Springtime in Paris (part 1)

I’m back at home today after a spring break trip to Paris. I took my three older children and we left Friday night, arriving Saturday morning, and returning home Thursday afternoon.

We packed a lot in. We saw the Musee D’Orsay on the first day, though the kids were a bit over tired to appreciate the art at that point. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. They got crepes from a street vendor and macarons from a fancy shop. We toured the Louvre. We visited Versailles and then biked around the surrounding forest/park. We went to Disneyland Paris for a day.

It wasn’t the easiest trip. International travel rarely is. I haven’t traveled to Europe since 2018 and I am out of practice — meaning that while I remembered to pack the outlet converters I forgot to pack the melatonin and paid for it at 2 a.m. as my body refused to sleep. Four people in a hotel room is also not conducive to sleep, and the kids have a limited tolerance for culinary adventures. So we ate in cafes/bistros that had pizza and pasta every night (fortunately, many very cute places along the various boulevards have such offerings). The obtaining of a Covid test within 24 hours of departure (for the US) turned out to be far more of an ordeal than it should have been, given how every French pharmacy advertises the 15-minute turnaround of their rapid tests. Perhaps that will be its own post.

Anyway, it is always easier not to travel, especially internationally, but then I know I would miss out on some peak experiences. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is perhaps a travel cliche — one reason I’d never done it on my adults-only trips to Paris — but with kids it seemed like a must-do and on a clear spring day it was stunning, cliche or not. The Mona Lisa draws the crowds, but I always love looking at the handful of other Da Vinci masterpieces in the Louvre, such as the perfectly composed extended family portrait of Anne, Mary, and Jesus holding a lamb. Riding a bike through the greening woods where Louis XIV lived was sublime. The cool breeze on my face and zipping past the rippling water by the palaces will remain a favorite memory. And my kids are convinced that the Big Thunder Mountain Railway at Disneyland Paris is better than the one in Orlando (you whoosh around in the dark for quite a while!).

So, having done the trip, I am happy to have done the trip. The kids seemed to have enjoyed it too, though my eldest said it was good except for the 30 minutes every day when I would freak out (someday, if my children are herding their own children around a foreign country, perhaps they will understand…). There were moments my experiencing self was unsure. I am definitely unsure about traveling internationally with even younger kids (the older ones are 14, 12, and 10; the 7- and 2-year-old stayed home with my husband). But I was glad to be able to show my kids another part of the world. We had a lot of good conversations over those plates of pizza and pasta. I practiced a little of my French! Not too much, though, given how many people in Paris speak English. We didn’t stay in a particularly touristy part of Paris but even so, many restaurants posted French and English menus outside. At one point my daughter remarked that “We’re talking and probably no one knows what we’re saying” and I’m like…um, I’m pretty sure they know what we’re saying. Which is helpful when traveling internationally! There are definitely places that would have been harder.

Now, after a good night’s sleep in my own bad, my memories are even rosier. Isn’t that funny?

Photo: Random Paris street scene

16 thoughts on “Springtime in Paris (part 1)

    1. @Eliz – France currently has no testing requirement for people traveling from the US if you are vaccinated (which we all are, plus boosted if over 18). The US requires everyone entering the US to have a negative covid test done within one day of departure. So if you fly from France to the US on a Thursday, you could take the test any time after Wednesday morning. I’m really hoping the US decides to stretch that back to 48 hours if they keep it. It creates a lot of time pressure!

  1. Happy to know you took a trip to Paris. Europe is my dream destination, Switzerland and Ireland for me, Paris and London for my daughter.
    Someday … maybe …
    Meanwhile I am happy to read about experiences of others’ travels 😃

  2. I love Paris and can’t wait to take the kids…someday, but definitely no desire to navigate it all with them just yet.
    I really, really want to do Versailles the next time; we went to the top of the Arc instead of the Eiffel Tower which had spectacular views (especially of the Eiffel Tower), but that’s for another trip 🙂
    We are taking the kids to New York City this summer, and I’m very excited for that – iconic and feels like a lot less pressure than an overseas trip at this point!

    1. @Elisabeth – New York will be great! A big city with a lot of culture, but slightly more manageable without the overseas trip plus the language difference (even if everybody in Paris seems to speak English…)

  3. I just returned from southern France this week and agree that the COVID test requirement is a quick turnaround. It was only for me. I can’t imagine that times 4.

    What a great experience for your children though. I was in Provence and saw a lot but haven’t been to Versailles or the top of the Eiffel Tower. Sounds great.

    I 100% agree about the Leonardo da Vinci paintings. The room with the Mona Lisa was packed, but I walked right up to his other work and spent several minutes looking at the Virgin of the Rocks. Sometimes, the lesser known works are the way to go.

    1. @Joy – yep, I don’t know why the Mona Lisa is the famous one – I guess because of its history of disappearance and such. But his other works are better, in my not-too-expert opinion 🙂

  4. Wooo! sounds like such a fun trip to do with kids alone. I’d definitely want to do a solo trip with my girls soon, somewhere new and unfamiliar.

  5. My son had a half day Thursday to start a 4-day weekend. We decided to make a quick trip to Atlanta to see a friend and then he chose the aquarium as our destination. The drive was made better by finishing “Just Mercy,” enjoyed dinner at friend’s house last night, the aquarium was great and though lots of people were there, it did not feel crowded, grabbed dinner at a great Cuban restaurant (thank you Yelp), and now watching the Cavs play the Hawks. We’ll drive home tomorrow morning. The trip will be a reminder that you can squeeze lots into less than 48 hours, that 17-year-olds can enjoy aquariums as much as 5-year-olds (I think the last time we went to the GA aquarium), that seeing friends is good for the soul, and a thanks that Zoom allowed me to complete two meetings with students that I otherwise would have had to stay home to do.

  6. We took a domestic trip last week to Washington D.C. Despite living 4 hours away by car, we hadn’t been in 8 years. It is not always fun to hike out to the tidal basin with whiney kiddos but the views from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial are stunning. Ultimately, we did all have a good trip, but it had it’s moments (I told my daughter that if you didn’t end a trip to Washington D.C with aching legs you weren’t doing it right!). I am looking forward to getting back to some international travel (probably a2023 goal for us).

  7. We loved Paris and Disneyland Paris when we were there. We are going to Greece this summer and we will do the tests for return that you can do from your hotel online. They are what I’ve been recommending for all of my clients to keep their international travel a bit more simple – especially with kiddos!

    1. @Jamie – that does sound like a good idea – though it sounds like another reader tried that and had a problem with expired tests (see the other comment!). I guess something can always go wrong! Greece sounds fantastic – it’s on our list someday…

  8. You must be tired since you slept in your own bad. We took a 19 month old and 5 year old to Paris and it was one of the best trips ever – totally agree about the Eiffel Tower. Had never been before on five teenage/adult trips but LOVED it at sunset. If you do go back with younger kids, “With Locals” and AirBnB have some amazing kid-friendly tours of the Louvre, Montmartre, and elsewhere. Totally worth the money.

    1. @Rachel – I was not brave enough to bring a toddler – I admire your courage! I’ll check out the “with locals” tour option.

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