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Trip Report You're Darn Right We're Taking the Kids to Paris!: A Lengthy Trip Report

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I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since we went to Paris. I’ve been meaning to edit the journal we kept, and since it’s a rainy Sunday, now’s as good a time as any. This is the story of our trip to Paris in late December, 2008. We are Dan, Deb, and our two children, CC (12 year old girl) and CJ (10 year old boy). And the title of this trip report is based on the first question so many asked us when we said we were going to Paris, namely: Are you taking the kids?

And I’m sorry for the length, but I’ve actually edited things down quite a bit. I’m not sure I fixed the tense everywhere, either, but here goes:

DAY 1: Christmas! That’s right, Christmas. See, we’re flying on miles, so we had no choice but to be a little flexible on the dates. And this is actually our second attempt at this trip. We had originally planned on going over Spring Break 2008, but my father-in-law fell gravely ill less than an hour before we were to leave for the airport, and we drove to be with him instead.

We got up around 3:00 a.m. for our 7:30 a.m. flight to CDG through Toronto. We woke the kids up around 3:30, and discovered that Santa had in fact come! He brought some much longed-for books, and MP3 speaker docks. The kids also got noise-canceling headphones from their grandma. We had all (yes, including Deb) packed the night before, so we were easily out the door within 10 minutes of my 4:30 ETD.

An easy, rainy drive to Park N Fly, where we were glad we had made reservations, because it was completely full. We parked in a teeny spot and got to the airport with time to spare. Hung out at the gate, the kids read their new books, Deb and I each had a leftover breakfast sausage, and I had a yogurt, and we boarded without incident. We had a 3/3 seating arrangement on the plane, so it went CC (window), then me, CJ, then across the aisle, Deb. We declined Air Canada’s generous offer of snacks for sale, and snacked on Grandma Bev’s excellent snack bags which she gave us for Christmas. I watched something so memorable I can’t even remember what it was, plus some episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Got to Toronto on time, went through customs smoothly, and arrived at our Gate 74 . . . 5 and ½ hours before our next flight. Oh boy!

We were all pretty hungry, so we munched at Coyote Jack’s Grill. I think this is CJ’s part – food reviewer. So. . . here’s CJ!

Coyote Jack’s was a really good fast food place. The bacon cheddar burger, CC and I agree, was just about the best burger ever. The fries were amazing. They were fresh out of the frying things, so they were really hot and perfectly greasy. Dad says that the Caesar salad was great for a pre-packaged salad, and he gave it 7.5 out of 10. Mom gives it a 7. In all, I would give Coyote Jack’s 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Dad here. So now we only had 5 hours left in the Toronto airport instead of 5 and ½. We decided to stay in the food court – type area to hang out, and just took turns wandering around the terminal for a few hours. We figured out the wi-fi (first time ever!), CC e-mailed her pals, and there was a creepy guy sitting at the table next to the kids, when Deb and I returned from what was maybe a 5 minute stroll. Gross. Then Deb noticed that the flight was now leaving at 9:55 instead of 9:10. Boo! It was only later that we noticed that they had changed the gate on us, and our flight was still leaving on time – just from a different gate. So we ambled on over to spend another 2 plus hours at a different gate, with a big TV overhead playing the same ads over and over. I will never get the 2 hands made out of phones wrestling out of my head again.

Our plane finally showed up, and things were moving smoothly, until someone realized they had not supplied the plane with pillows or blankets. Arggh! But we got out of Toronto within a half hour or so of the expected time, and we were finally on our way to Paris! Very cool, new 767, with subtle mood lighting. Dinner was served pretty quickly. Oh, that’s CJ’s area.

On the airplane, there were two choices of dinner-chicken in an orange sauce, or beef with vegetables. The chicken was not loved. Mom said it was greasy, and Dad said it was fishy. The average score for the chicken was 5 out of 10 stars. The beef however was pretty good. The beef was juicy and cooked to near perfection. The sauce wasn’t great though, and the vegetables were good. Also we got a cookie-a snickerdoodle shaped like a Christmas tree with sprinkles –that was great. Also, there was a wonderful beet salad. The food was given a 7.5, which I guess is good for airplane food.

A few hours later, we got breakfast on the plane. There were muffins, orange juice, and yogurt. The muffins were great. They were dense, moist, and coconutty. The orange juice was OK, and the yogurt was creamy in the French style. The yogurt was great. This breakfast was rated a 6.5, which is OK for airplane food.

Ok, Dad back here again. CJ’s rating system may require a quick explanation. He’s averaging everyone’s ratings. So the breakfast got a 5 from me, a 7.5 from CJ, and a 7 from Deb. (CC was in the shower when this particular poll was conducted and asleep for the others. We plan on including her in future food polls.)

I watched Tropic Thunder on the Paris flight, with CC craning her neck over to watch some of the bloodier parts. They turned the lights out, and CC and I both got at least a few hours of sleep. Which is more than I can say for Deb and CJ. Every time I woke up, they were both awake, though trying to get some shut-eye. They got a little, I am told, but later events would prove that they got very little.

As always, they turn on the lights too soon and serve breakfast 1-1/2 hours before landing, depriving you of at least 45 minutes of crucial rest, and pumping you up with caffeine, only to have to slog through the descent, customs and the taxi ride into Paris.

On the other hand, we were now in Paris! So we slogged through customs, where they actually stamped our passports (which they did in Canada as well, although we had to ask the Canadian guy, who was more than happy to do so) and got our bags at a strangely primitive conveyor area. We had a minor delay trying to figure out the French ATM, but got out without incident.

Out into the fresh, cold air for a taxi, which came quickly. I don’t remember the make of the taxi, but we had a quiet Algerian driver and a pretty small taxi. He got us into town quickly, and dropped us off in front of our apartment, right next to the Pub St. Germain. It was goose-bump city, as always, approaching the Seine and seeing all the familiar landmarks. Our apartment was Vacation in Paris #182, which we got for $165 a night, before it went up to $200 a night, $250 in high season. I love that they mail you the keys – no waiting around for someone to let you in. We had a code to get in the front door of the building, then a key to let us into the courtyard, then up some curly (and very slippery) steps to our landing, where a very strange looking key opens five bolts that lock our old door.

But I got the key to work, and we entered the apartment! Tiny, but it is great! A water closet on the left as you enter, then the shower room on the left, then the apartment itself, which is a kitchen/living room, and a separate bedroom. 30 square meters in all. We got set up, and then quickly made our first run to Champion Supermarche (around the corner, at Rues de Buci and Seine) for supplies. Bread, cheese, moutarde, ham, fruit, paper towels and toilet paper, pate, cereal, cornichons, tomato and vin rouge. Then back to the apartment for an apartment picnic, which I believe is CJ’s territory.

The apartment picnic was loved by all-except possibly the food might not have had the time of their lives. We got three cheeses: Saint Nectaire, Brie and Gouda. The cheese was fabulous of course, seeing as they were made with unpasteurized milk. That is why French cheese is so much better than other country’s cheese’s-it is made with unpasteurized milk. I didn’t love the brie, but other than that, all the cheeses were loved by everyone. We also got two kinds of baguette. One had a flakier crust and a looser middle, and the other had a moister, denser middle and a harder crust. They were equally liked. The pate, or mousse de foie, was absolutely amazing, possibly a 10. The rest of the family was also having cornichons (basiCJly like tiny pickles), mustard, and tomato. They say that these were perfect accompaniment to the bread and cheese. This picnic had a score of 9.75.

