Paris to Provence by a Parent of Teens

May 5th, 2019, 06:53 PM
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Paris to Provence by a Parent of Teens

A ten-day trip covering Paris and Provence with some expert commentary from two teens

We flew Swiss which apparently has one of the most stringent carryon policies (16 lbs vs. 20 lbs). We decided to pack light and only go carryon. Thinking of the Swiss reputation for precision, I figured if they said 16 lbs we better stick to 16 lbs. For two weeks before the trip, I was Lady Justice with my luggage scale continually weighing everyone’s bags. For those who don’t travel with just carryon, the challenge is choosing wisely so you can mix and match for a variety of weather and activities.
Tip: Carryon is a great way to avoid lugging heavy bags around but you cannot just pack the day before. You do need to throw everything on the bed and do some planning in advance if you want to look nice and have what you need including homework that is due after vacation.

Ten minutes before leaving for the airport, we were at 16lbs each, with backpacks (I hid my purse in my backpack during boarding) and one carryon bag of diabetes meds for my son. As we boarded American (and not Swiss), I watched as person after person presented their boarding passes bent half over with what appeared to be steamer trunks on their backs. The agents didn’t bat an eye. But in the end, I was glad I didn’t have to hoist a refrigerator-sized bag and shove it into the overhead bin.
Teen Comment: This was a better flight than I thought with a great movie selection

Landed in Paris (stopover and transfer in Zurich which was NOT well marked). I had been advised that with four people and jetlag Uber was the way to go. I downloaded the app before we left. Please note, I am NOT an Uber fan and I make a conscious choice to not use it in the US. But, I have to say, it made life easier in Paris the few times we grabbed one. No haggling over price. No language barriers for directions as it is all in the app. Note at one point it did appear our driver aimed directly at a pedestrian as he stepped on the accelerator and shouted TOUCHE.

Our apartment rental was in the Marais and we booked it through CobblestoneParis (Le Gourmet du Marais). A very nice 1-bedroom apartment in a convenient location. We were able to pretty much walk everywhere and there were a lot of shops nearby to pick up take-out foods such as baguettes, cheese, wine, quiche, fresh fruit and pastry for breakfast. The boys slept on the pullout sofa (which sadly never was made back into a couch our entire stay). Overall a great apartment. NOTE: it overlooks a very busy café. The windows are totally soundproof but in the summer, it will be loud with the windows open. I know people recommend a money belt because of the pickpocket issue in Paris and I am not saying DON'T get one. But we just did not want to use them and so we hid our passports well in the apartment and just used our NYC caution in crowds etc. We also had photocopies of our credit cards and passports in our bags. But pickpocketing is an issue.
Teen Opinion: That was the best apartment and best shower ever. The location was really really really good. Nailed it.

Ate lunch at a small café on a side street which amazingly came to a whopping 170 Euros!! After that sticker shock, we picked up wine, cheese and bread for dinner and returned for naps to recover a bit from jet lag and then head to the Louvre (Friday nights the Louvre is open late). We got the four-day Museum pass, walked to the Louvre from our place and breezed right in at 7:00. I won’t say the Louvre was empty but it was as close to it as you will get. Unfortunately, teen boys lasted about 90 minutes and it was hard to argue with jet lag.
Tip: Friday night at the Louvre is the way to go to beat the lines and the crowds.

Day 2
On our morning walk to Musee D’Orsay we passed Sainte-Chapelle and saw no line. Good to be flexible and change up plans when there is an opportunity to avoid crowds in Paris in April.

Sainte-Chapelle is another beautiful gothic chapel and part of the Palais de la Cite. Built by King Louis IX between 1241 he hoped to make Paris the second capital of Christendom after Rome. Good news is that it's covered by the Museum Pass. Security is tight because it shares an entrance with the courthouse. This is a must see despite a Trip Advisor review of: “well if you like glass, it's ok I guess but there is nothing much here." Well beyond the incredible stained glass, true nothing much inside because during the revolution, like many churches in France, it was sacked as a symbol of royalty through divine right. A must see.
Teens viewpoint: This was pretty mystical and incredible and I really liked it a lot. Walking along the river too is really nice.

By the time we got to Musee D’Orsay it was still early enough to beat the lines. Even if you dislike impressionism, the building itself is a stunning remodeling of the Gare d'Orsay. With a Museum Pass you go right to security. Wonderful to see Manet and cut through all the saccharin Renoir that litter the walls everywhere. There was also a Van Gogh/Gaugin exhibit which the boys both liked a lot and an exhibit on black models in French art which was much much bigger than I thought it (and hard to enjoy with ravenous teens)….but that is where Olympia is displayed and I was going to see that painting, darn it. Interesting show but the teens were finished.

