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Trip Report Trip Report: Christmas in Paris with 9- and 10-year-old kids

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I have been writing this trip report in my head since....well, since we were in Paris. But time, opportunity, workload, etc. prevented me from putting the words in my head onto my keyboard (and thus onto this forum) since returning a little less than three weeks ago.

However, this morning...out of the blue, mind 9-year-old said, "I had fun in Paris," and then asked, "When are we going back?"

Keep in mind, the 9-year-old (who I will call Nine from here on out) complained throughout much of the trip about the endless walking. He enjoyed himself very much when we were doing *something*--be it sitting in a park and eating bread, or shopping in a Christmas market, or riding the metro, or doing a scavenger hunt in the Louvre, or climbing up to see the gargoyles at the top of Notre Dame. But he thoroughly disliked the walking and was very vocal about it, especially toward the end of our trip.

My 10-year-old (Ten from this point on) was a fabulous traveler who did not notice the walking, tremendously enjoyed both the food and using his five or so words of French, and was on a week-long high after having his long-awaited goal of going up the Eiffel Tower fulfilled.

So before the details totally escape my memory, I thought I'd get to business and write this report. And I thought I should do it given my perspective traveling with kids that aren't young, but aren't teenagers either.

Background: I am a long-time lurker on Fodors and have used the advice here for numerous vacations (in the states, to Belgium, to Germany and Paris over 10 years ago). Given the great advice I've found here in the past, I used Fodors as a resource for this trip. However, while researching last year, I found that most "Paris with kids" trip reports focused on young children. So...I thought I'd find the time to put together a report about our experience this past Christmas in hopes that someone with similar aged children (especially boys) would find this useful.

Before I get started, a quick roundup of our family and our vacation details:

Travelers: TigerMcQueen (me), Mr. TigerMac (husband), Ten (first born male), and Nine (second born male).
Dates: December 23rd through December 30, 2015.
Accommodation: Apartment rental, through Paris Best Lodge.
Must sees decided upon before travel: Eiffel Tower (Ten's pick), 'somewhere where I can buy a stuffy' (Nine's pick), Anna Joliet (a music box shop in the Palais Royale pick, with a very specific story behind it), 'Somewhere neat I haven't seen before' (Mr. TigerMac's pick).

So...onward to the trip report. Will post the first part soon!

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    Looking forward to it thanks. Having just been told by my nine-year old that for their 10th birthday "everyone gets taken either to Paris or London" I may need your information for next year!

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    I'm also looking forward to this report. Our family lives in distant places, so one Christmas we spend with A, the next with B, then with C. Every fourth year we try to spend a Christmas in place that all of us would enjoy visiting. We've done New York, Cancun, and London, and Rome is so near to where I live that we can easily visit there when it's our turn to host Christmas. I was thinking of suggesting Paris for the next "fourth year", which should be in 2017. My granddaughter will be 12 at that time.

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    A quick head's up, this post is most background...the next will start the actual report, so if too much detail annoys you, feel free to skip this! ;)

    And so...

    I meant to post more early this morning, but we are in Maryland with a very heavy winter storm approaching. I thought most of our blizzard prep was done, but it turned out I had to make a last minute trip out to get cat food and D batteries (was lucky to find those!). I also took Ten and Nine to Dunkin Donuts (they got dressed a lot quicker when I suggested that), so we were out much of the morning.

    It's funny that I'm writing this as a snow storm approaches, because this trip was three years in the making and wasn't originally planned for Paris.

    See, three years ago, winter was so cold for so long that I insisted we were heading way south for a Christmas trip the next year. I researched Costa Rica (the boys' want to see a volcano), but ruled that out due to volcanic inactivity (they want at least a chance to see lava). I was looking very closely at Belize or the Mayan Peninsula (Mr. TigerMac wants to see Mayan ruins and the boys' wanted to snorkel).

    As I was about to finalize bookings in Belize, a sister-in-law suggested a large scale family trip to an all inclusive in Mexico. She thought it would be a last opportunity for my FIL (who is in his 80s) to travel and actually enjoy a trip with all of his kids and grandkids. So I adjusted plans, thinking, "hey, we were almost going there anyway"...but that trip ended up being canceled months later due to the difficulty of getting six different families on board such a vacation. Everyone gathered in Toronto (where my FIL and one of my SILs live), and instead of a nice tropical Christmas, we spent Christmas in the cold frozen north...during an ice storm, which knocked out electricity for several days...

    Actually, we had a great time that trip. But I was determined that we would get away the next year.

    But the next year, due to Mr TigerMac's desire to spend as much time with his dad as possible, we spent Christmas in Toronto again (this time with electricity, though!). Over the course of that Christmas and another trip over the summer, it became obvious that my FIL handles short visits and smaller gatherings much better than larger ones; he's very kind about the larger stuff, but it really wears him out.

    So leading up to this Christmas, my SILs agreed not to do another big event over the holiday; and Mr. TigerMac suggested a short trip to see his dad the weekend before Christmas instead. I decided to price flights from Toronto, just to see if maybe we could do both this year, visit my FIL AND get away... To my surprise, international flights from Canada to a variety of places were MUCH less than from our area in the Mid Atlantic, making it really easy to decide that YES, we could do both. We thought about Belize or Mexico, and I thought really hard about Turkey...but we settled on Paris for a few reasons.

    1. The cost to fly from Toronto to Paris was relatively low for a family of four, and a variety of airlines had good sales (over the course of watching prices for several months).

    2. Ten has always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. ALWAYS. Nine loves to buy things, and I knew he'd love shopping in Paris.

    3. Mr. TigerMac and I spent a week in Paris over Thanksgiving years ago, and we loved the city in the offseason.

    4. For a variety of work- and school-related reasons, a trip that included Christmas was necessary. Research showed that Paris stays relatively lively during the holidays compared to some European cities that entirely shut down from Christmas Eve till after Boxing Day.

    5. Mr TigerMac speaks French, and after much debate, we thought taking the boys' on their first international trip would be less stressful for all if communication wasn't a worry.

    And so, after a few months watching airfare prices, I booked tickets from Toronto to Paris with KLM, and did lots of reading on Fodors about vacation apartment rentals, things to see and do at Christmas, etc.

    Up next, getting there: Maryland to Toronto, and Toronto to Paris!

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    TRIP REPORT DAYS 1-4 (or, traveling from Maryland to Toronto and departure to Paris).

    Featuring: an unplanned but very sane hotel stay, the tale of the Too Large Christmas Tree, and...getting locked out of an empty house while in the middle of loading up the van to leave for the airport...

    Our original plan was to drive all day on Saturday, the 19th and arrive in Toronto around dinner time or later, if we got a later start. However, what was a theoretical 'later start' turned into a 'much later afternoon start' because someone fell asleep before washing clothes and packing. *cough*

    Mr TigerMac and I agreed as we set out that we would not push ourselves too hard. Now, this is an unusual position taken by Mr TM, as he's done the Maryland/Toronto drive many many many times since he moved here...and he likes to go and stay going on road trips (seriously, I have learned over the years to say "stop here for dinner NOW", because he will say "I'm hungry, we should stop soon" and drive for another hour and a half before stopping to eat). But, age or work or *something* worked its magic, and after slightly more than 4 hours, we made it to Corning, NY, and Mr TM said, "let's get dinner" and we *stopped and got dinner.*

    We picked an exit at random and ended up at a Bob Evans that had a Fairfield Inn behind it (we could see the hotel from our table). Mr. TM was rubbing his eyes, so out comes the phone, I go onto a travel site to check out the Fairfield and it hits our major plus points: internet and breakfast included in the price of the room, indoor pool, not too expensive.I tell Mr TM that we're staying there for the night, he agrees, I book...and it's not even 8 pm. Usually, we'd push it a few more hours, would all be cranky when we finally got to the hotel, the kids would be wired and stay up watching cable, and would oversleep due to tiredness.

    Instead, after a quick meal at Bob's, we took the short drive across the parking lot and checked in. The three males went to the pool so that the younger ones could burn off energy, while I took a minute to call my mom. Everyone got to bed at a decent hour. We woke up at a decent hour. We made it to my SIL's house at a decent hour. What a great start to our trip!

    After a quick stop for lunch at a travel plaza that had a schwarma joint (Mr TM LOVES going to Canada for the quality schwarma), we made it to SIL's. Pulled up just as SIL and her three kids (two in college, one a senior) were heading out to buy a Christmas tree.

    We unload and head to our usual room, in laws are back quickly with a tree.

    Not just a tree, but a TREE.

    It's the Sunday before Christmas, so the trees on the lot were discounted...and only the very smallest and very largest trees were left. SIL's kids talked her into getting a 12 ft one. They have a huge old house and figured their ceilings are about 10 ft...they got the guy at the lot to cut off some of the trunk and thought they'd cut off more at home, and that the tree would fit. No problem.

    Except...even after cutting off another foot, the tree did not fit. Picture Christmas Vacation and *that* tree (minus the squirrel). The first time the large group of adult males tried to heave the tree up (after much cutting and debating and after finally getting the trunk into the stand), the tree top crashed into the ceiling and the stand broke. Loudly. (I have this on video.) Half the crew headed out to Canadian Tire to buy another stand while the other proceed to cut off another two or so ft off the tree (at this point, we realized the 12 ft tree was actually closer to 15 ft and the ceiling was closer to 9...). New stand arrived, enough was cut off to finally get the tree standing with a bit of room to spare, tree is ceremoniously decorated by all...

    And it fell down around 10 pm, with the new stand bent horribly out of shape.

    It was a BIG tree.

    The crew un-decorated the fallen tree and eight of them ceremoniously carried it outside after an hour of failed attempts to get the thing back upright and secure.

    Mr TigerMac took an early morning stroll to Canadian Tire to get wire, and with my SIL's drill and a few screws, had the tree up and secure by mid-morning. My SIL and one niece redecorated, and for the remainder of our time there, everyone was very careful when walking around said tree.

    In the midst of all of that, we had a nice Sunday dinner at my SIL's house with my FIL attending. The next day, post-tree-uprighting, Mr TigerMac, the boys and I headed to see the new Star Wars movie (with a stop at a second schwarma place before). Post-movie, went to my FIL's home to see another SIL who had just made it into town and was crashing there. The lot of us walked to a nearby sushi restaurant for dinner. Ten and Nine love sushi and Asian food (actually food) in general, so we were happy and ready for Tuesday, our departure day.

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    TRIP REPORT DAYS 1-4 (or, traveling from Maryland to Toronto and departure to Paris). Part 2:

    Departure day.

    I am so excited at this point!

    We've had two very nice visits with my FIL, who wasn't overly stressed with huge groups, so our plan (short and sweet) is working well. An aunt is arriving at noon, so we all chip in to make brunch. At noon, we have one last smallish gathering with my FIL. The SIL staying with him opted not to attend, so it's just SIL #1, FIL and his wife, Auntie, and us. Very nice, very calm, and not too stressful for either SIL or FIL.

    FIL and company head out around 1:30 for home with promised to meet up on New Year's day after we get back from Paris. Niece and nephews head out to do things with their friends, SIL and Mr TM take the boys out for a long walk to tire them out before our long trip. I am tasked with packing our bags for our flight (thank you very very much SIL for the washing machine and dryer...we were able to pack relatively light knowing we could wash clothes throughout our trip).

    But...I'm washing and drying and packing up with just my BIL at home. And BIL leaves while I'm in the midst of all of this. And he locks the door on his way out (we'd kept it unlocked deliberately all through the morning so that the small lot of us could go in and out without ringing the bell every 10 minutes).

    So I head out to our van to load up our "these gifts and this stuff is staying in the van while we're gone" bags, and when I try to get back into the house, the door is locked. LOCKED.

    I realize my BIL must have left (his car is out of the drive). Everyone else is gone. SIL and Mr TM and kids are out walking, and for the next 15 or so minutes, I try very desperately to tell myself that my SIL *must* have a key with her, and that we will NOT have to call a niece or nephew or my BIL to come let us in, which would take an hour that we do not have...because it's now almost 3, and our flight leaves at 6, and we really really really do need to leave for the airport soon.


    Good news, SIL and the group arrive with a key(!!!), bags are finished packing, and we head off to Pierson in Toronto around 3:30. There's a ton of traffic, and it's stressful, and we go to a long term parking lot and have to wait a while for shuttle, which is more stressful, but we make it to our flight just as its boarding.

    Here's where my first bit of advice for traveling with youngish kids comes in.

    Ten and Nine are good travelers, but are often bored on flights longer than an hour or so. Electronics (iPad, 3DS, etc) are used often to mitigate boredom. While I made sure those electronics were charged up for our flight to Paris, I talked to the boys well ahead of time about how long the flight would be, and what would happen on the flight (entertainment, meals, lights turned off so that people could sleep). I also talked to them about the fact that we'd be staying up for close to 24 hours minus any nap time on the plane...and that while they might get tired and cranky, it was really important to stay awake as long as possible once we got into France and important to try to keep up a good attitude even when tired.

    The flight: I shouldn't have worried about the boys getting bored. They LOVED it. Two hours into the flight, Ten (who is watching a movie and chowing down on the Saag KLM gave us for dinner) tells me that "this is better than first class" and that this is the best vacation he's ever been on.

    It's TWO HOURS into our trip.

    Nine, who doesn't like heights and was a bit worried about being so high for so long, keeps thanking me and hugging me.

