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threehearts Oct 14th, 2007 05:41 AM

Mom and 12 y/o long weekend- Paris or Rome?
I could really use some help from my Fodors friends. My family has had a bit of a difficult year and I would like to take my 12 y/o daughter away, from the evening of 10/31(Wed.) and return on the following Sunday. We would really only have about 48 hrs. of real touring time since I am assuming that Thurs. will be a bit shot. My daughter is dying to go to Rome and I would like that as well. We used to live in EuropeStockholm) so I am not a complete novice but I must admit that I'm a bit afraid to navigate on my own, not speaking the language. Paris flights are much cheaper than to Rome but my last experience in Paris was 20 yrs. ago with a friend and it was not altogether positive. I don't speak a word of French and I had a difficult time trying to communicate. My last trip to Rome, I found the people of that city more willing to work with my attempts. In short, can you please recommend a centrally located hotel in either city that would be able to pre-book English speaking tours and in general, help out a Mom and her daughter who are trying to make the best of a short visit? The price is less important than the customer service and location. If you have an opinion as to which city you prefer for a long weekend and why, that would be wonderful. I have looked at the NYT 36 hrs. in Rome and Paris and I have researched here. I see that people have taken weekend trips but not so much with a child. thanks very much. Threehearts

ellene Oct 14th, 2007 06:00 AM

Took my 11 year old to Paris 6 months ago. I speak no french. Had a fabulous time, language not an issue, great metro system, so easy to get around. But the eiffel tower, top of notre dame, and many visits to Berthillon later, it was a great trip. We only went for 4 days, and it was fine.

threehearts Oct 14th, 2007 06:26 AM

Hi Ellene,

Would you mind letting me know where you stayed and what mode of transportation did you find the most helpful. Did you buy a tourist travel card? Thanks, Threehearts

JeanneB Oct 14th, 2007 08:11 AM

I love both cities, but for your particulars I would choose Paris---unless daughter REALLY wants Rome. Maybe things have changed in 20 years..I have never felt uncomfortable in Paris. On such a short visit I doubt you'll wind up in places where you can't be understood.

You don't say what your budget is, but take a look at Hotel DE Notre Dame. There are several similarly named hotels...this is the one on Rue Maitre Albert. It is about as centrally located as one can get: 100 yards from the river right at Notre Dame. I've stayed there several times and it's very nice. They may have recently changed their name to Hotel Maitre Albert---after the little street they're on. Most reviews here and on Trip Advisor/elsewhere would be under the old name.

opaldog Oct 14th, 2007 08:27 AM

Having been to Paris many times and Rome only once (we are going back this March), I would recommend Paris. We have done a few long weekends to Paris. We always had a great time. We stay in the Marais. We love that area. Our first visit we stayed in the Hotel de la Bretonnerie
This is a reservation website, but you can book the hotel a variety of ways. For a first visit we fell in love with the city, partly due to the location of and room in the hotel. You can walk very easily from the Marais, as well as use public transportation. I would suggest you stay in the 4th as it is nearer to the river. There are so many things to do with a 12 year old in Paris. Of course the usual sights, but I also enjoyed the Canal St. Martin boat ride up and down the locks right through Paris.

MaureenB Oct 14th, 2007 08:38 AM

But, if your daughter is dying to go to Rome, and you would like that as well, I don't see why Rome would be a problem except the airfare might be more, like you said.

I went to Rome with my daughter and it was wonderful. We didn't use any concierge services at our hotel, the Domus Julia, so I can't comment on that. We liked the little hotel, near the Spanish Steps and Barberini Palace.

But, for your needs, many posters rave about the two Daphne properties in Rome. They loan you a cell phone and they are very helpful. There's the Daphne Trevi, and I think the other is called the Daphne Inn. Give them a try for availability-- we couldn't stay there because they had a three-night minimum in May/June.

Good luck with your trip.

Michel_Paris Oct 14th, 2007 08:46 AM

Hi threehearts,

I too would recommend Paris. I was there for a Wed-Sun long weekend last November.