We walked to Au Pied de Fouet, a small bistro with classic French dishes for lunch. The salads in France are amazing but we find a lot of the food is a little bland. Maybe because we weren't eating at high-end Michelin star places. Again, our simple lunch was somehow well over 100 Euros. Walked home and grabbed ice cream at Pozzetto (long line) and nap time.
Teen Opinion: My lunch was good but dad’s cooking is a lot better. I wish there was some more flavor like maybe garlic. Be careful what you get at Pozzetto, mine was not ice cream but sorbet and I didn’t care for it.

We decided to window shop in the Marais after our nap and pick up some dinner to eat at our comfortable apartment. Everyone told us we must go to the concept store Merci: three floors!! For us, a disappointment. It was filled with a lot of things I see in every single boutique in Brooklyn except at three times the price. My son was hoping to get some “street wear” but the prices are just a lot higher in Paris than in NY. We grabbed lasagna and other Italian food from the place across the street (delicious) and some more cheese and bread.

Day 3.

Got up early and walked to Poilane to get the bread that we kept hearing about. Yes, amazing—be sure to go and don’t freak out when you see bread loafs the size of wagon wheel. You won’t be buying that—you ask for them to cut part of it off for you. We don’t speak French beyond what we learned via the Mango app and were able to get what we wanted. We also picked up a roasted chicken, salad, and French Asparagus on our walk back. Dinner was set. The vegetables and fruit are so flavorful in France and we highly recommend the roasted chickens.

We headed to Marché aux Oiseaux, or the bird market but due to the Notre Dame fire the area was closed off and so there were really only a couple of cages of birds out and we kept going.

Musee D’Cluny was up next and again covered by the Museum Pass. This is a Medieval museum built over Roman baths that features the famous tapestries of a lady, a unicorn and lots of animals. The rest of the museum is closed for renovation unfortunately for me (and a high five for the teens). The tapestries are woven from wool and silk, and illustrate the five senses with a sixth mysterious sense. Very beautiful. They all feature a unicorn. With the museum pass, this is totally worth a stop and the gift shop is lovely. Not to be sexist, but teen girls might like these tapestries because of all those unicorns and animals. The Gallo-Roman thermal baths are pretty well preserved and one of the few places left in Paris that dates to the Roman era. What is inside the museum is the well preserved Frigadarium, with a 15-meter high vault ceiling
Teen Opinion: this was OK. Not my favorite.

From there, the day went downhill fast. We went to the Luxembourg Gardens and it was hot and we were hungry and the wind was blowing dust. I know people find these gardens enchanting but we just did not. We left to pick up lunch at Moulet?which was farther than we thought. We started to argue. Got sandwiches and headed back to the park. My son hated his sandwich and since he is a diabetic this caused some stress. My husband then spilled some of his lunch on his pants and that made him irritable. We left the garden feeling demoralized. If you like picnics, this place is for you. We realized, living in NY, we prefer rural picnics and not city park picnics.
Teen Opinion: Go. Enjoy watching the boats but note the seats in the shade get taken fast and the garden gets really hot.

After our afternoon nap we decided to walk to L’Orangerie to see Monet’s water lilies. Long walk from our place actually. As we walked through the Touleries another dust storm hit and my son’s kicks got dirty and he was not happy. Please day…. Get better already. We arrived as the guard turned away visitors because the ticket counter just closed. Could our day be continuing its trek downhill? I decided to be the obtuse American and show our museum pass and just assume it was open We were ushered right through.
Tip: The ticket counter closes 45 minutes before but you can still get in with your museum pass and guess what? Miss the crowds! Definitely the water lilies are a must see. The rest of the museum is ok.

From there we walked to a café and sat with our espressos and Oranginas and people watched before heading to the touristy sunset tourist boat trip. We took Rick Steve’s advice for which boat company to use and honestly, I think it was a mistake. We sat on the port side and all the sights, by the way, are on the Starboard side and the audio tour was so basic translated into 6 languages that it was useless. BUT that being said, it was beautiful.
Teen Opinion: Get there early for a good seat or else wait for the next bout. But this was a lot of fun. And scope out the boarding area of the boat before the crowds rush on and take all the good seats.
OK after the tour we were really exhausted and we called an Uber. It was six euros home and worth every penny.

