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Trip Report: Christmas in Paris with 9- and 10-year-old kids

Trip Report: Christmas in Paris with 9- and 10-year-old kids

Old Jan 24th, 2016, 01:49 PM
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Thanks for all the replies everyone! I am happy that it's an enjoyable read, and especially happy that some of our experiences might help others with similarly aged children. It was truly an adventure!

We have a bit over 30 inches of snow in our yard...and spent most of yesterday watching the snow and texting my family (who live in the deep south) and getting ahead on cooking and baking, in case power went out. Power did not go out (!), but Mr TM and I spent all day long digging our cars out of the drive. This is even with chipping in with neighbors to pay the teenagers across the street $100 to clear driveways and parking spaces on the street.

The good thing is, the clearing of the street parking and driveway means that there are two giant hills of snow at each front corner of our lot. Ten and Nine spent the afternoon sledding from each hill to the other, so they are now tired and quiet, allowing me a few moments to writer another installation of our trip report.


TRIP REPORT, Day 1 in Paris.

Featuring: things we would not normally do if we weren't so sleepy.

Before we left on our trip, I checked our route on the RER very carefully (knowing form experience that Mr TigerMac and I would be a little loopy after so little sleep). Our route is actually not very difficult, as our apartment with Paris Best Lodge is on Rue de Lille, the street that runs behind Musee D'Orsay (the back to eh museum is a two blocks up from our apartment). So we basically just need to take RER B to Pont St Michel and then transfer to C and go one stop to Quai D'Orsay.

The hardest part was waiting in line to get the ticket, as the room we stand in line in is over-heated (not overhead, as my computer auto corrected for in the previous post...and I did a poor job of editing ). But seriously, the heater in the room is blasting, which really wasn't necessary as the temperatures outside were extremely mild.

But we get our tickets (about $35 Euros, which is cheaper than a cab ride would have been, even if we sacrificed time and comfort). We manage to find the correct train on C, given our lack of sleep and what looks like a fair bit of construction/refurbishment in the Pont St Michel station.

Planning ahead helped, as I knew where to go once we got to Quai D'Orsay station and made it up to the street. We walked toward Rue du Bac, turned left onto that street, walked one block and turned right onto Rue de Lille. I had a print out with our apartment address and instructions to get in (two different keypad codes, another code for the lockbox outside of our apartment), and the boys had the address; so after a few minutes of searching as we walked along our street, we were into the building's courtyard, and then into the correct section of the building that led to our home for the next week.

The boys took turns putting the codes into the two keypads, and then took turns taking the tiny sweet little elevator up to the top floor. We're on the third floor, which is really the fourth floor, and the stairs going up are narrow and have two turns per floor...

Mr. TigerMac is amazing and takes two of our three suitcases up the stairs as the boys take the elevator. I send the third suitcase up the elevator and then trudge up the stairs to find the door to our space open and the boys and their dad and all suitcases just inside.

Our apartment is one of the largest rented by Paris Best Lodge, and it's so small! But it's much larger than two hotel rooms would be: it a compact and efficient kitchen with a bar that is open to the living area. A little circular staircase goes up to the bath and bedroom. The bathroom and shower are MUCH bigger than what we'd get in a hotel, so I'm happy.

Just outside of the kitchen is a little balcony that overlooks the courtyard. When I rented the apartment, I chose this over a similar one in this building specifically because it had the balcony. At the time, I thought I was being indulgent, because I thought it would be too cold to really enjoy the balcony. But temps were so mild the entire trip (50s/40s with one day where it dipped into the upper 30s) that we used the balcony often.

Note: Paris Best Lodge was really easy to work with. Thierry was patient with my questions (some of which were kind of silly). They are highly recommended on here, and I can see why. Their website is not currently linking to apartment descriptions, and ours isn't currently listed, but I can add to recommendations.

Here's where we started getting loopy because of lack of sleep, but I'll get into that with part 2. Now I'm off to get dinner going, as Mr TM is back from walking the dog and inspecting the state of the roads, and the boys are getting tired after their afternoon sledding in our front yard. More to come later tonight.
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Old Jan 24th, 2016, 03:09 PM
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Ugh, rereading and seeing silly mistakes because I was rushing.

Regarding our apartment, the back to the museum is about two blocks up...not the back to eh museum is a two blocks up...

Actually, it might be less from rushing and more from the beer I had post-snow shoveling .