Dad’s taking a break from writing, so I’m going to write about the walk we took together, right after the apartment picnic. CC and Mom were tired from the plane flight, so they stayed home. On the walk, Dad and I walked to the Seine river. We went down to the tiny walkway right at the level where the river usually is. But there had been a lot of rain lately, so the river was almost going over the railing on to the walkway. It was really cool. Also on the walk we went to Notre Dame. There was a line to go into the church, so we didn’t go into it, but we walked around the sides of it. There must be over 200 gargoyles.

Another thing we did on the walk was walk down the Rue St. Andre des Arts. There must have been at least 15 creperies on the street. Creperies are places that sell crepes (big surprise there). Also on that street, there was a game shop. There must have been over 500 board games, card games, and other games there. It was amazing. It was a really great walk.

Thanks, CJ. The walk was fantastic – I always love my first walk around in Paris, and it was a blast. We also checked out the Ile St. Louis and the Brasserie of the same name. They have Deb’s favorite, Coq au Riesling, on the menu, but the issue is that they often run out of it. So we’ll have to check in with them again soon. We also stopped at the little park in back of Notre Dame, where they now have a few playground items. CJ swung in the swing for a few minutes, but I think he was disappointed (he hid it well) to not check out the merry-go-round type spinning disc a couple of kids were having fun on. On the way back, we also poked our heads in to St. Severin – a really old church in the 5th. It was really cold, so we hurried back.

The girls were cozied up: Deb was napping and CC was reading one of her “Twilight” books Santa brought. They roused themselves and about 4:30 p.m., we headed out for our long walk. The route was: down rue Mazarine to the Seine, across the Pont des Arts, and into the Cour Caree of the Louvre. Then into the Pyramid courtyard, and into the public passage under the Richelieu wing, where you can see the sculpture gardens – beautiful. Then a u-turn to the place du Carousel and into the Jardin du Tuileries – but wait. It was really cold, so we decided to head down into the Carousel du Louvre – the underground shopping mall, where you can also see the old foundations of the Louvre. Amazing. I’m going to run out of adjectives, and it’s only the first day.

So we continued out of the Carousel and back into the Tuileries. The sun had set, but it was still light out, and we walked all the way through the Tuileries to the Place de la Concorde. It was really cold, as I may have said, and at some point I stopped being able to feel my face. So our plan is to go to the department stores and buy scarves and the like. We turned back at the Orangerie, by which point it was pretty much dark, and walked back down the river side of the Tuileries. Did I mention it was freezing? Oh. Then we walked along the Seine, and ran into the animalleries on the Quai de la Megisserie.

Wow! First off, from my point of view, it was great to get out of the cold, even if it was into a stinky, stuffy pet shop. Or rather, four or five pet shops, all with cute, very expensive doggies and kitties, along with other assorted beasts. I may let someone else describe some of the very cute guys in these stores, but the kids had a blast. We thought we could get as far as the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and the ice rink there, but it was just too cold, so we turned right at the Pont Notre Dame and walked back across the Ile de la Cite, to St. Michel, then up rue St. Andres des Arts, for crepes! Uh oh – that’s a cue for the big guy.

CJ here. Crepes are pretty much the best food ever, and these crepes are probably the best crepes I’ve ever had. They had a score of 9 by my family. We have very high standards for crepes, but we loved these.

After that, we just went home. We stayed up until 11:00 to get rid of our jet-lag. I played a few levels of my favorite computer game (our apartment has Wi-Fi), then went to bed. Around 9:50 though, I fell asleep, and only half woke up when Mom and Dad told me to get in bed. I was half-asleep, and didn’t know where I was. I got all upset in my half-awake state because of this. It was really weird.

Quick note about the crepes. CJ got sucre, CC got Nutella, and Deb and I got fromage. Monsieur was very generous with his toppings, and asked Deb and I if we wanted sal ou pouvre. I said both, and Deb said no, which she instantly regretted. I may have eaten mine in about 38 seconds. I laughed when Deb said she was thinking about waiting until we got back to the apartment to eat hers, and she quickly saw the light. This was a creperie close to Place St. Andre des Arts, on the right as you walk toward Buci. We’ll get the name of it on one of our walks.

Some brief (yeah, sure. . .) notes about the day and apartment. First, we can’t get the TV to work, and frankly don’t care! We have it set up so the kids are in the bedroom, and we sleep on the sofabed, which lets us stay up later and have a nightcap. J We quickly adjusted to the size – for much of our down time CC would be on the bed reading Twilight, CJ would be on a barstool writing his food reviews or playing a computer game, while we would be looking at guidebooks or rummaging around. Very cozy, and I’d recommend it for the family that is used to spending time together in small places, or for a couple.

All in all, a perfect first day, exceeding all expectations!

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    What a great trip this must have been for your family--and a great TR, too--like your style! I look forward to hearing more.

    I'm going to Paris in April with my daughter and 6 yr old granddaughter, so I am especially interested in what your children enjoyed even though they are older than my petite-fille. We're staying in an apt., too, in the 6th, although a bit southwest of where you were, I believe. I may post again to ask you some questions!

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    Keep the words coming. I will be in France for 2 months this summer and am getting more anxious by the day ready your families post. Sounds like you all had a great time. I look forward to reading more.... Thanks

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    Wow, thanks for all the kind words! The title sums up our attitude, obviously: Paris is a great city for kids, and we didn't even avail ourselves of a fraction of what's out there for kids.

    By the way, you'll see that my boy starts passing on some of the food reviews, but he had fun doing it the first few days. Anyway, here comes Saturday the 27th.

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    Saturday, December 27, 2008 DAY 2

    CJ and I got up around 7:00 – well, actually, about 6:30, and out the door at 7 – and went for a walk that was longer than CJ wanted but shorter than I wanted, which worked out just right. We cruised around our neighborhood – rue de Buci and rue de Seine - then down St. Germain to Rue de Four, saw where our apartment would have been last spring, then meandered down to St. Sulpice. CJ said it was creepy, and it actually was a little spooky in the still dark of night, even though it was 7:30 by now. St. Sulpice is under major construction, so we couldn’t go in. Or so we thought. Around the side was a little sign that said Entrée, so we went in, and boy was it amazing. So big, so beautiful, and a little eerie, since we didn’t see another soul in the entire church. I’d really like to hear the organ concert on Sunday – those pipes are huge.

    We then had a hard time finding our way out, but did, [I, CJ knew where the exit was the whole time] and walked back to our neighborhood, but not without checking out Gerard Mulot Patisserie, which wasn’t quite open yet, although there were 7 or 8 young women furiously filling up the shelves. Very fancy, lots of amazing looking desserts and sweets, including macarons, which I’ve never tried, but promise to on this trip. The only place open this early on a Saturday was Carton, a patisserie and boulangerie on Rue de Buci, so we stopped and got some chausson aux pommes, croissants, pain au chocolates, and one apricot pastry that CJ had. I had one of the croissants, and yow – I’m not sure why they can’t make croissants like this in the EEUU (United States), but they can’t, and even if they could, not for 95 Eurocents.

    We ate, had some coffee (the kids did not want to try the shelf stable milk we bought yesterday, even though it was now cold), showered, and got out the door by 11:00 a.m. or so, bound for Galleries LaFayette for some shopping. Our first Metro trip! We had a little hitch in our giddy-up at the St. Germain station, trying to figure out how to get 2 carnets (one adult, one “tarif reduit”) from the machine, since the woman at the counter insisted we use the machine. And she was right, once I stopped trying to use our silly American credit cards and saw where the machine accepted paper Euros. I just couldn’t see how a machine could read those squarish, different sized notes, even though BART machines in the Bay Area easily read U.S. money. But it did, and we were on our way, transferring at Chatelet, which think I said was the biggest underground station in the world 3 or 4 times. What a trek – up, down, sideways on moving walkways, past a very good band and some fruit stands, and finally to our platform and off to the Opera Station, mainly to see the Garnier Opera House on our way to the store.