I think you will get a better impression of Paris this time round. With a few key phrase to get you by, a lack of french will not be an issue. Many (most) on this board who go to Paris do no have french proficiency.

Restaurants will post their menus outside, so you can scan/translate before going in. There are places with english menus, but I think will find that they will help. If you search here you will find books/websites (Patricia Wells for example) of menu translators.

Paris is such a beautiful place for walking, sitting in cafes, art, history, architecture, parks..I find it one of my best places to go to forget about back home.

I've been many times, so my trips are turning into mostly just walking, seeing a few sites, eating well,etc..If you go, people here could help plan an itinerary that won't involve "10 AM, Louvre...12-1 lunch, 1-3 Orsay,etc"
There are several posts here of people who took/want to take teenagers to Paris. Some good ideas and feedback (e.g. Fat Bike Tour,Segway tour, shopping, science museum, Seine boat cruises, picnics in parks,Eiffel tower, rollarblading, etc)

Any budget in mind? Hotels in Paris will of course come in all price ranges, but for 100-150 euros per night you can do quite well. I'd recommend staying in the 4/5/6/7th arrondissements (districts) which are central and walking distance to some sights. I know the De Notre Dame hotel, not stayed there, but it is no my list. Good location, very easy walking distance to many things. The LE Notre dame is noather one, it has views of Notre Dame and the Seine, in a bit busier location. If the budget allows it, staying on Ile St Louis is a treat. Island next to the island with Notre Dame, it is a small island area with some good restos, shopping on main street, easy walk to Metro, RER train to airport, and is quieter at night. A nice neighbourhood feel to it.

The Metro and train system is very good, extensive, and not very expensive. Once you use it, easy to get around.

We're here to help...


ira Oct 14th, 2007 12:20 PM

Hi T,

>My daughter is dying to go to Rome and I would like that as well.<

That's that then, init? :)


ira Oct 14th, 2007 12:22 PM

Posted too quickly.

Should you decide to go to Paris:

>recommend a centrally located hotel in either city that would be able to pre-book English speaking tours and in general, help out ...<

We always stay at the Hotel Bonaparte, 61 Rue Bonaparte in the 6th. From 128E dbl w/bkfst. It is located near 3 metro stops. Has AC and an elevator.

Tel 33 1 43 26 97 37
FAX 33 1 46 33 57 67
[email protected]

For more info, enter "Hotel Bonaparte" in the "search this forum" box.

Photos are at


MilenaM Oct 14th, 2007 04:48 PM

Three summers ago, I took my then 10 year old daughter to Rome, Paris, Brussels and Bruges. She liked Rome more than she liked Paris. The only regret I have is going to the Roman Zoo in the Borghese Gardens, which we could have done without. Enjoy your stay!

SusanP Oct 14th, 2007 05:33 PM

Well, Rome is my favorite place, so you know what I would recommend! But more important, your daughter is dying to go there. Why is there any question in your mind as to where you should go?!

I can't help with hotels in Rome, as I usually stay in an apartment, but I wouldn't write off Thursday completely.

As someone who has chosen to go to Rome during a very difficult time in my life, I would highly recommend that you forget the tours. You have Thursday, Friday & Saturday to work with. Pick one or two things that you really want to see for each day (OK, only one thing for Thursday, the easiest and preferably outdoors), and then just enjoy Rome in between (stroll, stop for a gelato, enjoy the fountains, etc., there is something around every corner). Rome is a great place to get perspective and just relax and enjoy all the beautiful things available.

Ask your daughter what three things she would most like to see in Rome, and include one each day. Then just enjoy. :-d

JeanneB Oct 14th, 2007 05:56 PM

For Rome, also take a look at Hotel Parlamento. I don't think the website shows the terrace rooms, but they're reviewed extensively on Trip Advisor. Good location, easy walk to everything.

