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London/Paris with Grandsons - Unqualified Triumphant Success - Phew!

London/Paris with Grandsons - Unqualified Triumphant Success - Phew!

Old Jun 15th, 2012, 03:26 PM
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London/Paris with Grandsons - Unqualified Triumphant Success - Phew!

First I must say a huge thank you Fodorites, for all advice and information given and gleaned from those who have traveled internationally with little ones. I felt well armed and fit for the battle. Well, it wasn't a battle at all, as it turns out, just me being neurotic and unable to see how we could possibly orchestrate this endeavor safely and successfully. But, with Fodorinfo, my dear daughter's excellent planning strategy, the babysitter, my son-in-law and his deep pockets - and me, we juggled the boys between us and it turned out to be a fabulous 10th wedding anniversary celebration for DD and SIL and a great experience for all.

We departed Chicago's O'Hare airport on the 9:05 pm UA flight to Heathrow to meet SIL who had been there working for a week. We flew Economy Plus with a great crew on board that made the flight very easy and pleasant. I sat in center row with two older boys, E and B, three across, with DD and Babysitter just behind with Baby N. Kid's meals served pronto, whipped out iPad with movies and short cartoons and we were good to go until midnight when I shut down the theatre and boys went to sleep until snack service five hours later just before landing. N slept most of the way, thankfully. The boys loved clicking on the map in the video screen on the seat back to see our position and also watched Disney's Beauty and the Beast on one of the channels.

Days 1-4 - London
Activities:
Hyde Park to see Peter Pan Statue at E's request, then Kensington Gardens Diana Memorial Playground
Natural History Museum to see dinosaurs, B's request
Science Museum to see trains, E's request
Tate Modern - DD and SIL
London Duck Tour - all of us (and it was fun!)
Shopping at Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason

Restaurants:
Oliveto - dinner - very good Neapolitan style pizza, salads, pasta, desserts - all
Diana Memorial Garden outdoor kiosk - Greek Salad, pizza, elderberry lemonade - all
Fortnum & Mason's The Parlour - cheese rarebit, duck sandwich, grilled cheese, ice-cream - all
Spaghetti House - chicken fingers, spaghetti bolognaise,, profiteroles (kid's meals)
Cocktails & hors d'oeuvres in Blue Bar at The Berkeley - x2 - me
Dinner Restaurant at Mandarin Oriental Hotel - SIL & DD
Pret a Porter Diamond Jubilee Tea at The Caramel Room at The Berkeley - DD & me

Day 5 - Eurostar to Paris in Premier with lunch on train - first time for us all and it was fabulous!

Days 5-9 - Paris
Hotel Victoria Palace, 6th Arr.

Activities:
Luxembourg Gardens
Eiffel Tower
Bois de Bologne with mini train ride into Jardin d'Acclimation - x2
Notre Dam Cathedral
Bon Marche
Gallerie Lafayette
B's fourth birthday breakfast party with cake, balloons and presents on our last day!
Sightseeing while cabbing back and forth across Paris with baby N and stroller
Lots of Metro rides which the E and B especially enjoyed with their Dad

Restaurants:
La Rotonde - dinner - all - baby N loved my onion soup, good sliced cold lamb- all
Jules Vern at Tour Eiffel - lunch - DD, SIL, E & B - they had a wonderful time and the boys were very well behaved, loved looking out at the panorama of Paris
Monoprix takeout - N and me
Bon Marche - lunch - me (picked up my favorite teas)
Hippopotamus - dinner 3 boys and babysitter - good spot for kids meals
Alcazar - dinner - DD, SIL and me - good food and people watching - saw Gwynith Paltrow on the way through the gallery opening crowds on the way there
Le Gare in the Trocadero - an old train station turned restaurant - excellent food - good kid's menu - DD, SIL, E, B and me
Francois Felix in the 8th - snack while window shopping - white asparagus and watermelon soup - with wine, of course - DD, me
Laduree - had to bring some of those home! - me
The Ritz for afternoon tea - DD, me
Le Petit Pavillion - Jardin d'Acclimation - lunch - all on day of B's birthday - all
Angelina's - hot chocolate and candy bars to bring home - Jardin d'Acclimation - all
La Coupole - a favorite of mine for ambiance and people watching, not so much the food -me
Le Relais de l'Entrecote - dinner - all - BTW, what's in that secret sauce?

Buffet breakfast was included at both hotels, handy and important for an orderly start to the day's activities with everyone comfortable and well fed. There was enough variety to please the adults as well as the three boys.

Our return flight was pretty much a repeat with same seating, great flight crew, although baby Noah was awake for most of the seven+ hours. DD and babysitter had their work cut out for them to keep him occupied. 6 ft+ SIL sat across from their row in a double on the aisle and said he was pretty comfortable, given the extra few inches of space in Economy Plus. When this trip was in the planning stage, my one requirement was that we would fly Economy Plus, regular Economy being out of the question and the cost of seven Business Class seats prohibitive. I usually upgrade or trade in miles for Business Class when traveling internationally since I'm past the point of biting that bullet.

