Posts Tagged With: Notre Dame

Kids in Paris

moulin rouge A friend of mine recently asked me if I could give her any advice on seeing Paris with kids, and as I thought about her request, I realized that maybe a blog post might be the best way to do that. When I think back to our few days in Paris, there was lots I wouldn’t have blogged about at the time because it was just so hectic. One of my two Paris posts acknowledges that in my current state of exhaustion, I am blogging only because I’m afraid the day “might get lost in tomorrow”. And that is exactly what often happened while we were travelling – we’d move on to the next place after a whirlwind trip, and by the time we had Internet access again (or time), we were somewhere else, experiencing something new. There are actually lots of locations and experiences that got lost along the way.
Anyway, I digress. I will attach some websites and blogs at the end of this post with the really practical information, but here’s what you REALLY need to know. The secret to being able to motivate a tired child to push themselves that little bit further, and actually – and here’s the key – WANT to go to see the attractions you want to see is advance preparation.
My advice would be to start a few weeks before you travel. Read stories and watch movies set in Paris.
If you read Madeline, then you’ll be able to visit the Eiffel Tower, or go stand on the Pont Neuf and look at the Seine while they marvel at how that little girl survived her fall into the rushing water.
If you watch Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, then you’ll be able to spend an hour at Notre Dame Cathedral soaking up the wonder while they pretend to be Esmerelda and Quasimodo and chat with the gargoyles.
And there are so many more – The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a book with lots of graphics, but is also a movie now, too. Set in Paris. My 11 year old just read a book called My Secret Guide to Paris, which made her want to go back – it had a little French phrase to learn at the beginning of each chapter.
The picture book Adele and Simon has a list in the back of all the monuments they visit while looking for all the things Simon lost on the way home from school.
There are also the fantastic Not For Parents Lonely Planet travel guide books – and there’s one just for Paris! These travel guides are packed full of colourful images and fun facts for kids. And naturally, the fact that they are NOT for parents makes them all the more appealing.
Even books and movies for older teens can really add some extra magic to the experience – The Davinici Code might entice them to want to visit The Louvre, even if they’re not really interested in it’s cultural significance. They even have a tour specifically geared toward “cracking the Davinci Code“.

The other rule we tried to follow while travelling was to intersperse kid-friendly attractions with the cultural non-negotiables. So, if you can’t actually convince your kids that visiting a particular museum or building is a good idea, then find a reward outing to promise for afterwards. Like the home-made ice cream shop in Paris with 70 flavours of ice cream, or a playground, or a boulangerie, or even – God forbid – a Disney shop. Whatever you have time for. It’s amazing how much even a half hour of running around or playing or eating yummy treats can improve your kids’ frame of mind, and willingness to cooperate!

Another tip is to alternate indoor with outdoor attractions – one of the places we didn’t get to was Monet’s Garden, and I wish we had, really. Not only is it a beautiful and culturally significant place, but it is also outdoors, offering kids a bit more freedom to explore. Ditto for the Palace at Versailles. A real-live palace – that’s the stuff of fairy tales. But again, it offers the opportunity to explore outdoors – we didn’t even go in, and it was well worth the visit!

Speaking of exploring, be cautious of how much of it you do on foot – we made the mistake of looking at our maps while in Paris, and thinking things looked “close enough to walk”, so sometimes didn’t bother with the Metro when we really should have. By the time we had walked, we had used up a lot of time, and almost all the kids’ available energy – not good. Kids with no energy and aching feet are not the sort you want to tour Paris with.

I think one of the most exciting things for our kids in Paris was going out at night – which you don’t always think about doing when you’re travelling as a family. Usually, after an exhausting day of touring, you just want to get everyone into bed, but even a short excursion in the evening can energize everyone. Our kids loved being on the street in front of the Moulin Rouge after dark, and even though it might seem a bit sketchy, what with all the peep shows and neon naked ladies, our apartment was just a couple of blocks away, and we felt quite safe strolling there in the evening. You can get a surprising amount of mileage out of standing on the famous Metro vent while the wind blows your hair straight upwards! (Not to mention the interesting conversations provoked by the neon ladies)

Another thing we tried to do, but for reasons beyond our control (see Paris is Closed Today) were not able to, is visit the Catacombs. What could be cooler than thousands of skeletons in an underground city? That’s a whole new level of creepy!

I guess it’s all about being creative, and making some compromises – you won’t get to see everything you want to see, but you might be able to infect your kids with the travel bug that will make them want to return and see it all some other time.