You will find Rome hotels considerably more expensive than Paris.

threehearts Oct 15th, 2007 04:08 AM

You are all just wonderful!! Thanks for the tips on Paris and Rome. We would like to spend no more than $500USD/night on a hotel and have it be in walking distance to many attractions. In Rome, my daughter would like to go to the Vatican and see the main historic sites. I understand that we could get a taxi back to our hotel from the Vatican if we say a prayer and beg(LOL). I was thinking of a guided tour to see as much as possible in the short amount of time. Not to bore you but I am on chemotherapy and while generally well, I'm hoping for a trip where getting to the sites is easy and where I perhaps don't have to navigate the bus system. This is really pathetic but I am just terrible with a sense of direction. If a person tells me to go north on Main St., I might get lost. On the other hand, I'm okay with maps and Metros. Again, I so appreciate all of the thoughtful advice. I'm leaning toward Rome as it is my daughter's dream but I can also see possibilities with Paris. I'm a little daunted by getting around Paris with a child but feeling more confident now. Susan

JeanneB Oct 15th, 2007 07:25 AM

$500US will buy you a fantastic hotel in either city. I don't even have a list of hotels in that range, but I know the del Senato (Rome) is often and highly recommended here.

We only used a cab in Rome a couple of times, but it was easy (especially letting the hotel do it for us!). There's no ubiquitous metro like in Paris. But I think you'll do about the same amount of walking in either place.

Your trip sounds dreamy. Have a wonderful time!

MaureenB Oct 15th, 2007 08:04 AM

$500USD/night is a healthy budget! We saw this little hotel, smack in the middle of designer shopping on Condotti street, and thought it looked very classy. I am not good with directions, either, but from this location, we could walk to the Trevi, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Navonna.

From my trip notes:
"La Lumiere di Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps), has rooftop dining, is in an old mansion on Condotti street. More expensive than our Hotel Julia, I'm sure."

Sounds like you deserve a get-away. Have fun planning it.

dawnnoelm Oct 15th, 2007 08:19 AM

I highly recommend Context Tours. We used them in Rome and Florence last summer and they were wonderful. I had my 10 year old and 14 year old with us.

Nikki Oct 15th, 2007 08:35 AM

Since your daughter really wants to go to Rome and you would also like that, it would be my first choice. The only reason I would pick Paris instead would be if you could get non-stop flights to Paris but not to Rome.

I fly from Boston, which does have non-stop flights to Paris but not to Rome. For a short trip such as the one you propose, the less time you spend traveling to and from Europe the better. And if you do decide on Paris, I would add that I do not think it is any harder to get around Paris than Rome; in fact I think it is easier. I also think you will find more people who speak English in Paris now than you did twenty years ago.

gruezi Oct 15th, 2007 09:43 AM

Dear Threehearts,

I have a daughter about the same age as yours and another one who is 17... Was reading your thread for ideas as I head to Paris with the older one in Nov... We also spent 8 days in Rome in May. I think either ciy will be fun for you both. Pick one or two things each day to do and then just stroll and enjoy some shopping and people watching.

I'm an oncology nurse so your story really touches me. I hope you have a really nice bonding weekend with your daughter. Try to remember that your weekend away is

gruezi Oct 15th, 2007 09:49 AM

ugh... computer ate that before I was ready...

anyway, remember your perfect weekend away may not look like anybody elses and so do what feels like fun to you both at the time and don't worry too much about itineraries etc.

In Rome, my girls loved the Vatican, Villa Borghese and the Pantheon. Plus gelato and pasta and hanging out around the Spanish Steps...

I wish you a wonderful trip - please let us know how it goes!

Diane60030 Oct 15th, 2007 11:59 AM

If your daughter wan't to visit the Vatican you might want to consider staying at a near by convent.

