LMP Travels: Three days in Paris with Two Kids
I have forever dreamt of taking my children to Europe but wanted to do so when they were good and ready so they would have some type of appreciation for such a special trip. Taking a trip to Paris was something I had discussed with my friend Ilana awhile back. When we first chatted about the idea we knew the kids were too young to even consider taking them. But a few years later, about 6 months ago, we were talking about planning a trip together and realized Gavin + Mazzy may be at an age that could work! So we did it. We booked a trip for the 4 of us to go to PARIS!
NOTE: Skip to the end of this blog post to go directly to a recap of our itinerary in Paris.
We decided to go over Memorial Day Weekend so the kids would only have to miss one day of school. It was a short amount of time to go so far so we had to really cram everything into the itinerary. It wasn't easy. The weather was unexpectedly HOT rising to almost 100 degrees every day but I was determined to make it the most memorable trip and did so by being relaxed and adjusting to the kids needs as we got through each day.
Before I share our planned itinerary vs. the actual itinerary please let me just say how thankful I am for all of the incredible advice and suggestions you all gave to us over Snapchat and Instagram. I am including many of your suggestions at the end of this post just in case others wish to use for a trip to Paris!
Ok here it is folks, the inside and out of our trip...
Hotel - We booked the Westin Vendome. This hotel was suggested to me by a friend who works in Europe and whom I traveled to Paris with many years ago. Back in the day we stayed at one of those awesome little boutique hotels. Was great for a bunch of 20-something gals who just cared about shopping and fashion parties. However for this trip we needed a kid friendly, well located place to stay. It was a fantastic recommendation. We loved this hotel.
Babysitters - when traveling with kids and another adult be it my husband or a friend, I always book a babysitter for late in the night so I can enjoy an adults only dinner. I had arranged an English speaking babysitter through my travel agent, Tate Escapes prior to the trip but if you're not as organized as me, don't worry! Just speak to the concierge at the hotel and they will happily arrange.
Tickets to the sites and museums - Thank goodness someone told me to book tickets to the Eiffel tower in advance. If I didn't take this advice, the tower would have sold out and we would not have had the opportunity to go up. Crazy I know. Someone referred me to Fat Tire Tours. I looked them up and immediately found their website super easy to navigate later finding out that they are an American company who runs tours in European cities. While on there I saw they offer picnics, bike rides and more. I booked it all!
Dinner Reservations - Seeing as I love to dine at fine restaurants, it was important to book them in advance. Luckily I had the foresight to book very late dinner reservations (9:30pm!) since our days were long and it was important to us to get the kids settled back in the hotel before ditching them for a night out. Worked out...perfectly each day that we planned adult dinners for.
Paris Itinerary: Planned Vs. Actual
10:30am Friday Morning we arrived in Paris. Plan: Take an uber. Actual: Uber didn't speak English and couldn't find us. Canceled the Uber and took a taxi.
11:30am Checked into hotel. Room wasn't ready quite yet so we grabbed a bite.
Plan: Eat lunch at hotel and then play in the Tuileries Garden. Actual: Ate lunch at the hotel but had to skip the Tuileries Garden as we did not have time before our first scheduled activity...
After lunch, our room was ready. We went upstairs and got ourselves changed into shorts and a tee, loaded up on sunblock and packed a bottle of water. Plan: 2:30pm - A Bike Tour of Paris. Actual: 2:45pm - we made it a few minutes late...but thankfully the group waited for us and we got to go on a Bike Tour of Paris!
Finding the tour was super easy and our guide, Phil was the sweetest and so knowledgeable on the city and all the history behind the major attractions. We booked tandem bikes so Gavin and Mazzy could ride behind us and pedal if they weren't too tired or, just enjoy the ride and see the sites. Gavin did a little bit of both and when the ride was over he told me it was "awesome". Given the jet lag and heat, I was so thrilled and relieved to hear this.
I will tell you that the bike ride was long, almost 4 hours. It could have been 1-2 hours shorter in my opinion but we sure did cover a lot of ground and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
The kids were exhausted at the end of this ride. However they spotted a playground outside of the drop off and immediately ran towards it. It was so nice to sit and watch the run around and play for a short while...until they realized they were craving ICE CREAM! So we took a stroll and found a gelato stand. The perfect pit stop.
