Paris is wonderful.
Lisa and I spent a romantic week there in our pre-married, pre-kid life. Well, as romantic a time as can be had with one of us suffering an infected tooth.
So why only a single day in one of the world’s great cities? When we planned the European leg of our trip, we loosely allocated around two weeks to be spread across one or more of the big cities, balancing our desire to experience their iconic attractions with our budget. To view the split, please refer to the chart below, carefully prepared by the more nerdy of us two mums.
London took the biggest slice of pie so our kids can live the dream of riding red double-decker busses all day and we can take them to the masses of stunning museums and galleries … for free! Oh, and it also has the West End. Enough said.
In any case, big cities are only a fraction of our overall plans. Living rural best fits us and our ‘slow travel’ vibe. We still get hearty dollops of local culture with our favourite kind of cherries on top: walks in apple orchards, forest rambles, country drives, farm shops, picnics at the beach and chicken wrangling. However, Paris beckoned if only for the Eiffel Tower (number one for Koala and Squirt), Mona Lisa (Bug ‘s obsession) and extravagant patisseries (always near the top for us).
We’d just smashed ourselves for 5 days on the joyful rocks of Disneyland and re-surfaced nearby at the Adagio apartment hotel. Our first priority was a day off (because theme parks are such terribly hard work). The kids hit the pool for a swim and I – or rather a large ball of smelly laundry with legs – wandered the bowels of the hotel to exercise my pathetic French language muscles on the instructions of yet another unfamiliar washing machine. Nudity was so close to becoming our new reality that the laundry task took all day and was the main reason for keeping the kids in bathers.
Researching our transport options we discovered a return train trip was going to cost a small fortune or we could take the less environmentally-friendly option of driving and parking one block from the Eiffel Tower for EUR13. We opted for the latter but more on carbon un/friendly travel in a future post.
Armed with our ever-faithful French satnav we were very excited to drive into central Paris. The day was sunny and picture perfect. First glimpses of the Eiffel Tower had us all ooh-ing and aah-ing.
Security checks were extensive and unfortunately necessary so it’s not so easy to wander freely around the foot of the tower like we did only a decade ago. It was quiet overall but the line for the stairs was walk-up compared with the winding queue for the elevators.
Lisa and Bug – our heights-averse team members – were willing to brave it up to Level 1 via the stairs. Only 328 steps of lung-busting effort and guess what? There are restaurants, cafes, displays, see-through flooring (eek) and shops up there, and even a small theatre showing the life of Gustave Eiffel! Who knew? Just shows how thoroughly we research our trip of a lifetime. To give the impression of competence here’s a helpful diagram from the official Eiffel Tower website.
Squirt and I left the others to muse over lunch while we bounded (haha… not) to Level 2. I carried her half the way while she chatted happily into an ear that could only hear the sound of pumping blood. The top level was closed for renovation – hallelujah – saving us from the “do we/don’t we brave it to the top” conversation.
On an informative note, we found the views from Level 1 to be spectacular; sufficiently high to see all of Paris on a clear day yet low enough to explore the intricate details found amongst the rooftops, parks and river. There was no discernible difference in quality of the view between these levels, but there was plenty to do and eat on the lower level without the elevator crowds that were milling above.
Under beautiful sunshine, we walked over the river and Squirt (our quintessential consumer) spent the last Euro dollar from her decimated Disneyland budget on a must-have item: five tacky Eiffel Tower keyrings in an array of colours for each of us to dangle from our daypacks.
Once we realised the distance between the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre (yet another example of exemplary planning) we initially eyed off the electric bikes and scooters laying around for rent and sadly but sensibly opted for a taxi. But next time I’m definitely risking my neck on one of those scooters and insist everyone else does too.
It seemed lunch was still digesting when we sat down for second lunch at Maccas beneath the Louvre. I’d made a circuit of the shopping centre in a fruitless attempt to refill our water bottles and had begrudgingly bought some Evian. The kids launched on it like pigeons at breadcrumbs then Squirt held it up, pointed to a white blob and asked “What’s that Mum?” Our minds simultaneously processed that it was a piece of soggy chip and sauce delivered via Bug’s backwash. Then I had a closer look and swung round to Koala, asked her to smile and bingo! A massive gap stared back at us. That wasn’t a chip sitting at the bottom of that bottle. She’d lost her first tooth…. in Paris!
We LOVE art galleries. But we risk controversy and cyber-rage by saying we like but don’t love the Louvre. Yes, the building itself is spectacular. Yes, it houses magnificent collections of classical art and endless rooms of stunning sculptures and priceless historical artefacts. Yes, these are displayed in mostly uninspiring ways, especially for young kids. We were then burdened with audioguides offering limited information in English and, well, we’d prefer to experience other places like the Museum d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou or the Catacombs. But… Bug was determinedly keeping his date with the Mona Lisa, and so that’s exactly what we saw before squeezing in snippets of Egyptian history, Greek and Roman mythology, Italian Renaissance opulence and Napoleon Bonaparte propaganda (you know, him brandishing a sword on a big white horse?) on the lengthy walk to the exit.
We let the kids loose with the camera, giving us insight into what caught their eye (see pics below). Some of it was, umm… questionable. Koala was the first to notice the artistry on the ceiling and that’s largely where her attention stayed. Bug was convinced one of the ancient dudes was doing the ‘floss’ … and in modern times that’s probably exactly what he would be doing.
Bug has since declared, “Art galleries are not really my thing” and the girls’ favourite memory of that day was of Koala’s missing tooth. Oh no, really? Did our reticence over one gallery seep into their subconscious? No doubt more time, a few more family-friendly gallery choices – and being a little more vigilant holding onto our body parts – will draw them back into the light, in the City of Light.