I, Emy, traveled to Paris twice this summer.
What? I know. I can’t believe it either.
This is, in fact, real. It’s ridiculous and indulgent. I know.
I spent a weekend here with my mother in June.
Then in July we came back with our kids… and Rich’s family.
Even though I did go twice, both times were fast and furious.
I am, by no means, an expert on Paris.
the mom weekend
For this trip mom and I took the Saturday morning train, spent the night, and returned on the Sunday night train. The ride on the Eurostar train from London to Paris takes about two and a half hours. We arrived, got some Euros and began to figure out city transit. I was trying NOT to use my phone for directions and translations. I didn’t want to rely on it all of the time. After a little while staring at the map and train lines, we figured out how to get to our hotel using public transit. It’s possible to do it with your own brain.
We bought tickets and we were on our way. I had booked a hotel in a great location, so it was easy to get there. Our boutique hotel was perfect. Very english language friendly, cute, clean, and within walking distance of Notre Dame. I would stay there again, for sure.
We quickly decided that the best way for us to see the sights on our quick trip was to buy tickets for a Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour. On a HopHop bus tour, you drive around the city. The bus stops at various landmarks, you can get off and walk around, then wait for the next bus to come and continue your tour. We have them in London. Great for tourists who want to skim the sights of the city without actually having to figure out how to get around. We had read some reviews that sometimes the buses are very spaced out and people had to wait a really long time for a bus, so we just didn’t get off. We rode it all around, and then decided it was worth the risk to get off at the Eiffel Tower. And we actually had no trouble catching another bus.
It was a little extra bustl-y when we were there because Paris happened to be hosting the EuroCup. When I booked the hotel, I received the “EuroCup discount” and I was like ‘cool!’ It didn’t click with me what that was… or that it might cause extra crowds… or that there might be a giant soccer ball in the middle of the Eiffel Tower. Honestly, it didn’t affect us as much as I thought it might. Just an extra hooligan here and there.
Also going on at the Eiffel Tower that day was some sort of protest? or celebration? I’m still not sure, but there was crowd from it and a man CONSTANTLY yelling, in another language, over a mega-phone.
And, of course, your standard group of Chinese tourists at least 200 strong.
We took the bus back around to Notre Dame, where – in true French fashion – my mom made me cut the line! No apologies. I’m not sure what got into her…
In her defense, it was really really long.
And I think we were hungry. Or it was raining a little.
In my opinion Notre Dame is the best thing Paris has going.
Those bus tours are not perfect, however. They quit running around 5 or 6 or 7 or something. So you have to get yourself around town after that. But, thank goodness our tour company offered a night tour that started at 9. We went back to the starting point at 9 ready and excited for our Paris-at-night tour.
And the bus never showed up.
We waited for… an hour?… if I remember correctly. There were a couple others waiting with us.
(The next day we went to office to get a refund for a tour that we paid for, but did not receive. And the jerks in the office told us it was our fault for missing the bus and would not refund our money. We were there at 9, which was the posted time on the website and the time that our day-time bus driver told us. But they said that it left at 8:30 and that the night tour ran had, in fact, ran the night before. We got grumpy, and told them we would leave bad reviews, WHICH I DID. But, they didn’t care, and would not refund us on the spot. They gave us an email to write to, which did end up refunding mom’s money after we got home. I was too sour/lazy/bitter/not-trusting to bother with it. There is nothing I hate more than poor customer service. We really enjoyed our tour bus around the city, but this soured my ability to recommend them.)
After waiting and waiting for the no-show tour bus, we finally gave up and decided to try to get to the Eiffel Tower ourselves because that is the main thing we wanted to see at night. I did finally use directions on my phone and we only caught the wrong bus and went 20 minutes out of the way ONCE.
I think we made the 11:30pm twinkle show of the Tower, ate dinner at midnight, and everything was good. I don’t remember what we ate for this meal… but it was French and it was delicious.
For the way back to the hotel at 1am… ah, pulling out my phone for UBER. Not chancing my sketchy French bus skills this time. Note on that though – Your Uber driver is a local, and it’s likely he doesn’t speak any English.
The next day we stumbled upon the second best thing Paris has going…
this unremarkable street:
It was just a regular, local, Parisian shopping street. There was live music and basically zero English anywhere. Fish dressed up so pretty and colorful they look like dessert, fresh baked bread, cheese, meat, and lots of other things I had no idea about.