    The four of us were in the middle row (four across) of the plane, so Mr. TM and I were on each aisle, acting as bookends. We, the adults, are not the most comfy, as there's not a lot of legroom (Mr TM is very tall), and the guy in front of me has his seat reclined the entire trip (even when he was sitting up to eat). But the boys were prepared for the length of trip, which I think helped; and they really really REALLY loved the entertainment and the meals. KLM fed us a lot, and the boys, who aren't that picky, enjoyed the flow of food and snacks.

    Needless to say, neither of them napped on the plane.

    We landed on time in Amsterdam at about 6:30 am their time, and had a quick layover.

    Side note: the Dutch customs officials are amazing. We had great experiences coming and going through Amsterdam. When we arrived and I handed over our passports, I mentioned to the boys that they'd get their first stamp in theirs (brand new passports for them!). The customs official immediately opened their books and let them stamp their own passports themselves. He joked with them and made it very fun. It was quite special.

    Back to the report: We were getting tired at this point, but I think the discussion about what to expect helped a lot. The boys wanted to fight over who would get to play a certain game on the iPad first, but...they resolved it quickly, with Ten saying something along the lines of "we're fighting because we're tired. Let's just do it this way..." and Nine agreed.

    We had a short flight into Paris, and Nine slept (against my arm) the entire flight. He was hard to wake up when we were at the gate. He kind of slept walked to baggage claim, where he leaned against our carryons and covered himself with our jackets and slept for another hour while we waited for luggage to arrive.

    Luggage arrived, and we decided to take the RER into Paris instead of a cab (we figured we'd be forced to stay awake longer if we took the train). Stood in a long line for tickets in an over-headed room and watched lots of men and women wearing army uniforms (and carrying big guns) patrol the area.

    We jumped on the train as soon as we got our tickets, and Mr TigerMac struck up a nice conversation with a local gentleman. Their convo was mix of French and English (both spoke both languages, but each sometimes had to break into a different language when they couldn't remember the specific word they wanted to use). Ten was fascinated and, I think, really impressed that his dad could do that. Even though we taught the boys words and phrases to use in France, seeing that kind of conversation in person made the fact that they were in a foreign country so much more real for them.

    We made it to our apartment (details next update), and well all a good job staying awake so that we could adjust our body clocks. Ten and Nine impressed me with their patience and willingness to keep going even when they were hugely tired. I really do think our talks about what the trip over would be like helped them tremendously. They are not usually so patient when they are tired, and they were more tired than I've ever seen them! But they understood our unique circumstances and understood that we had to work together to make it through that first day.

    Next up, day 5 of our trip, and day 1 in Paris.

    Two batches of bread are baked, food for the weekend is prepped ahead of time, snow is falling...I'll post another update or two soon (so long as the blizzard doesn't knock out power...knock on wood!).

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    Your boys' enthusiasm on their flight made me smile. We have rather dreadful 24 hr journeys to Europe from Australia, but our boys love it... endless movies and seemingly endless food, boy teen heaven. Then, when they arrive they can sleep for 14 hours straight.

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    This is such a fun read so far. Good suggestions for ahead of time talks with the young ones, something we will do for our future travel with boys 5, 7 and 10. No question, those mini iPads are lifesavers for parents, kids and fellow passengers. The food parade, too! Looking forward to the next installment.

    Drat those clueless people that recline all the way. They must all live under the same rock.

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    I love your report! While my boys are all grown up, I remember the days of being a 'boy mom'. What a wonderful thing to be able to travel with your children. #MakingMemories

    You have a great writing style and I can *see* what is happening in my mind's eye. :). The Christmas Tree incident was hilarious! ��

    Looking forward to more!

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    Good story so far - I especially liked the part about how your kids were amazed at their father's ability to carry on a conversation in a foreign language. Hopefully, they'll catch the language bug soon!

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    Thanks for all the replies everyone! I am happy that it's an enjoyable read, and especially happy that some of our experiences might help others with similarly aged children. It was truly an adventure!

    We have a bit over 30 inches of snow in our yard...and spent most of yesterday watching the snow and texting my family (who live in the deep south) and getting ahead on cooking and baking, in case power went out. Power did not go out (!), but Mr TM and I spent all day long digging our cars out of the drive. This is even with chipping in with neighbors to pay the teenagers across the street $100 to clear driveways and parking spaces on the street.

    The good thing is, the clearing of the street parking and driveway means that there are two giant hills of snow at each front corner of our lot. Ten and Nine spent the afternoon sledding from each hill to the other, so they are now tired and quiet, allowing me a few moments to writer another installation of our trip report.


    TRIP REPORT, Day 1 in Paris.

    Featuring: things we would not normally do if we weren't so sleepy.

    Before we left on our trip, I checked our route on the RER very carefully (knowing form experience that Mr TigerMac and I would be a little loopy after so little sleep). Our route is actually not very difficult, as our apartment with Paris Best Lodge is on Rue de Lille, the street that runs behind Musee D'Orsay (the back to eh museum is a two blocks up from our apartment). So we basically just need to take RER B to Pont St Michel and then transfer to C and go one stop to Quai D'Orsay.

    The hardest part was waiting in line to get the ticket, as the room we stand in line in is over-heated (not overhead, as my computer auto corrected for in the previous post...and I did a poor job of editing :D ). But seriously, the heater in the room is blasting, which really wasn't necessary as the temperatures outside were extremely mild.

    But we get our tickets (about $35 Euros, which is cheaper than a cab ride would have been, even if we sacrificed time and comfort). We manage to find the correct train on C, given our lack of sleep and what looks like a fair bit of construction/refurbishment in the Pont St Michel station.

    Planning ahead helped, as I knew where to go once we got to Quai D'Orsay station and made it up to the street. We walked toward Rue du Bac, turned left onto that street, walked one block and turned right onto Rue de Lille. I had a print out with our apartment address and instructions to get in (two different keypad codes, another code for the lockbox outside of our apartment), and the boys had the address; so after a few minutes of searching as we walked along our street, we were into the building's courtyard, and then into the correct section of the building that led to our home for the next week.

    The boys took turns putting the codes into the two keypads, and then took turns taking the tiny sweet little elevator up to the top floor. We're on the third floor, which is really the fourth floor, and the stairs going up are narrow and have two turns per floor...

    Mr. TigerMac is amazing and takes two of our three suitcases up the stairs as the boys take the elevator. I send the third suitcase up the elevator and then trudge up the stairs to find the door to our space open and the boys and their dad and all suitcases just inside.

    Our apartment is one of the largest rented by Paris Best Lodge, and it's so small! But it's much larger than two hotel rooms would be: it a compact and efficient kitchen with a bar that is open to the living area. A little circular staircase goes up to the bath and bedroom. The bathroom and shower are MUCH bigger than what we'd get in a hotel, so I'm happy.

    Just outside of the kitchen is a little balcony that overlooks the courtyard. When I rented the apartment, I chose this over a similar one in this building specifically because it had the balcony. At the time, I thought I was being indulgent, because I thought it would be too cold to really enjoy the balcony. But temps were so mild the entire trip (50s/40s with one day where it dipped into the upper 30s) that we used the balcony often.

    Note: Paris Best Lodge was really easy to work with. Thierry was patient with my questions (some of which were kind of silly). They are highly recommended on here, and I can see why. Their website is not currently linking to apartment descriptions, and ours isn't currently listed, but I can add to recommendations.

    Here's where we started getting loopy because of lack of sleep, but I'll get into that with part 2. Now I'm off to get dinner going, as Mr TM is back from walking the dog and inspecting the state of the roads, and the boys are getting tired after their afternoon sledding in our front yard. More to come later tonight.

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    Ugh, rereading and seeing silly mistakes because I was rushing.

    Regarding our apartment, the back to the museum is about two blocks up...not the back to eh museum is a two blocks up...

    Actually, it might be less from rushing and more from the beer I had post-snow shoveling :D.

    More to come in a bit.

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    We rented an apartment in the Marais in March from Paris Best Lodge, and I have nothing but good things to say about them, their communication, their service. Unfortunately we got stuck one evening in the 'tiny, sweet elevator' in our building; it was a horrifically claustrophobic experience, which will make me rethink the whole apartment rental next time. It will not stop me from returning to Paris, but I may have to walk up stairs. Enjoying your report.

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    OH MY, socaltraveler, if that had happened to us, I can say the same about reconsidering apartment rentals. As it is, I've decided that there will be no more top floor rentals for us. The sweet little elevator didn't get stuck, but it did not go up to the top floor. So we had to walk two turns of the staircase to get to our apartment, and that itself was difficult some days! If we ever go back, it's ground floor for us if at all possible.

    TRIP REPORT, Day 1 in Paris, part 2.

    Featuring: things we would not normally do if we weren't so sleepy.

    Here's where we start not thinking clearly. When we get into the apartment, I start organizing luggage and carryons (everyone had a personal backpack) and ask Mr. TigerMac to call Thierry to let him know we've arrived.

    Note: When renting from Paris Best Lodge, you send a deposit check in advance along with your signed lease. Thierry, who manages the apartment rentals, holds the check without cashing it and meets you upon arrival to take full payment (you have to bring Euros...I got the currency from my bank and the money was never far from me during our travels from home to Paris).

    Mr TigerMac says the phone doesn't work. The kids, who have pulled out their electronics and are trying to get onto wireless (the instructions for this were on a placard by the bar), say it's not working. We keep trying, and nothing is working.

    So instead of pulling out my cell phone and turning on cellular and making a call, I say, "Let's go to the grocery store up the street for supplies. Maybe we'll see a public phone on the way."

    Now, I'd checked various options for using my phone in an emergency in Paris. I didn't need it for roaming data while we out and about, and there was wireless in the apartment. Phone calls using local networks weren't cheap, but in the case of needing to make a short call, they wouldn't break the bank.

    But I forgot all of that and dragged everyone back down (the kids both squeezed into the elevator while the adults walked down) to go out to the local Monoprix. I forgot about the phone, but remembered there was a Monoprix a few blocks away on Rue du Bac.

    We take a long block on the way to the Monoprix because we're looking for payphone (FYI, there are none anywhere) and because Mr TM wants to stretch his legs. The kids are being good. Ten is very tired, but he's thrilled to be in Paris, and Nine has gotten his second wind, as he's napped.

    When we go into the Monoprix finally, it become obvious (in hindsight) that Mr TigerMac and I are still doing silly things. For instance, the store has two floors, and on the first floor, there's nothing but food and wine. We load up a little cart with cheese, bananas, little packages of ham and pate, cartons of chilled soup (lentil with ham), two baguettes, yogurt, and a few bottles of wine (which I am amazed at being able to get for about 5 Euros each, even though I KNOW that you can get really good wine rather inexpensively in France).

    The thing is, we can't find milk or cream or coffee. While we're looking for milk and cream and coffee, Mr TM mentions that there's a second floor of the store, but the sign with the arrow pointing up the stairs translates into "home goods". I know from research that Monoprixs can have home good sections that include things beyond paper goods...things like clothes, makeup, etc. I sleepily assume that upstairs contains those kinds of thing ONLY, so we never head up. We just give up looking for the other food stuff because Ten is exhausted and we're loopy. I also finally remembered that I could just use my cell phone to call Thierry.

    So we load up our food into the two backpacks we emptied out for the short trip and head back to the apartment. I call Thierry on my cell, who we just missed at our building; he had an approximate arrival time from me before we left, and when he didn't hear from us by then, came over. He saw that the key was out of the lock box and knew we'd arrived. He was still in the neighborhood, so he came over a few minutes later.

    Meanwhile, Mr TigerMac has realized he could reset the wireless equipment (or whatever people who know what they're talking about call it...Mr TM knows that kind of stuff, I don't). Two minutes after resetting, the kids are able to get onto wireless AND the apartment phone works!

    Thierry comes over and goes over how different appliances work, mainly the TV, heating system, washer/dryer, and dishwasher. I ask about the oven, and he apologizes, but isn't sure. We figure we can look up a user manual online. Thierry then collects payment, assures us we can call him if we need anything at any time during our stay, and off he goes.

    The kids headed upstairs to play on their electronics, and once Thierry has gone, I head up to check on them. Nine is wide awake, but Ten has fallen asleep with my cell phone in his hand and the video he was watching playing away... I take the phone away and usher Nine back downstairs.

    Mr TM is pooped, so I set timers for an hour and a half on everything I can find (due to a previous trip to Germany in which my alarm didn't wake me up after we arrived and took a nap, and we had a hard time getting on local time because we slept for too long and were up all night). Nine sits at the bar with the iPad and surrounded by all other electronics, assuring me that he's not sleepy and will wake me up when the alarms go off. I get him to promise that if he feels at all tired that he'll wake me up.

    So I join Mr TM on the sofa, and we basically crash against each other and sleep for what seems like 20 minutes. But an hour and a half later, Nine is shaking my shoulder, and I wake to the sound of various alarms going off in the background. Mr TM wakes up as well, and Ten is in a relatively good mood when we head up to rouse him. He’s very amused when I tell him that he fell asleep holding my phone up as though he were still watching youtube.

    It's getting dark by now, and though we have food enough for dinner, we decide to head out for a walk. The kids saw a painted maze and other cool things along the banks of the Seine when we got off of the D'Orsay metro stop and ask to go in that direction.

    So off we go along the banks of the Seine, where we find a really cool pedestrian bridge, that giant ferris wheel--the Roue de Paris, the Christmas market along the Champs-Elysees, waffles, mulled wine, and, eventually, the first Santa Claus of our trip. Coming up later in part 3.