More to come in a bit.
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Old Jan 24th, 2016, 07:09 PM
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We rented an apartment in the Marais in March from Paris Best Lodge, and I have nothing but good things to say about them, their communication, their service. Unfortunately we got stuck one evening in the 'tiny, sweet elevator' in our building; it was a horrifically claustrophobic experience, which will make me rethink the whole apartment rental next time. It will not stop me from returning to Paris, but I may have to walk up stairs. Enjoying your report.
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Old Jan 25th, 2016, 06:43 AM
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OH MY, socaltraveler, if that had happened to us, I can say the same about reconsidering apartment rentals. As it is, I've decided that there will be no more top floor rentals for us. The sweet little elevator didn't get stuck, but it did not go up to the top floor. So we had to walk two turns of the staircase to get to our apartment, and that itself was difficult some days! If we ever go back, it's ground floor for us if at all possible.

TRIP REPORT, Day 1 in Paris, part 2.

Featuring: things we would not normally do if we weren't so sleepy.

Here's where we start not thinking clearly. When we get into the apartment, I start organizing luggage and carryons (everyone had a personal backpack) and ask Mr. TigerMac to call Thierry to let him know we've arrived.

Note: When renting from Paris Best Lodge, you send a deposit check in advance along with your signed lease. Thierry, who manages the apartment rentals, holds the check without cashing it and meets you upon arrival to take full payment (you have to bring Euros...I got the currency from my bank and the money was never far from me during our travels from home to Paris).

Mr TigerMac says the phone doesn't work. The kids, who have pulled out their electronics and are trying to get onto wireless (the instructions for this were on a placard by the bar), say it's not working. We keep trying, and nothing is working.

So instead of pulling out my cell phone and turning on cellular and making a call, I say, "Let's go to the grocery store up the street for supplies. Maybe we'll see a public phone on the way."

Now, I'd checked various options for using my phone in an emergency in Paris. I didn't need it for roaming data while we out and about, and there was wireless in the apartment. Phone calls using local networks weren't cheap, but in the case of needing to make a short call, they wouldn't break the bank.

But I forgot all of that and dragged everyone back down (the kids both squeezed into the elevator while the adults walked down) to go out to the local Monoprix. I forgot about the phone, but remembered there was a Monoprix a few blocks away on Rue du Bac.

We take a long block on the way to the Monoprix because we're looking for payphone (FYI, there are none anywhere) and because Mr TM wants to stretch his legs. The kids are being good. Ten is very tired, but he's thrilled to be in Paris, and Nine has gotten his second wind, as he's napped.

When we go into the Monoprix finally, it become obvious (in hindsight) that Mr TigerMac and I are still doing silly things. For instance, the store has two floors, and on the first floor, there's nothing but food and wine. We load up a little cart with cheese, bananas, little packages of ham and pate, cartons of chilled soup (lentil with ham), two baguettes, yogurt, and a few bottles of wine (which I am amazed at being able to get for about 5 Euros each, even though I KNOW that you can get really good wine rather inexpensively in France).

The thing is, we can't find milk or cream or coffee. While we're looking for milk and cream and coffee, Mr TM mentions that there's a second floor of the store, but the sign with the arrow pointing up the stairs translates into "home goods". I know from research that Monoprixs can have home good sections that include things beyond paper goods...things like clothes, makeup, etc. I sleepily assume that upstairs contains those kinds of thing ONLY, so we never head up. We just give up looking for the other food stuff because Ten is exhausted and we're loopy. I also finally remembered that I could just use my cell phone to call Thierry.

So we load up our food into the two backpacks we emptied out for the short trip and head back to the apartment. I call Thierry on my cell, who we just missed at our building; he had an approximate arrival time from me before we left, and when he didn't hear from us by then, came over. He saw that the key was out of the lock box and knew we'd arrived. He was still in the neighborhood, so he came over a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, Mr TigerMac has realized he could reset the wireless equipment (or whatever people who know what they're talking about call it...Mr TM knows that kind of stuff, I don't). Two minutes after resetting, the kids are able to get onto wireless AND the apartment phone works!

Thierry comes over and goes over how different appliances work, mainly the TV, heating system, washer/dryer, and dishwasher. I ask about the oven, and he apologizes, but isn't sure. We figure we can look up a user manual online. Thierry then collects payment, assures us we can call him if we need anything at any time during our stay, and off he goes.

The kids headed upstairs to play on their electronics, and once Thierry has gone, I head up to check on them. Nine is wide awake, but Ten has fallen asleep with my cell phone in his hand and the video he was watching playing away... I take the phone away and usher Nine back downstairs.