    Galeries LaFayette is really big, and it was decked out for Christmas with a ginormous Christmas tree and giant ornaments up in the dome, which must be 15 stories high, with stained glass. Just beautiful, and CC got some excellent pictures of it. (We also looked at some of the pictures she took on the first day, and they are very good.) We wandered around for a while, kind of looking for a scarf and hat for CC, and maybe something for Deb, and then the boys split up and looked at DVDs and books while the girls shopped. We were supposed to meet at the “upscalator” at 12:55, and unfortunately there are two (at least) on the basement level, so we didn’t actually find each other for another 20 minutes or so. But CC got a pretty scarf and wool cap, and she looks beautiful in them – tres Parisienne!

    We then walked a half-mile or so up (down?) Boulevard Haussmann to Chartier restaurant, which was our destination. It’s off Haussmann on Fauborg-Montmarte, then down a little passage into a courtyard. We waited in line outside, but it moved quickly, and we were at the doorman within 20 minutes or so. He escorted Deb in and said something to her, and we followed her into the restaurant, around a corner, and up some stairs to a balcony where we were one of 3 parties standing around waiting for a table. So I asked Deb, what did the maitre’d tell you? She said he patted her arm a few times, pushed her toward the back of the restaurant and said, “premier etage,” and gestured around and up. Then Deb, feeling her oats, asked one of the waiters upstairs, “C’est le premiere etage ici?” He said “oui,” and she was very pleased with herself indeed! We were seated pretty quickly, and this is CJ’s part, but I’ll just say, I loved this place. The waiter could not have been more gracious, and at the end when he was supposed to add up what we ordered (they write the order down on your table paper and then add up the price right there), he asked CJ if he wanted to add it. He got it right, by the way.

    CJ: Chartier was a great restaurant. After looking at the menu for a while, I got an appetizer of ham and sausage, and a main course of steak frites. Dad got a terrine and sauerkraut with assorted meats. Mom and CC got the same thing as each other-a salad each and a piece of chicken with frites each. Everyone except me loved their appetizer. Mine was too dry and chewy.

    Everyone really liked their dinner. Mom and CC’s chicken looked really juicy and good. The frite were great-not too crispy but not too doughy. The lamb chops were great also.

    For dessert, CC and I got the same thing-profiteroles au chocolat chaude. They were absolutely amazing. The ice cream inside was great, and the hot fudge sauce was great. Dad got a kind of goat cheese, and Mom got just coffee. Chartier had an overall rating of 8.75 stars.

    Dad: I had been craving choucroute and pork products, and was not disappointed! And the chevre was delicious and the single biggest pice of goat cheese I’ve ever seen intended for one person. The girls’ salads were frisee and lardons – fantastic. And le damage, including a carafe of vin rouge, was 78.70 Euro! Afterwards, feeling full and happy, we decided to walk back home, down Rue Montmarte, which runs smack into St. Eustache, yet another huge, old cathedral. In fact, we saw a list of head priests inside which goes back to 1213! CJ keeps asking, and I can’t give a good answer, how did they build these things?

    CJ: We got kinda lost in St Eustache, and we had to ask a lady there where the exit is. But in the end, we got out, into an amazing courtyard. There was a giant statue of a head next to a giant statue of a hand. We got to stand on top of the hand. There was giant, long, fountain thing at the end of the courtyard. It was really cool.

    Then, we went to Zara but we didn’t get anything. Then we went home. At home, we just relaxed for a while. Around 8:00, we had dinner-another apartment picnic. Then, around 9:00, we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower.

    The Eiffel Tower was all lit up because it was night. We got there at around 9:45. We were going to go up to the top, but the line was really long and we couldn’t figure out how to get tickets. Around 10:00, we decided to leave. Then, at ten, the Eiffel Tower lit up with hundreds of flickering lights. It was amazing.

    Then, we went to a cool place called Trocadero. There was a really huge, deep fountain. It was amazing. After that we took a metro to a creperies near our house. CC and I both got nutella. Mom and Dad didn’t get any crepes.

    After that, we went to the apartment. We went to bed and fell asleep soon.

    Dad: Well, not much to add there. We did walk the rest of the way home from St. Eustache and Zara, stopping at Franprix on Rue Mazarine. It’s smaller than our Champion, but the vibe there was very Saturday night. A younger couple buying lots of frozen chicken cordon bleus, coffee cake-type things, frozen pizzas, yogurts, cheeses and the like. Deb says maybe they were just buying two weeks worth of groceries, but I like to think they were having people over and these were their appetizers to go with their wine or specialty cocktails over the holidays. Then of course we had madame (several of them), buying their parsley, turnips, leeks, onions, potatoes and meat for tomorrow’s (tonight’s?) pot au feu. Us? Just more cheese, wine, biscuits (cookies), and pate, and finally tapenade. That’s right: Champion has no tapenade. I don’t know if this rises to a national crise, but even the worker at Champion who started confidently walking me through the store when I asked “ou et le tapenade?” finally admitted in stunned defeat: “I don’t think we have tapenade.” Sacre bleu!

    Then a note about our sudden Eiffel Tower run. We were very cozy, around 8:00 p.m., after much bread, cheese, pate, etc., when Deb just says, let’s go to the Eiffel Tower. So we got our cold weather gear on, I took a quick look at the Metro situation, and we were off! The plan was to take Odeon to St. Michel, and transfer to the RER and take it to the Champs du Mar/Eiffel Tower station. Pas de probleme, non? Non. At St. Michel, we made it most of the way to the RER platform, but then took a crucial right turn rather than left, at what we’ll say was an ambiguous “sortie” fork. Deb was confidently marching to the right, while I was not as forceful (we soon learned) as I should have been, mainly because I saw it as a crapshoot. But we went right and found ourselves at a space where we could not do anything but exit the station. Ack! We tried various ways to see if we could still be in the paid space, to no avail. We had to use new metro tickets to get back in.

    Then, of course, we could not, for the life of us, figure out how to get to the right platform. We consulted maps, walked around in circles, walked down one set of steps three different times, until Deb noticed that the “C” (for the line we wanted) had been covered over down the staircase we kept thinking might be the way. So we finally got to the right platform, only to almost miss the train because the car that stopped in front of us was dark, so we had to sprint to the next car. This was after giving some advice to a nice couple from Salt Lake City about what to do in Paris on a 15 hour layover sans hotel. Although I had a weird feeling that they were either not from SLC, or were otherwise not Mormons and had bad intentions. But that’s just me.

    When we got to the station, we had a long walk down the busy and dark Quai to the Tour Eiffel, with about 700 sleazy hawkers forming a gauntlet, but otherwise, CJ describes it nicely. I will add that it was absolutely freezing, and that walking up the Trocadero steps was a major workout. We took the Trocadero metro to Grenelle, and back to Odeon to get home. There is a wonderful candy stand at the corner of St. Germain and Ancienne Comedie, and I wonder if it is just there for the holidays.

    The crepe stand we went to is the one just down from our apartment on Ancienne Comedie – very convenient.

    Oh, a note about the apartment: During breakfast, the power in the apartment went out - twice! The first time was while CJ was in the shower! Very glad it’s morning – otherwise it would have been pitch dark. Quickly figured out that the power was on in the rest of the building, so we consulted our not-so-handy dandy apartment guide. Deb quickly decided to flip what looked like the main fuse, in a white box above the front door, and voila – lights! We think it was having the electric kettle on at the same time as the shower, or at least the same time as the fan in the bathroom.