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    Your continued report made for a nice accompaniment to my lunch! Thank you!

    Jet lag is not for sissies. You and your family seem to be handling it with good humor. I thought the Mr. and I might get a divorce in London due to extreme jet lag that lead to crankiness... #Grin

    More please!

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    Just a quick note: I had the next installment written out and lost it thanks to my cat walking across my laptop (and hitting the back button). It's funny, but frustrating too, lol.

    I've been working on this update for a few days, which makes this loss especially frustrating! But, I am being brave and am starting on part 3 again (will do it in Word this time, and will save periodically). I won't finish it tonight, though, but will plan on posting part 3 tomorrow.

    Instead, tonight, I'll say a bit more about our apartment with Paris Best Lodge.

    We usually use vacation rentals when traveling domestically, and I can say without a doubt that this rental was one of the best places I've ever rented. It was especially well stocked; it had everything we needed...and not just everything, but enough of everything to last for several tenant stays.

    They had a ton of dish soap, boxed tissues, toilet paper, garbage bags, dishwasher pods, washer soap, even shampoo and conditioner in the shower upstairs...much more such household items than we'd need during our trip. This is in direct contrast to places we've rented in the US recently, where they have severely understocked such basic items (one place we rented at the beach had ONE garbage bag in the kitchen and a single roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. This is especially annoying given that the prices to rent those places have been comparable to our Paris apartment...or even more expensive.

    I left very impressed with the attention to detail in the Paris Best apartment overall. From the extra blankets and pillows, to the dishes and cookware, etc. Just stellar.

    And now, back to writing.

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    So let’s try this again.

    Note 1: As I’ve said in other installments, my main goal for our first day in Paris was to nap as little as possible and stay awake as long as possible before falling asleep for the night. I know from experience that this works best when Mr TigerMac and I travel to Europe. I hoped that strategy would work with the kids.

    Note 2: When I planned out trip, I didn’t have a set schedule for the week; outside of one pre-scheduled event the Monday after we arrived. Instead, I had a tentative schedule the other days, where we’d see one Big Thing and play the rest of the day by ear. Arrival Day (December 23rd), was not a part of this scheduling; it never meant to be anything other than a “let’s make it to the apartment, grab a few supplies, and stay awake as long as we can” day. Ahead of time, I thought that if we got to see anything at all on Arrival Day, it would be ‘Lagniappe’ (as we said growing up in Louisiana)…a ‘little something extra.’

    The evening of Arrival Day turned out to be great Lagniappe.

    TRIP REPORT, Day 1 in Paris, part 3:

    Once Nine wakes us from our naps, we gather round the apartment bar and have snacks. The boys go through a baguette, while Mr TigerMac and I have bananas (Aren’t all bananas supposed to belong to the same variety/family? These were different than what we get at home, and much better in our opinions. Those opinions could be biased. Just saying.).

    While we’re snacking, the boys agree that a walk is in order, and they ask to head toward the painted maze they saw by the Seine.

    So we’re quickly out of the apartment and walking a quick block up toward the river. Traffic is fairly light, and the Christmas lights strung across Rue du Bac are very pretty. The temperature is very mild, too, so it’s a good start.

    Once we make it to the maze, it’s fully dark out, and the boys are distracted by the spectacle of the blue, white, and red lights on the Roue de Paris (i.e., the giant Ferris wheel by Place de la Concorde) looming on the other side of the Seine from the D’Orsay. The maze gets a cursory look see, and we’re off toward the pedestrian bridge connecting the D’Orsay and Tuileries. I google it later and find out the bridge is called Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor. It’s really cool, with a lower walkway accessible along the banks of the Seine, and an upper walkway accessible by the street above. You can get to the upper level from the lower one, and vice versa, and the boys will have fun on this bridge over the course of the next week.

    Once across the bridge, we make our way into Jardin de Tuileries and turn left, walking along a wide avenue/path lined with trees and heading toward the Place de la Concorde and the Big Wheel. We have a great view of the Eiffel Tower here, and Ten and I stop to admire it while Nine skips ahead with Mr TM following.

    At some point during this portion of our walk, I ask the boys how they’re feeling. Both say they’re wide awake, and Nine proudly tells Ten that he was in charge for an hour and a half while everyone was passed out/napping, and says “And I did a great job!” It was very cute.

    We make it the Roue de Paris…there are booths around it selling souvenirs and food, but walk on. There’s a brief discussion about riding the wheel, but it’s moving slow…while Ten is up for it, Nine doesn’t like heights, I’m indifferent, and Mr TM thinks the price is too steep (about $50 Euros for the four of us) for the time we’d have to wait to get on.

    And so we admire the obelisk at Place de la Concorde and join the hordes of people streaming toward the Christmas market that beings on the Champs-Elysees, across a few streets from the Big Wheel. (Crossing here is interesting throughout the week. There’s always a crowd of people, and always a crowd of cars. There are also a crowd of traffic cops trying to keep order, and it’s very entertaining at times).

    The market is busy, especially at the entry, so we grab Nine and Ten’s hands and walk along slowly, enjoying the spectacle. Eventually, the crowds thin out a little (the lines are longer, we find, at the entry to the market…at both ends. If you walk a bit into the market, things even out a bit more).

    We find chocolate crèmes to snack on, and then sausages, and then…we see the little faces of children bouncing above the crowd of people walking along. Little laughing children who go UP and then disappear and then go UP again.

    It turns out, there’s a kid play area (pay to play) that has individual trampolines that kids could jump on while strapped to a harness (which explains the bouncing, laughing faces) and a huge, bumpy slide. Ten and Nine ask to go down the slide, so we pay 5 Euros per boy for two rides each down the slide. The boys grab their tickets and run off before we can even attempt to explain the rules, so Mr TM and I get to enjoy watching them use a combination of sign language and extremely rudimentary French to figure out the rules.

    The rules: hand over one ticket, grab a burlap sack thing (or maybe it was rubber?) and head up the steps to wait your turn (and wait for people at the bottom of the slide to exit before going)…then slide down, then hand sack over to the attendant, then run out through the crowd to get back into line and hand over the second ticket and repeat. Lots of kids didn’t fully understand the rules (trying to keep to take their sacks out after their first ride…the attendant DID NOT like that, lol…not waiting for the riders at the bottom to get off before careening down…etc.).

    I can say that Ten and Nine, other than wanting to keep their sacks with them in between rides down the slide, did very well. They at least waited for the lower level to clear! There were quite a few bumps at the bottom when over-eager riders slid into kids who were trying to exit. It was a bit chaotic and reminiscent of the traffic around the Arch de Triumph.

    Shortly after the slide, we found a huge booth selling Gaufres (waffles for the boys) and Vin Chaud (for Mom!!!). Ten and Nine practiced their French by ordering the biggest Gaufre possible (it was covered in strawberries and whipped cream and chocolate). While they were waiting on their order, and I was waiting for my Vin Chaud, Santa appeared almost directly above us!

    Santa, in his sleigh, hovered in the air just to the left of the food stand we were ordering from (suspended from a nearby crane that you could see during the day…but at night, it looked like Santa was just flying above us). He talked to the crowd for a bit and sang songs (Christmas songs and patriotic songs), and the mostly-French speaking crowd around us really really really got into it. Even the people in the booth serving our food!

    We found a clear spot with a bench behind the booth so that Ten and Nine could eat their treat…and we finished watching Santa and the crowd sing and cheer. Everyone was singing and laughing, and it was really festive and fun.

    After eating, we found a spot to cross to the other side of the Champs-Elysees and head back toward the Roue de Paris and our apartment. Other than eating, we didn’t stop to shop…there were lots of interesting booths, though, from hand-crafted decorations to obscene Mickey Mouse items that I KNOW aren’t licensed by Disney to winter scarves and gloves (those weren’t selling so well, thanks to the mild weather). There was even a Zombie themed ‘fun’ house ride.

    Once back at the apartment, the boys were finally starting to get tired again. They were also hungry again (they’re like Hobbits…always asking for second breakfast, elevensies, etc.). So we heated up a cartoon of the lentil soup, which was amazing. The boys had most of the soup and about half of the second baguette, while Mr TM and I had the rest of the baguette with cheese and pate. We talked about our night…Mr TM thought seeing Santa was great, while Ten and Nine were just trilled to by the spectacle of it all. They kept saying what a great vacation it was.

    When stomachs were finally full, all of the males headed upstairs to shower and get ready for bed. Being as it was our first night in a new place, I knew that Nine would not sleep if floor below us (there was a sofa bed in the living area). So post-shower, we made a pallet using extra blankets at the foot of our bed upstairs (the apartment had an abundance of blankets and other linens, so it worked really well). The boys settled down there, Mr TM settled down on the bed, and they were all asleep within five or so minutes.

    It was about 8:30 pm, so job well done.

    Before I called it a night, I rummaged through supplies in the kitchen, finding several kinds of tea left by previous renters as well as a big box of sugar cubes. We didn’t have coffee for our second morning in Paris, but we’d have some form of caffeine!

    After a glass on wine on our little balcony, I finally gave in and climbed upstairs for bed…where we all slept for hours and hours and hours…

    Up next, day 2 in Paris, Christmas Eve! Featuring Bon Marche, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the second Santa of our trip (which was probably the best thing I've seen on vacation anywhere ever).

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    TRIP REPORT, Day 2 in Paris, part 1:

    When I wake up on day 2, it’s bright in our upstairs bedroom (there’s a skylight in our room), and a look at my phone shows that it’s past 9 am. Mr TigerMac has woken a little earlier and is downstairs, but the boys are still sound asleep. I head down and check email at our bar while Mr TM makes me a strong cup of tea (no sugar, just straight tea). Mr TM also found a pack of dried mango slices a prior renter left in the apartment and gave me one before devouring them.

    After a bit, I head back upstairs to wake up the boys. Ten is up immediately and heads downstairs. Nine is MUCH harder to wake up. Now, they’ve been asleep at this point for over 13 hours at this point. When they ask how long they slept and I tell them, they’re AMAZED. But even though Ten was pretty chipper first thing, it takes them an hour or so of drinking tea (their had sugar) and eating yogurt (the yogurt in Paris was incredible) before heading out for the ‘morning’.

    Knowing that the next day was Christmas, and that things would start shutting down early tonight as it was Christmas Eve, our plans for the morning were strictly based on getting additional food items. And, seeing as we were buying for holiday dinners, I planned on hitting the big food area in the basement of Le Bon Marche (

    So with a small grocery list and two empty backpacks, we went downstairs and out to march along Rue du Bac away from the Seine. Le Bon Marche is a short walk (for Paris) from our apartment: four blocks down Rue du Bac, four or so more down Boulevard Raspail.

    Before we make it more than two blocks down Rue du Bac, we see an Eric Kayser patisserie and duck in for second breakfast. We find a table, and Mr TigerMac orders two croissants and two pain au chocolates along with four cups of coffee: seeing as we’re in Paris, we agree that the boys can have actual coffee instead of weak tea. The pastries are inhaled quickly, and the coffee—well sugared for Ten and Nine--goes quickly as well.

    Twenty minutes later, we’re back on our way toward Le Bon Marche. We find it easily enough, and walk through a small park before entering the department store.

    Note: we encounter our first real security check entering Le Bon Marche. There are guards at the entries asking to check bags and also asking patrons to open jackets and coats wide to check for hidden objects. We live in Maryland and have visited both DC and NYC often over the past decade plus, so Ten and Nine aren’t phased by this kind of security. It was odd for Mr TM and I, simply because this did not happen at all during other trips to Paris.

    Nine was interested in shopping here before we actually got into the store…but the section we walked though was nothing but women’s clothes, some men’s clothes, perfume, etc. The interior is beautiful and the decorations are tasteful and fun, but even after taking the escalators up to the top of the store and back down, Nine doesn’t see anything he’s interested in. Maybe we missed more eclectic sections (it’s a big space, and we didn’t wander too much in an effort not to frustrate the kids), but most of what we see are clothes, clothes, and more clothes. I remember there being more variety in the Right Bank department stores we visited years before (BHV, for example, had a hardware section that would have fascinated both boys). Now, Mr TM and I took a longer time wandering around those stores before kids, so it’s very likely that Bon Marche had cool things that we missed because 1) we didn’t look hard or long enough, and 2) I didn’t do enough research ahead of time.

    Nonetheless, my main goal for the trip to Le Bon Marche is the food area in the basement, and we head down there and hit pay dirt.

    It was filled—with cool things to buy to eat AND with people shopping for the holidays. So we grabbed a cart and slowly made our way through the horde.

    Ten and Nine were patient (mostly) as we bagged lettuce and tomatoes and potatoes and green beans and oranges and onions and garlic. And then when we found chocolate and cookies, and I let the boys pick out a sugary cereal, then when we found pasta and sauce. And when we found the cheese section, and then more yogurt… And when we finally found milk… And eggs. And then we found a huge section with nothing but butter (Mr TM took almost 10 minutes picking out something in this section).

    We also found coffee, and a cool-looking jar filled with pre-made beef/carrot stew; and we bought ground beef for pasta one night, and a chicken to roast for Christmas dinner.

    Mr TM looked in vain for the same kind of dried mango he had earlier…and we ended our trip at the bakery, where we loaded up on fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries and bread. We also bought a few small containers of salads and spreads for appetizers on Christmas, and found pre-made sandwiches to eat the park outside of Le Bon Marche before heading back to the apartment.