Mr TM is pooped, so I set timers for an hour and a half on everything I can find (due to a previous trip to Germany in which my alarm didn't wake me up after we arrived and took a nap, and we had a hard time getting on local time because we slept for too long and were up all night). Nine sits at the bar with the iPad and surrounded by all other electronics, assuring me that he's not sleepy and will wake me up when the alarms go off. I get him to promise that if he feels at all tired that he'll wake me up.

So I join Mr TM on the sofa, and we basically crash against each other and sleep for what seems like 20 minutes. But an hour and a half later, Nine is shaking my shoulder, and I wake to the sound of various alarms going off in the background. Mr TM wakes up as well, and Ten is in a relatively good mood when we head up to rouse him. He’s very amused when I tell him that he fell asleep holding my phone up as though he were still watching youtube.

It's getting dark by now, and though we have food enough for dinner, we decide to head out for a walk. The kids saw a painted maze and other cool things along the banks of the Seine when we got off of the D'Orsay metro stop and ask to go in that direction.

So off we go along the banks of the Seine, where we find a really cool pedestrian bridge, that giant ferris wheel--the Roue de Paris, the Christmas market along the Champs-Elysees, waffles, mulled wine, and, eventually, the first Santa Claus of our trip. Coming up later in part 3.
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Old Jan 25th, 2016, 01:08 PM
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I hear you, that first day of jetlag doesn't allow for clear thinking
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Old Jan 26th, 2016, 08:50 AM
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Your continued report made for a nice accompaniment to my lunch! Thank you!

Jet lag is not for sissies. You and your family seem to be handling it with good humor. I thought the Mr. and I might get a divorce in London due to extreme jet lag that lead to crankiness... #Grin

More please!
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Old Jan 26th, 2016, 11:57 AM
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Love this trip report so far...please keep going!!
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Old Jan 27th, 2016, 07:00 PM
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Just a quick note: I had the next installment written out and lost it thanks to my cat walking across my laptop (and hitting the back button). It's funny, but frustrating too, lol.

I've been working on this update for a few days, which makes this loss especially frustrating! But, I am being brave and am starting on part 3 again (will do it in Word this time, and will save periodically). I won't finish it tonight, though, but will plan on posting part 3 tomorrow.

Instead, tonight, I'll say a bit more about our apartment with Paris Best Lodge.

We usually use vacation rentals when traveling domestically, and I can say without a doubt that this rental was one of the best places I've ever rented. It was especially well stocked; it had everything we needed...and not just everything, but enough of everything to last for several tenant stays.

They had a ton of dish soap, boxed tissues, toilet paper, garbage bags, dishwasher pods, washer soap, even shampoo and conditioner in the shower upstairs...much more such household items than we'd need during our trip. This is in direct contrast to places we've rented in the US recently, where they have severely understocked such basic items (one place we rented at the beach had ONE garbage bag in the kitchen and a single roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. This is especially annoying given that the prices to rent those places have been comparable to our Paris apartment...or even more expensive.

I left very impressed with the attention to detail in the Paris Best apartment overall. From the extra blankets and pillows, to the dishes and cookware, etc. Just stellar.

And now, back to writing.
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Old Jan 28th, 2016, 08:42 AM
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Ug! I love my cats but why must they lounge on my keyboard!?

Looking forward to your second attempt!
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Old Jan 28th, 2016, 06:57 PM
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So let’s try this again.

Note 1: As I’ve said in other installments, my main goal for our first day in Paris was to nap as little as possible and stay awake as long as possible before falling asleep for the night. I know from experience that this works best when Mr TigerMac and I travel to Europe. I hoped that strategy would work with the kids.

Note 2: When I planned out trip, I didn’t have a set schedule for the week; outside of one pre-scheduled event the Monday after we arrived. Instead, I had a tentative schedule the other days, where we’d see one Big Thing and play the rest of the day by ear. Arrival Day (December 23rd), was not a part of this scheduling; it never meant to be anything other than a “let’s make it to the apartment, grab a few supplies, and stay awake as long as we can” day. Ahead of time, I thought that if we got to see anything at all on Arrival Day, it would be ‘Lagniappe’ (as we said growing up in Louisiana)…a ‘little something extra.’

The evening of Arrival Day turned out to be great Lagniappe.

TRIP REPORT, Day 1 in Paris, part 3:

Once Nine wakes us from our naps, we gather round the apartment bar and have snacks. The boys go through a baguette, while Mr TigerMac and I have bananas (Aren’t all bananas supposed to belong to the same variety/family? These were different than what we get at home, and much better in our opinions. Those opinions could be biased. Just saying.).