At this point it was late and all I had written on the itinerary following the bike ride was "Feed the Kids". We had a whole list of suggested restaurants to take the kids to however we had no idea where these restaurants were in relation to where we were at that moment. What we did know is that we were near the Seine river which we rode by on our bikes and noticed tons of really cool looking restaurants.
We hopped into a taxi to take us over there and then we walked along the water to find a place to eat. There were so many incredible looking bars there filled with gorgeous Parisian people drinking champagne and smoking cigarettes. If Ilana and I were alone, boy would that have been great. With the kiddos, it was like playing a game of survival of the fittest. We tried one spot (way too cool for us) and found nothing on the menu that the kids would eat. So we left and continued to stroll until we found a whole bunch of food carts. Bingo! A hamburger for Mazzy and Dim Sum Dumplings for Gavin. The kids ate while Ilana and I sipped on Rosé. It was perfect.
I had booked the babysitter for 8pm and she was waiting for us at the hotel when we arrived back with the kids. Her name was Hannah and she could not have been more fantastic. She wore glasses, looking just like a school teacher. She spoke perfect English and she was immediately hands on with the kids, helping them get ready for bed. We all felt very at ease with Hannah right off the bat.
Ilana and I got the kids into their jammies and tucked into bed. Then we hopped in the shower and were off to our dinner.
Plan: 9:30pm at L'Atelier RobuchonActual: 9:30pm at L'Atelier Robuchon!
We ordered a bottle of wine and the chef's tasting menu. I was super excited until...I passed out at the dinner table. Poor Ilana was literally talking to herself. She was doing her very best to keep me awake by telling me animated stories and that's when the unspeakable happened. Just as she was reaching the climax of a old dating story, her hands whipped up into the air at the same time that the waiter was about to place a foamy egg served in a martini glass down in front of her. The egg went FLYING and landed onto her lap then made a skip and a jump onto the table next to us, finally landing on the floor shattering glass and egg all over the place. Believe it if you can, Ilana came away from this episode without one drop of egg on her clothes, only finding the egg on her napkin.
This was the point in the meal when Ilana suggested I order a coffee. They brought me an espresso. I was later up till 5am. No matter how that dinner went down, we had a great night.
Plan: Wake up at 9am to eat breakfast in the hotel (it was included with our room package) Actual: Woke up at 10:30am and missed breakfast in the hotel.
Since we were going on a walking tour (which is exciting for us adults who care about seeing pretty buildings however less than thrilling to a 7 year old child), I wanted to somehow make it sound cool for Gavin. I asked him if he'd like to be our photographer for the day, and in charge of my really good camera. His eyes lit up like he had just won the lottery and he accepted this job with great enthusiasm!
Plan: 11am - meet Sarah, a Mommy Shorts Fan, who offered to give us on a walking tour of Montmarte and have lunch at Marcel. Actual: 11:30am - met Sarah at the Moulin Rouge with starving children who had no interest in walking and walked straight to lunch (well...we found a kids clothing store along the way and that they had interest in. They each chose a few items to purchase. Well worth it - tee shirts were $5 bucks!).
12:30pm: Lunch (I mean breakfast) at Marcel. It was SO lovely! Gavin ordered Bagels & Lox just like the good little Jewish boy that he is and I had EGGS and a Mimosa. We were hot but happy!
After lunch we officially began the walking tour. It felt like the temperature had risen to 4,000 degrees and the streets were all upward hills but we powered through to enjoy the beauty of this area.
Sarah took us down hidden paths and past the most beautiful homes as well as right by the Sacré Coeur. Gavin stopped to photograph it all, but his main focus was Mazzy...
After about a half hour of walking, we knew we had to finish up and give the kids a break to do something that they were interested in. Ilana was dying to go to the Louis Vuitton Foundation. A museum that is apparently wonderful for kids. Sarah told us that right behind this museum was a beautiful amusement park. Done. We were heading there for the afternoon. But before we finished walking Montmarte, Sarah made sure we got to see the best parts.
A flamingo and wizard wall....
The Wall of Love...
And of course, Ice Cream!
We even walked by a photo booth right in the middle of the street. Gavin and Mazzy hopped in as we scrambled to find change and walked away with the cutest strip of photos.
