Our children are 16, 15 and 11 years old. When we sat down with them to plan our family vacation we weren’t sure what to expect. We happily discovered that they weren’t too old to go on holiday with us, that they were interested to explore a city, and that in fact they were quite happy to do so!
My husband and I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to Paris a few times. This visit would be to show the kids how amazing, beautiful, and full of history Paris is.
I have to say that planning ahead is helpful. Start by making sure you are fit! There are so many stairs to climb all over the city!
We stayed in what we found to be a central location: Madeleine. We booked an apartment through airBnB which worked out wonderfully. It was a 10 minute walk to the metro station.
The best and easiest advice is to start your day early. The mornings we were at attractions by 9:30 A.M. or 10:00 A.M. we were first in line or nearly so. The mornings the teens needed to sleep late, well let’s just say we spent too much time in queues. 😉
It goes without saying that everything in Paris is spectacular! Take the Eiffel Tower for example; what a sight! We arrived at 9:30 A.M. and walked right up (no line) to pay to climb the stairs. I would highly recommend taking the stairs, all 670 of them to reach the second level! There are signs with interesting facts to read along the way. I think they have it set up that way so as to give everyone time to breathe while they read! My children preferred to go non-stop, I think to show us up! It is possible to walk around the first level and take pictures. We did this, caught our breath and then began our climb to the second level.
From the second level there is an elevator available to take you to the top. The elevator happened to be closed for an “hour” while we were there so we opted not to wait. We found the views at the first level to be the best, anyway.
We had pre-booked a boat tour of the Seine to follow our Eiffel Tower visit. This was a short distance from the Eiffel tower and since it was still early in the morning there was minimal wait. The weather was lovely to sit and enjoy the sights from the top deck. I’d highly recommend this.
I was always on the look out for flowers and gardens!
Next best piece of advice: use the side entrance of the Louvre (Porte de Lions), and be there for opening time. There was no one at the side entrance when we arrived while we could see the line outside the glass pyramid of the main entrance! That is just crazy.
If you prefer to miss the mob, then head straight for the Mona Lisa. Even when we went there first thing, the painting was surrounded by people. Later on the mob is many more people deep!
It is best to do a little bit of research before heading to the Louvre as it is huge! Don’t go and just wander (experience talking here…).
One of our afternoons we went to Musée d’Orsay, which is on the left bank of the Seine. It was less than an hour wait outside to see the collections of major 19th & 20th century European art. Again, it is so helpful to know which artists’ works you’d like to see because if you just wander you might not have the energy to enjoy seeing everything! I love impressionist art, so I had my rooms marked 🙂
We arrived at Notre Dame late in the afternoon to a queue that completely wrapped around the courtyard out front. But this queue went incredibly quickly and within a half hour we were inside Notre Dame. Writing “it was beautiful” is not a strong enough statement.
The downside of arriving in the late afternoon is that we were not able to climb to the top (either first or second levels). Our schedule was such that it was early the next afternoon before we were able to return, which meant an hour and a half wait to climb Notre Dame. We took turns going into nearby shops, getting coffee, and some people watching (lots of people watching). But the wait to climb the 270 (approximately!) steps to the top was worth it. W.O.W.!
Another afternoon walk led us to the Arc de Triomphe (Arch de Triumph). This is also climbable. At this stage we’d already seen the city from up high and we opted to just enjoy the views from street level.
The Catacombs in Paris were on my husbands “must see” list and so off we went to 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy to investigate. This was one time we’d all wished we’d started our day a whole lot earlier. The wait was going to be more than two hours long. We decided to join a guided tour at a much higher price (€29 instead of the standard €10 entrance fee) but which allowed us to skip the queue. It was so worth it! Our kids were enthralled! Do you know the history of the catacombs?
We learned that the catacombs home the remains of six million Parisians. The tunnels from the original quarries of the city were used to house the remains of people from the late 18th and mid 19th centuries after the graveyards were closed due to public health issues.
The bones are arranged in ‘a macabre display of high Romantic taste’ ( see more at http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/catacombs/more-2000-years-history). This was such an interesting tour that we are glad to not have missed.
Phew! Those five days were so full and exhausting and wonderful!
My next post will be about our visit to Monet’s garden in Giverny! So much to write, so little time! 🙂
In preparing for this post I have spent hours going through photos and remembering the many wonderful things we did and enjoyed on our trip. I have only mentioned a few things here!
I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer where ever you may be.