While we’re snacking, the boys agree that a walk is in order, and they ask to head toward the painted maze they saw by the Seine.

So we’re quickly out of the apartment and walking a quick block up toward the river. Traffic is fairly light, and the Christmas lights strung across Rue du Bac are very pretty. The temperature is very mild, too, so it’s a good start.

Once we make it to the maze, it’s fully dark out, and the boys are distracted by the spectacle of the blue, white, and red lights on the Roue de Paris (i.e., the giant Ferris wheel by Place de la Concorde) looming on the other side of the Seine from the D’Orsay. The maze gets a cursory look see, and we’re off toward the pedestrian bridge connecting the D’Orsay and Tuileries. I google it later and find out the bridge is called Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor. It’s really cool, with a lower walkway accessible along the banks of the Seine, and an upper walkway accessible by the street above. You can get to the upper level from the lower one, and vice versa, and the boys will have fun on this bridge over the course of the next week.

Once across the bridge, we make our way into Jardin de Tuileries and turn left, walking along a wide avenue/path lined with trees and heading toward the Place de la Concorde and the Big Wheel. We have a great view of the Eiffel Tower here, and Ten and I stop to admire it while Nine skips ahead with Mr TM following.

At some point during this portion of our walk, I ask the boys how they’re feeling. Both say they’re wide awake, and Nine proudly tells Ten that he was in charge for an hour and a half while everyone was passed out/napping, and says “And I did a great job!” It was very cute.

We make it the Roue de Paris…there are booths around it selling souvenirs and food, but walk on. There’s a brief discussion about riding the wheel, but it’s moving slow…while Ten is up for it, Nine doesn’t like heights, I’m indifferent, and Mr TM thinks the price is too steep (about $50 Euros for the four of us) for the time we’d have to wait to get on.

And so we admire the obelisk at Place de la Concorde and join the hordes of people streaming toward the Christmas market that beings on the Champs-Elysees, across a few streets from the Big Wheel. (Crossing here is interesting throughout the week. There’s always a crowd of people, and always a crowd of cars. There are also a crowd of traffic cops trying to keep order, and it’s very entertaining at times).

The market is busy, especially at the entry, so we grab Nine and Ten’s hands and walk along slowly, enjoying the spectacle. Eventually, the crowds thin out a little (the lines are longer, we find, at the entry to the market…at both ends. If you walk a bit into the market, things even out a bit more).

We find chocolate crèmes to snack on, and then sausages, and then…we see the little faces of children bouncing above the crowd of people walking along. Little laughing children who go UP and then disappear and then go UP again.

It turns out, there’s a kid play area (pay to play) that has individual trampolines that kids could jump on while strapped to a harness (which explains the bouncing, laughing faces) and a huge, bumpy slide. Ten and Nine ask to go down the slide, so we pay 5 Euros per boy for two rides each down the slide. The boys grab their tickets and run off before we can even attempt to explain the rules, so Mr TM and I get to enjoy watching them use a combination of sign language and extremely rudimentary French to figure out the rules.

The rules: hand over one ticket, grab a burlap sack thing (or maybe it was rubber?) and head up the steps to wait your turn (and wait for people at the bottom of the slide to exit before going)…then slide down, then hand sack over to the attendant, then run out through the crowd to get back into line and hand over the second ticket and repeat. Lots of kids didn’t fully understand the rules (trying to keep to take their sacks out after their first ride…the attendant DID NOT like that, lol…not waiting for the riders at the bottom to get off before careening down…etc.).

I can say that Ten and Nine, other than wanting to keep their sacks with them in between rides down the slide, did very well. They at least waited for the lower level to clear! There were quite a few bumps at the bottom when over-eager riders slid into kids who were trying to exit. It was a bit chaotic and reminiscent of the traffic around the Arch de Triumph.

Shortly after the slide, we found a huge booth selling Gaufres (waffles for the boys) and Vin Chaud (for Mom!!!). Ten and Nine practiced their French by ordering the biggest Gaufre possible (it was covered in strawberries and whipped cream and chocolate). While they were waiting on their order, and I was waiting for my Vin Chaud, Santa appeared almost directly above us!

Santa, in his sleigh, hovered in the air just to the left of the food stand we were ordering from (suspended from a nearby crane that you could see during the day…but at night, it looked like Santa was just flying above us). He talked to the crowd for a bit and sang songs (Christmas songs and patriotic songs), and the mostly-French speaking crowd around us really really really got into it. Even the people in the booth serving our food!

