follow me on Twitter @sunnylooksleaps
This was the year: our first family trip to Paris! Jimmy, MJ, and I were excited to embark on our first family adventure overseas. While this was uncharted territory for us, luckily we had my sister, Wendy, a Paris veteran, join us on our journey. The trip was amazing and memorable. As the trip approached and we started sharing our summer trip plans with friends, the general reaction was, “And you ARE taking MJ?!” I guess for many, Paris is one of those romantic couples vacations, or a high school graduation type trip. Nothing wrong with either of those, but Jimmy and I love to travel and to share travel with MJ. Not only did our 7 years old get to see France with her parents, but also her fabulous aunt. Here are some of our tips for visiting Paris family-style!
1. Find a great neighborhood – We wanted to be immersed in the culture, stay in the heart of the city, enjoy the local cafes, and be able to walk or take the metro where we needed. Our hotel was in a prime location situated off of Avenue de l’Opera between the Opera House and the Louvre. Strolling around the 2nd arrondissement was comfortable and pleasant and quickly became our home away from home. And while we were mere blocks away from the action, our hotel set on a quiet street around the corner from Café Delayrac where we began and ended many of our days. The hotel staff at Hotel Ascot Opera was friendly and as charmed by MJ as she was by them. The night desk staff, Monsieur John, quickly befriended MJ and often teased that he was going out for dinner and leaving her in charge! He marveled at the treasures she brought home each night, and even reminisced about taking his own daughter to Disneyland Paris when she was young. MJ would try to impress him each night with a new French phrase, and even a joke: “Je m’appelle pizza!” (My name is pizza!) she told him one night. Little things like a friendly hotel staff and a small nearby café with consistently delicious food were two things that really made our trip family-friendly and enjoyable.
2. Have a flexible itinerary and consider Disneyland or a Cooking Class– Our itinerary kept us within the city for all days except one, a day trip to the suburbs for Disneyland Paris. We positioned Disneyland midweek, but kept the day flexible and we are glad we did, While we considered going on Tuesday, it actually rained that day so we opted for museums and went to Disneyland on Wednesday instead. This is also a reason not to overbook your trip. Keep a couple of flexible days. Kids don’t want to be in a museum on beautiful sunny days, and no one wants to be traipsing around the Eiffel Tower in the rain (or at least I don’t). The only other two reservations we made in advance were for a cooking class and our Eiffel Tower visit. The cooking class at L’atelier des Sens was magnificent and memorable. It was tailored to kids and was in English. We made éclairs and cream puffs, and the three kids in our session truly got to do nearly every bit of the work. And it was a lot of work! Never will I complain about the price of a homemade éclair again! It was a special class for MJ and I to enjoy together and I would highly recommend it to families whose children have any interest in cooking or baking.
3. Enjoy trying new foods together – First, I should start by admitting that MJ is not a picky eater. She’s willing to at the very least try anything once. That being said, the only “fast food” we ate in Paris was a Starbucks breakfast before our Disneyland trip. For every other meal we ate at local cafes. Nothing fancy, just the quintessential, red-awning, crowded tables on the sidewalk cafes. It was kind of just an unspoken agreement that while we were in Paris, we were going to eat the local fare, and MJ never complained. Kids menus are practically nonexistent. I think only one café had a kids menu, and by that point in the week, MJ was so used to ordering off the regular menu, she didn’t even give it a second glance. Was it sometimes hard for her to decide what to eat? Yes. Did she sometimes just eats frites for dinner? Yes. But she was right in there trying new things, figuring out a menu in a foreign language, and still grinning at the waiters at the same time. And she learned how to order a macaroon and ice cream very quickly.
4. Go with the flow – Jimmy and MJ are typically early risers. It’s not unusual for them to wake up early on vacation, get dressed, walk around the hotel or neighborhood for coffee and hot chocolate and be back in the room before I’m willing to roll out of bed. So I was pleasantly surprised when MJ slept until 11am everyday of our trip! Definitely not our normal routine, but it actually was perfect for our itinerary. First, we didn’t plan any morning activities (except for Disneyland). She slept through breakfast, so we would grab brunch or lunch at a café before heading out to sightsee. Most days we would get so caught up in just wandering around between museums, boat rides, and cathedrals that we wouldn’t eat dinner until later in the evening. With Paris staying light this time of year well past 10pm, it never felt late until we were settling down in our hotel room around midnight. The schedule worked well for us, and I always felt well-rested and ready to start each day.
I have such fond memories of our week in Paris. I can’t wait to share more of our adventures with you!