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Mother and daughter trip (with a little bit of Dad) to Paris and London

Mother and daughter trip (with a little bit of Dad) to Paris and London

Apr 29th, 2013, 10:52 AM
  #1  
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Mother and daughter trip (with a little bit of Dad) to Paris and London

We got back Saturday from our trip to Paris and London. I decided I needed to write up what I did for my own memory and to perhaps provide some information for people planning trips themselves. I made use of many of the posts here as I planned. I apologize in advance for the lack of wit and humor.

Trip to Paris and London, April 18-27, 2013

Background: We travel frequently, often with our 6-year-old daughter. She was last in London when she was barely 4 (2010). We haven’t been to Paris since 2001, but I had spent a summer there in 1990. I speak a little French. Husband was elsewhere in Europe for work and met us in Paris for a few days before we all went to London, where he had another work obligation. Happily, for me this was all vacation. Often we are both trying to attend the same conference and end up juggling the kid.

Even though she has been to Europe many times, and I have traveled with her alone before, I had never done so across the Atlantic. Somehow, traveling to Paris and spending the first two days just the two of us, made me more anxious than I am normally. I was really concerned about pickpockets, since I had the sense I would need to focus more attention on my daughter, without the extra help of my husband. I even went so far as to buy a special purse/bag that was ultra-theft proof! In the end, the fear proved to be overblown – although the bag is nice. This also is why I did a much better job preparing for the Paris part of the trip than the London part. We also have many more options to visit London for work, so I wanted to make the most of our time in Paris.

Basics: In Paris we rented an apartment from Vacation in Paris. We got a one bedroom on 3 Rue de la Harpe (Apt ID: 227). Given I know my way around Paris and speak a bit of French I thought we would prefer the extra space to the services you get from a hotel. It was a little more expensive, but mainly because we were only staying 4 nights. This short stay also limited the number of rental agencies we could deal with. Vacation in Paris was fine. I was a bit put off by the literature they sent out before that was full of warnings of all the things that you might do that would result in losing your security deposit. But, the man who met us at the apartment on arrival was very gracious. Everything went smoothly. The apartment is one bedroom and a big living area, but the living area is a lot less big once you have the pullout couch pulled out! We only ate in for breakfast, but they kitchen was well stocked. There was a washing machine/dryer that allowed us to do one load of wash a day. This was nice, and meant we could pack lightly and carry on our bags. My husband said he felt like we were staying in someone’s attic, given the clutter. But, I would stay here again. The area is very touristy, but the location is great. The apartment is just a half block from the St. Michel metro stop, and Ile de la Cite.

In London, we stayed at The Academy Hotel, 21 Gower Street. This is in Bloomsbury, across the street from UCL where my husband was working. It is a few blocks from the British Museum. It is several blocks from 4 tube stops. The location was great. We had a family room, which was spacious. The only negative we had with the hotel was even though the walls were thick we got a lot of noise from the room next to us. It seemed like there were a dozen people in the room at times. Continental breakfast was included in our rate. It was good, but I was tiring of it by the fourth morning.
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 11:16 AM
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More please! Great that your daughter will be a seasoned traveller so young. Would you please post a link to your apartment?
TDudette is online now  
Apr 29th, 2013, 11:36 AM
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Here is the link to the apartment:

http://www.vacationinparis.com/apts/id_227.htm

On the first morning in Paris, she asked if she could watch a half hour cartoon on the itouch. I said no way, we are in Paris! As I showered I realized the problem is partly our fault. We take her almost everywhere we go, since grandparents are far away and she is pretty good. And, at home we never watch TV, we reserve this for when we are traveling. So, I think she travels too much and watches too little TV
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 11:38 AM
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Departure day: Daughter and I left home early evening for Toronto and had several hours before our 8:40pm flight to Paris.