We found a clear spot with a bench behind the booth so that Ten and Nine could eat their treat…and we finished watching Santa and the crowd sing and cheer. Everyone was singing and laughing, and it was really festive and fun.

After eating, we found a spot to cross to the other side of the Champs-Elysees and head back toward the Roue de Paris and our apartment. Other than eating, we didn’t stop to shop…there were lots of interesting booths, though, from hand-crafted decorations to obscene Mickey Mouse items that I KNOW aren’t licensed by Disney to winter scarves and gloves (those weren’t selling so well, thanks to the mild weather). There was even a Zombie themed ‘fun’ house ride.

Once back at the apartment, the boys were finally starting to get tired again. They were also hungry again (they’re like Hobbits…always asking for second breakfast, elevensies, etc.). So we heated up a cartoon of the lentil soup, which was amazing. The boys had most of the soup and about half of the second baguette, while Mr TM and I had the rest of the baguette with cheese and pate. We talked about our night…Mr TM thought seeing Santa was great, while Ten and Nine were just trilled to by the spectacle of it all. They kept saying what a great vacation it was.

When stomachs were finally full, all of the males headed upstairs to shower and get ready for bed. Being as it was our first night in a new place, I knew that Nine would not sleep if floor below us (there was a sofa bed in the living area). So post-shower, we made a pallet using extra blankets at the foot of our bed upstairs (the apartment had an abundance of blankets and other linens, so it worked really well). The boys settled down there, Mr TM settled down on the bed, and they were all asleep within five or so minutes.

It was about 8:30 pm, so job well done.

Before I called it a night, I rummaged through supplies in the kitchen, finding several kinds of tea left by previous renters as well as a big box of sugar cubes. We didn’t have coffee for our second morning in Paris, but we’d have some form of caffeine!

After a glass on wine on our little balcony, I finally gave in and climbed upstairs for bed…where we all slept for hours and hours and hours…

Up next, day 2 in Paris, Christmas Eve! Featuring Bon Marche, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the second Santa of our trip (which was probably the best thing I've seen on vacation anywhere ever).
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Old Jan 28th, 2016, 10:03 PM
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How lovely
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Old Jan 29th, 2016, 07:12 PM
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TRIP REPORT, Day 2 in Paris, part 1:

When I wake up on day 2, it’s bright in our upstairs bedroom (there’s a skylight in our room), and a look at my phone shows that it’s past 9 am. Mr TigerMac has woken a little earlier and is downstairs, but the boys are still sound asleep. I head down and check email at our bar while Mr TM makes me a strong cup of tea (no sugar, just straight tea). Mr TM also found a pack of dried mango slices a prior renter left in the apartment and gave me one before devouring them.

After a bit, I head back upstairs to wake up the boys. Ten is up immediately and heads downstairs. Nine is MUCH harder to wake up. Now, they’ve been asleep at this point for over 13 hours at this point. When they ask how long they slept and I tell them, they’re AMAZED. But even though Ten was pretty chipper first thing, it takes them an hour or so of drinking tea (their had sugar) and eating yogurt (the yogurt in Paris was incredible) before heading out for the ‘morning’.

Knowing that the next day was Christmas, and that things would start shutting down early tonight as it was Christmas Eve, our plans for the morning were strictly based on getting additional food items. And, seeing as we were buying for holiday dinners, I planned on hitting the big food area in the basement of Le Bon Marche (http://www.lebonmarche.com).

So with a small grocery list and two empty backpacks, we went downstairs and out to march along Rue du Bac away from the Seine. Le Bon Marche is a short walk (for Paris) from our apartment: four blocks down Rue du Bac, four or so more down Boulevard Raspail.

Before we make it more than two blocks down Rue du Bac, we see an Eric Kayser patisserie and duck in for second breakfast. We find a table, and Mr TigerMac orders two croissants and two pain au chocolates along with four cups of coffee: seeing as we’re in Paris, we agree that the boys can have actual coffee instead of weak tea. The pastries are inhaled quickly, and the coffee—well sugared for Ten and Nine--goes quickly as well.

Twenty minutes later, we’re back on our way toward Le Bon Marche. We find it easily enough, and walk through a small park before entering the department store.

Note: we encounter our first real security check entering Le Bon Marche. There are guards at the entries asking to check bags and also asking patrons to open jackets and coats wide to check for hidden objects. We live in Maryland and have visited both DC and NYC often over the past decade plus, so Ten and Nine aren’t phased by this kind of security. It was odd for Mr TM and I, simply because this did not happen at all during other trips to Paris.