    Checking out was fun, mostly because we discovered that we should have weighed our produce in that section before going to check out. As we had so many items, the girls behind the counter told Mr TM to run over to the produce section to do that while they continued to ring up other items. Mr TM did just that…RAN through the crowd as politely as he could ;). He made it back with his arms filled with produce only a few minutes after they’d finished ringing up the rest of our items.

    The boys were BORED BORED BORED by now, but did a great job helping me load up our backpacks with food. We had to carry a couple of big bags of groceries as well, but once Mr TM made it back with the properly-weighed produce, everyone chipped in and lumbered across to the park for a quick picnic before heading back to the apartment.

    Things we learned: The boys like grocery shopping in Paris about as much as they like it in the states, meaning that with quick trips, they’re engaged and have fun. Longer trips, they disengage and don’t enjoy it, even when you try to get them involved in helping find new things. It probably varies from child to child based on personality, but I remember being the same way when I was their age…so Ten and Nine get this genetic trait honestly. But I think if we’d gone on another day when it weren’t so crowded and busy, they’d have enjoyed it more. They certainly had more fun grocery shopping and exploring new food items the rest of the week.

    Part 2: we go out to see actual tourist attractions, not just grocery stores!

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    Really enjoying reading this. We lived in the UK for a while and had two separate Christmas weeks in France, one in Strasbourg and the other in Nice. Grocery shopping while overseas is great fun, we laughed at the aisle after aisle after aisle in France of wine, cheese and bread. Very French!


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    American bananas; years back I ran a business in the American fruit industry. Due to the concept of the supermarket which drives price down we only ever sold one type of banana off our machines, all came from one company using one clone in land ( pinched) sorry "999 year leased" from a despot in south/central America.

    So, yes all bananas are very much related but only in America do you get such little variety, now the rest of the world has loads of different bananas :-)

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    A new notes:

    1. Grocery shopping while on trips is one of my favorite vacation activities, nationally or on the few international trips I've taken. It's always interesting to see what's stocked in the local store! During one particularly memorable trip to Antwerp, pre-kids, I hurt my foot the first day instead of venturing out on a solo trip around the city on day 2 (we were there because Mr TigerMac had to work), I headed out on the trolley in search of a place to buy an ace bandage. I found a HUGE grocery store and limped through it until I found a bandage. Then I turned the corner and found myself at the entrance to the biggest grocery aisle of chocolate bars I've ever seen in my life. It went on FOREVER, and I proceed to fill up my cart (this was in the days when you could check two bags on an airline with no fee, so I had plenty of space for gifts). The girl that checked me out at that grocery laughed and laughed and laughed after I placed the ace bandage on the counter to scan, and then kept dipping into my cart to pull out endless chocolate bars (like Mary Poppins and her carpet bag).

    I loved the shopping this trip too.

    2. Thank you for the info, bilboburlger, regarding the bananas. We just thought everything tasted better in Paris, from the veggies to the fruit to the yogurt and chicken (though not the butter, but that's for later in the trip report). I thought that it *might* be our biased opinion, but it's nice to know that there are indeed more variety in bananas outside of the US.

    TRIP REPORT, Day 2 in Paris, part 2:

    After Le Bon Marche, we sat in the park adjacent to it to picnic on pre-made sandwiches we bought along with our groceries. We had a selection of ham and cheese, veggie and cheese, and chicken and tomato and pesto on baguettes (if I remember correctly). The sandwiches were very tasty.

    The park, called Square Boucicaut (thanks, google), was filled with what I assume were local Parisians enjoying the day...a few kids in strollers with their parents, a pair of very-nicely dressed women heading toward the department store, a sweet elderly lady enjoying the sunshine and mild temperatures...etc.

    We settled for our picnic near the park's carousel, which featured more non-licensed Mickey Mouse decorations. As we ate, a group of pigeons surrounded us in hopes of crumbs, and Nine pointed out that a handful of the pigeons had injured feet (with missing claws). It was interesting in that we did not see this again during our trip when we sat for snack and were approached by pigeons. Nine looked very carefully throughout the week, but never saw birds with such injuries again.

    After finishing up, we walked back to our apartment to unload groceries. Because we shopped for food to last several days, we had a lot of cold items. The apartment-sized, under-the-counter fridge had the most amazingly efficient design, though; everything fit with room to spare. There were just the right-sized shelves for thin items (such as the little packs of pate and cheese) and larger items (such as yogurt and meat) and great compartments at the bottom of the fridge that held a huge amount of produce. So very better designed than the small fridges I've found in the US.

    We had another snack of yogurt and baguette and an orange (remember, the boys are hobbits) while deciding what to see next.

    Our "Big" item for the day was the Eiffel Tower, but Ten had his heart set on seeing that at night. As it was early afternoon (2ish), we had plenty of time to see something else before hand.

    Mr TM suggested heading over to Notre Dame to climb the to top and see the gargoyles. That was something the boys were interested in, and the gargoyles were among MR TM and my best memories the Thanksgiving week we spent in Paris years before.

    Nine asked if we had to walk too much to get there (he was tired after the morning walk to and from Bon Marche); this was to be a recurring theme throughout the rest of the trip. We assured him that taking the metro was always an option, so off we went toward our 'home stop' at Musee D'Orsay.

    Thanks to advance research, I knew the most effective means of traveling via subway for out group was to use a basic 10 pack of carnets, which can be bought at loads of places throughout the city. We bought ours at a self-service machine (card only, no cash) at the D’Orsay metro station. Mr TM (who was flexing his French-speaking muscles by using instructions in that language instead of English) ended up buying way more packs of 10 than planned. No problem, though, because I knew we'd probably use most of the tickets by the end of our trip!

    Hint traveling with older kids: We explained to the boys how to use the carnets, i.e., you can use each ticket twice...once to enter the Metro and then to exit (usually, but more on that later), and after those two uses, it's no longer any good. The boys had a choice to hold on to their ticket after using it to enter, or handing it over to me. I tried to encourage them to hold on to their own tickets, simply to save time and avoid being rude...the Metro was sometimes crowded, and both boys still have a habit of stopping in the middle of a flow of traffic to tell me something or hand me something, and I wanted to avoid that. Ten assumed responsibility for his tickets the entire trip and did great. Nine alternated, but sometimes would get nervous about losing it once we were seated on the train and would pass it over. I was te official holder of unused tickets (they stayed in my upper vest pocket) and would hand out new ones each time we started a new trip on the metro. This worked well...until it got busy and until we encountered stops where the exits were wide open and we didn't need a ticket to get out!

    The Saint Michele/Notre Dame stop was one away from D’Orsay, so we were quickly at our final destination and outside and walking across the Seine onto Ile de la Cite...and then toward Notre Dame, where we found the first surprising security aspect of our trip.

    The entire plaza in front of Notre Dame was cordoned off by temporary fencing, and a mass of people were bunched along the street in an apparent attempt to go through security and through the fencing. The entire atmosphere was a bit chaotic...there was no distinct line, none of the tourists we asked knew what the heck was going on or how to get through or what to do once through the fence. We saw the security at the airport, and saw it at Le Bon Marche, but we were surprised both at the extent of the security around Notre Dame AND at how unorganized it all was.

    We eventually found what kind of looked like a line and followed people toward an opening in the fence, where military/police types (uniforms, big guns) were checking bags and asking everyone to do the ‘hold your jacket open' thing. When Mr TM and others in line asked (in English and French) questions about what to do once we were inside the fence (what line to stand in to tour Notre Dame, what line to stand in to climb to see the gargoyles), no one had a clue. The entire thing was very unorganized and had the air of something thrown together at the last minute.

    The boys…again, who are accustomed to security in DC and NYC…didn’t seem to notice the chaos. So Mr TM and I went with the flow and made it through the check point. Outside of a line going into Notre Dame itself, the plaza in front was almost free of people (everyone else was outside of the fences trying to figure out how to get in!).

    We let the boys run around a bit before getting into the single line just outside of the cathedral doors. That line, naturally, led right into Notre Dame. No one we asked (at the doors going into Notre Dame, or the few security people patrolling the plaza inside the fence) knew where the line was for the gargoyles or even if the gargoyles were being viewed that day.

    So we went inside for a quick self-guided tour of Notre Dame instead.
    for Euros so that he could light some of the candles. I obliged (as I hail from a long line of Catholics and have always lit candles and said prayers for long-gone family members when visiting churches in Europe) and explained why and who we were lighting the candles for (his great grandparents and two particular aunts of mine who was very special to me).

    Nine and I then wandered around and discussed the stained glass windows while Mr TM and Ten looked at the art and relics and discussed how the cathedral was built.

    It was a short (30 minutes) visit, but enjoyable.

    When we exited, there was a huge line forming just outside of the cathedral doors, much longer the short one we stood in before entering. We figured that people were starting to arrive early for Christmas Eve services.

    Mr TM again asked guides and police-looking types about the gargoyle line again, but…still, no one knew where it was or if it was open.

    Then, when we tried to exit, no one knew where, exactly, we were supposed to exit! There was a huge group of us trying to figure out how to get out of the fence and back onto the streets…and every time one guard opened a portion of the fence for us to exit, another would run over and shout that we weren’t allowed to leave that way.

    The entire episode was amusing for Mr TM and I, though Ten and Nine were getting restless at this point.

    We finally made it out when a disgruntled policewoman kept the fence open and let everyone leave despite another security person running over and shouting to keep it closed, lol.

    It's getting late, so I'll save the rest for part 3.

    Next up, we discover a fabulous park and play area behind Notre Dame, Nine finally gets to spend money and buy things, we get ice cream(!), do some last minute grocery shopping, and witness Ten have a cute conversation with a very nice older lady and her pint-sized pup.

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    Enjoying your report! I'm surprised there was this type of security at Notre Dame if you were there in September, 2 months before the attacks. But then again, I guess Charlie Hebdo was earlier that year, and the Thalys train attack the month before you were there. Glad you were safe.

    Curious if your boys ever adjusted to Paris time or did they continue to sleep late?

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    Quick note:

    I'm missing a bit of text here:

    "...So we went inside for a quick self-guided tour of Notre Dame instead.
    for Euros so that he could light some of the candles. I obliged..."

    In between that 'instead' and 'for Euros', there are missing bits about Nine asking to light the candles. So it should read, "...of Notre Dame instead. Nine asked for Euros so that he could light some of the candles..."

    The dormant editor in me coming to light and being appalled at typos in my report :D.

    I'm working on the next part tonight and hope to have it up tomorrow at the latest!

    And, brubenow, we semi-adjusted to Paris time. The boys slept and hour or so later in Paris than normally at home, but not so late that it put a dent into our plans for the day. And once they were awake, they were good until their normal bedtime. It was Mr TigerMac and I that had the harder time adjusting...we'd get up at a normal time in the morning but often required a lonoooong nap after lunch, something that is not the norm at home!

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    thanks so much for such a wonderful report. I am amazed at your memory (did you keep notes of all of this or are you just recollecting?) We have 7 year old twin granddaughters whom we just took on their first European trip to Germany. Hope to take the to Paris some future year so this is very helpful to us.

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    I would love if you would teach other parents to teach their kids not stop in the middle of crowded, trafficky places...We saw a literal pile up on an escalator in Paris a few years ago because of stopping in traffic. It sounds you you did a great job managing and navigating with two pretty young travelers!

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    brubenow, we were in Paris over Christmas, and visited Notre Dame (the first time) on Christmas Eve. So the level of security given the recent attacks and the holiday wasn’t…shocking, I guess. But it was still surprising. I mean, we saw a lot of security before heading to Notre Dame, but it was just so overwhelming there. Also, it was very uncoordinated, which led Mr TigerMac to think they were responding to some kind of ‘credible threat’. I figured the kind of haphazard organization meant they were taking larger-than-normal precautions post-attacks over Christmas Eve and Christmas. I’ll get into this later in our trip, but, sure enough, after Christmas Day, the big fence surrounding Notre Dame (and the larger number of soldiers/police) were gone.

    JulieVikmanis, as I mentioned in the first post, I’ve been writing this report in my head since Paris! I think that helped me retain certain experiences I thought were worthy of reporting on. But we took a ton of pictures, and I posted regularly on facebook, so I’ve been using that day-to-day history as a guide. Looking at a picture from a specific day really does bring things back for me!


    TRIP REPORT, Day 2 in Paris, part 3:

    Once escaping the security around Notre Dame, we find ourselves on Rue du Cloitre Notre-Dame, the street that passes along the north side of the church. There are places to eat here, and souvenir shops here…we skip the food, but Nine is drawn into the shops.

    Hint traveling with older kids (and husbands): I warned the boys and reminded Mr TigerMac that in shops in Paris, you look with your eyes, not your hands. I talked to the boys about this more than once, simply because there are so many stores in our area where touching and using and playing with items for sale is encouraged. They did a really good job remembering this, after the first shop ;).

    Relatives from both sides of the family sent Ten and Nine Euros to spend in Paris; Ten is a careful shopper and saver. Nine can feel the money burning a hole in his pocket (even though I’m carrying it).

    So we enter the first store, and both boys are mesmerized by the cheap, shiny, glittering wall-to-wall plethora of ‘cashnear’ scarves, Eiffel Tower soaps, and Arch de Triumph coasters. Seriously, though, there are some funs things to be had, so fun that Nine forgets himself and grabs at a pink plastic thing (I think it was a gargoyle) to show his brother. The lady behind the center counter snaps her fingers and reprimands him (in English and then in French) for touching; she’s sharp, but not mean…I get the impression that she has to do this many times a day.

