• Kristin

Paris... with Kids

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When we were in the planning phase of where to visit while in Europe, our older daughter said she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. Although my husband and I had visited Paris during our 2011 trip to England, France & Switzerland, we figured... why not visit with the kids too?!

We had a lovely time with our friends in Netherlands, so we hugged them good-bye and boarded the metro towards Amsterdam, and then transferred to a high speed train to Paris. We booked the train tickets on a local Dutch app for the best price and our friends {who understand the language} did the booking for us. We chose a higher class ticket for assigned seats together with a table on the highspeed train. There is not much luggage space on a train, and although we try to pack light, it's not always possible with 4 kids in tow. Six of us plus several suitcases and an awkward shaped stroller caused many strange looks from people as we boarded the train.

Exhausted, but ready to be on the way, we settled onto the train and pulled out the I-pad and Amazon Fire for the kids. We rarely give devices to the children and try to avoid it at all costs when eating out or doing family activities, but when it comes to travel, it is fair game! Being in close quarters with strangers is not the time to see how long our children can sit quietly {hint: not long}. The train arrived at Gare du Nord train station, so we ergo'ed the younger 2 kids, put the older 2 in the stroller and made our way through the metro. This is where preparation becomes key. Most hotels have specific instructions on how to find them. I planned ahead and had the step-by-step instructions on which color metro we had to take, for how many stops and where to change lines. It was a HUGE help!!! I did not want to be trying to figure it out on the go. My main complaint about the Paris Metro is the very limited number of elevators. A few times we spent 15-20 minutes wandering around on a lower level trying to find the elevator up because we had our stroller. And yes... sometimes we would go the wrong direction trying to find a way out only to be stuck at the bottom of a downwards escalator and no stairs. It was slightly exhausting.

We finally made it to our hotel early afternoon. I've said it once and I'll say it again... it can be very difficult to find interconnecting hotel rooms in some cities! So our choices were quite limited within our budget and the main area of Paris we wanted to be. We chose to stay at Hotel Belfast. It was very traditional, but it had connecting rooms and cribs and an even bigger plus was the view of the Arc de Triomphe from the balcony! We did not eat their breakfast because was ~20+ euro/person {having children who sometimes eat like birds, there's no point in paying that}, but there was a bagel shop next door so it worked great. My favorite way to see large cities with limited time is to take a hop-on-hop-off bus with Big Bus tours. We have done this in Sydney, London and now Paris! When choosing our hotel it was a priority to be within walking distance to one of the bus tour stops and a metro stop, which Hotel Belfast was.

Once we settled into the hotel room it was early afternoon, we decided to visit the Eiffel Tower because we wanted time to go up. It was a beautiful clear, cool day. We took the metro to the nearest stop and walked over. Considering we did not know when we would actually make it to the Eiffel Tower ahead of time, we did not pay for the "advanced scheduled tickets" that essentially allow you to skip the line if you know when you will be there. However you typically buy those tickets at least a day in advanced, so you really need to have flexibility for that to work, but about 10 minutes into standing in line we were wishing we had been able to do that. I go into more detail about our 2 long hours of waiting in line on my post about breastfeeding on the go - however the wait was excruciatingly long!


Imagine this... there were not many other children in line... but here we were with a 5-month old, 1.5 year old, 3 & 5 year olds... the older 2 were not exactly excited about standing in line and were complaining almost constantly. The 5 month old was exclusively breastfed at the time and was hungry but I couldn't get out of the line to find a place to sit and feed him (cue my other post about what I learned too late)... The entire last 1.5 hours at least one child was crying at any given moment, the older ones suddenly didn't want to use their legs so they were sitting on the ground refusing to walk. And EVERYONE was STARING at us... the WHOLE time. My husband and I just kept looking at each other laughing... because we looked ridiculous!!! I'd be looking at us too! But we were too stubborn to give up, we'd made it this far in line, we couldn't stop now! And so... we were we that family that should have stayed home. Finally we had our chance to get our tickets and go up the tower. Only the second level was open for some reason that day, but we were able to enjoy the beautiful view of the city at sunset! It was GORGEOUS!! The pink dusk hues turned the city into a place of magic. Even the kids were in awe and the view made the stress of the long line fade into memory. It just goes to show that traveling with kids is never actually easy, but it's always worth it in the end.

The next day was our one day to see the city. So we booked our tickets online with the Big Bus Tour hop-on-hop-off bus and we headed over to the closest stop, just near the Arch De Triomphe. We love how we can listen to the history while riding the bus. Some of the buses had pre-recorded history and facts, while some had very funny and entertaining tour guides to listen to. But I love that you can see the city while traveling between sites, the kids loved sitting on the top deck and it was a way to travel Paris without getting lost. I highly recommend seeing a city that way, with or without kids!

One activity we planned ahead for, was for our older 2 kids to draw some of the historical sites we saw. We had packed drawing pads and colored pencils with us and took time in each city to sit down and allowed them to draw what they saw. Since we only had 1 day to show the city to the kids, we only got off the bus tour a few times. The first was to to see and draw the Eiffel Tower from across the way and also at the Louvre where we lounged in the wide open courtyard while they drew the Louvre Pyramid. It was really fun to see their drawings and watch them study the architecture as they drew.


Although we debated going into the Louvre, we thought it was best to not attempt a museum with the kids. We had seen it once before so I knew everyone would just end up grumpy. We decided it was best to keep moving and didn't attempt to go inside any museums or monuments and just enjoyed the drive through the city.

It was a long and busy day, but worth it. After the earlier fiasco of arriving to Paris via the train and having a difficult time finding elevators for the stroller and several suitcases in the metro, we decided to book a bus ticket with Le Bus Direct which takes you directly to the airport. For less than 60 euro total it was worth every cent in my opinion and the bus stop was a minute walk from our hotel which was even better! Although it was a full bus, it was a comfortable ride. From Paris we flew to Czech Republic for several days, but there we rented a van for the remainder of our trip!

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