Nine was interested in shopping here before we actually got into the store…but the section we walked though was nothing but women’s clothes, some men’s clothes, perfume, etc. The interior is beautiful and the decorations are tasteful and fun, but even after taking the escalators up to the top of the store and back down, Nine doesn’t see anything he’s interested in. Maybe we missed more eclectic sections (it’s a big space, and we didn’t wander too much in an effort not to frustrate the kids), but most of what we see are clothes, clothes, and more clothes. I remember there being more variety in the Right Bank department stores we visited years before (BHV, for example, had a hardware section that would have fascinated both boys). Now, Mr TM and I took a longer time wandering around those stores before kids, so it’s very likely that Bon Marche had cool things that we missed because 1) we didn’t look hard or long enough, and 2) I didn’t do enough research ahead of time.

Nonetheless, my main goal for the trip to Le Bon Marche is the food area in the basement, and we head down there and hit pay dirt.

It was filled—with cool things to buy to eat AND with people shopping for the holidays. So we grabbed a cart and slowly made our way through the horde.

Ten and Nine were patient (mostly) as we bagged lettuce and tomatoes and potatoes and green beans and oranges and onions and garlic. And then when we found chocolate and cookies, and I let the boys pick out a sugary cereal, then when we found pasta and sauce. And when we found the cheese section, and then more yogurt… And when we finally found milk… And eggs. And then we found a huge section with nothing but butter (Mr TM took almost 10 minutes picking out something in this section).

We also found coffee, and a cool-looking jar filled with pre-made beef/carrot stew; and we bought ground beef for pasta one night, and a chicken to roast for Christmas dinner.

Mr TM looked in vain for the same kind of dried mango he had earlier…and we ended our trip at the bakery, where we loaded up on fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries and bread. We also bought a few small containers of salads and spreads for appetizers on Christmas, and found pre-made sandwiches to eat the park outside of Le Bon Marche before heading back to the apartment.

Checking out was fun, mostly because we discovered that we should have weighed our produce in that section before going to check out. As we had so many items, the girls behind the counter told Mr TM to run over to the produce section to do that while they continued to ring up other items. Mr TM did just that…RAN through the crowd as politely as he could . He made it back with his arms filled with produce only a few minutes after they’d finished ringing up the rest of our items.

The boys were BORED BORED BORED by now, but did a great job helping me load up our backpacks with food. We had to carry a couple of big bags of groceries as well, but once Mr TM made it back with the properly-weighed produce, everyone chipped in and lumbered across to the park for a quick picnic before heading back to the apartment.

Things we learned: The boys like grocery shopping in Paris about as much as they like it in the states, meaning that with quick trips, they’re engaged and have fun. Longer trips, they disengage and don’t enjoy it, even when you try to get them involved in helping find new things. It probably varies from child to child based on personality, but I remember being the same way when I was their age…so Ten and Nine get this genetic trait honestly. But I think if we’d gone on another day when it weren’t so crowded and busy, they’d have enjoyed it more. They certainly had more fun grocery shopping and exploring new food items the rest of the week.

Part 2: we go out to see actual tourist attractions, not just grocery stores!
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Old Jan 30th, 2016, 10:31 PM
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Really enjoying reading this. We lived in the UK for a while and had two separate Christmas weeks in France, one in Strasbourg and the other in Nice. Grocery shopping while overseas is great fun, we laughed at the aisle after aisle after aisle in France of wine, cheese and bread. Very French!

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Old Jan 31st, 2016, 03:55 AM
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American bananas; years back I ran a business in the American fruit industry. Due to the concept of the supermarket which drives price down we only ever sold one type of banana off our machines, all came from one company using one clone in land ( pinched) sorry "999 year leased" from a despot in south/central America.

So, yes all bananas are very much related but only in America do you get such little variety, now the rest of the world has loads of different bananas
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Old Jan 31st, 2016, 10:37 AM
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I eagerly await the next installment! We will be in Paris with our 11 and 13 boys in April, and I appreciate your insight.
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Old Jan 31st, 2016, 11:51 PM
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Such a wonderful experience for your kids and great family memories.
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Old Feb 1st, 2016, 07:43 PM
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A new notes:

1. Grocery shopping while on trips is one of my favorite vacation activities, nationally or on the few international trips I've taken. It's always interesting to see what's stocked in the local store! During one particularly memorable trip to Antwerp, pre-kids, I hurt my foot the first day there...so instead of venturing out on a solo trip around the city on day 2 (we were there because Mr TigerMac had to work), I headed out on the trolley in search of a place to buy an ace bandage. I found a HUGE grocery store and limped through it until I found a bandage. Then I turned the corner and found myself at the entrance to the biggest grocery aisle of chocolate bars I've ever seen in my life. It went on FOREVER, and I proceed to fill up my cart (this was in the days when you could check two bags on an airline with no fee, so I had plenty of space for gifts). The girl that checked me out at that grocery laughed and laughed and laughed after I placed the ace bandage on the counter to scan, and then kept dipping into my cart to pull out endless chocolate bars (like Mary Poppins and her carpet bag).

