Our Holiday to Paris: A City Tour
It was a last minute decision to go to Paris for half term and in fact, we only booked our AirBnB apartment a week ago. The children are the perfect age for all things Disney and Sofia especially has been obsessed with the Eiffel Tower ever since I can remember so today, on our holiday to Paris, we took the children on a whistle stop city tour.
We arrived in Paris a few days ago by car. We drove to the Dover ferry crossing where we took the DFDS ferry to Calais before making our way to Paris. I thought the ferry would be a good experience for the children, you know, driving the car onto the boat. I’d completely forgotten in my own excitement that I suffer, awfully, with sea sickness. Ten minutes after the ferry set off, straight into Storm Brian, I was a wreck! Sick bag, head in hands kind of a wreck. It wasn’t pretty. The children however had found a soft play area, which was great, whilst I felt sorry for myself in my sickly state.
Sunday 22nd October
Even though the drive to Paris was quite short, having had a super early start we were all really tired from the journey. We decided to take the first day to rest a bit and see the local area of Montevrain where we had rented our AirBnB apartment.
It was our first time using AirBnB and I have to say it was a spot on experience! We chose a one bedroom apartment in a private complex in Montevrain. With an open plan kitchen and living room, leading onto a large balcony, which from one side looked over a misty green wood and to the other, the castle of Euro Disney! This was brilliant at night as Max and I watched the Disney fireworks with a glass of vin rouge while the children were sleeping.
Montevrain is a residential area and our apartment was a short drive from Val d’Europe and Le Village centre’s, with everything from hypermarket, Auchan, boulangeries, restaurants, cinema and high end shopping at Louis Viutton and Celine, there was everything at our fingertips.
For a family of four, the apartment fit us perfectly and was in an ideal location for everything we wanted to do and see. If staying in Montevrain you would need a car for local things like food shopping but central Paris is only 30 minutes by train and EuroDisney a minuscule 7 minutes away!
The children’s bedroom was decked out with Disney quotes and funky colour changing lights across the top of the bed. Their balcony looked out over the gardens so they were super excited in the mornings to roll up the shutters and report what weather greeted us.
Monday 23rd October
We set off on the train from Val de’Europe station, direct, to Paris. Neither Max or I speak French, other than a few vaguely remembered sentences from school, so when I got stuck in the ticket turnstile je voudrais un glace frais (can I have a strawberry ice cream?) was of no help at all! Max thinks if he just speaks Italian with a French accent, everyone will understand him! Naturally, they didn’t and I had to crawl under the barrier like GI Jane while the children killed themselves laughing and onlookers watched in disapproval. One thing I’ve noticed this week about French train stations is that there are no staff! So if you get stuck in, on or under a turn style, figure it out because there will be nobody there to help you!
When setting off to a huge city with small children, I would definitely recommend to preplan your route and take a map. Of course, we didn’t do that, got totally lost and ended up with two grouchy children!
Although we had no clue where we were going, Max and I had visited Paris on a romantic weekend before we were married so we sort of guessed our way around. Getting off the train opposite the Eiffel Tower was a stroke of luck but I was so surprised, and quite saddened at how it has all been gated off. I understand the need for heightened security in today’s world, but the Eiffel just wasn’t as I remembered it. The streets were strewn with souvenir sellers, some of them quite aggressively pushy, and this instantly put us on guard. So, while you’re keeping one eye on the children and the other on your bags, it’s quite hard to take in the romantic ambience of being at Le Tour Eiffel.
Thankfully, Sofia’s excitement was intact. She has been obsessed by the Eiffel Tower ever since I can remember and has asked to go to Paris at least once a week for the last two years! She was quite overwhelmed by the street sellers and as much as I explained that this was a job, she was uneasy. She’s very astute and doesn’t miss a trick, even asking me;
Mummy, why do all the people from Egypt live in France?
We had had a conversation (in Italian) on the train with a French Egyptian lady so Sofia had noticed the Arabic looks of the street sellers and assumed they were all from Egypt!
