We have been to Paris a number of times over the years.
The first was at the end of a whirlwind bus tour, seven countries in seven days or something like that. It was a relief to get to Paris and stay two nights if only to catch our breath.
I remember three events from that tour, the visit to the Eiffel Tower, the tour of the night lights, not that we were able to take much in from the inside of the bus, and the farewell dinner in one of the tour guides specially selected restaurants. The food and atmosphere was incredible. It was also notable for introducing us to a crepe restaurant in Montmartre, another of the tour guide’s favorite places.
On that trip to Paris we also spent an afternoon exploring the Palace of Versailles.
The next time we visited Paris we flew in from London. OK, it was a short flight, but it took all day. From the hotel to the airport, the wait at the airport, departure, flying through time zones, arrival at Charles De Gaulle airport, now there’s an experience, and waiting for a transfer that never arrived, but that’s another story.
I can’t remember where we stayed the first time, it was somewhere out in the suburbs, but the second time we stayed at the Hilton near both the Eiffel Tower and the Australian Embassy, notable only because the concierge was dating an Australian girl working in the Embassy. That was our ticket for special treatment, which at times you need to get around in Paris.
It was the year before 2000 and the Eiffel Tower was covered in lights, and every hour or so it looked like a bubbling bottle of champagne. It was the first time we went to Level 3 of the Tower, and it was well worth it. The previous tour only included Level 2. This time we were acquainted with the frites available on the second level, and down below under the tower.
This time we acquainted ourselves with the Metro, the underground railway system, to navigate our way around to the various tourist spots, such as Notre Dame de Paris, The Louvre, Sacre-Coeur basilica, and Les Invalides, and, of course, the trip to the crepe restaurant.
We also went to the Louvre for the express purpose of seeing the Mona Lisa, and I came away slightly disappointed. I had thought it to be a much larger painting. We then went to see the statue of Venus de Milo, and spent some time trying to get a photo of it without stray visitors walking in front of us. Aside from that, we spent the rest of the day looking at the vast number of paintings, and Egyptian artifacts in the Museum.
We also visited the Opera House which was architecturally magnificent.
The third time we visited Paris we took our daughter, who was on her first international holiday. This time we stayed in a quaint Parisian hotel called Hotel Claude Bernard Saint Germain, (43 Rue Des Ecoles, Paris, 75005, France), recommended to us by a relation who’d stayed there the year before. It was small, and the elevator could only fit two people or one person and a suitcase. Our rooms were on the 4th floor, so climbing the stairs with luggage was out of the question.
It included breakfast and wifi, and it was quite reasonable for the four days we stayed there.
It was close to everything you could want, down the hill to the railway station, and a square were on some days there was a market, and for those days when we were hungry after a day’s exploring, a baguette shop where rolls and salad were very inexpensive and very delicious.
To our daughter we appeared to be experienced travelers, going on the Metro, visiting the Louvre, going, yes once again, to the crepe restaurant and the Basilica at Montmartre, Notre Dame, and this time by boat to the Eiffel Tower. We were going to do a boat rode on the Seine the last time but ran out of time.
We have some magnificent photos of the Tower from the boat.
Lunch on one of the days was at a restaurant not far from the Arc de Triomphe, where our daughter had a bucket of mussels. I was not as daring and had a hamburger and frites. Then we went to the centre of the Arch and watched the traffic.
Our first time in Paris the bus driver got into the roundabout just to show us the dangers of driving in an unpredictable situation where drivers seem to take huge risks to get out at their exit. Needless to say we survived that experience, though we did make a number of circuits.
The next time we visited Paris we brought the two eldest grandchildren. We took the EuroStar train from St Pancras station direct to Disneyland, then took the free bus from the station to the hotel. The train station was directly outside Disneyland.
We stayed at the Dream Castle Hotel, rather than Disneyland itself as it was a cheaper option and we had a family room that was quite large and breakfast was included every morning. Then it was a matter of getting the free bus to Disneyland.
We spent three days, time which seem to pass far too quickly, and we didn’t get to see everything. They did however find the time to buy two princess dresses, and then spent the rest of the time playing dress-ups whenever they could.
In Paris we stayed at the Crown Plaza at Republique Square, and took the children to the Eiffel Tower where the frites, and the carousel at the bottom of the tower, seemed to be more memorable than the tower itself. The day we visited the third level was closed. The day was cold and windy so that probably accounted for the less than memorable visit.
We travelled on the Metro where it was pointed out to me that the trains actually ran on rubber tyres, something I had not noticed before. It was a first for both children to travel on a double decked train.
When we went to the Louvre where, when we took the girls to the Mona Lisa, one said, “and we walked all this way to see this small painting”. It quickly became obvious their idea of paintings were the much larger ones hanging in other galleries. We took them to the Arc de Triomphe, the Disney shop, which I’m still wondering why after spending a small fortune at Disneyland itself, the Opera House, where one of the children thought she saw the ghost and refused to travel in one of the elevators, and lastly Notre Dame.
Sadly, I don’t think they were all that interested in architecture, but at the Opera House they did actually get to see some ballet stars from the Russian Bolshoi ballet company practicing. As we were leaving the next day we could not go and see a performance.
All in all, travelling with children and experiencing Paris through their eyes made it a more memorable experience.