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.

Blue skies and the Eiffel tower

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.

A spy on the Eiffel Tower

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!

kids up the eiffel tower

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.

Sailing boats in Jardin du Luxembourg

Once our time was up and we’d retrieved the boat, we headed off to the Musée d’Orsay for some Art.

Musée d'Orsay from the back balcony
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.

Vincent Van Gogh 'Dr Who' Painting

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.

 

The Gallery: Black and White

 

Point Helbronner

I am always a bit stumped when I’m asked to submit black and white photos for anything. and I suspect I’m not alone in resorting to a little photo editing. Luckily I have plenty of photos to play around with, but these ones, taken over a huge glacier in the Alps between France and Italy are some of my favourite. They probably work well because there isn’t much colour in the originals- just a blue sky and a a bit of red for the cable cars.

Six years ago we spent a week in the summer holidays in Chamonix, which is a popular ski resort in the winter. In the summer it’s a fantastic place to stay with families, and we were with a company who took the children for the day 4/7 days, so the parents could get out and explore on their own.

DH and I got out and about on our own, and had a few adventures, but the most thrilling thing we did was take a series of cable cars up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, then rode the Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car across to Point Helbronner, in Italy.

It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I’m not a fan of heights and we were a long way up. The cables seemed very loose and blew around in the wind as they traveled above the ice and snow. And when you looked straight down you could see how deep the ravines in the ice were.

I couldn’t help thinking about what would happen if we fell.

And once we’d crossed from France to Italy safely, we had to go back again. This time, I tried not to look down as often.


View from Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car

The scenery was fantastic. We had this car to ourselves and felt like we were the only people on earth until the carriages going in the opposite direction whirred past and we all waved to each other.

See those little dots? They are people who chose to climb up the mountains and risk life and limb while doing so. We saw plenty of them staggering through the snow, perched on ledges and climbing the jagged rocks. They did not look like they were having fun.

It looked far too much like hard work to me and I was relieved to be able to look down on them, even though we were bouncing around in a metal bauble on a bit of  steel rope. To be fair, I’d not describe our experience as fun either. But it was a ‘Once in a lifetime’ experience and I’m glad we did it.

Though I admit to breathing a sigh of relief when we made it back to Chamonix safely and I had solid ground under my feet once again.

For more black and white photos, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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From Belle Plagne To Dijon.

Last night, as we packed our bags to vacate the hotel today, the weather followed suit and packed it in too.

I’ve been enjoying standing on our balcony in the evening and enjoying the night sky without the lights of London obliterating the stars and so, when I went out last night, I got a hell of a shock.

There was nothing there! No stars, no mountains, no bubble lift whirring past our balcony. It had all been replaced by a bank of cold, drizzly, grey mist. I went to bed feeling a bit cheated by the horrible cloud that had come down so suddenly. read more

From Switzerland, to France… via Italy.

I guess it’s a mark of how much confidence we have in our satnav.

‘Miss Polly’ built into the car and is usually pretty trustworthy. She’s not led us into a lake or instructed us to do a U-turn on the M25 in the 6 years we’ve had the car.

So yesterday when we had to drive from Saas Fee to Belle Plagne, we loaded the car up, merely glanced at the suggested route last just under 4 hours, and blithely drove off down the mountain.

DH had used Googlemaps to print out a back up map and both versions of our route were in agreement until we reached Chamonix. Then Miss Polly instructed us to bear left and it was only then we realised that the traffic we were caught up in was actually queuing for the Mont Blanc tunnel.

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From London To Reims.

I’m lying in a single bed in a hotel in Reims. I have a small boy in the bed next to me, and an 8-year-old in the pull out bed at my feet. This is the reality of having more than 2 children; every time your family stays in a hotel, you end up sleeping separately from your DH.

I had a shocking night’s sleep last night as my head was whirring with things I had to do before we left this morning. I tossed and turned all night, and finally got out of bed around 4am. I thought I’d got everything, but we weren’t 10 minutes down the road before I could reel off a handful of things I’d left behind.

DH and I had already had a couple of ‘discussions’ about packing, and who had been meant to do what before we even got the kids out of bed, so I wasn’t in the best mood when I looked at the fuel gauge while we were still on the driveway and realised that finding a petrol station was going to be a priority for us. read more

The Gallery: Travel.

This week, at The Gallery, the theme is Travel. It’s a subject that’s dear to my heart, as without travel I wouldn’t have come to the UK and found the rest of my life waiting for me.

And it’s one of the reasons we’ve chosen to raise a family in the UK, rather than head back downunder.

As a family, we love to travel. We’ve been to 4 of the seven continents and plan to do something about two of the missing three in the next couple of years. Most of the time we fly because we have to, but when it’s all possible we take the train, or drive.

When you have this much luggage, it makes sense to take the car if you can.

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