There’s something quite magical about Paris you just never know what is going to happen, there’s life around and it all feels like you haven’t got enough in your five senses to absorb and take it all in. But you will need to when you only have a few days to explore this romantic city – even when you have the kids in tow.
If you don’t have a set itinerary or choose to go with the flow as most people do on short trip to Paris, then you will need to learn patience once again and it will feel like the trip is made up of queues wherever you go as tourist sites are popular no matter what time of day or year you go.
L’Eiffel Tower with the Kids
The first stop after our arrival was the Eiffel Tower, this tourist attraction being set away from everything else sightseeing wise, we decided to get it under our belt early on.
It is worth purchasing your tickets on line in advance to avoid the queues at the Eifel Tower. This does mean some planning and foresight as you will need to know the date and time that you plan to visit and if you miss this then you may miss your slot and your ticket may not be valid. One wonders how we ever coped without the internet – and I can’t help wondering how wonderful this digital age is.
First you need to decide how far up you are going to go up the lifts, that is if you are not planning on walking up the steps.
I recommend that you go up to the Second floor at the very least, but if you have plenty of time and enjoy queuing then you may wish to go to the top.
To get to the very top, you will need to change lifts on the second floor.
There is one distinct drawback about this – mainly that you will have to queue once again to catch the next lift up to the top and guess what, queue to get back down again.
Eiffel Tower is known as the Iron Lady of Paris and is a magnet for children who want to get up to the top as quickly as possible.
The first level has 360 steps, the second level has 359 steps. (Yes, I know encourage them to take the life I am sure that counting those steps will be fun for them but you still have to get through the rest of the day).
The staircases are the original staircases and Mr Eiffel is reported to have had his office at the very top and he would start the walk up the stairs each morning.
This gives a whole new meaning to the daily commute.
See if you can spot this sign in the Eiffel Tower
The Craziness of the Arc de Triomphe
Take a bus ride to the Arc De Triomphe, use the local buses rather than sightseeing as you get a real picture of Parisian life.
The Arc De Triomphe will allow you to see the game of ‘Chicken Drive’, there are no rules, no lines, and it is a free for all but for some reason it seems to work.
Drivers stop randomly so you have to be alert at all times.
Take a walk under the underpass and experience the buzz of the traffic all around you.
The Arc de Triomphe is 50m tall (164 ft)
From the Arc de Triomphe, take a walk down the Champs Elysee and see how many top names you can spot.
Clue – MacDonald’s is not one of them but they have somehow managed to set up a shop on the Champs Elysee.
Don’t miss the Swarovski Crystal Staircase, La Coste and Louis Vuitton.
The Champs Elysee is only the most famous street in Paris and meets up with the Tuilleries Park.
Here the kids were only interested in counting the number of buses, cars of a certain colour and the richness of the road and the boutique shopping simply went over their heads – it was just another road to them and they wondered when the next ice cream or sit down would come.
At Tuilleries, you will find a selection of chairs set up around the small lake area that are believe it or not free. Yes it will cost you nil to sit down and take in the day.
Your party can split up if not everyone wants to relax as there is the nearby art gallery housing the Monets and there are a range of play areas for the children.
The little café serves ices creams and coffee which will set you back four euros a piece for the smallest size. They afterall have a captivate audience so join the queue after you’ve oohed and ahmmd about the cost they will be enjoyed by all.
At the end of Tuilleries there are little souvenir shops where you can pick up your little bits to take home with you.
They are all much of a sameness but they do vary on price for the same items so you may feel upset when you see something you just purchased a few shops down that much cheaper.
You will go past the Louvre on your right with the distinct glass pyramid. The kids will be excited at it’s uniqueness and unusual shape but this will soon wane when they realise that it holds a vast array of paintings that they cannot touch.
The well known Pompidou Centre, is 10 times smaller than the pyramid of Cheops.
Pompidou was the French president from 1969-74 who loved modern art and wanted a cultural centre. So he commissioned a glass building and all the utility pipes are on the outside.
Kids will love the unusual escalators and their first cries will probably be can we go up. But I urge you stop for a minute and sit around the water fountains and watch.