We ate at the Mill Street Brewery in the Toronto airport. The food is pretty good here and I wanted to eat before the flight so we could try to sleep right away. I had spent the last several weeks telling my daughter how important it was for her to sleep on the plane. She loves watching the TVs, but I had told her she wasn’t going to get to on this flight. In the past when we get to Europe we nap and then get on with the first day. This time I wanted to just fight through the first day, but there is no way it would work without her sleeping most of the plane ride. In the end she was asleep within 15 minutes of takeoff and woke up about 15-30 minutes before landing. At first she was in the middle seat with a man on her right and me on the left. She slept on me, but once asleep kept sticking her feet on her neighbor. He was VERY nice about this infringement and lifted his arm rest and pulled her legs on him. I felt badly about this and midflight dragged her to the aisle seat.

When we landed we went through immigration. I was all prepared with a letter from my husband, a birth certificate that lists me as the mother, etc… But, I wasn’t asked anything. The only place that has EVER asked us for this info is our dinky home airport in Canada. Strangely, they hold us up when we are coming home!
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 12:01 PM
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love to read about other parents traveling with kids... looking forward to reading more!
surfmom is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 12:07 PM
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Surfmom, I was following your report from the road. It came a little late for planning purposes for this trip. But, I am looking forward to my kid being big enough to do a bike tour.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 12:10 PM
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Day 1: Since we hadn’t checked bags, I called the apartment contact to say we would be there soon, and we went to get a cab. Some may remember I was wavering between a cab and the RER. In the end, someone else’s trip report about having gotten separated from her husband trying to get off a crowded RER made me choose a taxi. On a related note, my husband took the RER in when he arrived the next day and his train just ended at Gare du Nord. He had no idea why and it took him awhile to find the right metro line. The cab driver was a slow driver and we hit some traffic. It ended up costing 56 Euros.

The apartment owner/manager was there to meet us, but the place was still being cleaned. We got a tour and then headed to Flore en l’Ile, a café on Ile St Louis. I don’t recall who here recommended this place, but it was perfect. We were hungry for something more than just bread type items. We shared the special that included a cheese omelet, bread (1 croissant and some toast), fruit, yogurt, orange juice and tea. We ordered a hot chocolate for daughter. It was very nice to sit (inside since it was cool) with a nice view of the back of Notre-Dame and have a nice lunch.

We walked back to the apartment by walking through Ile St Louis and across the Seine. We stopped at one of the Eric Kaiser’s on Rue Monge and daughter got a Pistachio macaroon. Back at the apartment, we showered and lounged for an hour or so before we headed to the Eiffel Tower for our reserved visit. It was raining off and on, so we didn’t really feel like rushing out and exploring.

I overestimated the amount of time it would take to get the Eiffel Tower via metro, so we were 40 minutes early, and it was raining. I spotted a carousel across the street along the Seine. To kill time, daughter rode on it twice. With the reservation we immediately rode to the second floor. We should have stopped there! We then waited, in the cold and occasional drizzle, for probably about a half hour. I am an uptight line waiter. For the first part of the wait, we weren’t in a well-defined queuing area, which drove me nuts. We got to the top. It is a nice view, but in my opinion, not enough nicer, given the hassle. We spent a few minutes at the top and then got back in line to wait to get down. This was even a worse situation as people were coming at this line from all directions. Lucky, we didn’t have any other plans and I ended up chatting with the woman next to us, which distracted me. Once back on the second level, we had to line up again for the elevator to the ground. This line moved faster.

I had planned to go to Little Breizh (11 Rue Gregoire de Tours, Paris 6), a creperie that Patricia Wells recommends on her app. I assumed it would be open generally, but it didn’t open until 7, which was 40 minutes away when we arrived. It seemed like a bad idea to wait to eat, since I figured daughter (who normally gets 11-11.5 hours of sleep/night) would be ready for bed around then. But, for some reason she really wanted to eat there and suggested we go get a drink somewhere and wait. So we walked down the street and I had a beer and she had an apple juice. It was good we waited, because the creperie was great. Daughter ordered a ham and egg crepe, but somehow only got egg. She loved it, because it reminded her of pancakes. I got the special that was buckwheat with ham, cheese, and pineapple. They had cider, but since I had already had a beer, I just had water. Daughter got the non-alcohol version of cider and thought it was great. She really wanted to go back, but they are closed all day Sunday and Monday, which were two of our four days, so we didn’t make it back.
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 12:14 PM
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Oh, that was so sweet of the other traveler! Gorgeous apartment--thanks for the link. Looking forward to more of this trip.
TDudette is online now  
Apr 29th, 2013, 12:26 PM
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easteve, you are better organized that I am... because I'm still not finished with my report and look at you - plugging along!