Has a listing of a number of them. It doesn't sound like you are going to have to worry about a curfew so this might work for you.

dutyfree Oct 15th, 2007 12:01 PM

Go to Rome but we can find a hotel WAYYY cheaper than $500 a night I think. I stay up on the Via Veneto area by the Embassy everyweek for work and its a nice area but difficult for the public transportation thing unless you walk down the hill to the bottom for the metro.
My daughter and I love the area off Via Nationale(sp?) as it is close for the bus,train ,metro or getting a cab.It has great shopping that is reasonable for a 12 year old and interesting to check out.
Our favorite spot is Hotel Aberdeen(on Via Firenze) which is in Rick Steves and Frommers books-3 cousins run it and it has everything you would want:TV,A/C,safe,minbar,internet,great bathrooms and rooms along with a wonderful breakfast in the morning. In January we usually pay 85 euros for 2 and I believe now would be around 125 euros.Check their website out.The three ladies who run this hotel are the best-you ask them anything and you get perfect directions,reservations made,etc.They really make you feel as though you are family and go out of their way for you.
My daughter and I did a last minute trip a few weeks ago and could not get the Aberdeen and all the other hotels were going to be over 200 euros so we stayed down on the same street on Hotel Nadasi which was alright for a few days-I love the Aberdeen though and I stay at a very nice hotel up by the Borghese everyweek.
For a full 3 days there-do a half day with the Vatican in the morning;another half day at the Forum and ruins; and also make sure that you go across the river to Trastevere for a meal and shopping. The store Oviesse is over the grocery Standa(think Target and lesser priced H and M store)and is a great place for teens to shop at reasonable prices. My daughter loves that store as she gets clothing there and everyone back home wants to know where you has gotten them.
Allow time for gelato,sitting with a coffee or coke and hitting the other tourist spots-I think that you will have a ball!

samsmom1127 Oct 15th, 2007 12:12 PM

Last February, I took my then 14 y.o daughter to Rome. It was a fabulous trip for both of us. At your budget, you would certainly be able to stay at the Albergo del Senato right on the Piazza del Rotunda (the Pantheon's square.) In any case, if Rome is your choice, I would advise looking at this site and at trip advisor and finding a hotel that is in the Pantheon/Piazza Navonna/Campo de Fiori area for such a brief first visit. You will find yourself literally tripping over gorgeous, facinating, historic things every time you step outside. The recommendation of Context tours is a good one, as is settling on just 2 or 3 "must sees" for this trip, and filling in as you feel like when you get there. Rome is so full of wonderful things that you will not get to see them all in one trip, so just spend lots of time smelling the roses (or just the Roman air. My daughter cranked open the window every morning so she could "smell Rome.")

All of that having been said, we are heading to Paris this March for spring break!

Wherever you decide, I hope you and your daughter have a wonderful time just being together in a fabulous European city.

threehearts Oct 18th, 2007 08:00 AM

Thank you all for your insights and recommendations. My husband is now not sure that he can he be home to take care of our son while we're away. I am ignoring him and moving ahead with our plans(LOL). I am now researching your hotel suggestions and looking into Context Tours as suggested. I bought a slew of guidebooks yesterday and in a few days, I hope to have the core plan down but probably not the details. Again, many thanks for your help. Threehearts

JeanneB Oct 18th, 2007 12:20 PM

We'll be in Rome next month and are using a private tour guide: 2 days, 3 hours each day.

Francesca Caruso is often recommended here. She wasn't available, so suggested we use Sonia (?). She's been delightful in our pre-trip planning. I'm not where I can access my notes. But if you like, I'll post her email later.

Anna1013 Oct 18th, 2007 01:09 PM


Hope you and your daughter have a wonderful time on your trip to Rome! Have you already purchased your airplane tickets? I'm always impressed with people who can plan last minute trips, since we are the complete opposite!

Please post a trip report after you have come back - I'm sure everyone would love to hear how your trip went!

threehearts Oct 18th, 2007 01:20 PM

Yeah!! My husband did get the days off. I will buy the air tix tonight. The Albergo del Senato is sold out for our 11/1-11/4 dates so now looking again at centrally located hotels. Will update soon. Threehearts

threehearts Oct 18th, 2007 05:15 PM

Hi Jeanne, I did a search and did find Sonia's contact information on Fodor's. She does sound wonderful! Thanks for the referral. Threehearts

JeanneB Oct 18th, 2007 06:05 PM

I hope Sonia can accomodate you. We will be following you by only a few days (arrive in Rome on the 7th).