    By the way, we had also already dismantled the smoke detector on Friday, which had been beeping every 30 seconds – that would have made for a fun visit! We called the owner, Phillippe, who first insisted on correcting me by letting me know it was a fire detector, not a smoke detector. Glad to get that cleared up. Anyway, his suggestion to press the button did nothing, so he said to go ahead and remove the batteries. Thanks, Phillippe. Also, in that first phone call, Phillippe had mentioned he had some friends in town he wanted to show the apartment to. Sure enough, upon our arrival from our first walk around the city, Phillippe and 3 female companions dressed to the nines were checking out the apartment! It was a little strange, but they were polite, and left within a few minutes. That apartment gets very crowded with 8 people in it!

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    Keep it coming. It's wonderful. I especially enjoyed the part about the people "who may or may not" have been from SLC, since I'm about an hour from there. (Surely made me giggle. (formerly from SoCal)

    Side note if you don't mind the question. What are the rates in Dec. from the west coast-Paris?

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    Love your report and we stayed in that apartment in April 2008 (it was $150 a night then!).
    The location is fantastic and we loved how quiet it was even though it's on a busy street. Yes, it's small and we also overloaded the power supply a couple of times..... :)

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    Day 3: Sunday, December 28

    Dan: I woke up early as usual, and CJ declined my request to get up and take a walk. So I slithered between the sofa bed and the suitcases and managed to get on my clothes and jackets without waking anyone, for a 7:30 a.m. morning walk. I decided to visit the Jardins du Luxembourg, hoping they would be open given the fact that it was barely light out. And I was very happy I did, although I do wish Deb were with me. On our honeymoon, we visited the Lux. Gardens every day, watching the Plane trees sprout more leaves each day during the last few days of winter. But I know she gets her best sleep on vacations once it’s light in the morning, so we’re all good.

    On this walk, the trees were bare, and there were few visitors save the intense runners. And man, was it cold! Definitely in the 20s, or around minus 2 or 3 Celsius. Per, this was a 2 mile walk. On the way back, I stopped at Carton for our standard apartment breakfast: more croissants, pain au chocolate, baguettes and chausson aux pommes.

    Although nobody was awake when I got back, the smell of coffee and incredible pastries got people going. Four showers and many layers of clothing later, we were out the door for: The Louvre! That’s right, it’s museum day! We walked down Rue de Seine and across the Pont des Arts – possibly my favorite walk on Earth - then to the main pyramid entrance (after posing for pictures taken by CC in front). We would have gone in one of the more obscure entrees, but there was virtually no line. Our plan was to get Museum Passes (hard not to call them Cartes Musee, but “Paris Museum Pass” is their name even in Paris!). So we went down the stairs to find a mob scene, but knew to walk toward the Carousel to an office that sells the Passes, where nobody ever goes. So we did, getting two 4-day passes for 45 Euro each.

    By the way, the exchange rate during this trip was around 1.40. A little too much over 1-to-1 to pretend Euros were dollars, but we tried. And while we weren’t on a budget per se, we had done our research, and didn’t have any wild splurges planned, except for Disneyland Paris. More on that later.

    The kids didn’t need Museum Passes, since every museum in Paris (except Cite des Sciences and maybe a few others) are free for kids, and while we weren’t sure we were going to go to enough museums in 4 days to justify the price, we knew it would be close, and we were pretty sure it would be worth it to us to bypass the lines. We had no agenda in the Louvre, so we picked the Richelieu wing pretty much at random. The first thing we got to see was the heroic 18th century French sculpture in the huge sculpture room. Amazing. Then we meandered and ended up looking at recreations of Napoleon’s apartments, unless they weren’t recreations. Pretty opulent. Those two areas took up close to 2 hours, and our plan was never to spend more than that much time in any one museum, so we agreed to try to visit again later to see the big paintings in the other wing, along with Asian antiquities for CC’s project.

    We left through the Carousel exit, and strolled through the Tuileries, with a stop for crepes for the kids and baguette sandwiches for me and Deb, which we ate on a bench and chairs, with birds appreciating CC’s generosity with her crumbs. Note: no sodas, ever! We’re not really a soda drinking family anyway, and we had let the kids know we did not want to pay 4 or 5 Euro for Pepsi, so it was never an issue. We split a couple of bottled waters, for what its worth.

    We decided to see about the big Ferris Wheel (“Roue de Paris”),and there was no line, to our serious surprise given the crowds everywhere. Tickets were 9 and 6 Euro apiece (that constituted a semi-splurge, but what the heck), so we did it and it was fantastic! For once, I think Deb was more scared of heights than I was. You get to go around 3 or 4 times, with some pauses up top of a good 2 or 3 minutes at a time, probably 15 minutes total. We shared the car with a French dad and his boy, who were having as good a time as we were. Great views, great time.

    We then headed over to the Orangerie, which of course had the beautiful Monet Waterlilies on the top floor. The kids seemed to appreciate them – no complaining, and actual comments on the art. Since we were there, we decided to quickly see what was downstairs, and it turned out to include a healthy amount of Picassos, Renoirs, Cezannes and Rousseaus. Wow! I had no idea about this exhibit going in, so it was a major thrill and surprise.

    Then a chilly walk across the Seine on what we think is a brand new footbridge over to the Musee d’Orsay, where the lines were huge, but: we have a Museum Pass – yeah! So our Access Priorite line was only 5 minutes long although I think it seemed like about 3 hours to the kids – there was some minor grumbling, but nothing that required snapping at them. We stomped up to the top floor for the Impressionists, and as always it was amazing to see that many familiar classics all together – Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Whistler. Ridiculous. But the kids were exhausted, so we high-tailed it out of there through the main floor, and walked down the rue Universite to rue Jacob to home, on a very dark, cold, wintry afternoon. We poked our heads into some entryways along the way, which was fascinating.

    On the way, I had my own turn having a French couple ask me for directions, which I was actually able to do, knowing exactly where the Place Furstemburg was. Well, except for my pointing to the left and saying “droit.” At which point monsieur said, “gauche?,” and I said, “um, oui, gauche.” But still, CJ gave me a grade of 90%, while the girls wanted to give me major points off.

    Back to the apartment where we’ve snacked on a little cheese and bread in advance of heading over to Polidor tonight for dinner.

    CJ: Polidor was an absolutely amazing restaurant. Mom and CC got the same thing again. They got a creamy lentil soup with pureed foie gras mixed in. They say it was amazing. Their main course, or plats, was boeuf bourgonoine. They say it was very, very good. Dad and I got the same entrée. We got confit de foie de porc. It was rated a 10 by both of us. It had wonderful chunks in it, and it was more of a terrine than a pate. Dad’s plat was blanquette de veau (veal stew). He said it was heavenly and had the best white stew sauce he ever had in a restaurant. I had steak with shallots and frites. The shallots were cooked with butter, wine, and drippings from the pan. The steak was perfectly cooked and nice and tender and juicy. The frites were perfectly crispy. In all, Polidor was a 9.5 star restaurant.

    We got back to the apartment around 9:00. We’re just going to lounge around the apartment until we go to bed.

    Dan: Polidor is in most of the guidebooks, and they mention the gruff waiters and the “student-friendly” prices. Well, we saw nothing but waitresses, and while they work their behinds off, they were anything but gruff. Efficient maybe, but ours was more than willing to give us some extra time to work through the menu, and was wonderful. The prices were very fair, but I’m not sure a student would want to spend 96 euro for 4. Maybe students are doing better than when I was one.