Day 4
Another day we had not really planned well. We decided to take in the view at the Pompidou since we have the museum pass. I am not much of a housecleaner but those dirty Hamster Habitrail tubes made me want to get out some Windex and go to town. The building is starting to look a little sad on the outside but looks much better inside. The teens asked if we could stay and look at the art. YES! We focused on the contemporary collection and everyone enjoyed it a lot. A lot of interactive art which they really liked a lot.
Teen Opinion: There was a lot of cool stuff in here. I recommend it. Don’t bring little kids because there was some really explicit stuff on the contemporary floor.

We took our son to some streetwear and used clothing stores but he is indecisive and prices were high. Since our French dining was not working out for us we stopped at Ippudo, a well known and very good Ramen chain.

From there a friend had recommended the artist Gustave Moreau’s home and studio. This was off the beaten path and I am not sure it was worth the trek for our short stay. I never cared for his work but I had heard his home was beautiful and it is. If we were in Paris for a week. Maybe. And… it is covered on the Museum Pass too. We were all tired and needed an espresso and an Uber.
Teen Opinion: It’s kind of an ugly neighborhood. The art is OK but it was sort of cool walking through the house. If you are around there drop in but not worth going out of your way.

After a break at the apartment we walked around some more and sat in Place des Vosges, which was lovely. Headed back to pack up our stuff. Teens have a way of spreading clothes everywhere. Paris was lovely and the weather was great and we did our best to avoid getting trapped in crowds.

Up next: Cassis to St. Remy

Last edited by RubyTwins; May 5th, 2019 at 07:17 PM.
RubyTwins is offline  
May 5th, 2019, 08:12 PM
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Thank you for posting. It is nice to follow your adventures in Paris.
ToujoursVoyager is offline  
May 5th, 2019, 08:17 PM
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Very well written report, but you act as though those high priced meals were a surprise. Wasn't anybody paying attention to the prices on the menu? It is extremely easy to spend much less in a restaurant or café.
kerouac is online now  
May 5th, 2019, 09:48 PM
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Very interesting TR, am waiting for the Provence part... And yes, as kerouac says lunches are usually much cheaper than dinners and the prix fixe menus quite often come with a glass of wine too.

Last edited by geetika; May 5th, 2019 at 09:52 PM.
geetika is online now  
May 6th, 2019, 01:04 AM
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I loved travelling with our teen boys... now we are just going as a couple it is kind of simpler, but I often find myself thinking "they'd love this" .
Enjoying your report.
Adelaidean is offline  
May 6th, 2019, 03:24 AM
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Originally Posted by kerouac View Post
Very well written report, but you act as though those high priced meals were a surprise. Wasn't anybody paying attention to the prices on the menu? It is extremely easy to spend much less in a restaurant or café.
With two hungry teenage boys.... it just adds up. We live in NYC, we are used to eating out. But the prix fix often includes things many kids won't eat. Oh well, we enjoyed picking up take-out food just as much.*
RubyTwins is offline  
May 6th, 2019, 03:44 AM
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I loved that your teen preferred his dad's cooking. Total honesty. Looking forward to more.
Coquelicot is online now  
May 6th, 2019, 04:04 AM
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I suspect that you were ordering "a la carte" rather than "menu" unless you were also ordering international fizz drinks and water in bottles. The trick to eating in France is "eat what the chef wants to make and wants to make a lot of". BTW I normally get away with E14 for three courses including wine for lunch in most towns and cities.

Still really interesting new perspective on the Hexagon so far and well written.

What are "kicks"?

Why should young people not be exposed to pictures of bodies? Were there pictures of torture or something? I know Americans have commercialised the human form but what was wrong with the pictures?

Last edited by bilboburgler; May 6th, 2019 at 04:08 AM.
bilboburgler is online now  
May 6th, 2019, 04:37 AM
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I was intrigued also by a teen thinking that small children should not see "explicit" material, which I presume to mean nudity. Pictures of violence are available to everybody all the time.
kerouac is online now  
May 6th, 2019, 05:16 AM
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"I am not much of a housecleaner but those dirty Hamster Habitrail tubes made me want to get out some Windex and go to town."

NO. KIDDING. We were in Paris over Christmas and those dirty tubes at the Pompidou killed me.

Good for you for going carry-on, too; I no longer have that level of discipline. If an airline allows me to fill a 23kg case for a mere €50 or so round trip, I am all too happy to oblige and fill said case with clothes that I will not have to launder (time=money); shoes, in case I am feeling shoe-moody; and also leaving me space for things that I want to bring home.
fourfortravel is offline  
May 6th, 2019, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler View Post
I suspect that you were ordering "a la carte" rather than "menu" unless you were also ordering international fizz drinks and water in bottles. The trick to eating in France is "eat what the chef wants to make and wants to make a lot of". BTW I normally get away with E14 for three courses including wine for lunch in most towns and cities.