    We visit three shops and Nine eventually buys a little cat stuffy (stuffed animal, but they don’t call them that these days). Note, he can buy this stuffy anywhere in the world, but, hey, he bought it in Paris. I don’t remember which shop he bought it in, I just remember that every shop pretty much had the same things in them.

    As Nine is going from shop-to-shop, but he and Ten ask me if I could buy a few surprises for them to have the next day (which, remember, is Christmas).

    Now, leading up to the trip to Paris, I told both boys they’d get Christmas from ‘Santa’ (they each get three Santa presents a year, and they know it’s from me and their dad) but that Santa’s presents wouldn’t be as large as normal nor would they get those presents on Christmas Day...they’d have to wait until we got home. They were both ok with that, especially since I assured them they’d still have a little something in a stocking on Christmas Day.

    So I agree to buy a few fun things from Paris to include in their stocking just about the time they spot the park behind Notre Dame (which I think is called Square Jean XXIII via a google map). I send them off with Mr TM to the park and proceed to buy: a tiny Notre Dame and Arch de Triumph, leather coin purses (so they can keep some Euros on them the rest of the trip), two bags of chocolate Euros, Eiffel Tower themed picture frames (to hold a photo from our trip once we’re back home), and two black berets.

    Purchases made, I head over to the park, which has a play area that includes a big swing and this round, elevated, rotating platform that kids can jump on and spin around and around and around on. The boys are spinning on the platform when I arrive, and then Notre Dame’s bells start ringing…I take a quick video so that the moment is preserved.

    It’s about 4 at this point, and the boys/hobbits say they’re hungry again. Ile Saint-Louis is just over the bridge behind the park, so off we go in search of sustenance. I know that Berthillon is somewhere on Ile Saint-Louis, but am not exactly sure where it is. So we wander down the island’s center street (Rue Saint-Louis en Ile). We pass a rock/mineral shop that Mr TM remembers visiting during that Thanksgiving week trip years before; I’d totally forgotten about that shop, but once he mentions it, I remember us spending a while there and eventually purchasing a nice garnet sample (Mr TM is a collector! It’s called Gallerie Kara, and it’s amazing its still open and in the same place 10 plus years later…a theme we’d encounter more than once).

    A few doors down from the rock shop is a little place that has Berthillon glaces. It’s not THE Berthillon, but it’s got a nice selection and is empty, and as Ten and Nine are impatient, we head inside. A very patient lady behind the counter explains the different flavors for us. I select a coffee-flavored glace, Mr TM and Nine select chocolate, and Ten selects vanilla. Yes, I am the only adventurous one in the group! We exit and walk along, heading back toward the left bank while eating. Mr TM asks to sample my cone. I pass it over, and he proceeds to take most of it with one bite without realizing how much he was taking (note: the scoops on the cones here are not large. Mr TM feels bad. I take a large bite of his chocolate as payback, and it’s very very very good chocolate).

    Dusk is upon us, but it’s still too early to head to the Eiffel Tower. So we head across a bridge and onto the Left Bank, where we wander around for a bit and end up on Blvd Saint-Germaine (in the 5th, south of Ile Saint-Louis). The area is lively, especially the closer we get to the 6th Arrondissement.

    We find a health food store, which I duck into because I see a wall of produce…and I forgot a few things for Christmas dinner. I scoop up garlic and a few lemons. And some wine. We have some red at the apartment, but the store has some nice-looking 5 Euro bottles of white and rose. And I get the boys a variety of cookies for desert. I also look for a razor for Mr Tiger Mac (who forgot his), but the store doesn’t carry these kinds of times.

    We walk a bit further and find a little FranPrix. Mr TM goes inside in search of a razor. The boys and I wait outside. Ten decides he needs to rest, so he finds a quiet space next to the grocery store. This space is the threshold of huge double door…you know, the kind that lead into an apartment/residential space. So I ask Ten to scoot over to the corner of the threshold and then try to calm Nine down (who is running back and forth along the sidewalk).

    About a minute after Ten sits down in the corner of the threshold, the door that he’s not leaning against opens…and out prances a teeny dog, who turns and looks at Ten (and I swear, the dog looked surprised to see him). 30 seconds later, out comes a little older lady in a long coat who…turns and looks at Ten, and she IS surprised to see this young person lounging along the door leading to her residence. Ten gives her the sweetest smile and says, “Bonjour.” After about a second (she’s still surprised to see this kid in her doorway), she gives him an equally sweet smile and says, “Bonjour!”

    Now…I am trying to reign in Nine at this point (because he just wants to RUN), and Mr TM is still in the FranPrix, which means Ten is on his own. The nice older lady and he have a very short conversation where he remembers some of his French (he remembered ‘je suis’ when she asked his name). She wishes him a good Christmas (in French, but Ten understood and said “Merry Christmas” back in English). It was very, very sweet. I don’t know if Ten will remember this little moment in Paris, but I think I’ll remember it forever. He was just so earnest in trying to communicate with her, and she seemed to get a real kick out of finding this English-speaking kid who was taking a break on her doorstep and who was more than happy to muddle his way through his limited French in order to have a conversation.

    The teeny dog, by the way, stood in one place without moving the entire time…with a very bored look on his face, lol.

    Once Mr TM was out of FranPrix with his razors and a few other items, it was most definitely dark enough to head over to the Eiffel Tower.

    That’s up in the next part, along with my favorite Santa ever.

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    My apologies, TigerMcQueen- the title of your post does say "Christmas", but for some reason I was thinking you had written September somewhere. Thus, the reason for my mistaken question about security in September at Notre Dame. It makes more sense to have the increased security over the holidays. Sorry for the confusion!

    Really enjoying your trip report... keep it coming!

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    So it's been a crazy week at work, with a deadline looming. And we might get more snow tomorrow (anywhere form 4 or so to 9 inches). I'm allowing myself to stay up a little later than normal to work this next update...and here's hoping for a snow day or at least a delayed start to the day!

    TRIP REPORT, Day 2 in Paris, part 4:

    Eiffel Tower and santa.

    After hitting the health food store for a few groceries and the FranPrix for razors, it's time to head over to the Eiffel Tower, something Ten has been looking forward to since he was a toddler (seriously).

    We have walked a huge loop through the 5th, just south of the islands in the Seine and make our way back to where we started...the St Michel metro stop. I pass out carnets, and as we board the train to head toward the Eiffel Tower, I tell Mr TigerMac that our stop is Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel. Nine hands me his ticket, Ten hangs onto his.

    Mr TigerMac, who wears a hearing aid at work, does not hear me about the stop we were supposed to take (he did not take the hearing aid on vacation). As we approach the stop La Tour Maubourg, he insists that this is our stop. I assume that he has studied a map and that the stop is close to the tower. I am wrong.

    But, it turns out that it's not that far to walk. We exit the station with some confusion...the exit/ticket gates are wide open, so we don't need to use our tickets. I collect everyone's half-used tickets and put them in a third vest pocket and hope I remember that they are still able to be used.

    We exit La Tour Maubourg, and while it's not next to the Eiffel Tower, it's a somewhat short walk along the Seine to the tower. There's a wide park along this stretch, with a wide path, so the boys run ahead. The tower itself looms above us in all her glory. The weather is still mild, the sky is clear, and we were thrilled.

    As we approach Pont d'Lena (the bridge that connects the right bank across from the tower with the left), we find a handful of booths...selling food, vin chaud, etc. There are more booths on the other side of the tower, at its foot and stretching along Champ de Mars, but we are not interested in shopping just now. We want to climb the tower.

    The line to go up is *short* compared to what we saw on our earlier trip and later this trip. The one we approach is inside the metal gates and a sign indicated that it was a short 20 minute wait to get an elevator to go up. We get in line...and notice a sign saying no glass bottles are allowed on the tower. Mr TM has a backpack with wine in

    So he offers to hang out at the Christmas market while we go up (Mr TM was humoring us about the tower; three trips to Paris, and he's never been tempted to go up the before). We agree to meet by the river in an hour; Ten, Nine, and I stay in line, and in about 15 more minutes, we are buying our tickets.

    We had a short debate about how high to go up. Ten wanted to go to the top, Nine HATES heights but was humoring his brother and said he'd go to the second level. I was ok with either. Ten agrees that the second level is fine, so we purchase the cheaper tickets and head to the elevators.

    Not much to report here. There was more security before getting to the elevators (bag check only), and the ride up to the second level was an elevator ride. It was packed, so we couldn't see too much.

    But once we got out (on the upper deck of the Eiffel Tower's second level), Ten was in HEAVEN. He wanted to stay up there forever (Nine, poor thing, was clinging to an interior wall). I took a few photos of Ten enjoying the view (he is so happy in these pics)...and we went along all four sides (Nine hugging the wall the whole way). The wind really kicked up at this point, so much that even Ten wanted to head down a level. So we went down a set of stairs, where we found food and shops on the base of the second level.

    The hobbits suddenly want more food, so we stand in line to buy sandwiches and Kinder eggs (wine for me). We eat quickly and head to the shop on that level, where I find Eiffel Tower shaped pasta for gifts.

    After eating, Nine is brave again and agrees to head back up to the top of the second level, and we find one of those scope/binocular things to put a few Euros in. We're on the Champs-Elysées side of the tower, so the boys find the Arch de Triumph and the market and the Big Ferris Wheel before time runs out on their scope. The wind is even stronger, and Nine is getting nervous, so we decide it's time to go meet Mr TM.

    Unlike the trip up, the trip down has very few people in the elevator. We're out quickly and walking toward the river and the first booths we ran into earlier that evening.

    As we approach, there's a HUGE blast of sirens...sirens that just go on and on and ON, and they are by the river, in the direction we're heading. To be honest, I got a bit nervous. Mr TM was meeting us in a somewhat crowded spot, and I cannot help but wonder if something is wrong.

    But the sirens fade away, and after five minutes, Mr TM is spotted.

    It's soon as we approach, he asks is we heard the sirens and explains that he watched a huge motorcade of cops on motorbikes cross the Pont d'Lena...and one of the bikes had a sidecar with SANTA riding along. He said it was fun to see and hoped we'd seen a bit of it. We did not. I do not tell him I was worried when I heard the sirens :).

    Because there I was, quietly but sincerely worried, and it was the Parisian version of Santa riding through a neighborhood...only instead of riding on a fire truck (as he does in our town), he was in a motorbike sidecar and had a huge escort of bikes with him.

    I was sad that the boys and I missed it all, but as everyone was hungry again, we shrugged off our disappointment and headed back toward the Maubourg metro stop (because we knew where it was and did not run across the one closer to the Eiffel Tower).

    We got we were walking along the park that lines the Seine on the way to Maubourg, we heard sirens again. So we stopped to look and...the tower started twinkling...and we could see the motorcade of bikes heading back across the Pont d'Lena, and they turned and headed in our direction! So we stopped and watched as HUGE continent of bikes with sirens blaring drove past us. And there was Santa in a motorbike side car, waving and laughing. It was just amazing, because it turns out that unlike home (where Santa makes one trip on the truck and heads back to the fire station), this group was going around and around and around in a big loop, giving people lots of chances to see Santa on Christmas Eve. I like to think that whoever played Santa that night had lots of good wine and fun stories to tell his kids when he got home from work that night!

    Seeing Santa with the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the background was probably one of our favorite parts of Paris. I managed to get a quick video of the tower all lit up and sparkly to send to my mom (who went to Paris once recently and said that was her favorite part).

    It was still 'early' when we got back to our apartment, maybe 7 pm. I whipped up a meal of sauteed onions and ham with pasta and eggs, and we toasted a baguette that we getting stale with cheese to have with it. It was a fun Christmas Eve dinner. We found a French version of a Christmas Carol on the TV while we ate.

    Note: we mostly ate in our apartment at night with only a few meals outside. However, I saw lots of places that had kids of all ages eating in them (usually early in the evening), so there are definitely kid-friendly eating out options in Paris. It just worked better for our family to eat in our rental. I'll go into the pros and cons of this a bit more in another update.

    By 9, the boys were showered and on the sofa bed (they agreed to sleep downstairs). Mr TM and I had a bit of wine on our balcony, before he headed up for bed. I made the kid's stockings (I used the berets I bought earlier for the actual stockings), set them up by the side of the sofa bed, and headed up to bed myself.

    Next up: Christmas Day, the Arch de Triumph, and Star Wars everywhere.

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    Nice that you had good weather for the ET! Are there any security restrictions on backpacks there? Or was it just no glass?

    Do you remember the names of any of the kid friendly restaurants you passed?

    Looking forward to more of your report :)

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    Hi everyone! Yes, I'll be back. I'm working on the next update in Word and hope to post late tonight my time. It was a nutty week at work...I work at a college, and it is admissions time, which means that this time of year is very busy. Plus, an out-of-the-blue issue with the state legislature popped up, and I had to pitch in to help (actually had to guide the whole thing).

    And on top of that, we are all (with the exception of Mr. TM) fighting colds and/or viruses with fever. And the prospect of a a layer of ice over the snow we got today means that I might have time for *two* updates! Everything was closed today, so I had time to sleep sleep sleep (which I didn't have time to do this weekend thanks to middle-school testing for Ten and a totally unscheduled doctor's appointment). I am feeling much better after so much rest, and it looks like we are on the mend.

    Back to dinner and writer shortly thereafter.

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    TRIP REPORT, Day 3 in Paris, part 1:

    Christmas Day!