    Price breakdown: 22 and 32 Euro menus. Deb and CC ordered off the 22 Euro menu, which is how CJ got glace – he got Deb’s. I didn’t want dessert, so my 6 Euro terrine and 16 Euro Blanquette de Veau (which was available on the 32 Euro menu) added up to 22, while the bargain of the night and maybe all time was CJ’s 10 Euro steak frites (on the menu as “Bavette”) with shallots. Bavette translates as “flap,” but it wasn’t quite a hanger steak, because it wasn’t quite gamey enough – hard to know quite what it was. But it was perfect – we weren’t sure how to order it medium rare, and finally our waitress, who’d been patient with our French, gently suggested “medium?” Well, oui. The kids’ dessert was 2 scoops of gelato – chocolate and caramel. Yum! We had a “pot” (46 cl., about 2/3 of a bottle) of Brouilly, the house red for the night, for 12 Euro, and d’l’eau ordinaire for the table.

    When we to Polidor at about 7:30 p.m., it was about ½ full. We were seated in the back room, which had 3 community tables seating 12 apiece, and two smaller tables. By 8:00, it was packed, and when I say packed, I mean scooting your chair in so your stomach (well, my stomach) was smashed against the table. In a good way. To my left was a Parisian trio who absolutely wolfed their food. Two guys and a girl, all 50-ish, their appetizers came shortly after we got there, and they got 3 bowls of the lentil soup and two confit de porc. And the next time I looked over, the entrees were gone. They then proceeded to motor through their plats and tartes and cafes and were gone. Although not before squeeeeezing past us with coats brushing over our heads. In a charming way, of course.

    This was not an isolated incident. Parisians are noted for their gastonomie, and one hears of, and experiences, leisurely, multiple course meals, with the waiter gladly waiting until you ask for l’addition. One cannot have one’s café prior to everyone else finishing their cheese and dessert, and we’ve been places where one cannot have one’s dessert until others have finished their cheese. And yet at our two restaurants so far we consistently see locals just inhale their meals, so even though they may have 3 or 4 courses, things are flying to and off the table, albeit all in the prescribed order.

    So it was c’est normal at Polidor. We may just go back and all order the 10 Euro bavette frites.

    The kids are very excited about Disneyland Paris tomorrow, and they are in bed now, so we’re at the “be quiet or we’re not going to Disneyland tomorrow” phase of the evening. More wine is really the only solution.

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    Grandmere, Rose, Julie and Four: I think our kids have inherited our love of food, and for them, the various and varying food experiences were something they looked forward to each day, and still talk about. CJ (10 yr. old boy) still says Polidor was the highlight of his trip, even over the Eiffel Tower and Disneyland! CC (12 yr old girl) enjoyed the food and any opportunities to shop.

    I really feel like they lived in the moment, enjoying both down time as well as all the walking. They shared a room at an age when they probably didn't want to, and they chose to get along. I couldn't have asked for a better time with and attitude from the kids.

    We also went to Paris when they were 4 and 2, and I would say the Jardin de Acclimitation (sp?) was the highlight of that trip for them, along with daily trips to the Luxembourg Gardens playground.

    Laurel 61: If you mean flying rates, we used our United frequent flier miles for this trip, although we did have to pay $100 per ticket after we had to reschedule after my father-in-law passed away. So I'm not sure what it cost, although I do recall something around $1,000 for the Air France SFO-CDG flight, one I've always coveted because it's the only non-stop. If you mean exchange rates, it was 1.40 at the time, although it's now down to a little under 1.30.

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    Wow what a wonderful opportunity you have given your children. It is really fun to see that young children can appreciate new/different food too. My children are all over 18 now and I hope to surprise them with a trip next year during there college breaks(18,20,22,& 26) While I will be making my 1st trip back to europe in 25 years I will be looking for things to show them next year.
    Would you do anything different as far as your plans were if they were older.
    P.S. Disney Paris will be out for us as we always had season passes to Disneyland but everything else sounds great. Oh and keep posting the reading is very entertaining.

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    Enjoying your report, I am one half (the better half?) of a Dan and Deb couple, too.

    We were in Paris last summer with our two kids (16 and 13) and I am reliving our trip as I read your posts.


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    love your trip report.
    please don't stop.
    for being only 10, cj is quite a food critic.
    i am taking notes on all his recommendations esp. the creperies as dd and i will be in paris the 1st week of april staying in v.i.p. #122 on
    st. andres

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    Wow! I love your report, and especially CJ's restaurant reviews. I am so impressed with your kids' great attitudes to food and travel, clearly a reflection on their cool parents. More please!

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    Hey, laughingd2,

    just want to tell you that your report couldn't have come at a better time. My husband and I are taking our kids (11 and 14) to Paris for a week in March. I've been doing most of the planning myself up 'til now, but have been wanting to get the others involved and excited too.

    Yesterday, I read part of your family's posts out loud after dinner.

    Hope you'll keep it coming. My kids loved hearing your kids' comments!

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    What an interesting report all of you! I loved hearing about Polidor as we want to try it in May. Did any of you use the loo's at Polidor(toilets)? In one guide book they are described as "oriental style" which means a hole in the floor type.

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    It was a blast cleaning up our journal and posting it, and to receive such nice comments. Have to work today despite the holiday, and will try to post a day or two each of the next few evenings.

    Tod - You know, we did not use the loo at Polidor. I think the kids would have loved to see that. I recall from an earlier trip that the bathroom at Tour de Monthlery still has (had) a similar hole in the floor.

    Louis - Thanks for the book recommendation. We will definitely track that down, because I remain totally flummoxed at how these things went up so long ago.

    Laurel61 - Hmm, all over 18 just seems so different. We're barely keeping up with them at 10 and 12! I would imagine museums could be more of a focus, but there's also nightlife to consider, which we are completely clueless on now that we are pushing 50 (not quite there yet). Although we did sneak my 16 year old nephew into the Pub St. Germain on a trip a few years back, by insisting he was my son. He didn't want any booze - it was just fun to see some live music in a bar. As I recall, the band's singer came around to patrons to let them sing verses of "Dock of the Bay," (in what sounded like phonetic English - "sitting here resting my bone") and when they got to my wife, it was unfortunately the whistling part, and she insisted on singing!

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    So with the new format, it only took me 10 minutes to find this. Can anyone explain to me how to "tag" this as a trip report, since I'd like to finish it, hopefully this weekend?

    Thanks for any info!

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    Great report. Even though there are too many of you, I still appreciate it when people love my city.

    A word about Chartier -- all of the waiters appreciate it when you write your own bill on the paper table cloth and add it up yourself. It is a Chartier tradition. Don't worry -- they know immediately if the total is correct or not.

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    I really love your report!
    thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    i think it's so great that you took your kids with you. We take our kids everywhere, and it makes the experience so much richer. we first took them to europe when they were your kids' ages, and now they're 16 and 19, and we still love traveling with them.

    We still get questions and looks, though: "you're taking the kids?!"

    i don't get it...

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    We've also always taken the kids with us, since the dark ages before there was a Fodor's forum LOL! They're 21 and 24 now, and just this past summer, we traveled together, along with my son's girlfriend and another friend of their's in Egypt and in London -- what's not to like when your young adult children actually enjoy traveling with you (and you with them)?

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    We were in Paris at the same time! With our children as well. We had our 11 year old daughter, 15 daughter, 18 year old son and his friend with us. It sure was COLD! :) We stayed in an apartment in the 5th - it is wonderful to read your trip report and get to re-live so much!

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    What a wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable trip report!

