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

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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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