    We slept in on Christmas morning until about 9:30. Mr TigerMac woke first, woke me up, and the two of us went downstairs to find Ten and Nine totally still sound asleep.

    Coffee was made in the two-cut French press that came with the apartment. Coffee from a beautiful red and gold Maxim’s de Paris tin that we bought at Le Bon Marche, and it what amazing coffee it was.

    We woke the boys up once we had a bit of caffeine in us and…after a great first few days, had our first run-in with moody children. Rather, our first run in with a moody child.

    See, as much as I talked to Ten and Nine ahead of time about us not having usual Christmas gifts on Christmas morning, Nine thought I’d have at least ONE of his gifts waiting in Paris. Now…I’d not even bought some of his Christmas gifts before the actual day because he couldn’t make up his mind what he wanted. But when we were in Toronto visiting relatives before flying to Paris, I bought him a video-game accessory per his request that it be one of his official ‘santa’ gifts. When I agreed to buy it, I said, “You realize that you will not get this until we get home from Paris? I don’t have room in our luggage to take something like this with us just for you to see on Christmas day.” To which he said, “Yes, you’ve been saying that for months.”

    But for some reason, he thought I’d bring it for him to find in his stocking.

    I don’t know what I could have done differently. Maybe it was delayed tiredness/jet lag, don’t know. I just know he wasn’t happy at first.

    So he pouted for a bit, though he did put on his stocking/beret as we made Christmas breakfast (the sugary cereal and almond and chocolate croissants we’d bought the day before from Le Bon Marche).

    After breakfast, we had a bit of a lazy morning. We made the sofa bed back into a sofa, and Mr TM and I sat there with more coffee and our laptops to browse news sites. Ten and Nine went upstairs to play on their electronics. Around 11ish, we headed out for a walk, heading toward ‘our’ Christmas market, which I knew was open on Christmas day.

    We stopped at one of the booths around the Roue de Paris (the big ferris wheel) so that Nine could buy a stuffed Eiffel Tower. Yes, you read that right. They were selling stuffed Eiffel Towers everywhere, and Nine really wanted one. He waited to buy one because he had a debate with himself if he wanted a small one, medium, or large. He eventually decided on medium in gray, and so, once the item was bought, a very much happier Nine trooped along with us across the street to the Place du Concorde, where he posed with his brother along the fountaines du Concorde (no water going, but the fountains were still lovely).

    After pictures were taken, we headed back toward the big Christmas market. It wasn’t as crowded as it was the night before, but traffic (car traffic crossing over to it and foot traffic to and from) was still at a healthy flow. We again avoided the first booths upon entering the market near Place du Concorde, heading more toward to middle before stopping for a snack. This time, the boys wanted to try churros, which can be found EVERYWHERE (at least, in what seems like every other booth in Christmas markets).

    The churros were a hit, and were to become almost a daily staple the rest of our time in Paris. The boys took another ride on the big slide in the middle of the market, and after, we bought roasted chestnuts to eat as we made out way to the end of the market, exiting out where the Champs-Elysees appears so much broader and magnificent and is lined with huge name brand stores (there might have been some of these stores near the area of the Champs-Elysees Christmas market, but they we didn’t notice them).

    We were close enough to the Arch de Triumph that we decided to walk in that direction. Mr TM and I enjoyed the sight of the people, and stores (which were closed) and restaurants (many of which were opened…pizza places and a huge McDonald’s). The boys enjoyed the shop windows, quite a few of which were decorated with Star Wars themes, thanks to the new movie released days before. There really was a big flow of people along this stretch of the Champs-Elysees, but most were French-speaking tourists. I heard very little English in Paris our first few days there.

    Nine complained a bit about the length of the walk, but it really wasn’t that bad getting there. The top of the Arch was closed, so no climbing up for the view, and the traffic around it was slightly less insane that in past visits.

    Once we were through the tunnel under traffic and into the circle where the Arch de Triumph is located, Ten took Nine on piggyback rides while I took pictures and Mr TM took in the sights. The view back up the Champs-Elysees toward the Roue de Paris (the Big Ferris Wheel) was quite amazing. Ten borrowed my phone and took pictures of the different avenues spreading out from the Arch, many of which turned out quite nice.

    After 40 minutes or so, we walked back to the Champs-Elysees in search of a metro stop. When we were almost to the station we were going to take back to our D’Orsay stop, we saw some armed police lining a large group of what I suspect where pick pockets along a storefront and asking to see passports. This was the only such activity we witnessed during the trip.

    Again, gates to get into the station were working, but the gates leaving D’Orsay were wide open…so we had four more tickets that were only half used. I put them in my third ‘half used ticket’ vest pocket, but knew that things would get less organized later in the trip (and they did!).

    The boys were tired and ready for a break, so we headed back to our apartment for a nap.

    More in Part 2. Mostly part 2 is about our wonderful and simple Christmas meal and out bird who ‘lived free’ per his packaging (until we ate him).

  • Report Abuse couldn't have done anything differently re: the Christmas present. The Christmas Day expectations are always high. I think kids that age get it when you have the chat but when it is real, can't quite reconcile it. Sounds like everyone recovered (churros do help).

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    TRIP REPORT, Day 3 in Paris, part 2:

    When we got back to the apartment from our trek to and from the Arch de Triumph, it was probably around 2:00. The kids were hungry, so we had the last of the soup in a carton from Monoprix along with an orange and ham sandwiches on bread from the bakery at Bon Marche (sliced in the bakery as Mr. TigerMac waited). Post-lunch, the boys headed upstairs to lie about on the bed and play electronics (and eat some of the chocolate Euros that came in their stocking). Mr. TM went up with them.

    I turned off the apartment heat, opened the window to the balcony slightly, and snoozed on the sofa. I mention the heat and window not because I took so many detailed notes but because this was a theme during our week in Paris. Heat on low at night as we were getting ready for bed, when it dipped into the 30s, heat off during the day as our little apartment got WARM when the sun came up.

    We were all up and having afternoon coffee and tea around 4:00. Chocolate bars were also consumed. It was a bit too early to begin dinner, so we headed over to 'our' metro station at D'Orsay and went up to Notre Dame again. Barriers are still all around the cathedral and if I remember correctly, there's a bit of a line (not that long) that we think is for a Christmas service. The park behind is closed, but we find a little touristy cafe (across the bridge on Isle le Saint-Louis) that is open with a little bar selling Berthillon glaces. Lots of places on Ile Saint-Louis advertise Berthillon places, fyi. I don't remember the name of the place that was open that day, but it faced the back of Notre Dame.

    Everyone is 'adventurous again' (i.e., I'm the only one who changed my order from the day before). I order Creole, which is rum raisin and amazing, and I do not give Mr TM more than the tiniest bite. There was someone performing on the bridge between Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis every time we went, and today was no different.

    We eventually head back to the apartment (after crossing another bridge behind Notre Dame that is also filled with locks...and people selling locks), but it is a bit to early to start on dinner. The smaller boys want to play on their electronics and the big boy wants to flip through the 1,000 channels on the apartment's satellite tv (which is why we don't have this or cable at home).

    So I headed out for a walk on my own after the sun went down. I was curious to see what was open, how many people were out, etc. I headed down Rue du Bac toward the Monoprix area, away from the River and tourist spots.

    Lights were gorgeous as usual, crowds were very light as was traffic, and iit was really easy to see the window decorations without streams of people on the sidewalk. I forgot my phone, or else I'd taken tons of pics. I remember the lights better, perhaps, because I was busy looking instead of taking pictures.

    Other than a convenience store near our apartment, everything was closed...with the notable exception of florists. I walked past two that still had their wares displayed along the sidewalk (the smell was gorgeous), and people *were* stopping to pick up flowers on their way out for the evening. I had heard ahead of time that Christmas Eve was the big night off in Paris and that shops would 'slowly' start opening late on the 25th, but not in our area...things there shut down early on Christmas Eve and (other than the florist) stayed shut. Maybe it is different in places further removed from the tourist center.

    Restaurants and cafes were closed (other than those along the Champs-Elysees near the Arch de Triumph), large groceries were closed, etc. Hotels *were* a bit more lively, with a steadier stream of people going in/out there than I saw elsewhere. I even was stopped at one point by the first (very sleepy/jet lagged) older American tourists I encountered who asked me to take a photo so they could text to their kids back in the states and prove they'd made it safely etc.

    After a while, I headed back to our apartment, stopping first at the little convenience store. We needed milk for the boys, and I found the perfect sized jars of mustard and cornichon for us (the jars at Monoprix were really too large for a one week stay, and I don't like leaving perishable goods behind in rentals as they tend to get thrown out rather than used).

    Once back at the apartment, out came the baguettes and pate and cheese and newly-purchased cornichon jar along with a few salads we'd found at Bon Marche. While everyone was eating appetizers, Mr TM and I went online to look up the user manual for the apartment oven. Manual found, I went about prepping veggies and the chicken to roast (did I mention the salty butter Mr TM picked out at Bon Marche? That's all I used on the chicken, and it was really all I needed other than the onion/garlic/lemon I used to stuff the chicken cavity).

    Our chicken had the words 'eleve en Liberte' prominent on its packaging, which Mr TM translated into 'lived free'. We had a good joke about how lucky the chicken was to live free...until we cooked it and ate it.

    I wish I remember who made the oven. It was really easy to use, AND it made the best roast chicken and potatoes I've ever had. We put a bit of white wine in a roasting pan that slid into the oven's rack-holders and roasted the chicken on a high heat, breast side down, for about 15 minutes or so. Then took out the pan, took out the chicken, added the halved finger potatoes (rolling them in the wine with a little oil added) and placed the chicken breast side up on top of them...cooked until brown and toasty.

    Mr TM saluted green beans on the stove with a little ham and onions, and we made salad. When everything was ready, we pulled out wineglasses, poured wine for us and OJ for the boys and had a great Christmas dinner.

    Despite the number of great patisseries we passed the few days before, we opted to skip cakes etc. for the time being and had chocolate for dessert.

    After was our usual routine...shower for the boys and onto the sofa bed, lights down...I sat with them downstairs and posted on Facebook while Mr TM headed upstairs to shower and fall into bed. Another glass (or was Christmas!) for me, and I was upstairs as well.

    NOTE: I am really happy that we go the apartment for our Paris stay. With youngish kids (who have big appetites), it made it so easy. And cheaper than eating out, I'm sure. I'll do a side post about what I witnessed in regards to kids eating out...but we did not do much of this at all. If we ever make it back, we'll head out to more cafes and such, but we will still rent an apartment for the room and convenience (kitchen and the washer/dryer combo which was slow but was amazing compared to laundry mats, which we used in Europe in the past and while quirky, weren't 'fun').

    Next up: We find Remy at the sewer museum, have raisin bread so good that Ten asks if we can immigrate to Paris, and I am surprised at what enthralls the boys at the military museum (though I really should have seen it coming).

    OH, and lots and lots more churros.

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    What a great Christmas dinner! I love apartments too. Travelling with kids or not, I love a bit of space and the option to cook (our teens always need food, so a kitchenette is a lifesaver).

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    I must admit that I am alarmed that you bought so many items at La Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marché, unless you enjoy paying triple the price for everything.

    I also gasp when people say they paid 12 or 15 or 18 euros for a rotisserie chicken, when they cost between 5 and 6 euros in my part of Paris.

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    I also took my daughters to Paris for Christmas back in 2009 when they were 8 and 5. Unfortunately, my 8 year old broke her LEG jumping off the bed literally an hour after we arrived at the rented apartment. So, there was that. However, the medical experience was efficient and extremely inexpensive. There is a TON of walking, so it was tough putting the older girl into the younger girl's stroller just to get her around. Thankfully, my husband and son are strong so they carried both girls almost everywhere. We loved the Christmas market and ice skating rink they opened in the Tuileries with Father Christmas joining in the fray. The girls loved the Louvre, esp. the Napoleon III area (which is practically empty!). Lastly, we took them to EuroDisney which was COLD but still a terrific day. There were a lot of free concerts at the various churches for the holidays. My best memory is my youngest walking down Rue Cler with tulips under one arm and a baguette under the other, stocking up for our Christmas dinner. Even with the challenges/injuries, they still talk about it 6 years later...

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    kerouac, I can assure you that I do not usually enjoy paying more for what I can get cheaper elsewhere. In our case, we were staying in the tourist center and grocery shopping on Christmas Eve with two pre-teen older BOY boys. Were it any other time of year, I would have went to Bon Marche to mostly 'shop with my eyes', buying only a few speciality items there and going to a local, slightly less expensive Monoprix or similar for staples.

    But we had one (somewhat jet-lagged) morning to shop. And it was Christmas Eve. So I decided we'd just shop at Bon March (as they had more selection for a holiday dinner). Was it expensive? Yes, though our bill wasn't three times what we would have paid at the Monoprix near our apartment for the same items. And, actually, the bill at Bon Marche wasn't that much more than the weekly bill I rack up at my local US east coast grocery...and the 'bulk' items we ate during the week (cereal, fruit, veg, meat, pasta) came from Bon Marche.

    I would never recommend Bon Marche as a 'one-stop-shop' unless under specific circumstances (like ours). Local, smaller stores outside of the tourist center obviously offer better deals. But our trip to Bon Marche was budgeted for given the half-day window I knew we had to get Christmas supplies.

    If I were to go again, I'd find an apartment a bit further out from the center and shop at less expensive places. But for THIS trip on this specific holiday, Bon Marche was a splurge that we planned on and budgeted for, and it worked with our family.

