The gateway to our summertime European travels was three days in shimmering Paris. After a long flight, we arrived at our rented Airbnb flat near the Eiffel Tower and walked over to say bonjour.
The sun swirled through her regal arches and summer bloomed in the surrounding park. People stretched in every direction and there was a steady chime of vendors calling out for buyers.
On the way back to the flat, we passed a Subway sandwich shop and kids jet-lag hunger kicked into full gear. They begged to have a sandwich and so we found ourselves sitting on a rickety table while the boys debated how the chips “just taste different” and, in Paris, lunch can be dinner. And with that, the Americans had fully arrived.
Determined not to visit only American eateries, we sampled crepes, Nutella, chocolate croissants, macaroons, and sauces on everything. Parisian waiters would overlook our fumbling French as long as the boys wore their plaid bow ties and said “s’il vous plaît” frequently. They were then bemused when my native Chicagoan husband would greet them with “How ya doin’?”
The kids were never as thirsty as when bottled water was 8€ a litre and what’s old became new. One night, 12-year-old Zack happily munchedonsaladatdinner. “What is this sauce on the leaves?” he asked. “It’s dressing,” I said.
“Why don’t we have this back home?” he exclaimed – proof that things just taste better in Paris.
Stairs & Shortcuts
With winding lines at every Eiffel Tower entrance, we opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator. This cut our wait time from 2 hours to 10 minutes. There are 669 stairs from the base to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Ironically, it takes longer to wait in line for an Evian and hot pretzel once you’re up than it does to walk the full stairs.
Climbing the Arc de Triomphe takes 284 stairs (there is a side elevator, if needed). The kids were busy taking pictures on their phones, whichwas a great way for us to see how they experienced it. Later, they said their favorite parts of Paris were the “landmarks” and that was due to them being able to capture details on their own.
We had read about an underground entrance to the Louvre that usually had a shorter line than at the outdoor pyramid. The Louvre is clearly marked on the Metro line and we followed the signs from the train to the underground shopping area. I got in linewhile my husband happily visited the Starbucks.
The line itself is for security and, once inside, there are several ticket counters and self-serve kiosks. Most people went from security line to ticket line but if you have a credit card you can use the kiosks with little or no line. That part was mucheasier than battling the selfie sticks around the Mona Lisa.
It’s hard to see the bulk of the Louvre in one visit, so we interspersed our adult must-sees with kid picks to make it more like a treasure hunt while ignoring giggles at all the naked butts on the statues.
Aix en Provence, France
As part of our Mediterranean cruise, we were able to spend a day in southern France so we hired a private tour guide to take us from the port city of Marseille to the university town of Aix en Provence. The streets were bustling with an outdoor market and we walked through the town as it settled into a Tuesday morning.
We visited a musty cathedral, peeked into government meeting rooms that were covered in oil painting from floor to ceiling, and stretched out on benches inside courtyards built long ago by the very rich who didn’t want any neighbors too close to their sprawling stone houses.
Known for lavender fields throughout the area, the scent wafted alongside you and was available in every item for sale you could think of from ice cream flavors to soaps.
Then we were off to the countryside where the roads rose and bent. Acres of orchards carried olive trees, grapes, lemons. The air was dry and the red dirt along the high cliffs reminded me of northern Arizona as crickets sang a husky summer tune and donkeys meandered in a field.
This was a different view of France from the bustle of Paris. You’re surrounded by land versus landmarks and the homes take second place to ample fields. Time seemed more deliberate here and the landscape is designed for daily living.
Both town and country in Provence are full of rich offerings. It deserves more than a day to take it all in and is a great counterbalance to its cosmopolitan cousin in the north.
France was a spectacular host for this first-time family and we look forward to future rendezvous. Return to RoamRight Travel With Kids Home