We are of similar mind when it comes to hotels - I hate that the halls become echo chambers and you don't really feel like you have privacy. It is so much more enjoyable to rent an apartment - have room to spread out and laundry facilities and a kitchen. We are spoiled by apartment renting and much prefer it for vacations.

I also have the same thoughts as you about the Eiffel Tower - the 3rd level just isn't worth the hassle factor. In fact, this trip, we climbed to the first two levels and didn't do the 3rd - I was psyched the kids didn't care about the 3rd level because it made life easier. I think we also had a more enjoyable trip to the Eiffel Tower because we weren't frustrated standing in line.

Keep plugging... (and I will, too!)
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Apr 29th, 2013, 12:29 PM
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surfmom, if I don't get it all out right away, it isn't going to happen! I have been bad about posting reports in the past, am trying to change my ways.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 01:49 PM
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Day 2: Daughter was up by 8 (after being up for a half hour in the night, ugh). We walked back towards Eric Kaiser on rue Monge, but ran across a street market on the way. We got strawberries and melons and bought some croissants and a bakery next door. The melon was fantastic.

I bought a carnet for both me and daughter (reduced fare) and we went to the Place de la Concorde. Daughter was interested in this after hearing about all the beheadings that happened here. We then went to the Orangerie. We waited in a very short line for tickets and I bought the museum pass. The museum wasn’t as crowded as I expected, and we enjoyed seeing the water lilies. We also went through the bottom floor exhibits. Lucky for me, daughter is pretty good in art museums, especially for a 6-year-old. Part of this is due to the fact that she knows the better she is, the more time we will spend doing things she wants to do.

So, after the Orangerie we went into the Tuileries and found the trampolines. These are in the Northwest corner. There are 8 little trampolines that you can rent for 5 minutes for 2 Euros. There was no line and daughter loved it. We then walked towards the Louvre, and ran into the playground. We spent some time here, but daughter was a little shy when she realized that she doesn’t speak French. On our way out of the Tuileries, I sprung for one more round on the trampoline.

I wanted to have lunch at another Patricia Wells recommendation, the Mini Palais. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the review all the way through to see that it was in the Grand Palais. I just assumed, given the name, it was in the Petit Palais. So we go to the Petit Palais, get the free ticket and walk to the café. When I saw it was self-service, I realized it couldn’t be the right place. I offered to daughter we could eat there and skip the Mini Palais, but once again, she wanted to eat where we had planned to eat. So we went across the street to the Grand Palais, and got seated immediately at the Mini Palais. The food was good (we got gnocchi carbonara and some poached egg dish), but service quite slow. It wasn’t due to the wait staff being lazy, but there were too few of them.

We left and caught the bus up the Champs-Elysee to the Arc de Triumphe. It was a good idea to take the bus. This direction, the walk is up hill. And, you can get the feel of the grandness of the street from the comfort of a bus seat. I had read that even if an adult has a museum pass, you have to stand in line to get a ticket for a child. The line was long. I went to a guard standing at the end of it and asked if I had a museum pass did I need to get a ticket for my kid. He said yes, but offered to get one for us! He walked to the front of the line and came back with a kid ticket. I could have kissed him. We climbed up and had another great view of Paris.