    I have a "CJ" as well (that really is what we call him). He is now 28 and away at college, but I loved traveling with him and his sisters when they were younger.

    Looking forward to more . . .

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    Just to join the chorus of kudos for your trip report. I took my two kids to Paris when they were 11 & 13 (now 27 & 29 and they don't travel with me anymore). We home exchanged north of Paris in Montmorency. We were there 3 weeks and covered everywhere from the Isle of Jersey, Mont St. Michel and Bayeux to Disney. The Wild West Show at Disney was a huge hit. If there is anything funnier than French people cheering "yee haw" for their team and trying to eat corn on the cob (They take corn off the cob in France), you tell me.

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    OK, here we go with day 4. Warning: it's 98% Disney Paris!

    Day 4, Monday, December 29: Disneyland Paris! (Work with me here)

    Our decision to go to Disneyland at all was controversial in and out of the family. The pros and cons are pretty obvious: why go all the way to Paris just to spend a day at Disneyland; how can you take a full day out of a Paris trip for Disneyland, etc. on the con side. And for the longest time, that was our strong feeling. Then one day we – OK, Deb – just said, why not? We don’t go to Disneyland here in the U.S., and the kids would love it as a break, so why the heck not? And she was right.

    Ok, a little about today. I got up at 6:40 so we could truly be out the door at 8:45, to give us time to get to Disneyland and be the “B team:” Be there when it opens, and be there when it closes. That comes from Deb and her sister, who grew up near Disneyland in Anaheim and went all the time.

    I thought I’d pick up a few bites at the Champion, only to find out that they don’t open until 1:00 p.m. on Mondays. Nor was Carton open, and I didn’t feel like getting bread at Keyser – I know I’m in the minority on this, but we thought their bread was just OK, not that we’ve tried all 37 varieties. But not a problem, because we have been busy shoppers in the days prior. So the kids had the chocolate cereal they chose on our first day (but still wouldn’t touch the milk!), and some fruit, and Deb and I had fruit and bread and butter. Along with the Nestle “Special Filtre” instant coffee we’ve been having every morning. Yes, the apartment has an espresso machine and a coffee press. Instant coffee is just kind of a tradition on trips for us.

    The amazing thing was, we got out at the appointed time! That never happens on our vacations. Took Odeon to Les Halles to transfer to the RER A to Disneyland, and had some issues (as usual) with the RER: the ticket machine did not take paper money like the machine we’d used a few days earlier for Metro carnets, nor did it take our credit cards (which I knew it wouldn’t). So we found an open ticket agent, who ignored our request for 2 enfants and 2 adultes round trip train tickets, and charged us for 4 adultes, even after I told him our kids were 10 and 12. Later, when buying 2 enfants tickets back home after Disneyland (yes, I lost 2 of the return tickets – not worth a journal entry for that little encounter), I learned that enfants are 10 and under, at least for the RER, so he was half-right. Feh. Didn’t keep me from buying enfants tickets for the ride home, did it? Nope.

    The 40 minute ride to Disneyland was crowded but easy. I should say that more and more people got on at each stop, and the crowd seemed consistent with what we had noticed the first few days. Namely, while there were fewer American tourists than we were used to seeing, there were many more European tourists: from Spain, Italy and Germany in particular. We really noticed this later when we got to Disneyland. By the way, if you go to Disney Paris from central Paris, there is a web site that describes exactly how to do it:

    The train station – Marne-la-Vallee – Chessy – is literally at Disneyland. It’s a 3 minute walk to the entrance from the station. We did have about a 20-25 minute wait to buy tickets, so we weren’t technically on the B team. The line for tickets was a little maddening, what with everyone trying to use this discount or that, or pay with a bottle of coins in one case. The whole scam aspect was not, I will say, the last time we saw this side of visitors this day. But meantime, we made it in by 10:15 a.m. or so, and had a very good, very long day.

    I don’t want to spend too much time on the details of our day (oh, who am I kidding?), since Disney Paris is very similar to Disneyland, with a few exceptions. The first exception was immediate: it was COLD! So cold that in the line to our first ride, Thunder Mountain, the water that normally turns the water wheel was frozen! That line was over an hour, and our feet were losing feeling, so we were considering cutting our losses and heading back to Paris to resume the somewhat more authentic part of our vacation.

    But then we noticed that the kids didn’t seem to mind the line, and when we finally got on the ride, the line was a distant memory. Aren’t amusement parks funny that way? Maybe that’s why they’re called amusement parks. Ugh. Anyway, we headed over to Indiana Jones, and it had just closed, due to the cold. Back to wanting to go back to Paris. By then we were completely frozen, it was noonish, and we decided to get lunch and get warm. Pizza, café au lait, chocolate chaud.

    CJ: Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Palace had good pizza (big surprise there). Dad got a pizza with ham and olives. He says it was great for Disneyland. Mom and I got cheese pizza. We both liked it a lot. CC got a pasta thingy that she didn’t like. The atmosphere there was great. Some real birds flew in, which was pretty cool. The café au lait, Mom and Dad say, was delicious and sweet and helped warm his toes. The hot chocolate was really good. All in all, Colonel Hathi’s was a pretty good place.

    Dan: Hey, the main thing is, we got warm and got some nutrition. If I’m using CJ’s food rating scale, I’ll give Col. Hathi’s a 6.5 for food and a 10 for the 70 degree temperatures.

    We resumed our arctic adventure, and found that Indiana Jones was still closed, but we could get Fast Passes for it (in a bizarre line from unmarked machines), for 1:30 to 2:00, so we got Fast Passes, and went to Pirates of the Caribbean, and hoped the line wouldn’t be so long we missed Indy. Good news on both fronts – we did Pirates, then we did Indy. Indy was awesome! It’s an actual roller coaster, with two different 360 degree turns – more like a Six Flags ride than any Disney ride I’ve ever been on. From Indy, we went over to Phantom Manor (Haunted Mansion).

    Then over to the other side of the park for Space Mountain in “Discoveryland” – their name for Tomorrowland. The line was supposed to be 70 minutes, and started out long and slow. Then, it seemed like the people working the ride, or at least working the line, all went on break, and we walked/ran through with everyone else, until the line stopped. At that point we learned about the European concept of personal space. More on that later, but Deb was quite startled when a woman was able to share the same step in line with her – while directly behind her! An aggressive teen soccer team made portions of the line very unpleasant, but everyone managed to ignore them and douse their hostility a little. By the way: Space Mountain at Disney Paris? Best ride ever! Then we headed to Star Tours, which is identical to the U.S. version, but, um, in French, non? At that point it was 5:00 p.m. or so, and we needed sustenance. We headed over to the center of the park and found Victoria’s, for crocque monsieurs and hot drinks: 2 café au lait and 2 chocolate chauds ( 2 free with coupon, courtesy of Col. Hathi).

    CJ: At Victoria’s we got really good crocque monsieurs. They had a lot of cheese and ham, obviously. We loved them. The hot chocolate and coffee were exactly the same as at Hathi’s. Victoria’s was absolutely great.

    Dan: Victoria’s is where I discovered I’d lost two of our return train tickets. Let’s just say it wasn’t just the weather that was frosty for most of our meal. But things thawed quickly.