Still really interesting new perspective on the Hexagon so far and well written.

What are "kicks"?

Why should young people not be exposed to pictures of bodies? Were there pictures of torture or something? I know Americans have commercialised the human form but what was wrong with the pictures?
We spent most of the time in the contemporary collection with great works by Bill Viola, Annette Messager, James Turrell etc. There is some photography and video that is explicit with violent sexual imagery with a content warning in small print "nobody under 18 permitted." But we saw parents with kids wandering in.

What can I say? We ordered what the specials were and we have hungry kids who did not want to eat a salad for lunch. Somehow we messed up on eating out in Paris.
RubyTwins is offline  
May 6th, 2019, 09:10 AM
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Interesting report with the teens' omments, I like that. I have to admit I feel the same about Place des Vosges as you do about Luxembourg Gardens. And I understand what you mean about it, the actual garden areas are pretty but the dirt trails are not necessarily, or just sitting on a bench alongside them. But the Place des Vosges (in summer, anywaY), is crammed full of tourists everywhere, and also quite full of dirt/dust all over. I don't find it a pleasant experience at all under those conditions.

I thought the prices being spent were really high, also, but then I figured out it was for four people (I was thinking 3). So 100 euro for lunch for 4 isn't really that surprising in pricey quartiers like the Marais, if you bought drinks. I never do, I just drink tap water, at least for lunch. I'll have to admit the 170 euro for lunch for 4 does shock me even in the Marais, but I don't ever go to expensive restaurants. So yeah, I know you can do that if you buy expensive drinks and go to an expensive restaurant. But still, that's 40 euro per person for lunch.

I presume the explicit comment meant there was pretty explicit sexual art or something, not just nude paintings. If it is just nude women, that's sort of nice that the teen has some sense of modesty given so few kids do nowadays. Maybe it includes more than the torso, as perhaps you might make that comment about some paintings I could think of. There is one by Balthus there you might call a tad vulgar and he was known for rather vulgar/provocative sexual paintings, including of children.
Christina is online now  
May 7th, 2019, 12:58 AM
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Following this, as we are heading off to Paris and Provence with tweens in a month. I love the teen comments in your write-up!
melissa94549 is offline  
May 7th, 2019, 02:57 AM
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Thank you for writing a trip report, I am enjoying reading it.
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May 7th, 2019, 03:54 AM
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bilboburgler is online now  
May 7th, 2019, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler View Post
I am working on Part 2... Got through Cassis so far.... hard to juggle work, kids and wanting to write a trip report.
RubyTwins is offline  
May 7th, 2019, 09:44 AM
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And also you don't feed them enough since they are starving when they travel.
kerouac is online now  
May 7th, 2019, 07:42 PM
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Thanks for sharing - enjoying following along.

And yes, some of us know what kicks are!
caze17 is offline  
May 8th, 2019, 06:37 PM
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Tell your boys how much we appreciate their comments!

Perhaps your TR will inspire others to do the same.
All around, well done⭐️
VonVan is online now  
May 9th, 2019, 03:46 AM
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Chapter Two: Provence (Part 1)

Welcome back to Chapter 2 which I should call: In 500 meters, at the Roundabout, take your second right......

Day 5

I booked our train tickets several months in advance (directly on the OUIsnf site ) so that we could take a first-class train to Aix En Provence where we would pick up our rental car. The boys have always wanted to ride on a double-decker train when we visit Japan (where they are expensive) and so this was a treat (40 Euros each).

We booked our car through AutoEurope (a consolidator) who selected Europcar. Our experience was NOT great. A quick summary is we were told the class of car we booked was way too small for us (which seemed odd as we booked a mid-sized sedan); we were getting a hard sell to upgrade if we wanted to bring our luggage with us (oh, sure madame, we’ll leave our 4 small carryon suitcases here). As we went back and forth I finally said, “Can we see this car that is too small for us because I don’t mean to be the pushy American but we booked a mid-sized car and there should be a car in that class available to us without us paying another $300 for a car to put our luggage in. I do plan on complaining.” Suddenly (cue: angelic choral music) there was a car. We got to the lot and it was a much bigger SUV than we wanted and it was completely encrusted in mud. This car was so big we could have brought Ikea furniture home in it.

"Nobody shall say of me that I have not known perfect happiness." – Virginia Woolf in Cassis

Finding our AirBnB was definitely a little tricky but we recommend our lovely apartment near the waterfront on a quiet side street. We did not know that free parking is not possible in Cassis and the lot is the same price basically as Manhattan parking so factor that into your budget. An additional 28 Euros a day. You can also park outside of town and apparently take a shuttle bus in but we did not do that. The waterfront is absolutely gorgeous although in the summer it is probably loud so was glad to be on a side street.