I loved the shopping this trip too.

2. Thank you for the info, bilboburlger, regarding the bananas. We just thought everything tasted better in Paris, from the veggies to the fruit to the yogurt and chicken (though not the butter, but that's for later in the trip report). I thought that it *might* be our biased opinion, but it's nice to know that there are indeed more variety in bananas outside of the US.

TRIP REPORT, Day 2 in Paris, part 2:

After Le Bon Marche, we sat in the park adjacent to it to picnic on pre-made sandwiches we bought along with our groceries. We had a selection of ham and cheese, veggie and cheese, and chicken and tomato and pesto on baguettes (if I remember correctly). The sandwiches were very tasty.

The park, called Square Boucicaut (thanks, google), was filled with what I assume were local Parisians enjoying the day...a few kids in strollers with their parents, a pair of very-nicely dressed women heading toward the department store, a sweet elderly lady enjoying the sunshine and mild temperatures...etc.

We settled for our picnic near the park's carousel, which featured more non-licensed Mickey Mouse decorations. As we ate, a group of pigeons surrounded us in hopes of crumbs, and Nine pointed out that a handful of the pigeons had injured feet (with missing claws). It was interesting in that we did not see this again during our trip when we sat for snack and were approached by pigeons. Nine looked very carefully throughout the week, but never saw birds with such injuries again.

After finishing up, we walked back to our apartment to unload groceries. Because we shopped for food to last several days, we had a lot of cold items. The apartment-sized, under-the-counter fridge had the most amazingly efficient design, though; everything fit with room to spare. There were just the right-sized shelves for thin items (such as the little packs of pate and cheese) and larger items (such as yogurt and meat) and great compartments at the bottom of the fridge that held a huge amount of produce. So very better designed than the small fridges I've found in the US.

We had another snack of yogurt and baguette and an orange (remember, the boys are hobbits) while deciding what to see next.

Our "Big" item for the day was the Eiffel Tower, but Ten had his heart set on seeing that at night. As it was early afternoon (2ish), we had plenty of time to see something else before hand.

Mr TM suggested heading over to Notre Dame to climb the to top and see the gargoyles. That was something the boys were interested in, and the gargoyles were among MR TM and my best memories the Thanksgiving week we spent in Paris years before.

Nine asked if we had to walk too much to get there (he was tired after the morning walk to and from Bon Marche); this was to be a recurring theme throughout the rest of the trip. We assured him that taking the metro was always an option, so off we went toward our 'home stop' at Musee D'Orsay.

Thanks to advance research, I knew the most effective means of traveling via subway for out group was to use a basic 10 pack of carnets, which can be bought at loads of places throughout the city. We bought ours at a self-service machine (card only, no cash) at the D’Orsay metro station. Mr TM (who was flexing his French-speaking muscles by using instructions in that language instead of English) ended up buying way more packs of 10 than planned. No problem, though, because I knew we'd probably use most of the tickets by the end of our trip!

Hint traveling with older kids: We explained to the boys how to use the carnets, i.e., you can use each ticket twice...once to enter the Metro and then to exit (usually, but more on that later), and after those two uses, it's no longer any good. The boys had a choice to hold on to their ticket after using it to enter, or handing it over to me. I tried to encourage them to hold on to their own tickets, simply to save time and avoid being rude...the Metro was sometimes crowded, and both boys still have a habit of stopping in the middle of a flow of traffic to tell me something or hand me something, and I wanted to avoid that. Ten assumed responsibility for his tickets the entire trip and did great. Nine alternated, but sometimes would get nervous about losing it once we were seated on the train and would pass it over. I was te official holder of unused tickets (they stayed in my upper vest pocket) and would hand out new ones each time we started a new trip on the metro. This worked well...until it got busy and until we encountered stops where the exits were wide open and we didn't need a ticket to get out!

