8 Nights in Paris with Kids
J’adore Pah-Ree! But Paris with kids??? Oooh-la-la!
Come along, mon cheri, on our trip to Paris (with kids!), and I’ll show you how flying there – even with *gulp* three children in tow- can be a pleasure beyond compare.
And if you haven’t yet considered flying internationally with your child, now’s the time to start!
It doesn’t have to break the bank – you can certainly travel on a budget these days.
Our family made a vow last year (while traveling overseas for our first time in years) to travel as much as possible while we can, together.
Our boys were getting older and we realized there was incredible value to traveling with them: the educational component of world geography and history, the culture enrichment, the experience itself with all the bonding that goes along with it, and all other perks.
We’re a dual physician family, so it’s not easy, but we serve as living proof that, even if you’re super busy, you can still find time for meaningful travel.
So this past week, we went on yet another adventure.
We took on the red, white and blue
(err .. not this one: 🇺🇸, the other one: 🇫🇷)
Let me sum things up for you, as I sit on my tush now and type this, in the simplest way that I can:
54 baguettes, 34 macarons, 63 croissants, and 127 crepes later, we’re not only collectively 20 pounds heavier, but also momentarily broke.
But ooh la la, was it worth it!
The reality of an 8 day visit to beautiful Paris with kids is that..
well, it’s still an 8 day visit to Paris.
And there’s certainly nothing wrong, and everything right, with that!
And please, for the sake of French people everywhere, who cringe when we say it the wrong way, practice saying it.
Not because we have to, but because it’s fun to.
The Storm, But Not of Bastille.
We took on Paris by storm, three boys in tow.
And when I say storm, I actually mean it – we galavanted and terrorized to no end, Bastille-Day style.
But there were also moments of reflective discoveries.
When all was said and done, we had ourselves quite the adventure, even if we left France behind in a frenzied state.
Espresso in one hand, baguette in the other, she yelled out happily after us, as our ride was departing to Charles De Galle:
That’s French for goodbye. She had had enough.
Some Paris with Kids Observations:
*everyone is somehow kissing.
One out of every 5 corners turned yielded a couple in an embrace of one kind or another.
I literally turned to my husband at one point and asked whether we had ever seen people in NYC kiss in public in this manner, EVER.
I was reminded that Pah-ree was the city of love.
And oh, oui, oui, was he spot on.
* bathrooms cost money. Even if it’s minimal, they absolutely do.
Don’t expect to stroll into any ‘ole restaurant, American style, to just use the facilities. They’ll laugh in your face. Or shoo you out.
There’s something very ‘possessive’ when it comes to using their toilets. You’ll be watched like a hawk and hunted down if you try and sneak in.
Quick Tip (to resolve the bathroom issue):
Buy a coffee or macaron for a win-win – they’re usually a euro to two, which is about the price you pay for bathroom use anyway. This way, you be granted automatic ‘backstage pass’ abilities with which to relieve bladder PLUS delicious Parisienne treats to indulge in, to boot. Louis Vuitton Boot.
* other random items costing extra: bags at the supermarket, playgrounds use in certain spaces, sitting down to sip your coffee at the coffee shop (it literally costs more than simply walking away with it).
Bottom line: always be ready to be charged.
More Observations from Pais with Kids:
* Parisians smoke.
We aren’t used to that fact, because so few here in America still do it in public, given all the restrictions.
But be prepared. That thick, smoky feel will envelope the air and penetrate your lungs.
I do give them kudos for the heavy anti-smoking campaigns, in the form of graphic reminders on cartons of cigarettes (see photo for exhibit A).
* abide by rules of the crosswalk signal.
This may apply solely to the New Yorkers among you, notorious for crossing care-free.
Mark my words – and I’m ultimately looking out for your health – French drivers WILL run you down.
* if you dress casually, you’ll stand out like a sore thumb.
Which is fine, if that’s how you roll. I did.
But that didn’t stop me from ooh’ing and ahh’ing at the sheer elegance of the clothing around me.
Men, too, dress up on a daily basis – even our barista made us coffee in his perfectly pressed and tailored suit.