Plan for the Afternoon: Walk through Saint Germain or the Canal St. Martin Actual: Le Jardin acclimatation
Never in my life...have I seen a more beautiful amusement park. The trees and even the rides, it was gorgeous! The kids were in all of their glory. Ilana and I looked at each, took a sigh of relief and had the biggest smile on our face for the rest of the day knowing how happy they were.
Beleive it or not, we made our way into the Louis Vuitton Museum, to cool off! It was literally in the park and it was so fabulous.
We weren't in the museum for all that long, but long enough to take some beautiful photos and see a few of the exhibits. We went right back to the park and grabbed a bite for the kids while fitting in a few more rides.
Back to the hotel we went and as planned, Hannah, our babysitter was there right on time for Ilana and I to enjoy another night out.
Plan: Grab a drink at the Ritz and then dinner at 9:30pm Actual: Straight to dinner at Clover for 9:30pm, drink at the Ritz after dinner
Dinner was incredible. Delicious and beautiful. This restaurant came recommended to us and we loved it. However if I did it all over again, I would have loved to eat at a local cafe on the street in Saint Germain, where they serve traditional Mussels + Frites.
After dinner we did make it to the Ritz Hotel and it was lovely. Truffled cashews, chips and olives were served with our cocktail and even though we were stuffed from dinner we savored every bite. After our cocktail we were so close to our hotel we were able to walk home.
Plan for the Morning: Wake up at 8am, breakfast at Lou Lou and play at the Luxemborg Gardens. Pick up the picnic I ordered from Fat Tire Tours for our lunch in the afternoon. Actual: Woke up at 10am, made it to the hotel breakfast, walked to Palais Royal for photos, picked up picnic food even though we had ordered picnic food, missed our window to pick up the picnic that we ordered so I called the hotel and asked them to pick it up, went to the Musee D'Orsay.
Day 3, was a highlight of the trip. First of all, the jet lag was starting to wear off and the kids were starting to adjust to the time change. The heat was still intense but we had many plans and they were plans that we intended on sticking to.
Ilana was raving about the Palais Royal. Said we had to get over there just for a photo op. She was right. It was unreal. It was a short walk from our hotel and along the way we walked right past Angelina's, a bakery that almost every single person I know suggested we pop into. So we did just that, popped in..and left with a box of macarons.
What we weren't expecting when we got to the Palais Royal, was a full blown Orchestra to be playing outside, for all to enjoy. It was incredible. We listened to the music and then strolled over to the rose garden to take photos of the gorgeous flowers before making our wait out of this fantastic area.
Next on our list was to visit the Luxemborg Gardens. We heard it was a great place for kids to run around with sailboats that they could control and more. We passed by a small market and stopped in for some fruit, wine and flowers to take with us to the garden. I found the most beautiful peonies at this market and loaded up with bags full of goodies to enjoy outside.
We grabbed a taxi and the second we took off, it started to rain. CHANGE OF PLANS. We had to think quickly and asked the driver to take us to the Musee D'Orsay. No better plan than a museum for a rainy day. The only problem was...I was terrified the kids would hate it AND we didn't have tickets so I was worried about the line...
To my great great surprise, the line was long but moved so fast we waited no more than 10 minutes to get in, there was a coat check at the museum to store all of the picnic items I had just purchased AND the best part was, the kids LOVED every moment of this museum. From the fact that it was an old train station, to photographing every corner, to the New York Statue of Liberty sculpture that they recognized when they walked in to the art that Gavin knew about from his school studies. My heart was so full I thought it may explode.
Plan for the afternoon: 2pm - picnic at the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower 3:45pm - Tour the Eiffel Tour (fast pass to the second level) 6:15pm - Dinner Cruise on the Seine River 9:30pm - Bus Tour of Paris at night
Actual: AS ABOVE! We did it!...
The afternoon was filled with plans and tours that we committed to. We would have been out a nice chunk of change if we couldn't make these plans. Not to mention, we were all very excited about what was ahead! Most especially, seeing the Eiffel Tower.
We all had outfits specifically planned for the Eiffel Tower so after the museum we hopped in one of those biker cabs and took a ride home. Was a total fortune but worth every penny, kids loved it.
We changed our outfits and packed our bags knowing we wouldn't be back at the hotel till around midnight.
We had asked the concierge to pick up the picnic that I booked from Fat Tire Tours since we couldn't make it there during the window that was allotted to us.
I had dreams of setting up this lavish picnic with the gorgeous peonies that I found, wine, cheese and baguettes.