Note: The Château de Cassis which overlooks the harbor is a privately owned resort. In the XV Century, there were as many as 50 homes and 250 people living inside the castle walls and now that history is monetized by one person. I was about ready to put on a yellow vest myself and protest income inequality.

We really were looking forward to hiking but the weather was looking ominous. Heavy rain predicted. We drove out to take a look at the Calanques in the drizzle and then realized we had no dinner reservations. We had noticed a little restaurant called Le Patio near our house when we were rolling our suitcases from the garage. At 7:00 we got the only available table for the night, every other one was reserved. Really nice wine and salads and my risotto was good but my husband’s seafood dinner was wonderful.

Day 6
Next morning started with torrential rain and wind but it was market day and we weren’t going to miss that even with umbrellas blown inside out. We picked up salami and cheese to make sandwiches for our hike and again a roasted chicken (so much better than in the US), rice and asparagus and greens for dinner. While in Provence we ended up at several markets and my husband liked this one best: it is small with a good selection. The boys and I explored the waterfront and took great photos of waves smashing against the lighthouse and the shore.

Finally, 2:00 it cleared and we headed to the Calanques and parked at I believe Calanque de Port-Miou. There are not many parking spots here and you do feel a little sneaky because the street signs leading to this area seem to say “for residents only”….but it’s a perfect launching spot to start a hike for those who don't want to hike and then hike back to town. Just bring water and wear good shoes. We did encounter a wild boar but she seemed happy to go on her way. There is not much you can say that has not already been said about the Calanques.... absolutely a memorable and stunning hike. This was a highlight of our trip.

Teen Opinion: Cassis is fun to walk around the beach and the lighthouse. The town is really pretty. And the croissants at L’Ou Cassidenne were the best croissants so far in France. The Calanques are beautiful because of the different colors of the water and the mountains. Being at the top of the cliffs looking down was really cool. It’s a good workout. You feel you accomplished something when you do the full hike. I loved seeing new types of wildlife I haven’t seen before, that was very exciting for me.

Day 7
A bit cloudy and misty but we checked out of our AirBnB and headed to Pont du Gard, which of course is a big tourist attraction but really worth it. It is the highest and the only remaining three-story Roman aqueduct constructed to bring water to the fountains, baths and private homes of Nimes. It is located in a beautiful park and of course, over the Gard River. You can bring a picnic and enjoy an afternoon there and kids will really enjoy this time outdoors. I enjoyed it. Another high point. We ate lunch at Les Terrasses Café Restaurant (the café in the park which has a lot of negative reviews btw) because we were between places to stay and did not pack lunches (and yes Kerouac, they were starving again. Those teens!). Sure, a rip off with a view but my salad was actually good. The museum is very good and you will learn A LOT about how the Romans constructed and built aqueducts, In fact, you will learn more than ever wanted to know. It is a lot of reading because many of the “interactive” exhibits sadly were broken. Again, it was a misty day and there were very few people. We have been lucky at sneaking around crowds.

Teen Opinion: Teens will like this alot!! I enjoyed climbing around the rocks and wish I had more time to explore around the river and underneath the aqueduct. My salmon at the restaurant was really good and I liked the museum even if it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be.

“Death is the only freedom a slave knows.” –Kirk Douglas as Spartacus

Because our Gite in St. Remy was not ready until 4:00 we headed to Nimes to “kill time.” MISTAKE. I was really uncomfortable leaving the luggage in the car (even hidden). This felt like a BIG NO and so I was on edge. We went to the Arena of Nimes, built at the same time as the Colosseum. It was a fortress at one point and then a village and now one of the most heavily visited sites in Nimes. Maybe it was the luggage stress. Maybe it was the videos of Kirk Douglas as Spartacus or the "Escape the Room" set up. Or that the arena is still used and so there is a lot of metal stadium seating put over the original Colosseum seat and a bar selling beer. Or perhaps it was comparing the experience of Pont Du Gard which had a good museum and beautiful grounds to this which felt kinda schlocky.

Teen Opinion: The exhibits seemed like they had no idea what they were doing and in one room it was just a bunch of toys. The "gem" of the exhibit was this weird holographic thing of two gladiators fighting and it was really bad and did not look like gladiators at all. Overall it was fine but be careful with your kids…. There are NO guardrails at the very top. Your kid can run right up and then right over the edge.

Coming up St. Remy, the surroundings and Luberon......

Last edited by RubyTwins; May 9th, 2019 at 03:48 AM. Reason: Indent not working
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