    Next trip, I will not be go generous! :)

    dvbaresel, I cannot get over the broken is so awesome that you all worked through it to have a great holiday! I can very much relate with your memory of your daughter with tulips and a baguette. I will always remember Ten and Nine confidently walking well ahead of us and navigating street crossings without our help.

    While we in Paris, we looked at concerts that would appeal to us as a group, but those we found were not 'Ten and Nine' friendly given what we know about their specific interests. Ten would be fine at certain concerts, but not at that point yet unless the concert is very specifically targeted to youth. I envy you if you were able to enjoy music with your daughters when they were so young.

    Still, I really do think Ten and Nine will remember this trip for years to come. They talk about it every once in a while...and it will be interesting to see what they retain five years down the road vs what they focus on now.

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    TRIP REPORT, day 4 in Paris, part 1:

    The afternoon before, while I was prepping the chicken for Christmas dinner, Mr TigerMac had his computer out and was looking at a few suggestions I had for the next day. I wanted to visit Musee de l'Armee (the Army Museum) and mentioned a few places nearby I thought the boys would like as well.

    Mr TM immediately gravitated toward the Le Musée des Égouts de Paris, known from here on out as the Sewer Museum. I mentioned it because I thought the boys (being boys) would love it because sewers are 'gross'. Mr TM, who is an engineer, was intrigued by the construction and declared that was our first stop the next day, Saturday December 26.

    We woke on the 26th around what became our usual wakeup time in Paris...between 8:30 and 9:30 pm. Coffee and tea were leisurely consumed by all, while we went through our stash of yogurt, eggs, ham, and cereal for breakfast.

    Post-breakfast, Mr TM watched satellite tv while the boys played on their 3DS. Given that we were planning on wandering a bit today, I tried to download a map of Paris on my phone, with very little luck. After 30 minutes with no usable map on my phone, I gave up and simply found a map online via my laptop and studied it for a bit...I knew just where the entrance was to the Sewer Museum and had the names of major streets around the military museum and a few other monuments memorized.

    Note: I did a lot of planning ahead of time, but for some reason, I didn't download a map onto my phone that we could use without wireless or streaming data *before* we left for Paris. I ended up getting the map to download Saturday night, and it was very helpful the rest of the week. We were fine on Saturday without it...but it really was something I should have thought about in advance.

    After giving up on the map, we headed out, back toward the Seine and our home stop at D'Orsay. The Sewer Museum is very near Pont de l'Alma, which is two (if I recall correctly) stops up from D'Orsay. Once we were off the subway, it was a *very very* short walk to the museum.

    The Sewer Museum entrance is near a big blue and white sign that said "Visite Des Egouts Des Paris"...and a little white hexagon shaped (I may be getting the number of sides wrong) kiosk sits right behind. You pay at the kiosk and take steps just to the side of it down into the museum.

    Now, remember, I am taking Ten and Nine, who are boys...and being boys, they never saw or smelled or heard a gross thing that they did not immediately fall in love with. Until the Sewer Museum. It wasn't as though the museum smelled like a *real* Parisian sewer would smell like...but it still smelled *a bit* like a real, deep down, 'Remy and his family are sailing along here" sewer might smell.

    Ten and Nine were immediately grossed out.

    Let it be said that their being grossed out did not mean they did not want to go into the museum. They simply enjoyed groaning about the smell and how 'icky' the water looked below us at points when we were walking above active water/sewer flow.

    Mr TM and I enjoyed the museum...Mr TM especially, and he read as much as he was able. Ten and Nine read the first few displays with their dad, but the further we got into the museum, the less they were interested in reading and talking.

    At one point, we passed by a little divot in a stone wall that was glassed over...there was a display inside the little area that included a very mangy looking stuffed rat. A few years ago, I took Ten and Nine (when they were eight and seven) to Disney World...and we had lunch at one of the French restaurants in Epcot. During lunch, a waiter would push a cart around with a silver platter that had a little animatronic Remy on it. The kids LOVED it and were sad when they found out later that the restaurant in question stopped carting little robot Remy around shortly after our visit. So when we saw the mangy stuffed rat in the Sewer Museum, I told them this was where Remy went when Disney kicked him out...

    They believed me for about point five seconds.

    Eventually, the boys and I headed out of the Sewer Museum a few minutes before Mr TM and walked toward the Seine to watch the tourist boats gliding along. Once Mr TM met up with us, we decided to meander along the streets leading to the Musee de l'Armee. I had the major streets in that area memorized, so off we went...

    More in part 2.

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    What a fun report! I loved the interaction between your French speaking son and the old French lady with dog. So sweet! And so sorry to hear about another Paris bridge with locks and the lock sellers. Ugh!
    I'll be following your report since I'll be traveling to Paris with my family this month.

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    I've been following along thoroughly enjoying your trip report. I must tell you that it finally sent me over the edge. I read your latest installment last night. Then when I woke this morning I booked air arriving in Paris December 15, returning to the US Thursday January 12th! 4 weeks and I will finally cross off my bucket list a Christmas and New Year's in Paris. I thank you for finally motivating me to do it now rather than latter. I'm not getting any younger! Now to find just the right apartment....

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    Great TR, thanks so much! I love the detail. As a parent of a 6 and 9yo I appreciate it as there are few TRs with children in that age bracket.
    We are planning a France/Italy trip next year and I am taking notes.

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    Really enjoying each installment of your TR and how thoughtfully arranged it was around your boys while allowing for grown up pleasures as well. What wonderful family memories you have built.

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    Thank you everyone for your very kind remarks. I am especially glad to know that this trip report might be helpful to those with kids in that 'middle' age (nine to 12ish range). I am equally glad to know that this trip report is enjoyable for those with older/younger/or no kids :). Because we really had a wonderful time in Paris. For all of you venturing over there, I sincerely hope you have as good of a time as we had (despite Nine's moaning about the walking).

    TRIP REPORT, day 4 in Paris, part 2:

    Once we were all out of the Sewer Museum and caught up together, Mr Tiger Mac, Ten, Nine, and I headed toward the Musee de l'Armee on Avenue Bosquet. We walked along there for a bit before turning left onto Rue Saint-Dominique.

    Nine was complaining a bit at this point about the walk, but was easily distracted by the sights along Saint-Dominique. We walked by several store windows with very quirky holiday displays...displays so fun that even the boys were intrigued by them (very few of these shops were open, but this was before noon on December 26).

    One particular shop window included a Barbie wearing red Christmas type apparel; but the best thing was, the Barbie was riding a stuffed wolf that sat underneath a low-hanging, very ornate chandelier...and the wolf was surrounded by clothes that were sold in the store. The wolf had a tiny garland of red flowers on its head. The boys thought it was hysterical and made me take several pictures of the display.

    About a block and half later on Saint-Dominique, we came across the tiniest bakery I've seen yet in Paris. It had one little window to the left of its entry door where an employee was decorating a Buches de Noel (which they seem to sell though New Year...we saw more bakeries with such displays over the next few days). The other side (right of the door) included a little counter where you could buy bread...and there were two kinds of bread on display, plain fat loaves of white bread and fat loaves of raisin bread. Those three items...the Buches de Noel, white and raisin bread, were the only things we saw on sale in the store.

    Ten and Nine are Hobbits, so even though it was a while before lunch, Mr TM ran into the bakery to get a loaf of the fat raisin bread. Post-purchase, we wandered along the rest of Saint-Dominique until we found the large green/park space that separates the Seine from the Musee de l'Armee.

    Once in that park area (called Esplanade des Invalides), we found an empty park bench and sat for a minute before proceedingn to tear the bread into pieces and devour it. The bread was amazing. It was so amazing that 1) Ten asked if it would be possible for us to immigrate to Paris to live, 2) Nine begged his dad to go back to the bakery to get another loaf, and 3) neither Ten or Nine asked to give the resulting pigeons that surrounded us as we ate any crumbs...a first for the boys.

    Interesting note: while the boys did not beg to feed the pigeons, they did take note of the state of the birds' feathers/wings/talons. None of the pigeons we saw outside of Musee de l'Armee were injured or missing feet (compared to those we saw in the park near le Bon Marche).

    This is a short update, but it's late, and I want to get into as much detail as I can about Musee de l'Armee. It was a really fun museum, even though the boys got bored in the WWII portion. They LOVED certain aspects of the medieval displays. Will write more about that in length in part 3.

    To close I'll just say that it was a lovely walk from the Sewer Museum to the Esplanade. The window displays we saw during our walk were especially quirky (compared to what we witnessed near D'Orsay). And that raisin bread is still talked about by the boys close to two months later.

    Coming up: part 3, the Musee de l'Armee, followed by afternoon naps, a trip to the Monoprix and surrounding neighborhood, and sunset on our little apartment balcony.

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    Adelaidean, you mean the last family trip where you are in charge! Lots of adult children continue to travel with their parents, but the decision process of where to go and what to eat often gets reversed. :-)

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    As kerouac said, there is still time for family trips when the children become adults...the trips simply change ;). I haven't posted my next update because I am in the midst of planning an extended family get-together over spring break. It's my parents, sisters and brothers-in-law, and assorted kids (grandkids). We are very much NOT doing the same thing every day all together, and that's part of our planning--figuring out what meals to eat together and what we're doing 'on our own'. It took us a while to figure out these kind of trips, but we're almost pros by now!

    It did take a few 'messy' vacations with my parents to figure things out, though! They wanted to still plan everything everyone was doing down to the last detail. We're over that now, though!

    I hope to post about our trip to the military museum by tomorrow.

    Ten and Nine are still talking about our trip!

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    Kerouac and TigerMcQ you may be right, I tossed about the option of a France road trip to my husband and the boys both chipped in sounding very keen (keener than hubby, actually :().
    And I did go on a trip to Europe with my then 73 year old mother a few years ago, so I guess there are no 'rules' (but she was definitely in charge, she remains very German LOL)

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    Reading the great trip report and responses makes me wish I had written a report of our family trip to Languedoc-Roussillon summer of 2014. Ten of us: my husband and I, our two adult children and their spouses, and four grandchildren, aged 4,6,8, and 11 at the time spent two weeks in a renovated vineyard house near Sommières. Each family rented a car so we were not joined at the hip 24/7, but most of the time we did our day trips together, never more than 1.5 hrs. away from our home base. It was a wonderful time, a dream come true for me to have my whole family in France. Three generation trips can work out beautifully so don't think that when the kids go off to college the family vacations to Europe have to end, even if there is a lull in traveling for a while!

    Sorry for hijacking; I might just have to write this trip up yet!

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    RIP REPORT, day 4 in Paris, part 3:

    And, onward again!

    After finish our raisin bread, we headed across the Esplanade toward Les Invalides and the entrance to the Musee de l'Armee, which is on the Seine side of the museum. Napoleon's Tomb and the really grand front domed part is on the opposite side, facing Place Vauban.

    There was some security (bags checked as we entered the gates) and a minimal line to get tickets. One cool the ticket area, there were Napoleon-style hats (bicornes) made of heavyish black paper that you could fold and wear. The boys gamely folded and wore their hats as we entered the main courtyard of les Invalides. There's military hardware displayed in this section, and Ten and Nine gamely posed for pics while wearing their hats.

    Note: the price to get in was very reasonable...11 Euros per adult, kids free. Kids under a certain age (usually 18) were free most places we either visited or looked into visiting. They weren't free at the Sewer Museum, but that price was so reasonable it didn't mean much. I looked into getting a museum pass before going, but after checking costs, the pass didn't make sense given the amount of museums we would visit (very few with the kids) versus entry fees. If it were just Mr TigerMac and I, we'd have gotten a pass, as the last time we were there (before kids), we visited museum after museum after museum... With kids? Not so much :)

    It wasn't clear to us if there was a main entrance to the museum...there seemed to be several points where one could enter. We picked a big set of glass doors in the middle where someone scanned our ticket. Maybe we picked the main entrance? Maybe there are several entrances where one can go in and get their ticket scanned? In any case, off we went.

    We entered the room to our right, a long room FILLED with cases housing amazing armor of all sizes (there were several examples of kid-sized armor). Rows and rows and rows of the most intricate, stylized armor. The boys were somewhat interested...Mr TigerMac and I were enthralled. Eventually, we made our way into the room on the opposite side. More armor. Some for horses, if I recall our order correctly. Again, Mr TigerMac and I were enthralled. The boys were getting slightly restless.

    I was getting a bit worried that they would soon get very bored...and I had really really thought they'd like this museum.

    Not to worry, though, because in the third long room we entered there were... WEAPONS. Swords. Knives. Spears. Bardiches. Lances. You get the idea. Suddenly, the boys were interested.

    I was at the same time surprised and not surprised.

    So from room to room we went, lingering longer in rooms where the boys could examine things used to hurt people while Mr TigerMac and I examined things used to protect people.

    The medieval collection in this museum is just absolutely amazing. At one point, we passed by big glass windows looking in on a storage area FILLED to the brim with helmets and armor and weapons, etc.

    There was an Oriental section, again with armor that was very lovely, that we visited as well. We missed other parts of the museum (the 'modern' department, from Louisv XIV to Napoleon), because we lingered so long admiring the medieval section.

    We did make it to the 'contemporary' area (covering WWI and II). This part was well organized, with enough to keep the boys interested so that Mr TigerMac and I had time to 'enjoy' it as well. I put enjoy in parenthesis, because this section was not something fun for us. The boys had fun looking at models of ships and subs and airplanes and watching the videos. But the reality of what happened in WWI and WWII is so much more 'near' us today that both Mr TM and I approached it in a much more somber mood than we did the medieval section.