Right now, you need to book a hotel right away! I can't imagine doing this with 2 wks notice, though the spontaneity will likely make it just that much more exciting. Have a wonderful time!
Have you checked with Hotel Due Torre or the Portoghesi? Both very nice and centrally located.

JeanneB Oct 18th, 2007 06:28 PM

BTW, where are you departing from the US? I just realized, we're leaving on the 31st---Atlanta to Rome. We'll be flying on to Florence from there.

threehearts Oct 19th, 2007 06:36 AM

I am thrilled! I've just booked the flights. United non-stops from IAD both ways. Leave the 31st at 5:30 pm return, Nov. 4th at 10:55am. After I couldn't book the Albergo del Senato(no online availability), I emailed the hotel directly. The reservations person confirmed that they have a twin bed room for us with a "view of the square." I'm not sure if this means the Pantheon or not. Now I am on airport tranfers by car service and then on to book tours. I looked at Context but they may be a little too in-depth for my daughter. Thanks for all of the suggestions. You have all have been an immense help. Grazie- Threehearts

JeanneB Oct 19th, 2007 06:48 AM

You got the del Senato----terrific!

We depart Atlanta at 4:30pm. I'll be asleep before you get off the ground. :)

threehearts Oct 21st, 2007 08:25 AM

Update- I have not heard from Sonia. I did get an official Vatican Tour on Nov. 2nd. I have the Villa Borgese timeslot for 5pm on our day of arrival. My latest question is- We have an official English speaking Vatican Tour scheduled for 12noon on Nov. 2nd. To make the most of our day, we would also like to do St. Peter's Basilica either before or after the Vatican. I understand that if I want to go directly to the shortcut for St. Peter's after the Vatican tour, I must not take the audiophones or I'll have to return them back to the entrance. The Vatican closes at 1:45 on the day of our tour and I'm not sure if you're allowed to look around after the tour or if they will immediatly usher you out. I'll be traveling with my 12 y/o daughter and she's anxious to choose a few items from the gift shop. My essential question is, should we tour St. Peter's Basilica before or after the Vatican? St. Peter's, according to their website will be open from 8am until 4pm. If before, what time should we be in line to purchase our tour tix for the Vatican so we are not too late in joining our 12noon tour? By the way, we'll be at the Basilica on our own. Lastly, we are staying at the Albergo del Senato in the Pantheon district. What would be the best way to get a taxi back to the hotel? I'm not sure that my daughter will be up to the walk after a long day

MAny thanks, Threehearts

MaureenB Oct 21st, 2007 08:36 AM

Is that something new that you have to return your audio headphones to the front desk at the Vatican Museum? We didn't have to do that. In fact, I don't remember where we returned the headphones, when we went out the Sistene Chapel door to see St. Peter's. Maybe our tour guide collected them, but we did not have to backtrack to drop them off. That would be a stupid idea if that's a new procedure.

It sounds like your plan would work very smoothly if you can exit from the Chapel directly to St. Peter's.

Or, can you call or e-mail the Vatican Museums' tour people to ask about the headsets? Has anyone else here heard of this?

threehearts Oct 21st, 2007 08:43 AM

Hi Maureen, There is extensive commentary on the problem with headphone return and going on to St. Peter's Basilica(via the "shortcut") on another widely used travel forum. There were enough posts about it that I took it to be true, but perhaps it is not. Threehearts

MaureenB Oct 21st, 2007 09:37 AM

Threehearts, well, I'm no expert. We were there in May '06, so it was awhile ago. It sounds like a bad idea. Maybe someone in the tour could return yours? We didn't pay a deposit on them or anything, so someone else could take yours back maybe. I'd plan on going to St. Peter's after the Chapel, and figure some other way to return the headphones. (You definitely need headphones.)

If you have the Vatican tour, I think you have a scheduled time to enter, purchase tickets, and go on the tour. You don't really have to get in line.

I can't help with transportation. We stayed near the Barberini Palace and my daughter knew the way to the subway stop for our trip to the Vatican. Then we wandered back in the afternoon.

