This post looks back at the start of our first trip to Europe alone with our then-preschool age children. The basic itinerary was a week in Paris, a week in South of France, and a half week in Prague. Below, you will find how we used our first two days to get a feel for Paris and get over jet lag.
Day 1: Arrival and Walk to the Eiffel Tower
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Our plane from the US touched down around lunchtime. We had booked an apartment for the week near the Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th district. Since there was an RER (commuter rail) stop right near our apartment, we took that from the airport. The train was more crowded than expected, but we made it to the apartment by 1:30pm.
Dealing with jet lag with small kids is tricky. We knew that it was going to be difficult to stay awake until a normal bedtime, so after scoping out our digs a bit, we decided to go outside, and do a long walk to keep ourselves awake, seeing some things along the way.
Walk to the Eiffel Tower
So, we set out for the Eiffel Tower – which is on the other side of the left bank, but a recognizable site and a nice goal for the first day.
We didn’t really take many pictures along the way, but as we walked, we tried to get the kids out of the stroller once in a while so that they wouldn’t fall asleep. Fountains are always winners!
The boys were quite excited to have reached their destination! Our first afternoon goal wasn’t to go up the tower, but (as goals get trimmed with little kids) simply to see a slice of Paris and to help our bodies adjust to the time zone.
John’s first question was about where “Remy the Rat” was (from the movie Ratatouille). I suppose that was his strongest association with the Eiffel Tower at that age.
We decided to try to walk back to our apartment along the Seine river, but we ran out of steam and hopped on the metro.
Before getting all the way back, we picked up some groceries, and made it back to our apartment by 7pm. Everybody tired, we had dinner in our apartment. On the way back, we also found a nice bakery a block or so away, where we picked up baguettes, and other treats, for much of the week.
Day 2: Getting a feel for the layout of the city
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Waking up at 10am our first morning in Paris, we slept reasonably well.
Our plan for the day was take a walk and simply “feel” Paris. While there was little that we actually went into this day, highlights included seeing Notre Dame, Île Saint-Louis, the Pompidou Center, the Louvre, Tuileries Garden, the Opera, Montmartre, the Sacré Coeur, and the Canal St. Marten.
Notre Dame and Île Saint-Louis
Notre Dame was a nice walk down Boulevard St. Michel from our apartment near the Luxembourg Gardens. Without stops, it’s about a 15 minute walk, but we took the route slower the first time, admiring the feel of the Quartier Latin.
We arrived at Notre Dame and took our obligatory pictures outside. We intended to go in, but there was an event where we couldn’t enter. Since it wasn’t far from our apartment, we figured we’d come back another day. From there, we continued on and wandered around the surrounding Île Saint-Louis.
Having woken up relatively late (10am), it was lunch time before we knew it. We found a restaurant near Notre Dame, and had a fairly leisurely lunch. Most our sit-down lunches were on order of an hour and a half or so, which is slow by US standards, but actually worked fairly well. Typically, the set menus had many courses included, which the boys ended up really enjoying.
From here, we thought the boys would find the Pompidou Center building, with its fairly bold modernist architecture, interesting.
We were right!
“It’s broken, mama” – James
“I like it. I really, really like it.” – John
Our walk continued to the Louvre. The boys thought the architecture and area was really neat. Who knew that in 2018 we would take them to see the real pyramids!
One think you will notice is the lack of crowds. This is early afternoon and during the peak of summer, this area will be quite crowded.
Note: we’d be back later in the week to see the Louvre, but an overview walk seems to work well in Paris.
A lot of people wait for their kids to be “old enough” to travel. The problem with this is that by the time they are deemed old enough, they are also old enough for school, and you will be tied to the school calendar. If you travel while the kids are in preschool, you can go to Paris in April, pay lower prices for both plane tickets and accommodations, and the crowds will be significantly reduced.
From here, we decided to explore the Tuileries Garden. The kids were delighted when they saw some trampolines next to the park, so we bought them some tickets and let them bounce for a while.
Thwarted on the way to Champs Elysées
We had intended to walk through the Tuileries Garden, then head down the Champs Elysées, but there was an event (it may have been related to the upcoming election there) and our plans were thwarted. Instead, we headed the opposite direction and went by the Opera and took a walk in the Montmartre neighborhood.
At some point, we got the kids a snack and decided to call it dinner. When traveling with kids, we have found that a big lunch is nice, but if you want to snack on top of that, it is usually best to have a light dinner. Often times we will get something small, or simply get a treat and call it dinner. Even though we tend to walk a ton, there still has to be some control over food quantities! In addition, it is always wise to bring baby wipes with you, even if your kids are out of diapers.
We also found a nice playground. The kids always enjoy trying out the various playgrounds around the world.
Sacré Coeur and and Canal St. Marten
Charged up again, we decided to head to the Sacré Coeur and sit on the steps for a while. It is a lovely place to spend the late afternoon!
You will always find some aggressive vendors here. But, our boys really liked the colorful models of the Eiffel Tower, so we let them each pick out one.
From here, we decided to head towards the Canal St. Marten. Isn’t this a nice view?
We were thoroughly exhausted, and hopped on the train at République and made our way back to the apartment. What a great day!