    One part in particular...a display with clothing worn by an occupant of a concentration camp...had Mr TM in tears. And he had to kind of go off by himself to settle down because it took him a while to control his emotions. He said that maybe it was his age: he has been to concentration camps (as a high school and college aged student) and went to Hiroshima (as an adult while visiting Japan for work). But he just found that very simple display of the grey shirt and pants so much more real. I have a very caring, sensitive (though he tries to hide it!) guy I am married to, and though it's not the happiest of memories, it is one that makes me glad I picked a good guy to marry :).

    The boys were getting restless and thirsty about the time that Mr TM had pulled himself together, so we headed for the museum's food area. It was very nice, with an outdoor eating area and elegant interior space. There were sandwiches and plats du jour, wind and coffee, etc., but we opted for soda and sparkling water out of an open refrigerated case. It was not cheap! But it was a bit of a treat to have soda/cold drink and rest our tired feet after finding a table in the back of the dining area.

    After finishing our drinks, we headed to the nearby gift shop. The boys explored the toys, Mr TM looked at books, and I bought a beaded/silk Fleur des Lis Christmas ornament and a tiny puzzle in a tube (with 500 tiny pieces) for my sister, a huge puzzle fan.

    We finished our visit to the museum by heading over to Dome des Invalides, where Napoleon's Tomb is housed. The area is just gorgeous, and I took so many pictures of the floor and windows and the interior of the dome that it's not funny. The tomb itself was a little underwhelming (it's a floor below, and visitors looks down from a large circular open space on the main floor). No problem, though, because the architectural details are otherwise quite breathtaking. The boys took a quick look at the tomb and explored the interior spaces on the main floor. I took a ton of pictures, as I mentioned before.

    And it's late here...the boys are in bed, but Ten is still awake, so I'll head up to settle him down. A shortish part 4 in a day or so, where I get to explore our local Monoprix's upstairs (which has more food!) and we head out for ever more churros.

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    TigerMc, just wanted to add that my boys are so excited about returning to Mittenwald in July (tiny place in Bavaria that we've visited twice before), one of those surprising family favourites and precious memories of family holidays.
    I love reading about your travels as a family, those many little moments that you'll relive for years, thanks for sharing them with us.

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    TRIP REPORT, day 4 in Paris, part 4:

    After leaving Napoleon's Tomb, we headed toward Place Vauban (it took a few minutes to find the exit from the Invalides area onto the street). Once on Vauban, we headed east for short walk to Boulevard des Invalides, turning north there toward the Seine.

    Walking along Blvd des Invalides toward the Seine brings you immediately along the walled exterior garden of the Rodin Museum. There were parts where you could see from the street into the Rodin Museum garden, and I had Mr TigerMac stop to look; the Rodin Museum was one of the first ones we visited years before (when we had yet to have kids and a museum pass burning a hole in our pockets). We had a blast at that museum all those years before, especially exploring the sculptures in the garden. We got to peek at one of the garden sculptures this trip (through the wall/fence) that was one of our faves years before. It was fun to see. We pointed it out to the kids, talked about our first trip there together...and helped get Mr TM's mind off of the concentration camp portion of the Military Museum (because he was still a bit...not teary, but feeling things).

    We turned right (east) at Rue de Varenne, which leads to the entrance of the Rodin Museum. Lines outside were long! Much longer than what we'd seen at the Sewer Museum and at the Military Museum. And actually much longer than we had all those years before. Of course, this was well after lunchtime, so I imagine the later time of day played a part of it.

    NOTE: Lines outside D'Orsay, which was by our apartment, were not hugely long until after Christmas weekend. The D'Orsay was at the D'Orsay came the closer to New Year!

    NOTE II: We didn't go to D'Orsay even though our apartment was a stone's throw away from it. I knew I had so many 'museum credits' to use with Ten and Nine, and if I was going to an art museum, it would be the Louvre. I'm a Louvre kind of girl. (If I won the lotto, I'd spend time every year renting a place in Paris and would spend large portions of my time exploring each little section of the Louvre.) Mr TM and I each offered to take the kids for a half day so the other could see something on their own. I considered D'Orsay, he considered some concerts...but in the end, we did stuff together. As much as I enjoyed the D'Orsay years before, I didn't feel like I missed anything this time.

    We ended up walking past the Rodin Museum and meandered our way toward D'Orsay and our apartment. Nine was complaining about the walk most of the way. It wasn't long...but after our morning, it was LONG, lol. Walking up the stairs to our apartment once we got back home was rough.

    NOTE III: Walking up the stairs (even walking up a handful of flights when we used the elevator) was rough in the afternoons. I blame this mostly on the shoes I brought to Paris. During a few previous 'heavy walking' vacations, I've splurged on Ecco boots...and they have never failed me. The ones I bought for this trip were amazing: great support, comfy fit, easy to walk on cobblestones, nice style, etc. The only problem? They had a wedge sole that was *heavy* by the end of the day. Walking along streets was fine, but lifting those puppies to go up stairs on the metro or up to our apartment was tough! If ever I invest in another pair of Ecco boots for such a trip, they will have a light, flat sole (as my other pairs had). I'm still wearing these boots to work, though...they're still great, so long as I avoid end-of-day stair climbing.

    After arriving back at the apartment and getting the boys to settle down upstairs for a rest (with their electronics), Mr TM stretched out on the sofa downstairs, and I headed to the Monoprix despite my heavy shoes. And this time, I ventured upstairs to see what was what...and what was what up there was tons more food! Yes, there were many household items (soap, toothpaste, over the counter meds, cleaning supplies, paper supplies, etc.). But there was also FOOD: candy, cookies, jelly, tea, coffee, a refrigerated section with meat and frozen goods, soda, juice, milk, yogurt, beer, crackers, rice, canned get the idea.

    I didn't buy much this trip, just did a lot of 'eye' shopping for things to take home (as I love to grocery shop in foreign countries and love to bring home 'local' goodies as gifts). I stocked up on more yogurt, got another small milk, some more of the carton soups we enjoyed, cheese, a bottle of wine, and more bread before heading back to the apartment.

    Once at the apartment, I had a some cheese, baguette, and wine on our little balcony before waking Mr TM up and getting the boys downstairs. They snacked as well on yogurt and bread and cheese and oranges, and then we headed out toward the river once again.

    See, the boys wanted churros and they knew where to find them; so they basically led the way toward D'Orsay, across the street to the pedestrian bridge, across the street to the gardens, and then toward the Big Wheel and then on toward the Christmas Market. It was both nice and scary to watch them navigate this route. Nice in that they felt at home in this part of Paris and were fine walking ahead of us and finding their own way. Scary because they were *really* confident obeying street signs indicating it was ok to cross...traffic always's just that traffic sometimes *barely* stopped for the surge of pedestrians, and when Ten and Nine were leading that surge, it wasn't fun.

    We eventually worked out a deal where they could go ahead of us so long as they held back at street crossings (even then the lights indicated that it was ok to cross)...because Mom wanted to stay sane, I explained. They rolled their eyes, but did as I asked most times.

    The market was crowded again, but by this night, getting to our favorite food booths in the middle was old hat. When we got there, I ordered another Vin Chaud, and Ten went off to the side to order on his own...and managed to use enough of his French to order TWO large orders of churros (24 or so churros in the bad) AND a candy apple. *sigh* Nine was ecstatic with the ginormous bag of fried dough and sugar. I had my mulled wine, so I found the humor in things as well :). We saved the candy apple for after dinner.

    On our way out, the Fountains du Concorde were on, so we stopped again to pose for pictures before heading back home. Dinner was the ground beef, sauce, and pasta we got from Bon Marche, along with cheese, baguettes, pate, and salad. Dessert was the candy apple and Christmas chocolates.

    After dinner, we pulled out the sofa bed and flipped through the satellite TV channels without much success. Showers were soon had by all, and then bed was found by Mr TM while the boys crashed on the sofa. Once everyone was asleep, I had my customary glass of wine while posting photos on Facebook and answering emails to family before heading up to bed myself.

    Next up: probably my favorite day. Gargoyles. Falafel. Shopping. Accidentally finding a place my FiL said we should find. Capped off by the boys waiting patiently to see if a giant bungee carnival ride would have to stop once again because giant bungee rides can make people very sick...

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    Edit, first NOTE:

    The D'Orsay was at the D'Orsay came the closer to New Year...should be:

    The lines at the D'Orsay were much longer the closer we got to New Year!

    Sorry *blush*

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    First, it's been a while since I updated this. Earlier in the comments, we talked about family trips when all involved were adults. I took one of those 'adult family trips' over spring break...Nine, Ten, and I met up with my siblings, various nieces and nephew, and parents. I'm the family travel planner, so much of my time was taken up with the planning. AND, I came home from the trip with a raging cold that turned into a raging sinus infection and am only now getting over both.

    To celebrate the fact that this is the first weekend in a while where I've felt like a human being, I'm posting an update on my favorite overall day in Paris.

    TRIP REPORT, day 5 in Paris, part 1:

    To begin, we tried very hard to minimize the amount of long lines we stood in during this trip. We got lucky with our Christmas Eve trip to the Eiffel Tower; I thought we might have a long wait, but it was 20 minutes more or less from getting in line to getting our tickets. And the tower was one of the 'line' excursions I'd planned during the stay in Paris. The second 'line' excursion was the trip to the top of Notre Dame to see the gargoyles.

    Years ago, when Mr. TigerMac and I went to Paris during Thanksgiving week, we basically walked up to the entrance to see the gargoyles. It was our first day in Paris, after arriving from Belgium and checking into our hotel, and we saw them at dusk. Very magical, and a memory that we both think of fondly. I don't know if we just got lucky that trip or if the gargoyles have gotten more popular, but this time, there was a huge line to climb up the towers.

    In preparation for a line (because I didn't think we'd get so lucky as we did years before), we left 'early' for us, about 9:30. Mr TM and I woke around 8ish and roused the boys instead of letting them sleep in. Breakfast, as it was all week outside of our Christmas morning feast of pastries, was either yogurt and fruit, eggs, toasted baguette slices, or cereal and milk...and, of course, fantastic coffee (Ten and Nine usually had tea).

    After breakfast, we headed out to our metro station, D'Orsay, and within a few minutes, were exiting the Saint-Michelle Notre Dame stop and crossing the Seine to head over to Notre Dame.

    The fencing and security we saw through Christmas were no longer there. There were armed soldiers walking the area (and a patrol vehicle that we saw when standing in line), but not nearly the number we saw the days before.

    We also found the line to see the gargoyles very easily this time, stretching along Rue du Cloitre Notre Dame and all the way along the cathedral almost to the playground/park behind. Yikes! We debated briefly about leaving and trying even earlier another day, but decided to just get in line. We'd been so lucky so far this trip that we figured one line wouldn't hurt us.

    One hour later: we could see the entrance to the tower. The boys were pretty good while we waited and slowly inched forward; they entertained themselves with games on their electronics, and they were good enough to indulge Mr TM when he gave them a brief history/engineering lesson about Notre Dame and its construction.

    Note: we were surrounded by a very diverse array of tourists while standing in line, the vast majority of whom spoke French. We were the only English speakers that I noticed. It was just very interesting, because in previous trips, I've run into many English speaking tourists (especially from the U.K.). I thought over Christmas that there would be even more, but we encountered very few.

    Once we were to the front of the line, we were let into the tower, where we climbed many, many, many circular steps that led to a gift shop, were we bought entry tickets. There was a wait until they let group of us in the shop to up, so we browsed the gift selection (I don't remember there being this shop/wait way back when...I remember buying tickets at the foot of the tower and climbing straight up). Ten looked at necklaces for his GF (a classmate that he's had an 'on again/off again' relationship since they were in KINDEGARTEN, lol). I told him he could buy her a gift using his spending money, and he thought very seriously about buying a somewhat expensive sterling necklace...and then decided on a more reasonable one (not sterling, featuring an angel and his GF's birthstone).

    Once that was paid for, it was time for our group to go up...and so UP UP UP we went! I don't remember how many steps it is to get to the top where the gargoyles are, but there are a lot, and some steps are small, and slippery (well-worn marble?/stone). The boys liked to stop to look out whenever we passed a window, so we didn't rush.

    Eventually, we were out near the gargoyles, and the walkway...which is very narrow...was crowded! But the gargoyles are awesome, and so I took picture after picture after picture. Ten and Nine had fun and pretended to be gargoyles themselves. They also had fun looking out over Paris, toward the Eiffel Tower while they tried to find the things/places we'd visited. I got some amazing shots (by carefully placing by camera up next to the chain fence that lines the walkway so that said fence isn't in the shots). We also climbed up to see a bell, and Mr TM gave the boys another engineering lesson.

    All in all, we were probably up top of Notre Dame about 30 minutes. Not that long, considering the wait, but very worth it, IMO.

    After, we headed down another tower (lots more steps, some small and slippery) and headed over to the park behind Notre Dame when we were done. The boys played on the swing and the rotating thing, while Mr. TM and I discussed plans for lunch, as it was getting close to noon at this point.

    Up next, Falafel so good that Ten and Nine still talk about it and say it was worth the walk. Also, Star Wars graffiti. And a neighborhood I want to stay in if ever we make it back to Paris.

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    I hope you finish this trip report one day. Your boys are around the same ages when my two girls first visited Paris well over 15 years ago. Seeing it again through your children's eyes has been such a delight.

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