    We had read that Disney Paris kind of empties out after dark, and boy, was that true. Here’s what we were able to ride after our 5-5:30 meal: Autopia, Tea Cups, Indiana Jones again, Indiana Jones again (an absolutely great roller coaster, and no line whatsoever, other than the 5 minutes it took to fast-walk through the line area), Space Mountain again, Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (careful!), then our Fast Pass for Thunder Mountain (another early fiasco – at 2:00, the Fast Pass machine was giving Fast Passes for 8:00 p.m.). I say careful for Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (yes, it’s still Swiss Family, not Tarzan) because Disney Paris at night is significantly less well lit than you could ever imagine. Maybe romantic, but also just really dark! So when you are up maybe 100 feet in the treehouse, and you happen to not see a step because it’s really dark, and you stumble right into a 3.5 foot high rail which is all between you and a death spiral to the ground, my advice is to grab the rail and not flip over. Just my advice, which I was barely able to follow. Autopia is also really dark – CJ had been looking forward to it, but his only comment was that it was . . . dark.

    A couple of notes: the Tea Cups are beautiful at night. The ride has a large canopy roof with lit paper lanterns hanging from it, which are just magical. Also, Sleeping Beauty’s castle was lit up with the most amazing lights at night. The last few hours were really quite memorable, and made the first few hours nothing more than an amusing story.

    Finally, it was time to go. We made the trek to the train station, which of course seemed longer on the way out than on the way in. At the train station, I bought two more one-way tickets easily, and was approached by a French woman and her daughter for instructions on how to figure out the platform and tickets (although Deb said they must have been Swiss, since why would French women ask me directions. Nice.). But I was able to explain en francais how to read the signs, so I was feeling pretty good.

    The train home was fairly full, and something seemed strange. We quickly realized that nearly everyone on our car was eating food they had brought from home, which means they’d been walking around with said food at the park all day! This only made us hungrier than we already were, but we refrained from asking for bites.

    CC and CJ tried not to fall asleep on the ride home, with limited success. But we made it to St. Michel, and took the Metro to Odeon because it had just been that long a day. We decided we needed a few provisions for the apartment, and at the checkout discovered that one cannot buy wine in a store after a certain time (which we later learned was 9:00 p.m.). We also creeped around a puddle in the wine aisle which I thought was Riesling but Deb insisted was pee. Hmm. Weird crowd in the store this time of night. Finally, we stopped at our Ancienne Comedie crepe stand for our usual guy and crepes for the kids – Nutella for CC, and a 2 pound fromage and jambon for CJ – enough to feed a family of four or one 10 year old boy after a day at Disney Paris! He had no problem wolfing it down. To the apartment for some late night snacking, and finally bed. A very late bedtime, a fantastic day, and that’s that.

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    Thanks for sharing about Disneyland Paris! We were going to go on Christmas day but the kids still suffered from bad jetlag and ended up sleeping and frankly after that it was just TOO cold for me to imagine being there :) We have passes and live 20 minutes from DL in Anaheim so we dediced to pass.

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    Merci Beaucoup! Your TR brought back memories of years past when our 5 year old daughter and 8 year old son took their parents to Paris which is also Mom's maiden trip to Paris. They are now 34 and 37 (that's how long that was!) Like yours, they were troopers and a lot of fun to travel with! It waas a time of discovering new foods and experiencing a different country; a different language and a different culture.

    I enjoyed all of CJ's restaurant reviews. He is going to go a long way. All your experiences will encourage more parents to tke their children along on their trips to foreign and exotic lands.

    Like the others, you are being asked to keep continuing these lovely reports. Soon we can take our granddaughter on one of our trips to Paris. She loves Quasimodo and Esmeralda already so it will be a treat for her to be at Notre Dame.

    Thank you again and waiting for the next episode!

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    I enjoyed your trip report,too! Our son was 9 years old when we first took him to Paris and stayed at the Georges V. He is now married and almost 33. We have many wonderful memories of that trip and all the trips which followed to Paris, Italy and many other places. We still travel with him and enjoy every minute of it ...and now, we travel with him and his wife!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and memories!

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    Ah, the weekend. Time for Day 5 (a fantastic day!), and hopefully the last two days of the trip. Thanks again for all the nice comments - we have had the best time re-living this trip!

    Day 5: Tuesday, December 30

    One quick note before another very long entry: I suppose, in reading back these entries, that I desperately need to edit these better than I have been doing. But you know what:? This was our trip journal, and it’s what happened on our trip. So why edit it down? Here’s Day 5:

    The day after Disney Paris. Since we didn’t turn the lights out til about 1:30, I set my alarm for 7:30, and then snoozed til 8. Shockingly, nobody wanted to go on a walk with me, so I set out by 8:15 a.m. or so, checking out the shop windows in our neighborhood and the Christmas market starting to come to life in front of the Eglise St. Germain. I’ll just repeat that it was just so darn cold, with ice in all the gutters and puddles, and that the sky was leaden and the light minimal. These morning walks were kind of a bonus vacation, albeit a solo one, and I knew they were chances to look at sights we would not likely see as a family on a one week trip.

    I remembered I had wanted to check out the 5th, which we had never really visited save for a visit to the Jardin des Plantes and the zoo therein, when the kids were 1 and 4. So I headed over to the Cluny, then headed up toward the Pantheon, and then up to Place de la Contrascarpe, at the top of Rue Mouffetard. It was a great walk, and I took quite a few pictures. I planned on walking through the Luxembourg Gardens on my way back, but ended up a little further north than I thought I would, so I walked up Monsieur le Prince to see Polidor in the daytime. Made a stop at Champion and Carton as usual for supplies and pastries, a little over two miles.

    And of course, nobody was moving back at the apartment, at close to 9:20. Although when I started the electric kettle, Deb got up and wanted coffee too. Showers for everyone, pastries, juice and tea for the kids (CC reminds me that the tea we bought, “Nuit Calme,” was the “best tea ever”), bread and butter for us, and then we tried to figure out how to use the washer/dryer. Very confidently, we agreed on the setting, put some crucial darks in, and hit the road.

    It was misty as we left, but quickly turned to a pretty steady rain. We first poked our heads into a restaurant we were curious about for New Years Eve or Day, Leon de Bruxelles, and they are open both days, and do not take reservations. So we know this. We are considering Leon or the chicken and potatoes guy for New Year’s Eve dinner. Then we continued on down Rue de Four to Bon Marche, but didn’t go in, the girls’ destination being the Pharmacie Generale on Rue St. Placide near Vaugirard. We had seen a glowing recommendations for this particular shop on a few sites, and CC was hoping for some fun French makeup. But it wasn’t quite what the girls had hoped for, and Deb wasn’t quite sure about some of the products or prices, so no purchases, although they enjoyed the faire du shopping.

    CJ and I had been checking out the neighborhood and the guidebook (I keep Paris Access with me in my deep trench coat pocket, as I really like its layout and neighborhood concept). It let us realize that Deyrolle was within walking distance. Deyrolle is the classic taxidermy shop that recently was devastated by a fire, but I had read that they had recovered enough to re-open the shop.

    The rain had gotten steadier and colder, and I was hoping it would snow, but no, so we soldiered on from Vaugirard past Grenelle, and past St. Germain, on Rue de Bac, a little longer than everyone wanted in the pouring rain, and finally reached Deyrolle.

    The ground floor is mostly the “museum shop,” with souvenirs for sale, but the first (second U.S.) floor had some amazing stuffed animals, including lions, tigers, zebras, gazelles, beavers (2, of course), and then an untold number of butterflies, beetles and other insects. The kids and Deb kept saying it was creepy, and asking how the bigger animals died, but nobody was asking to leave either. A cynic may say the dry, warm surroundings may have had an impact on the amount of time we spent there. I think the display used to be much bigger before the fire, but it was still very impressive. Deb asked Monsieur if they had any stuffed lizards, and he said, “Non.” I wonder (but did not ask) if they used to before the fire.