Your weekend get-away sounds like it's really shaping up.

Vttraveler Oct 21st, 2007 10:03 AM

Our son began listing Rome as his #1 tourist destination when he was about 12 (after studying Greek and Roman history in 6th grade) and we finally took him to Rome for a week last February when he was 16.
It is a great city to explore on foot--very compact. You will be staying in a great location

Although our son's primary interest before going was in the Roman ruins, he found he really enjoyed the Piazza della Rotunda and Piazza Navonna areas, so we went there most days for at least a brief stroll. The portrait artists who work there are interesting to watch, and there are often mimes and street entertainers.
Our son also enjoyed the Trevi fountain and the Mouth of Truth at Santa Maria in Cosmedin (Your daughter could watch Roman Holiday before your trip)
Another place your daughter might like to see is the cat sanctuary at the Area Sacra dell'Argentina, very near your hotel.

threehearts Oct 21st, 2007 01:15 PM

Thanks for the tips. I will ask my fellow tourists if they wouldn't mind returning our headphones for us. I bet some kind soul will help out. I also appreciate the suggestions for teens in Rome. I will definitely walk to some of the areas mentioned. The last things to straighten out will be restaurants in the Pantheon area, where we are staying and we still have had no luck in getting a private tourguide for a half day tour of ancient Rome. I looked at Context again and it might be a little too in-depth for my 12 y/o. Thanks again, Threehearts

JeanneB Oct 21st, 2007 02:53 PM

When Francesca Caruso told me she was booked on our days, she shared a few names of other guides she thinks highly of. (This was in July) Sonia was one of them. The others are:

laria Ceccarelli at
[email protected]

Richard Bowen at
[email protected]

We are also staying in the Pantheon area in an apartment. Some nearby restaurants I've noted are:

Armando al Pantheon
Le Volte
Tavernetta 48

Not far away, near Pza Navona, is one of my favorites: FIAMETTA. Find the Hotel Genio and it's right next door (around corner).

threehearts Oct 21st, 2007 03:02 PM

Jeanne, you are a treasure! Thanks so much. You probably already are aware, but Nov. 1 and 2 are holidays. An Italian friend confirmed that the 1st is official and 2nd is unofficial but still taken as a long weekend by most. Thoughts on how this will impact crowds at the sites? Thanks. Threehearts

samsmom1127 Oct 21st, 2007 03:13 PM

Let me suggest two restaurants that I discovered through reading Fodors posts prior to our trip last winter. First, Armando al Pantheon at Salita 'de Crescenzi, 30. This is a little street just across the piazza from your hotel! The traditional Roman fare was so amazing that after our first meal there, I cancelled a reservation at another restaurant so that we could eat there again. If you and your daughter are unadventurous eaters, you will find delicious food there...if you are not picky, you will find wonderful new things. My daughter tried scamoraza for the first time at Armandos. She still thinks about it! Great soup, great pastas, and very good lamb. This is a moderately priced restaurant.

Another place we liked was Taverna le Coppelle at Via della Coppelle, 39. This is a 5 to 10 minute walk from your hotel through some very cute streets. It is a little pizza/pasta kind of place, frequented by locals. In fact, I don't think I heard anything but Italian spoken the night we were there. I was interested to notice that many of the Italians enjoyed beer rather than wine with their pizza. I asked for a glass of wine, and was a little concerned when the whole bottle landed on the table. I shouldn't have worried...when it came time to settle up, the owner picked up the bottle and eyed what was left, and charged accordingly. We shared a mixed fried antipasta dish; my daughter had a simple spaghetti and tomato dish, and I had a terrific crisp crusted gorgonzala pizza. This restaurant was very reasonably priced.

In order to eat late, as the Romans do, DD and I found it worked well for us to eat lightly at breakfast and lunch, and to return to the hotel in the late afternoon or early evening for a nap. We would get up around 7:30 to shower and dress for dinner at 9:00 or so.

I will try to find the name of the private tour guide we used for our visit to the Forum and other ancient sites.

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