I have to note this observations about dress:
Women regularly look classy, even when ‘dressed down’.
I sought to embrace my inner Parisienne while there (maybe channel a little coco Chanel that was secretly hiding inside), but my attempts to emulate their style resulted in what can only be described as “a hot mess”. And so I won’t go there.
I imagine the Parisians’ stylish flare likely begins at birth; I can picture it now: strutting their stuff as they slide down the birth canal, coming up for their first breath of fresh air and then immediately kissing their fingers in a gesture of utter delight. When they get home, their nursery shelves are surely lined with YSL pampers, and their kitchen stocked with stocked with Gucci & YSL baby blankies, . My guess.
* bees. Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – mess with French bees. They are the real deal, here in France.
I’m not sure whether there was a honey convention going on, or whether summer always attracts them to this degree (and they absolutely love indulging in croissants so don’t entice them!), but there was an overabundance of ’em for sure.
Swatting them away doesn’t help, either, as they do NOT leave a human alone. They’re like that annoying uninvited guest who drops in on your meal and then doesn’t leave!
The good news is that they’re harmless, and rarely sting, if ever (sad update: my son was stung TWICE by a yellow jacket while visiting Versailles. I tried convincing him it was the spirit of Louis XIV injecting some royalty into his skin, dementor-style, but my son didn’t go for it).
Flies are also an issue, though they number less. They’re just as persistent. You will need to physically touch a fly in order to let it know you’d like it to leave.
In summary, the French somehow transmit their ‘tude into their insects. I’m not sure how they do it, but they’re advanced, for sure!
Locations To Visit:
I mean, this is the real deal.
When traveling to Pairs with kids, do not miss the symbol – it’s practically its logo! – of Paris, the regal, towering Eiffel.
Viewed from any and every angle, the Tower is magnificent, with expansive lawns sprawled out on either side.
It reminded me a bit of the great lawn in Washington, DC. But it wasn’t (and I’m not even really sure why I added that in..)
It was suggested that we buy Eiffel tickets in advance because they tend to sell out.
Two options exist to scale this beast: ascending to middle level, or all the way to top.
Either one works, quite honestly.
The real challenge lies in walking up, or down, the stairs (walking not available to the top). Your muscles won’t forgive you for days.
Incidentally, the Tower gets painted a different color every 7 years!
What will they paint it in next?
(We took a vote – one said white, one green and three chose multi-colored: ‘red, white and blue’.)
(tackling a landmark while in Paris with kids)
The biggest museum in the world is the Louvre, with 380,000 pieces inside! I speak evidence-based truths, people.
The secret side entrance is a must.
It’s called the Carrousel of the Louvre, and lies on either side of the “small Arc de Triumphe” (this is literally the name; a smaller version of its larger version, built by Napoleon – who, incidentally, wasn’t as short in real life as he’s been made out to be’ rumor must have been spread through his time’s Page Six!).
You’ll see it as you face the glass pyramid.
The Mona Lisa is housed at the Louvre, among other fascinating objects.
She is, by far, the most popular attraction there.
Be prepared for the mob that assembles in her room, paparazzi style.
Please note (this is great news for traveling to Paris with kids): children get in free (SCORE!).
This museum is located on the Seine river waterfront.
In my readings, some have said they loved it here, even more than at the Louvre (located across the street), especially for Paris with kids. In my opinion, they’re both great.
Displayed within the massive building are mainly Impressionist works of art, the likes of Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Degas.
It made quite the impression on us (ba-dam-dam)
Oh, and lend me an ear on this (please don’t roll your eyes at my puns like my hubby does):
where it comes to Van Gogh, be prepared to discuss life circumstances (like cutting off an appendage), which may not sit well with the younger crew; it’s written on the wall and may be unavoidable.
Family challenge: recreate poses of some favorite paintings/sculptures for memories that make everyone chuckle!
The street on which the Champs is located was a disappointment, in my opinion.
It was literally a giant outdoor mall.
If I wanted to purchase high end items, I could have simply headed to the nearest luxury mall in the States.
So in my opinion, when you’re in Pairs with kids, skip it.