Her excitement of being at the Eiffel Tower soon wained and my sensitive little girl had forgotten the place she had so longed to see and instead was asking why beggars lined the street with children, why the men selling souvenirs, quite forcefully, didn’t have real jobs? I felt I had to dodge those bullets and make light of it as I knew it would play on her mind if she knew the truth of the world we live in. She was especially concerned about a Syrian mother feeding her baby a bottle of milk on the street while begging. Does he have toys? But he’ll get cold at night! Can we buy them a house? How do you explain to a 6 year old that this family may have fled a war or that they may have been born in France, but are exploiting the situation in Syria by using it as a means to make money? We don’t know the real the reason they were there but I hope it was the latter and that the little boy did have a bed to go home to. I told Sofia that his daddy was on his way to pick him up and she was content with that enough to not mention it again.
Luca on the other hand assumed that money grows on trees and wanted to buy light up Eiffel Tower key rings, tea towels of Paris and pretty much everything else that was on offer!
Anyway, I digress.
After a walk around the Eiffel and a quick chase of a few French pigeons, we headed off to do a City Tour with Big Bus Co. Paris is a huge city and it takes forever to get anywhere. This is great when you want to meander and amble along at your leisure but when you’re with two tired people with short legs, it’s too big a city to navigate on foot. The weather didn’t look like it was going to hold out either plus not having a map and two grouchy pants, it was definitely the best decision we made. We sat on the top deck and I was really surprised how Sofia loved listening to the guided history on her ear phones, shouting out places of interest as we approached them. Luca was really tired at this point so was pretty much slumped in a corner on the back seat, not paying attention to anything.
Paris is one of my all time favourite cities. I could get lost in the side streets and along rivers to my hearts content. Driving past all the iconic landmarks felt a bit rushed but it gave the children a taster of the city that I have long loved.
We saw the Louvre, the school of music, (which was stunning!), Notre Dame, the national Opera House and the Arc de Triumph, to name a few. At Notre Dame we hopped off the bus and went for a walk through the side streets. Bustling with creperies and a smell of hot guey Nutella in the air, we jumped into a warm looking cafe for lunch. I was so grateful to put down my camera bag and enjoy a coffee for a while. French Jazz was playing in the background and it was all very, well, French.
Pancakes that we make at home are not crepes! I don’t know what it is about eating a crepe in France, that makes it feel very French, but it does. I had a buckwheat Florentine crepe with spinach, goats cheese and egg. It was divine! Max and the children all had Nutella with strawberries and squirty cream (otherwise known as chantilly, which is not at all squirty cream!). They were delicious! I’ve always thought of a crepe as being a snack rather than a lunch but they were actually very filling.
While we were eating and getting warm, the heavens had opened outside and the sky had turned dark grey. We braced ourselves for the next part of the trip as I wanted to do a bit shopping on the Champs Elysees before heading back to Montevrain. We hopped back on the bus and headed towards the Arc De Triomphe.
The Big Bus Co was packed with people escaping the rain so we put on the free plastic ponchos and faced the wet weather head on! It was the most comical thing I have ever seen of us on any trip or holiday yet! We haven’t laughed so much at the sight of ourselves, even the children thought it hilarious and although completely hideous, I absolutely LOVE these photos of us that we’ll look back on in years to come and remember a wet whistle stop city tour of Paris. I even love how Sofia is doing a thumbs down and how the poncho was so huge for Luca, I had to tie it in a knot! It’s not the most glamourous we’ve ever looked and the photos just scream TOURIST but that was the fun of it! I’m all for those plastic ponchos!
Unfortunately the weather worsened and we ended up hiding out on the steps of a Cinema, eating popcorn and watching the Parisian world go by. After much pleading from the children to go home, we admitted defeat and took the over ground train back to Val d’Europe. We missed out so much of this beautiful city but that’s a great reason to go back.
The weather wasn’t our friend on this day but it didn’t stop us from having a great time. Traveling with children can be hard work but making it entertaining and an adventure adds all the more to the memories that we’re creating for them, like sitting on the top deck of a sight seeing bus, in the pouring rain, with umbrellas and plastic ponchos! It was the first but not the last time we’ll see Paris as a family and I hope that what we saw on this short trip will fuel Sofia and Luca’s lust for France, as I have had since a child.
I’ve been making these little videos of our holidays and special days out since Sofia was about 2, so I thought it would be lovely to include them in my travel blogs – the children love watching them over and over and know them off by heart. They’re not perfect, they’re not professional, they’re just put together because I really enjoying making them and they’re such lovely memories to keep. I’ll never forget walking around Paris in the pouring rain, showing my children a city that I absolutely adore!
Next stop EuroDisney…
Credit: Some of the music in this video was from BenSound