The Arc de Triumphe hadn’t taken as much time as I had anticipated (we needed to be at the apartment to meet Dad when he came in around 6), so we went to the Pompidou Center. The museum pass is good for people with kids, who can’t spend lots of time in any one place. If you are going to bounce around, it is really handy. (It is also good for people who can’t stand waiting in lines.) We spent about 30 minutes in the Pompidou Center. Daughter went to art camp at the Art Institute of Chicago last summer when we were there for an extended period of time. A fantastic side benefit of this experience is that she is more interested in art than a typical 6-year old. We then went to see the fountains next to it, which were a hit. We walked back to the apartment and stopped at Boulangerie Jean-Noel Julien (24 rue Saint-Martin, Paris 4) for an éclair.

Dad showed up around 6:30 after a frustrating time getting from the airport on the RER (see earlier in this report). We went to Atelier Maitre-Albert (1 rue Maitre-Albert, Paris 5) for dinner – I had managed to make a reservation for us over the phone in French! We had a shrimp appetizer that was really good. Dad got lamb that he enjoyed. My chicken was fine, but not fantastic. We got the two pots for desert and had rice pudding and chocolate mousse, the latter was good, but REALLY rich.
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 01:53 PM
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Nice!
TDudette is online now  
Apr 29th, 2013, 02:40 PM
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I like how you write! You make it all sound so relaxed and leisurely!

I'm really enjoying your report
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Apr 29th, 2013, 02:52 PM
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Enjoying your report ,and I too agree that going to the top of the ET isn't worth the hassle, its also crowded and small up there I dislike it quite a bit! Views are great from second level.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 03:34 PM
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Day 3: We noticed after two days that there was a bakery right on the corner, next door to our apartment. We got some croissants there and ate the second melon from our market trip the day before. Our first stop today was the Musee d’Orsay. There was no line with the museum pass and we immediately went to the impressionist section on the 5th floor. It wasn’t too crowded. We spent a couple of hours here. At this point there was a bit more tension as Dad likes to spend more time in art museums than daughter does!

We walked across the pedestrian bridge and went back to the trampolines in the Tuileries and some more time at the playground. We then walked over to the Louvre. I meant to eat at Café Marly, but thought the entrance was from within the Louvre. After getting into the Louvre I realized the mistake, but didn’t feel like going all the way back out. So, we just ate in one of the cafeterias in the Louvre. We did the basic tour seeing the Venus de Milo, some Parthenon Friezes, the Mona Lisa and the paintings in the long room off the Mona Lisa room. After a couple hours we headed home.

After some rest we were energized enough to go see St. Chapelle. Once again, the museum pass was handy, allowing us to skip the ticket line. It was fairly crowded even at 4:30 in the afternoon. Afterwards, we went next door to the Conciergerie. Daughter is quite interested in the French revolution. Unfortunately, I don’t know that much about it, but I tried!

For dinner we went to Bistro Augustin’s (on Quay des Grands Augustins). We went here on our 2001 trip. It is in Patricia Well’s original book, but doesn’t show up in her app. Dad loved the gratins here last trip, and still loves them. It is a cute place with a small menu of salads and gratins. I had the basic gratin and it was really good.
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 03:36 PM
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One thing I didn't mention in Day 3 is that before leaving we bought a camera for our daughter for an early birthday present. She took a ton of pictures in the Louvre. It seemed like she was archiving some of the rooms! This worked out great, because it gave us time to look around, and the beauty of digital is we can just delete most of them.
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 03:49 PM
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Great report. Keep it coming, please.
irishface is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 05:37 PM
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Great trip report! We will be in Paris with our 6 and 8 year old in June. The girls really want to climb up the tower. Did you see any kids doing this?
jacolis is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 05:49 PM
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Jacolis, do you mean climbing the Eiffel Tower? We didn't see the climbers, but I would guess kids wouldn't have a problem. Since we did it the day we arrived, I was wary of expecting too much exertion. I think surfermom's kids climbed, am I right surfer mom?
eastave is offline  
Apr 29th, 2013, 06:09 PM
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Yes sorry I meant climbing the Eiffel Tower. Do you need to take the elevator down though? Btw we are from Ottawa.
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