We recently took the children for their first visit to Paris, one of our favourite cities in the world. After living in rural France for month, we decided to spend a weekend in one of the most beautiful capital cities that we have ever travelled to. Of course, we wondered before setting off, if the Paris would appeal to children as much as it does to adults, since it’s the architecture, wide boulevards, and bridges that the city is most famed for, as well as museums, churches and galleries. We wanted the kids to get a ‘feel’ for the city, to take it all in unhurried, and at their own pace. Our children’s first visit to Paris was a great success, and do you know what? We didn’t ‘do’ much at all.
Getting to Paris
First off, getting to Paris from where we are housesitting near Chatellerault is a costly experience for a family of four. The fast TGV train can get us there in just over an hour, but tickets for four costs (with children’s discounts) about €400, yes that’s €200 each way. Ouch! That’s more than it cost us to fly to France from Ireland! Add to that another €200 minimum for accommodation for a couple of nights, and suddenly a couple of days in Paris is getting very pricey.
Another option in France is BlaBlaCar. This is ride sharing organised through the BlaBlaCar website. People who are making a lengthy trip post availability of the number of seats in their car, and possible pick up locations along the route. The cost of this service from Chatellerault to Paris is about €25 each, so still €100 each way.
Third option of course is to just drive it ourselves, but even this can be costly in France, as tolls for the motorways are €30 each way and hire cars are about €30 per day. This is the option that we chose, but we were lucky enough to get a lift with Marie-Laure our French host and her daughter who had already planned a weekend in Paris to spend time with family.
Staying in Paris
Actually, technically we didn’t really stay in Paris. Our Hotel was just outside the ring that defines Paris, in a business, rather than tourist district. By staying here on the weekend, rates are usually reduced because most of their guests usually stay during the week. We stayed at the Novotel Paris Suresnes Longchamp, a comfortable 4* hotel with breakfast included for €120 per night. We chose this one because it was a great rate, and because it was in a location easy for Marie-Laure to drop us at on her way to her mother’s house. Whilst the service was great, our hotel was not within walking distance of a metro stop, so to get into the city we needed to catch a train or a bus and then change to the underground metro. This added an additional €15 per day to usual metro travel costs in Paris, which we will take into consideration when next looking for accommodation in Paris. It’s not enough to be a deal breaker, but an extra €15-€20 added to our accommodation costs per night, might have got us a more central location.
So what did we do?
Since we only had a couple of days for our children’s first visit to Paris we really just wanted them to see the city and the major sites, not spend the whole weekend in lines to enter museums and churches. On Friday night we arrived late due to our car break down on the motorway, but we were still treated to a night time tour of the city by our host Marie-Laure. She drove us along the Seine, and down the Champs Élysées, past the major sights to see the Eiffel Tower lit up. It was wonderful to see the City of Lights sparklingly beautiful.
On Saturday we started our day at Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris. It was here that King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed on 21 January 1793. From there we made our way to the very beautiful Pont Alexandre III to cross the river and walk along the bank toward the Eiffel Tower. The kids LOVED the Eiffel Tower. It was definitely a highlight of their weekend to see it. About two years ago, when talking about Our Global Adventure with their Grandparents the kids said that they would skype Grandma and Grandad from under the Eiffel Tower. Lucy and Oscar were so excited to finally be able to really do it.
After lingering a long while around the tower, we decided to make our way toward the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a long walk, but we stopped often to take in our surroundings and even had a play at a little neighbourhood playground. A stroll down the Champs Élysées continued our walking tour, with a stop for the kids at The Disney Store, and for mum at Laudree the beautiful Patisserie, famed for it’s French Macarons. To finish up our very long walk, we headed back toward the Seine, and yes, you guessed it, the Eiffel Tower to get some photographs as the sun was setting. It was a big day following a very late night before, for the kids, but they were little champions, thoroughly enjoying the sights as we slowly wandered along Paris’ beautiful streets.
On Sunday we decided to make our way out to the Sacre Coeur a beautiful cathedral at Montmartre. With too far to walk between the sights this time we used the Metro system. It was very crowded at the Sacre Coeur, but the view from here over Paris is thoroughly worth the journey, even if like us, you don’t line up to enter the cathedral itself. Continuing our theme of churches, next up we made our way toward the Notre Dame cathedral. It is one of the most beautiful examples of French Gothic architecture. Construction began on the Notre Dame in 1160 and wasn’t completed until 1345. The kids loved studying the exterior of the cathedral spotting gargoyles and saints in the stonework.
Worth a stop nearby, is the gorgeous little English bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. where inside there are books shelved from floor to ceiling in the labyrinth of rooms that make up the shop. On the weekends there are often book readings, poetry or live music which makes a visit a good reason to pause a little in a busy day of touring. We followed the Seine toward The Louvre, the world’s most beautiful museum. Even if you don’t plan on lining up with the kids for hours to enter the museum for a peek at The Mona Lisa, still go to The Louvre. The enormous building itself is a former palace and it’s simply beautiful to wander down the centre toward the Tuileries Gardens. We finished up here, but were in for an extra treat when our host Marie-Laure took us home via the Palace of Versailles for a view of the stunning exterior.
So much but so little.
Our weekend trip to Paris was just perfect for our children’s first visit to the City of Light. We packed in a lot of sightseeing and a lot of walking, but still only barely scratched the surface of this beautiful city. We didn’t have time to waste in lines to get into churches and museums, but Paris is a city where the architecture is so stunning that the outside still makes for a perfect tour. We felt as though we saw so much, and showed the kids the best of Paris, but really, we didn’t ‘do’ much at all, but sometimes that’s just the best way to get to know a city a little better.