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Elmo in Paris: The Parisian Adventures of Two Parents, One Toddler and One Red Monster

Elmo in Paris: The Parisian Adventures of Two Parents, One Toddler and One Red Monster

Old Nov 29th, 2008, 08:15 AM
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Elmo in Paris: The Parisian Adventures of Two Parents, One Toddler and One Red Monster

My husband, 21 month old daughter (at the time) and I visited Paris October 8-18. The trip was both wonderful and exhausting. Exhausting, well you can imagine why. Wonderful because traveling with a toddler who is excited by everything and eager to explore her world forces you to slow down, look around and enjoy the moment. Although we were constantly on the move, this was not a whirlwind trip. We really enjoyed the delight of just being in Paris, spending time outdoors (we lucked out on the weather) and seeing the city through a child's eyes. While that perspective involved a lot of time examining puddles, ducks and cigarette butts, it also allowed us to enjoy all the small joys of a beautiful city.

Last year around the same time we took our first trip overseas with our daughter (aka “La Petite” or “LP”) to Rome when she was 9 months old.  We had a fabulous time.  We were very nervous before we went but traveling with an infant was much easier than we expected and so rewarding.  We were exhilarated and immediately after that experience we began planning our next adventure.  Again, we chose to go to a city that we had been to many times before, were familiar with and where we would not be disappointed if we missed out on some sightseeing.  We decided to stay in one place for the whole time and do day trips if we wanted so we would have to move.  We booked our tickets very early (for us) - in May for October - and got a good deal on US Air tickets from Boston connecting through Philadelphia (the direct flight was much more expensive). We rented an apartment on the Left Bank.  We were looking forward to the trip for months and were very excited....although as our daughter because a typical pig headed toddler, we began to have some doubts. 

I used the Forum extensively to read all the postings about traveling with kids. Thank you Mebe, lawmom, BKP, jck4, and others for the useful information.  While my husband was taking French lessons and sensibly reading about exhibits and happenings in Paris I agonized over whether to bring regular or disposable bibs, to buy my wipes and home or bring them, etc.   Clearly time well spent! 

We bought LP a seat on the plane as when we went to Rome we plopped her in the carseat and she slept for entire flight.  No such luck this time.  Despite getting good advice on the forum to leave our bulky carseat at home and use the 1lb CARES harness, we brought the carseat.  A friend let us borrow her Go Go Kidz wheels which helped in that you can roll the carseat around the airport but it is still a heavy unwieldy bundle.  On the plane, our daughter refused to sit in the carseat.  I have no idea why, she is fine with it in the car but I guess that is just one of those irrational toddler things.  We forced her to sit in it during take off.  After her screaming for 15 minutes straight (and not just the kind of crying you can blame on her ears hurting where the other passengers m ight feel bad for you but articulate protests of "Mama Up, Up! Dada up!  Up! Up!").  If there was ever a time I was hoping to be teleported to another dimension, this was it.  After a while we couldn't take it anymore, took her out of the carseat and she remained on my lap for the next 7 hours with intermittent periods of sleep.  If we hadn't had the damn carseat I actually think she would have sat in the seat.  Oh well.    Anyway, we finally got to Paris, no problem getting our bags, got in a taxi (where yes, I did use the carseat) and we were off on our hour long car ride at rush hour into Paris.

We rented apartment 148 from Vacation in Paris (http://www.vacationinparis.com/apts/id_148.htm).  The location was perfect for us - right across the street from Jardin Luxembourg so the little one could have some time to run around each day and convenient to shops, restaurants and sites.  It was also spacious - a decent size living dining room with two bedroom that each had queen size beds (not the typical Napolean sized beds).  The washing machine actually worked although it took about 6 hours to wash 4 pairs of underwear some socks and pair of jeans that came out soaking wet and the views from this top floor were fabulous.  The decoration was austere which suited us, less for LP to break.
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 08:20 AM
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THE GEAR

The Gear

We brought:
1. Carseat - useless (see above).  So sick of dragging it around airport, contemplated leaving it in the airport but realized we may be mistaken for terrorists and took it.
2. Maclaren stroller - great, reliable, would have been even better if baby sat in it
3. Inflatable Booster Seat - used in apartment which was handy.  Didn't carry around with us. From One Step Ahead
4. Kids Aerobed - didn't use because apartment ended up having two big beds so wasn't worried LP would fall off
5. A few sippy cups, plastic forks and spoons - used all and all could be thrown out or lost
6. Disposable bibs and Sesame Street Table Toppers - great for amusing LP in restaurants
7. A few coloring books, sticker books, washable crayons (I stress washable since the world is her canvas) and small toys
8. Enough diapers and wipes for the plane
9. Snacks for the plane plus little boxes of raisins (my husband laughed at me for bringing them but provided a source of amusement as well as food), some oatmeal packets
10. Our cell phones for both me and my husband that work in France (our regular T Mobile phones do) so that if one of us needed to leave a museum early or stay back for a nap we could reach the other to catch up. On our last trip we only had one phone that worked and it was so much more convenient to be able to reach one another to change plans at the last minute if needed.
11. Elmo, blankie and puppy - absolutely the most important items