The Saint Michele/Notre Dame stop was one away from D’Orsay, so we were quickly at our final destination and outside and walking across the Seine onto Ile de la Cite...and then toward Notre Dame, where we found the first surprising security aspect of our trip.

The entire plaza in front of Notre Dame was cordoned off by temporary fencing, and a mass of people were bunched along the street in an apparent attempt to go through security and through the fencing. The entire atmosphere was a bit chaotic...there was no distinct line, none of the tourists we asked knew what the heck was going on or how to get through or what to do once through the fence. We saw the security at the airport, and saw it at Le Bon Marche, but we were surprised both at the extent of the security around Notre Dame AND at how unorganized it all was.

We eventually found what kind of looked like a line and followed people toward an opening in the fence, where military/police types (uniforms, big guns) were checking bags and asking everyone to do the ‘hold your jacket open' thing. When Mr TM and others in line asked (in English and French) questions about what to do once we were inside the fence (what line to stand in to tour Notre Dame, what line to stand in to climb to see the gargoyles), no one had a clue. The entire thing was very unorganized and had the air of something thrown together at the last minute.

The boys…again, who are accustomed to security in DC and NYC…didn’t seem to notice the chaos. So Mr TM and I went with the flow and made it through the check point. Outside of a line going into Notre Dame itself, the plaza in front was almost free of people (everyone else was outside of the fences trying to figure out how to get in!).

We let the boys run around a bit before getting into the single line just outside of the cathedral doors. That line, naturally, led right into Notre Dame. No one we asked (at the doors going into Notre Dame, or the few security people patrolling the plaza inside the fence) knew where the line was for the gargoyles or even if the gargoyles were being viewed that day.

So we went inside for a quick self-guided tour of Notre Dame instead.
for Euros so that he could light some of the candles. I obliged (as I hail from a long line of Catholics and have always lit candles and said prayers for long-gone family members when visiting churches in Europe) and explained why and who we were lighting the candles for (his great grandparents and two particular aunts of mine who was very special to me).

Nine and I then wandered around and discussed the stained glass windows while Mr TM and Ten looked at the art and relics and discussed how the cathedral was built.

It was a short (30 minutes) visit, but enjoyable.

When we exited, there was a huge line forming just outside of the cathedral doors, much longer the short one we stood in before entering. We figured that people were starting to arrive early for Christmas Eve services.

Mr TM again asked guides and police-looking types about the gargoyle line again, but…still, no one knew where it was or if it was open.

Then, when we tried to exit, no one knew where, exactly, we were supposed to exit! There was a huge group of us trying to figure out how to get out of the fence and back onto the streets…and every time one guard opened a portion of the fence for us to exit, another would run over and shout that we weren’t allowed to leave that way.

The entire episode was amusing for Mr TM and I, though Ten and Nine were getting restless at this point.

We finally made it out when a disgruntled policewoman kept the fence open and let everyone leave despite another security person running over and shouting to keep it closed, lol.

It's getting late, so I'll save the rest for part 3.

Next up, we discover a fabulous park and play area behind Notre Dame, Nine finally gets to spend money and buy things, we get ice cream(!), do some last minute grocery shopping, and witness Ten have a cute conversation with a very nice older lady and her pint-sized pup.
TigerMcQueen is offline  
Old Feb 2nd, 2016, 06:25 AM
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Great report!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2016, 08:08 AM
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Enjoying your report! I'm surprised there was this type of security at Notre Dame if you were there in September, 2 months before the attacks. But then again, I guess Charlie Hebdo was earlier that year, and the Thalys train attack the month before you were there. Glad you were safe.

Curious if your boys ever adjusted to Paris time or did they continue to sleep late?
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Old Feb 2nd, 2016, 06:31 PM
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Quick note:

I'm missing a bit of text here:

"...So we went inside for a quick self-guided tour of Notre Dame instead.
for Euros so that he could light some of the candles. I obliged..."

In between that 'instead' and 'for Euros', there are missing bits about Nine asking to light the candles. So it should read, "...of Notre Dame instead. Nine asked for Euros so that he could light some of the candles..."

The dormant editor in me coming to light and being appalled at typos in my report .

I'm working on the next part tonight and hope to have it up tomorrow at the latest!

And, brubenow, we semi-adjusted to Paris time. The boys slept and hour or so later in Paris than normally at home, but not so late that it put a dent into our plans for the day. And once they were awake, they were good until their normal bedtime. It was Mr TigerMac and I that had the harder time adjusting...we'd get up at a normal time in the morning but often required a lonoooong nap after lunch, something that is not the norm at home!
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