When we got to the park, the sun was so hot I quite literally thought we all may melt. So landing our picnic blanket in front of the eiffel tower was not an option, we had to run for the shade where the tower was hidden behind trees. My heart was broken. My dream was dead. And ready for this? We went to unpack the picnic and half of the picnic items that I had ordered - WERE NOT IN THERE. NO salami, NO cheese, no protein. There was salad and bread. I almost fainted. Long story short...it was stolen. So we think. Moral of this story? Pick up the picnic yourself like you're supposed to!
Our picnic should have been an hour+ however we had to cut it short to find food for the kids before heading into the Eiffel Tower. I told Ilana, Listen - I'm going to run over to the middle of the park, front + center of the Eiffel Tower and set up a quick picnic for a moment. It was worth every, crazy person second for that one shot.
Off we went to the Eiffel Tower. Along the way, Ilana found a shop with chicken sandwiches so we were able to feed the kids. Watching Gavin gaze up at the tower was one of my favorite moments. He knew he was in a place that was truly special and one he would always remember.
Remember above I told you tickets to the Eiffel Tower could sell out? Well even though I booked well in advance, the top floor tickets had sold out! So we had tickets to the second floor. Honestly? I did not care. I inquired about going to the top when we were there. When they told us it was a 40 minute wait we said sianara and just made the best of being on the second floor. And by that I mean we found ice cream for the kids and champagne for us. I grabbed my peonies that I had been schlepping around ALL DAY and took them for a photo with my plastic cup of champagne. Perfection? For me, yes! And the kids...were relaxed in the shade. It was all good.
Next up, was our dinner cruise on the Seine river. Someone had suggested the Bateaux Parisiene. We looked into it and when we saw it was only an hour and a half, had a great menu that the kids would enjoy we went for it. You guys...it was the best. The kids were relaxed, Ilana and I sipped on wine, the food was delicious, Paris was whizzing by us, it was pure perfection.
To close out the trip, Ilana had suggested we take a bus tour of the city at night. I was worried it would wreck the kids to be up so late but we said screw it. It's a once and a lifetime opportunity for them, so who cares! Well who cares was right. It was that bus ride where the children got to see and truly feel the magic of Paris. All of the major sites lit up at night ending at the Eiffel Towel sparkling like we were in a movie, it was out of this world.
At the end of the day, it's not easy traveling with kids. It never is easy. You always need to adjust and be flexible. Ilana wrote all about the truth of traveling with kids and provided a huge list of tips that you can read here. However there's no doubt this trip was one that we will have in our memories forever and I am so grateful that I got to go on with Gavin.
Here is our itinerary recapped for easy reference:
Day 1 Hotel check in + Lunch Bike Ride with Fat Tire Tours Grab an ice cream Dinner on the Seine River - food carts, leisurly Babysitter arranged through the hotel Adult dinner at L'Atelier Robuchon
Day 2 Walking tour of Montmarte & the Sacre Cour Lunch at Marcel Afternoon at the Le Jardin acclimatation Cool off and be amazed by the beauty of the Louis Vuitton Foundation Babysitter arranged through the hotel Adult dinner at Clover Drinks at the Ritz Hotel
Day 3 Breakfast at the hotel Stop by Angelina's for macarons and pastries Walk to Palais Royal for a photo Musee D'OrsayPicnic at the Champs De Mars (the park directly in front of the Eiffel Tower) Tour of the Eiffel TourDinner Cruise on the Seine River Play time at the rock climbing wall on the Seine River L'Open Bus Tour of Paris at Night
From our followers - suggested sites and restaurants that we did not make it to: Climb the L'Arc D'Triomphe Take a photo from the top of the Montparnasse Tower Take a photo at the Musee Carnavalet Scavenger Hunt at the Louvre Luxemborg Gardens Visit the Opera House, Notre Dame, Walk St. Germain and the Canal St. Martin
Restaurants for kids: Grand Corona in the 7th near the Seine River Marais area - many kid friendly spots specifically recommeded was La Du Falfel Breizh Café for crepes Diep for Chinese food Chez L'Ami Jean
Lastly I'll say that this was a short trip. If you can fit in a few more days, do so. It takes at least 48 hours for the kids to adjust to the time change and feel settled after flying in from so far away.
Au Revoir Paris! Till next time...