Easy to buy diapers and baby supplies in grocery store or pharmacy.  Food was not an issue.  Paris is perfect for kids - french fries, pastries, ice cream, flavorful vegetables, mild cheeses, baguettes....
Any gear questions, don't hesitate to ask.  I promise to move onto more interesting material.....
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 08:22 AM
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Day 1
When we arrived at the apartment it had not yet been cleaned and some else's luggage was there. Since my husband is helping me write this, I have to fess up that I freaked out a bit because the place looked like a total mess, the approach to the apartment was sketchy (you have to climb up a narrow flight of stairs after you get off the elevator and because some roof work was going on, there were ladders all over the place, I even saw a mousetrap). Seeing someone else's luggage there, I was absolutely convinced that we have been double booked and no we had no where to stay. My husband calmed me down and as I was trying to figure out how to call the rental agency on my cell phone, the cleaning person arrived and assured me that the luggage belonged to the guests who were leaving. We decided to go out while she cleaned.

Headed first across the street to the Jardins Luxembourg. It was the kind of warm sunny day when you really feel like being outside. The trees had changed color to a soft orange and the light this time of year (October) is really beautiful. Our daughter had now slept about 3 hours out of the past 30 hours so we figured she was exhausted but the moment she saw ducks in the central fountain of the garden, she was off chasing the ducks. After an hour or so, we probably should have headed back to the now cleaned apartment to nap like sensible people, but we were so excited to be off that damn plane that we decided to stay out. We walked up into the 6th near the Odeon and decided that we were hungry. We decided to test out our new Pudlo Guide decided on Les Racines which was right down the street. This was our first try eating out with LP. The waiter was very friendly and didn't seem to mind having a child in the restaurant. I ordered something for my daughter which was basically macaroni and cheese. I tasted it when it came to make sure it wasn't hot. Oh my gosh. It was delicious. I swear that was the best thing I ate in Paris the whole week. Now after spending the last year eating more macaroni and cheese than anyone over the age of 6 should, I consider myself a connoisseur. We only use the boxed stuff (never Kraft) on occasion and have tried the offerings all over Boston. But this was something else entirely – the cheese was amazing and it was delicious. Fortunately my LP was hungry and dug in and ate fast or there would have been nothing left for her. Good start to the trip! After lunch, LP fell asleep in a macaroni-induced slumber and we walked along the river. Ended up at Bertillon (LP conveniently woke up in time for that). I have to say, I was not impressed. I have had better ice cream at lots of other places. My husband had some unusual flavor that he really enjoyed but the baci flavor was not that great and there was a big line and the portions are tiny. We walked around a bit more until we were about to fall asleep standing, headed back to the apartment (which had been vacated by the previous renters, cleaned and looked great) and fell asleep.

Day 2
Decided to do something new today (for us) and walked up to La Bastille and Canal St. Martin. It was an interesting walk. Past La Bastille we walked on a street (I forget the name) with a continuous park/ playground in the middle of it which was quite nice for breaks with LP. We had lunch in another lovely cafe – Cafe de Paris. The Canal St. Martin area was fun to go to. Good stores including my favorite Antoine and Lili (even a kids store too). There were a zillion people out with strollers so we felt like we fit right in. LP fell fast asleep so we spent some time walking around and then walked to Butte Chaumont which is a large park built on a former asbestos(?) quarry. It was built in the 1900s and is designed with a serious of steep hills. LP was still sleeping as we enjoyed another beautiful day being outside. We realized that since it was Friday the Louvre was open late and since LP had just taken a 3 hour nap, she wasn't going to bed anytime soon so we headed off to the Louvre. We took the Metro which wasn't as bad with a stroller as people had warned but there was a lot of up and down (my husband who had to carry the stroller may have a different opinion!). The Louvre is so beautiful at night. All of the interesting architectural details really stand out under the spot lights. Since we were getting tired, we decided to hit the big impact art – the large French and Italian paintings. Took a great picture of husband and LP in front of the Wedding Feast of Cana. Since those rooms are huge and it wasn't too crowded, I let LP run loose which worked out fine as she just liked walking back and forth in the huge rooms. It was almost 10pm so we took a cab back to the apartment. Ate a dinner of nutella and bread and went to sleep.
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 03:57 PM
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enjoying this !!

We took our dd's 5yrs. and 7yrs. two years ago and are debating going this spring adding their little brother. It would mean ages 5,7,9.

We loved traveling with our kids - we found people were *really* nice. Our theory was that they liked seeing kids ?
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 07:41 AM
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Great report so far. I have never understood why certain people worry about Paris not being child-friendly.

I was taken here several times as a child and always loved every minute of it.
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 09:13 AM
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ttt
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 09:52 AM
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This is fabulous--please keep it coming!