The fountains change direction. On clear days kids can dip their feet inside the water at the fountains.
Watch the street entertainers who show off their skills and if you think that they are entertaining then help them in their lifestyle of freedom from a rat race.
There are the usual painted up people in gold, sitting on a stick – get the kids to figure out how he can sit there for so long on seemingly nothing but air.
Going up and down the escalators in the Pompidou looks fun but we went just as summer was arriving and the air conditioning hadn’t been turned on and it was boiling hot!!
There was a sign at one point indicating a wait time of 90 minutes to view some of the paintings. We didn’t fancy our chances of a 90 minutes wait in those conditions and continued to the very top as you would have to do with children in hand.
There is the roof top restaurant with the long stemmed rose on each table so if looking for a romantic place to propose why not try the top of the world overlooking the most romantic city in the world.
Sit down in one of the many cafes surrounding the Pompidou Centre – meals for adults will set you back around 15 Euro and 8 Euro for a child – pretty reasonable when you consider that a Macdonalds will come in around 8 Euro.
What will eat into your budget will be soft drinks so if you can persuade the little darlings to drink water this will save you 4.50 Euro for a tiny bottle of soft drink.
A carafe of wine will be infinitely cheaper than the soft drink but you can’t offer them this.
It will be worth it to take in the buzz of the Pompidou Centre, the street entertainers, fountains, riding the crazy escalators, stunning views from the top.
End the trip off with the Sacre Coeur – often known as the Big White Meringue.
Count your way up the stairs if you are brave enough to stand in the ever increasing queue. It is free to go in so therefore the size of the queue.
If you are all queued out then tell the kids an interesting fact like it is made of a special white stone that gets whiter when it rains.
It is the second highest building in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.
Walk them around the interesting street art and maybe get your caricature done.
Count the number of steps on the way down if your legs are still with you on the walk up.
Safety in Paris with the children on a Day Out
Pickpockets are riff throughout Paris and stepping out of Gard Du Nord you immediately feel this sense of people watching and targeting you. This feeling remained with me as several of the largest metro stations and tourist spots. You will see groups operating, and as tourists are distracted with the queues they go in for the kill so hang onto bags and your property.
Whilst hanging onto the bag in one hand the brood with the other, there was the contact fear of losing one of them.
I was concerned as their French lessons in school hadn’t kicked in, as yet as most UK schools don’t introduce this until children are in high school, so they didn’t miss this aspect of lessons by being on this trip but it meant that they thought they lost the ability to be understood.
Make sure that you have all decided on a plan of action if your party is split up so that you are able to work out how to meet up again.
If you are parted on the Metro then you may want to teach your children what the plan is so they know what to do – usually this is to get off at the next stop and wait.
If there are two adults in the party then have one adult should be at the front and the other always going last.
Going through the barriers of the Metro this worked well for us, as the last child going through the ticket barrier had a problem. The barrier would not allow him to go through and luckily we had this plan in place, so one of us was on the same side and there to make sure he was okay.
Place a name and contact address into the pocket of each child in case you become parted in the crowds.
We also showed the children what a policemen looked like, if they were ever lost. Police can dress differently in different countries so it is always wise to show your children what a policemen looks like.
What if they can’t see a policemen, their action plan is to go another mother who has children with her. Not just a woman. But one that has children with her.
Food Tips and how to avoid being ripped off
Most hotels charge 10 Euros for the petit dejeuner, we found a small café down the road that did all our coffees, hot chocolates and croissants and pain au chocolate for the paltry sum of 12 Euros for everyone. Yes in total.
A good saving and well worth trying to find one.
But many of the side walk café’s offer a breakfast for a lot less than the hotel charges of 10 Euro and it may be worth using these to make some savings.
Don’t worry about the croissants, the French bread you stuffed down your face and the carafes of wine you drank, all the walking and queuing will burn it all off as well as the stress of keeping an eye on the children all the time on a short trip to Paris.
Here’s to living your digital life
Spreading the word about the Digital World
Because there is another way!