The monument the aforementioned “Arc” – was beautiful. Regal, even. And you could visit its top in the same way as you do on the Eiffel.
We didn’t. We just took it in from the outside.
The Sacre Couer is a beautiful cathedral, set atop a hill.
That hill also happens to be the highest natural point in Paris.
Good luck walking up those steps, while in Paris with kids.
And even better luck getting past those human obstacles!
(I reveal who those are, below)
One side of the cathedral: packed with street artists, each of whom is talented in his or her own right.
They congregate there, creating one of a kind portraits, right in front of you (and of you, if you wish). Amazing.
The other side side: lined with tourist shops, set on a steep, paved street, where souvenirs, souvenirs and.. more souvenirs.. are sold,
Be weary of the following:
That includes those asking you to sign a petition could be pickpockets. They pull a fast one on compassionate-tourists like you & I
Also important to steer clear from: people slapping bracelets on your wrist, without asking (they ask for money when it’s already tied on. Can’t weasel out of that one ’cause it’s tied on)
Three-card monte peeps. I saw them in action, first hand, and heard from locals they make a killing, thanks to unsuspecting touristy folk. They work in groups, so those gathered around are often working along with them. They’ll make loud hooray sounds to attract an unsuspecting crowd. The dealer often pays out his friends, planted in the audience.
You’ve been warned of all three shenanigans and are therefore no longer considered “fresh bait,” if I can help it.
Historic area with lots of shops and cafes.
We stumbled upon a well-known bookstore called Shakespeare & Company Bookshop and enjoyed that vintage book smell not everyone loves. I can even smell it now.
We perused through titles – some of which we knew, most of which we didn’t.
“Look out” for giant meringues while there!
(But also macarons and chocolates and.. well, sugar. Not something a ‘Dr. Corriel’ should really include, but you know.. when in Rome. And also, when in Paris with kids.)
Jardin du Luxembourg, within Latin Quarter
Translated: Gardens of Luxembourg.
These are a beautiful stretch of green grounds, with various fields on which children can play and scream loudly in French (and somehow sound beyond their years and super classy and make you think, “My kids need some of that!”)
There was an especially large playground on which my boys kicked around a soccer ball and set off a game of pickup soccer. It was heart-warming.
I was thrilled to see them interact with Parisian children and, despite the language barrier, they get along so well. As the competitive game unfolded, I was reminded of the fact that sports really do transcend all cultures, ages, and languages.
Everyone “speaks sports”.
Notre Dame cathedral is a beautiful building, rich with French history, located right off the Seine River.
Fun Gargoyle Facts:
1. Supposedly wards off evil spirits
2. Collects rain water and spouts it out through its mouth, to prevent damage
3. Entertains children – mine included – who pass by
(Find the Mother-in-Law gargoyle: she’s on the side, with cane and hat, made in the image of the builder’s actual mother in law.)
Fun Notre Dame Facts:
- The row of statued saints (seen above at 5 o’clock from my son’s head) are the 28 kings of Judah, who were symbolically beheaded during the French Revolution, only to then have their statued heads decapitated – their spirits must have turned in their graves, muttering, “AGAIN!?” – in Vandamisme Revolutionnaire.
- The original ones were buried in a Paris cave and now hang in the Musee de Cluny.
- One statue on the facade is notably different. His name is Saint Denis and he’s actually holding his head. Find him (in real life, as he’s not pictured)! He was rumored to have been a talkative lad, preaching Christianity to anyone who would lend an ear (preferably not Van Gogh as he only had one left..), and was executed in a violent beheading, when the pagans became dissatisfied at his yapping. Afterwards, rumors continued to swirl (I imagine whispers of maidens and gents to be their equivalent of our social media shares) that he continued to walk, and preach, for miles, his executed head in his hands.
Seine River Cruise.
This cruise lasts an hour, and sails back and forth on the river Seine.
In my opinion, it’s a must do.
It was recommended to us to book this in advance, but we did not because we didn’t want to be restricted to a specific time.
Instead, we ended up booking the Fat Tire Paris bike tour, which included the boat cruise.
You can also purchase your own cruise tickets from them and join the cruise any time of the day.