Or you could just do what my friend Kim suggested when I asked for her travel wisdom – let the kids plan the trip, and if you’re good, maybe they’ll let you tag along:-)

http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/for-kids
http://mylittlenomads.com/paris-family-hotels
http://mylittlenomads.com/eurostar-train-between-london-and-paris
http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2012-07-31/kids-books-paris-france-travelnotre dame

eiffel tower

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A Day In Paris

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I am way too tired to write this blog, and my feet are still complaining quite loudly from climbing way too many steps, but it has been such a huge day, I feel I must make a valiant attempt at recording a bit of it in case it gets lost in tomorrow.
I will start at the beginning – The Eiffel Tower. Mairi insisted we walk up it, even though there was hardly a line-up at all for the elevator. Not surprisingly, there was nobody in the line-up for the tickets to walk up…anyway, walk we did. The 670 steps not only gave us our day’s workout, but also provided some pretty great views of Paris. My legs were shaking just a little when we got back down, but by the time we had done the obligatory photos in front of the tower, they were back to normal and we were off to Notre Dame. The plan was just to have a look and move on, but we were drawn inside by the fact that it, too, was pretty quiet. It is a stunning cathedral, and the girls loved pointing out features they had seen in The Hunchback of Notre Dame – even the floor is the same as the one Esmerelda was thrown onto, apparently. And the gargoyles are the very ones that befriend Quasi Modo. Imagine.
Quick walk to Pont Neuf so Liah could see where Madeline fell into the Seine and was rescued by Genevieve, the dog, in the Madeline books. Hard to believe she could have survived that 50 foot fall into such a fast-moving river. Mmm.
All good so far. Then began the slightly less successful part of the day. We walked to the Latin Quarter because the guide book said it was full of street performers and really cool places to grab a quick, cheap, but good lunch, and we were pretty close by….not. It looked close on the map, but we miscalculated and ended up walking for about 45 minutes. We were all getting very tired, and the kids were really hungry by this time. When we finally arrived at THE street, it was kind of lame. Nothing much happening, and no real lunch options we felt we had time for. We ended up getting a sandwich at a boulangerie and eating it standing up.
By this time, Liah was done, so we revived her by telling her about the world famous ice-cream maker with 70 flavours of ice cream. Yay! Then we took a metro back to the islands, walked to the ice cream place, and found that it only opened Wednesday to Sunday. Oh.
Well, while we’re in the area, we might as well walk up to the Pompidou Centre to check out all the street artists. That might be fun, right? And we’ll get a treat somewhere else. But there were none. No street artists. No treats. Wrong time of year, perhaps?
By this time, we are all getting pretty exhausted, a little cranky, and feeling like going back to our apartment for a rest, but I had received a text from my friend Kim that morning telling us that we should go see her friends Andrew and Jules in Place de Tertre. Just go up and knock, she says. They have a great view of Sacre Coeur – it will be an experience. So, since we haven’t taken any of her advice so far today, and I dread her wrath, we decide to push ourselves a little further. We make our way via Metro to the nearest stop, which involves climbing about 200 steps to get back above ground. My feet are not happy. Neither are my legs.
Then, we check the map, determine which way to go, round the first corner and see in front of us about another 500 steps to get to Montmarte and Place de Tertre. I moan a little inside my head. Well, actually, I moan quite loudly outside my head. But I meant to moan inside my head.
By the time we actually get to the apartment (which is on the top floor of an elevator-free building, naturally), I am in a lather. Which is good in a way, because it’s pretty cold out and now I’m warm. But I’m literally dripping in sweat, which is not so great. We knock on all three doors at the top because we don’t actually know which it is, and luckily only one door opens. We say we are looking for Andrew and Jules, and the guy looks at us blankly, but says yes, he is Jules. Then the other guy comes to the door and quickly realizes we are the Canadians sent by Kim. We are welcomed warmly and ushered in. And we spend a fascinating hour looking at their incredible view, and chatting about various things. Including the fact that Andrew used to be the Queen’s butler. What?!?!
He shows us a photo album with pics of him and Princess Diana, and other members of her family, tells us funny stories about the Queen Mum, and other Royals. Oh, and more pics too. Of him and Maggie Thatcher, who was apparently not all that “Iron” when he worked for her. And then there was King Fayed of Saudi Arabia. And the Onassis place where he used to vacation with Christina. Oh, the list goes on. The girls are enthralled. Well, we all are really.
And then there’s Jules – Paris hairstylist to the stars. You know that Shakira video for She Wolf? Guess who did the hair? Rihanna’s colourful funky styles? Yep, Jules. As if the girls weren’t impressed enough by Andrew’s scar he got from the pet black panther in Kenya! (Oh, a whole other story…)
And in their down time they offer Secret Romantic Dinners Parisian style. So if you ever want to propose to your significant other with a backdrop of the Sacre Coeur, this is your big chance! Or maybe you want to celebrate another special occasion in style – this is something totally unique and especially tailored to what the customer would like. Amazing. I might come back someday when I’m a bit more up-market.
Anyway, after having a cup of tea and a scone, and using their bathroom/art gallery, we are feeling revived and refreshed. We venture back out into Montmarte and stroll around as it starts to get dark, basking in the afterglow of our little adventure. We decide to walk home, and pick up some great food on the way.
Ten hours after leaving our apartment this morning, we are back, eating our meal. My only regret of the day? I really should have asked Jules if he could do a little something with my self-imposed mullet-like hair style. I could have come out of there a whole new woman!

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