This was my fifth trip to Paris and I'm very happy to say it was the best of all. To be with my precious family at this special time in their lives meant so much. In addition, to pass on my love of travel and share in their wonderment - priceless!
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Old Jun 15th, 2012, 03:35 PM
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P.S. Forgot to mention hotel in London which was The Berkeley and a fantastic stay it was. They rolled out the red carpet for the family, as DD had told them it was a Tenth Anniversary trip. Champagne and truffles in their room and in the connector for the babysitter and boys, Teddy bear for baby, candy gifts for E and B, little robes and slippers, egg cups with tiny spoons and balloons. On arrival we were served with hot chocolate, tea and coffee with biscuits in the Parent's room. It was a lovely and very posh welcome, to say the least.

At The Victoria Palace Hotel the children were each given a cornet shaped packet with candy and toys inside, as well as personalized age appropriate books.
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Old Jun 15th, 2012, 07:03 PM
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Great trip report - decadent and luxurious, and wonderful to have been a part of it with your family for a special occasion. Enjoyed reading of your activities (for all ages) and restaurant and hotel experiences, and am glad that it worked so well for a group of seven, of varied ages and interests. Enjoyed your precis writing style too.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jun 16th, 2012, 05:38 AM
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Thanks for your comment, Mathieu. It truly was an amazing trip. I might mention here that staff at both hotels could not have been more accommodating and receptive to our three little boys of 20 months, 4 and 6 years. In both cities, every where we went we were met with smiles and kindness in the restaurants, museums, shops, etc. The boys have been taught by example to be mannerly, polite and respectful no matter where in the world we may be and the payback is in the reciprocity. I was so proud of them as the two older boys were able to use their French please and thank you as well as other basic phrases they have so far learned at the international school they attend.
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Old Jun 16th, 2012, 05:53 AM
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What a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing. I'm more happy for you than I am jealous. First class was never in my late DH's vocabulary! LOL.
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Old Jun 17th, 2012, 07:13 AM
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Everything sounds delightful - from your grandsons to the elderberry lemonade in Kensington Gardens.
Thank you so much for sharing
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Old Jun 17th, 2012, 10:52 AM
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Treavelchat, my compom;liments ! What a fantastic opportunity, as you say, to share your love of travel with two other generations. I envy you, and think I will begin to plan to emulate some of your travel savy and good ideas for travel with kids. Your details are helpful and the TR is very interesting to read. I think I would have loved it even if I didn't consider traveling with my DD's little ones. So, Merci.
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Old Jun 17th, 2012, 10:53 AM
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Sorry, ' my compliments !'
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Old Jun 19th, 2012, 02:31 PM
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TSusette, lantana, MarnieWDC
Thank you for your kind comments. When my daughter dropped the bomb that she was making plans for this trip, I had just returned from an October jaunt to Paris for four days on my own before joining a tour group to Provence, the Riviera and Monaco. Of course I jumped on the band wagon after hesitating for only a short while to think it over. I figured she would definitely be needing me and my travel smarts to help this trip along. LOL.

Five of our nine nights I had the older two boys sleep in my room which gave the babysitter some relief after long days helping with all three. Having my own separate room gave me maximum privacy as well as vital catching up on rest time also. A rollaway in both mine and the babysitter/boys connector to the parent's room made for an easy last minute decision as to where the two older ones would sleep each night, depending on the adults dinner plans.

As a footnote to our time in Paris, we did experience a most unpleasant incident. After our dinner at Alcazar in St, Germain we walked to the corner where Cafe Buci is located, where there is a taxi stand across the street. We got in line to wait for available taxis as they came along. My SIL saw one coming from around the corner and flagged it down. When it stopped a hostess from the Cafe ran across the street opened the rear door on the driver's side, jumped in and said in quite a rude way that this was now her cab for a customer at Cafe Buci and offered to pay the cab driver extra to refuse our fare and take her customers. She was British but spoke in French to the cabbie. He was not happy and said he would not take either of us but when we stepped away he motioned for the other party to get in the cab. We saw her do this a couple of times to others as we waited quite a long time for a taxi to finally take us back to our hotel. Frustrating for us and very bad karma for Cafe Buci.

But you meet all kinds and you take your lumps. It did dampen our spirits, but only temporarily. Other than that, all interaction with everyone else we encountered in our ten fabulous days abroad was amazing, heartwarming and as of now, filed away under "Treasured Memories".

Roll on next journey(s)!
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Old Jun 22nd, 2012, 01:59 PM
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That restaurant/taxi situation would've really ruffled my feathers, travelchat I think my husband would've simply outbid that hussy. Grrr

Sounds like a really special trip.

I leave in 19 days for a London/Paris trip with my 15-y-o daughter and look forward to making "treasured memories" of my own

Thanks again so much for your report.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2012, 02:27 PM
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Really beautiful trip report, thanks for sharing it with us.

I am so glad you all had a great vacation.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2012, 02:50 PM
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What wonderful memories your boys will have. Excellent report
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Old Jun 24th, 2012, 05:36 AM
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Lantana
We were pretty bummed by the Cafe Buci taxi incident. In Chicago that kind of thing could get you dead real quick. I have always thought the British regarded jumping the queu a capital crime and since the nasty perpatrator was British this came as even more of an affront. However, we survived and have chalked it up as just one of those unwelcome travel glitches that now and then occur.
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Old Jun 24th, 2012, 05:44 AM
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P.S. Lantana
Looking forward to reading the trip report of your upcoming London/Paris trip with daughter! I know it will be a smashing success and provide wonderfully memorable moments for both of you to look back on.
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Old Jun 24th, 2012, 06:32 AM
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" In Chicago that kind of thing could get you dead real quick. "

Thank you so much about my trip - look for my TR in early August!
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