There were no tourists taking pictures… except me. We came across this street on the way from our hotel to the tour bus stopping point. We both agreed, it was our favorite.
On this day, we made it to the famous macaroon shops and past the Lyric Opera House.
And one last meal before catching the train home…
Where we stayed:
the family weekend
On this trip were Rich and I plus the four. Then Rich’s sister, her husband, their two girls, and Rich’s mom. Kim, Zach, Ashtyn, Avery, and Janice.
Here again – we took the train early, stayed one night, and took the train back the next day.
Up front, the two little ones were immediately thrown off by the disruption to their nap schedule and we felt the affects of that for the whole 48 hour trip.
You know… meltdowns at restaurants and just a little extra difficulty getting a happy face for a picture.
Our hotel was apartment style and it was literally AT the Eiffel Tower. Like, this close:
It was so special to stay here. We were just there one night, so we figured we could splurge on a great place. Between the 11 of us, we had two large apartments. Ours had three beautiful bedrooms, a full kitchen with laundry, and so much space.
The kids immediately claimed it as their own though, of course. And Viv made use of the space by taking some of her very first steps here.
After checking in we headed up the river to Notre Dame to find it barricaded off. Unfortunately, this trip was right after the Normandy shooting and the barricade was crowd controlled for the special mass taking place. We could’ve waited in the massive line. But since we weren’t confident in our ability to understand the situation, we decided it wasn’t worth waiting. Outside pictures would have to do.
By the end of this day we had high-level multiple kid meltdowns. So, we threw them in bed early and grandma graciously stayed back with them so that the adult children could go out for dinner. (And by multiple kid, I mean MY kids. Not Ashtyn or Avery. They were as chill as a seasoned traveller and had no trouble adjusting to anything. They didn’t complain, stood still and smiled for pictures, and ate their food in a normal fashion. Maybe someday, my kids will behave like them.)
Our waiter took our picture. But before he took our picture, he accidentally took this picture of his own self.
On our second day, Kim, Zach, Janice and the girls ventured first thing to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Our family got around a little slower, so we bought some pastries and met them in the park and took some pictures of Viv since it was the day before her birthday.
We tried to take a nice family picture.
From there, we strolled the Champs Elysees and Lauduree, the macaroon shop.
Then is was time to catch our train home.
Like I said, fast and furious.
Where we stayed:
in addition –
Although the public transit is easy to understand we found it a little on the dirty and dark side at times, in comparison to other places we’ve been.
And for me, Paris is the least walk-able city we visited this year. Everything is spread out, so you have to rely on some sort of transit to get from one thing to the other. Unlike London, Rome, Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, and Munich where you can easily walk from one thing to the next.
The rumor is that the French are rude. And while I’m sure there are millions of nice people in France, I found them to be short on patience with English speakers and with kids. And for this reason, it is not the most kid-friendly place to take them. Plus, finding a restaurant that has 1.An English Menu 2.Items the kids will recognize and 3.Room to seat us – proved frustrating at times. Enter, super crowded McDonalds in Paris.
But I knew all this going in – especially since I had a warm up trip with mom. On top of that, honestly, there were quite a few homeless and that’s always hard to discuss with kids.
Paris also has a bad reputation for terrible pick-pockets. While we did not experience any sort of thing, I had a complete stranger warn me on the subway that my purse was open too much. “This is the subway in Paris, girl.” He said. “Watch your bag.”
On the subject of reputation…. lots of people from the states ask us if we are afraid living over here in Europe. Or if we were afraid to travel here.
And our answer is no. First of all, you can’t protect yourselves or your kids from every little thing every second of the day. The control we think we have is really only just an illusion.
Second of all, what good does it do for us to live afraid to go anywhere? My being afraid means that I keep my eyes out. I watch myself and my kids like an eagle. I take precautions. I communicate with my spouse and the other members of my group. And then after that, there is nothing left to do. For the record, I would never take my children to a place that I didn’t feel was safe. Even though Paris has unflattering sides, we are still glad we took the oppurtunity to share this special city with our children.
There is evil in this world, everyday, all around us. And if we let it, the evil will take the world from us. Is that how it’s going to be? No, we will show them the world anyway. And we will teach them to be smart and careful, but not afraid. Know the risks and travel on.