What time was your flight to Paris--overnight? I have a 2 1/2 year old who has only flown with us stateside. I'm scared of the long overnight flight across the Atlantic! We've used a car seat and had great luck. I am sorry your "LP" wouldn't sleep in hers on this flight--you never know what will happen with toddlers, do you?
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 10:00 AM
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Sally30. Thanks for writing this up. Very enjoyable, and looking forward to more.

Anselm
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Great report. I've just become the grandmother of twins and can hardly wait until they're old enough to travel in Europe. I guess that will come sooner than I thought given your experience.
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 04:42 PM
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Thanks for the encouragement. I've never written a full blown trip report before so I'm glad someone is reading it! Installments may be a bit slower coming after this one as I head back to work tomorrow

Lee4 - yes it was an overnight flight. The flight to Philadelphia was around 2 and then the flight to Paris was about 6pm.

Day 3
When I was 16 years old, I did a summer exchange with a family in Normandy. Before the trip I reconnected with the daughter of the family who is my age. We informally planned to meet up today but I hadn't heard from her before I left. Today I checked my email first thing and she had emailed a couple days before to say that she and her husband were free for lunch. We woke up quite late so I ran back to the apartment, got everyone ready and we headed out to meet them near the Eiffel Tower. Traffic was so slow we were quite late but we had a nice view of the Rue des Grenelles on the way. It was great to see her after so many years and we had a lovely meal together. It was great to let someone else do the ordering and not feel like a tourist for once.

LP got restless at the end so DH took her outside. She returned with a half-eaten (unwashed, yuck) quart of strawberries. The waiter brought over a bowl of water for her to wash them in (I am pretty sure the restaurant was not "bring your own fruit") and he was quite nice about it. I guess even she could tell the fruit is better looking in Europe!

My mother was planning to come visit us for the weekend (she was working in Germany for the month) so we went back to the apartment to wait for her. When she didn't show up for about an hour, we headed out to the Jardins Luxembourg to wait. Another beautiful sunny day. There park was absolutely bursting with families enjoying this nice day. But leaving the apartment turned out to be a mistake because my mother didn't know (nor did I) that her cell phone did not work outside Germany so she kept trying to call me in the apartment while we were outside and ended up waiting outside our building for over an hour. Fortunately we were directly next to a cell phone store where she befriended the clerk and was able to use his phone.

Finally, we met up and was able to calm my normally very good-natured mother (who has been living in a rural area with a dearth of decent restaurants) with the promise of a good meal. We went back to the park to get my husband and walked around a bit until it was 7pm and we headed to Les Fernadaise for dinner. LP was asleep in her stroller, there was no one in the restaurant and we figured no one would show up until 8pm so we decided to go in. The food was very good and reasonably priced (thanks again Mr. Pudlo). LP woke up mid-meal and was fine in the restaurant. In fact, she was intrigued by my mushroom soup starter and ate most of it. It was really good. Wish I could have had some of it! The restaurant began to fill up just as we were finishing and LP was ready to leave. After a good meal and some wine, things were smoothed with my mother and we headed home.
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 02:59 AM
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Glad your meal at Ferendaise was good. That place has been on my list for a while. Guess we'll have to give it a try next trip.
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 07:56 AM
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Sally30 -- I am loving your trip report! It's so informative. I tell everyone "Go, take your kid, it will be wonderful!" But this post really gives people the ideas and tools to do it. Wonderful.

By the way - I am flying overseas with my toddler by ourselves next week! I don't know why I agreed to my husband flying later. I am terrified! Flying with kids has to be the worst part of any trip!
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 08:40 AM
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A unique report, S. Loving it!
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 01:08 PM
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Enjoying your report; thanks.
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 03:56 PM
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This info is priceless!

I'm flying with my toddler in January (hubby staying home), so I'm now considering getting a CARES harness and leaving the car seat behind!

Thanks.
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 06:49 PM
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Sally, I'm enjoying this. And I commend you on not letting your parenthood prevent you from traveling. What a rich experience for your child - she's a lucky girl. I'm sure you will continue to take her as she grows older and she will be head and shoulders above other kids her age.

I never thought to go to the Louvre at night. I'm going to try that when we return to Paris next May.
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 07:03 PM
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All I can say, I wish I had parents that took me on travels.
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 08:11 PM
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Lovely to read your experiences with a toddler Sally. We took our son to Europe and the middle east when only 2 years old and until now thought we must have been bonkers!
Not so - you,ve prooved it!
PLEASE give me the address of Restaurant Les Ferendaise?
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Old Dec 1st, 2008, 08:28 PM
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Our experience in Europe with kids years ago was so positive that our motto was, "If you don't have kids with you in Europe, rent some".

They serve as an instant introduction to the European way of life as friendly people gravitate to the children, and you can use them as an instant passport to get to know some wonderful people.

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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 03:30 AM
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Thanks again for the encouragement! Siena1 - if you don't need the carseat while you are on the trip, I would definitely try the CARES harness. Even if your child doesn't like it, you can just throw it in your bag and use the two seats to spread out.

The address is:
La Ferrandaise
www.laferrandaise.com
8, Rue Vaugirard
75006 Paris, France
+33 1 43 26 36 36

Will try to post more later.
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