It’s recommended to do this after sunset (around 9 PM in summer), because the Eiffel starts to sparkle for a full five minutes, on the hour, each hour.
It’s worth seeing.
Regal opulence is the best way I can describe it.
We actually biked our way around the grounds, with our Fat Tire tour mates.
I really enjoyed it, but personally liked their Paris tours better, as mentioned below.
The grounds are spectacular, and only a 30 min ride from Pah-ree.
Have a picnic on the lawn, and be sure to visit both sides of the palace: the French – expertly trimmed side – as well as the British – more naturally wild – side.
Fun Versailles Facts:
In order to feel like she was one of ‘the people’ (yes, the same ones who grew resentful and then later executed her – yet another ‘Et tu Brute’ moment’.. history sure does repeat itself!), Marie not only hired people to walk the grounds, but also ordered them to purposely ignore her.
Permission was needed to enter the village (where the sheep were painted daily to match her outfit; no joke); even by Marie’s own husband, the king. It was a place of secrecy and merriment, and the source of many angry accusations – at her infidelity, her mocking, and her amusement on their behalf.
Marie paid for it later, as stories tell of torture – including having to watch her best friend killed, the severed head hung outside her prison cell for months. Her own son not only forcibly separated from, but also turned against her, a mother’s worst nightmare.
The grand palace was extravagant beyond words, and the audio guide came in handy, spicing things up quite a bit.
Louis would have loved it.
50 mins by train from Paris, home to incredible greenery, was Claude Monet’s home and grave. Beautiful and serene, with picturesque countryside views, it’s worthy of many an-Instagram posts, and even NO filters required.
Truth be told, while beautiful, I’m not sure all kids will enjoy this excursion. My advice is that you take it in it if you have an extra day to spare, while visiting Paris. Keep in mind there are extra costs incurred to not only travel there, but also take a shuttle back and forth, as well as enter the different establishments.
Fat Tire Tours.
Great choice for excursions, especially when in Paris with kids!
We personally loved the Paris Day Tour so much that we booked the Night Tour while there, as well. Just do them on separate dates, because they’ll tire the kinder out. They have various options for different ages, but will be sure to entertain.
They have different sized bikes and are very accommodating to children of all ages and sizes.
Vintage Paris Tour.
Now we didn’t actually take this tour, but did run into the folks in charge.
It looks like a pretty darn cool option, though, as you apparently get a personalized tour in this vintage-style tricar.
Note it seats 1-2 passengers only, so probably not appropriate for kids.
Random note-worthy mentions:
* Currency is euro, one of which is worth $1.16.
* Don’t limit yourself to restaurants; try local cheeses from the supermarket – the selection is huge and you won’t be disappointed.
In fact, I just nibbled on a piece, back in the US, and dedicated a special moment of silence to it.
Savor those nibbles of French fromage!
They will always hold a special place in my heart (and in my behind too, as they land straight there, of note).
* Although we were there late August, and temps were chilly, we’ve been told it can get very hot. Get an a/c as part of your accommodations, just in case.
* Rooms/accommodations in hotels are small, comparatively-speaking. When in Paris with kids, Air B and B is a great option.
* Subways are easily accessible and easy to navigate, costing about 2 euros for a single ride.
* Parissienes take pride in their things. Even subways shine!
* The art! Oh, the art! Take it all in. Parisians love their artwork. And I personally appreciated every last bit, too.
* Prepare to diet, oh, maybe 3 months in advance, because you will be eating lots of carbs.
The good news? You’ll probably walk it off, because the city is big. And because walking everywhere, while in Paris with kids, allows you to discover new things.
That’s it, in a nutshell. Au revoir, Paris with kids!
Oh, and one last thought before we depart. If you’re on the fence about a visit, just take a listen to the one and only Audrey Hepburn, when she said:
“Paris is always a good idea.”
Travel to #Paris: 54 baguettes, 34 macarons, 63 croissants, & 127 crepes later, we're not only collectively 20 pounds heavier, but also momentarily broke. But oh, was it worth it! #traveltips #travelwithkids Click To Tweet
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