    It was finally time to leave, and we decided not to go to the Marais, since we had agreed to be back at the apartment by 5:00 p.m. to meet the owner’s sister, who had arranged to come over to try to get the TV to work. I had called back on Sunday, and they had apparently left several messages on Monday while we were at Disneyland, and they finally tracked us down this morning. I don’t really care that much about the TV, but it’s an opportunity to make sure the washer/dryer worked, right?

    So instead we marched over to the Musee Rodin, in the constant rain. At least the rain made it warmer than the 32-35 degree highs we’d had so far. Er, the 0-2 degree highs. It was at least 3-4 degrees today. But as I say, wet. So, down the very official looking Rue de Varennes, with its agencies and embassies, to the Rodin, right before the Invalides, and there were hundreds of soaking wet people in line. The way this trip is lining up, we may not make our money back on the Museum Pass, and that’s fine and we kind of expected we might not. But: I would have paid the 45 Euro right then and there to bypass the line, and the Pass let us do it. Vive le Pass!! Doing my best not to smudge the info I wrote on the Pass, I showed it to Monsieur, Deb did the same, the kids were free, and voila, we were in!

    We regrouped a little in the lobby, and then scooted across the grounds to the maison, and looked at Rodin and Camille Claudel sculptures for maybe an hour. I love this museum. I love the creaky wooden floors, and the worn walls, and the musty smells. I love the big staircase, and of course the sculpture. CC took some pictures, and was particularly impressed by the white sculpture of Icarus. CJ and I were taken by the upstairs room with Rodin’s impressions of Victor Hugo, particularly his “Apotheosis” based on Hugo. Rodin treats Hugo as a god, and I suppose he was pretty much a living god in his time. Although CJ does point out that Hugo had quite the long stint as an exile in his prime.

    We took a quick look in the rain at the Gates of Hell, the Burghers of Calais, and of course, The Thinker, and then it was time to think about food. I proposed we finally check out the unthinkable: rue Cler! The response was: “Is it close?,” and I said yes and besides, look around – there did not seem to be a lot of nearby options. So Rue Cler it was. Yes, it was Rick Steves time. Actually, I’ve always wanted to check it out, but had never fit in. Now it did: a supposedly charming, typical pedestrian street, with enough cafés to find one we could have some warm drinks and food in.

    But first we had to get there, and there was this big dome in the way – the Invalides. We cruised through the side entrance, and I wanted to go into the buildings, but people needed to eat, so we walked right past the entrance, and over to Rue Tournelle. And as we were walking toward Place Ecole Militaire, we noticed that the rain had turned hard, but not really hail. It wasn’t snow either. It was just small hail, or maybe freezing rain. But whatever it was, we, and especially the kids, loved it! It stayed on our coats, and it made the ground slippery, which CJ really liked. It made the rest of the walk super fun. We turned the corner at Motte-Piquet, and then left onto Rue Cler.

    First thing we noticed were the Christmas decorations over the street, as in many other neighborhoods. Very festive. And the variety of shops was wonderful. I do love this street, although our impression of it is that Mr. Steves has sold people on this being an authentic Parisian market street, when it may be more that it is an upscale tourist vision of one, which does keep it quaint, at least to me.

    We walked all the way up the rue, looking mainly at café menus, because people were starving. CC had been craving onion soup, and noticed the soupe a l’ognion at Café Tribeca, and I think both Deb and I didn’t want to go there because it just didn’t look at all traditional. But ultimately we ended up there because the prices seemed decent, especially compared to a few of the competitor cafes, and because of the soup. Which made people happy.

    This is CJ’s area, but I would just remind him not to forget to mention the infinity mirrors. CC may want to weigh in on the tres chic waitresses and General Pantolin. They may both want to comment on the fact that it SNOWED most of the time we were there! Wait, I want to comment on that: it snowed!

    CJ: Tribeca had great food. I got a pizza Parma, mom got a pizza margarita, and CC and Dad got French onion soup. I absolutely LOVED the pizza I got. Mom said that her pizza was great. CC and Dad loved their soup. Over all, Tribeca was a great restaurant.

    Dan: Well, that was a bit cursory, and doesn’t even mention the chocolate chaud, so: Tribeca had a covered outside patio with two rows of tables. Clearly, only the row of tables closest to the café were desirable, because they were closer to the heaters. But those were all taken, so we went inside. Not a huge place, maybe 15-20 tables. We were seated kind of in the center of the room, and looked around at diners chowing down on pizza and pasta and warm beverages.

    Our very chic waitress took our order: Onion soup for me and CC (her favorite soup, and something she’d been craving on this trip) – I just had to, given the weather. A pizza margarita for Deb, mostly tomato and olive, no basil to be found. A pizza Parma for CJ, just cheese and jambon. Meaning, once again, strips of prosciutto, which covered the pizza. The good news is this time (unlike at Chartier) one could actually cut and chew the jambon. The pizza had a thin, crisp crust, very Italian. It was a little too big for one person, and not quite big enough for two, which meant I got pieces of both pizzas after my soup.

    A quick note about our the waitress from CC. She was young and cute (which I also may have noticed), wearing a snug gray sweater dress, with knee-high boots. The other waitress was young, cute and well dressed as well. It was a little surprising to have had more waitresses than waiters to this point on the trip.

    And the soup: perfect. Three big croutons blanketed in melty cheese. Getting started on the soup was a little problematic, since you couldn’t cut the croutons or get to the soup without spilling a little – a minor annoyance at worst. Deb and I had a pichet of red wine, and the kids ordered chocolate chaud. Which they loved. They say it was bitter before they added the two paper tubes of sugar, which was not a complaint, but after the addition of the sugar, they say it was delicious.

    While we were waiting for our meal, we noticed that it had started to snow. I had to tell the kids not to just get up and run outside, but they did go outside with Deb to stand in the snow. It really was kind of magical. And it felt wonderful to sit in the warm, casual café, munching on soup and pizza, and drying off and warming up. CC notes that it was the first time she’d ever seen falling snow!

    Then, when we were most of the way through our meal and many of the patrons had finished up and left, an older couple came in with their grandchildren and their chien. It looked as it the grandpere was not overly interested in hanging out with the children, but grandmere more than made up for it. After a few minutes, we noticed that le chien had taken up residence on the floor right behind CC, next to the wall. He was very calm, and let CC pet him. Deb asked in French if it was ok to pet him, and grandmere said oui, and asked CC in English if she wanted to know his name. It was Pantolin, and then grandmere elaborated: “General Pantolin.” Cute!

    We lingered as the place emptied except for our new friends, and watched the snow come and go. Paid our addition, and headed on out to Rue Cler again. Oh, let’s see, we need to award a score a la CJ. CC and I say 9.5, and Deb and CJ give it a 9, for a 9.25. For me, much of the score is flavored by the experience as much as the food. We must have paid in cash, and as I recall, it was around 60 Euro.

    Afterward, we had been very impressed by the fromagerie and bucherie on Rue Cler, so we had no choice but to shop around. And at La Fromagerie, Deb went crazy! First, CC needed to have the orange cheese (Mimolet, which CC says is her favorite cheese, and reminds her of parmesan), and Deb said sure. Then there was a Brie that looked incredible (and it was): a Brie de Nangis, for the miserly sum of 3.27 Euro for a 190 gram wedge. That’s 17.20 Euro/kg, which works out to about $11 a pound. Very fair. Finally, a Sauvaget – a musty looking goat, for 5.25 Euro for a huge round. We got out of there for 13.64 Euro for a boatload of stinky, excellent cheese that would have cost 3 times that much in the EEUU. Let’s just not think about the fact that we already had a good two pounds of cheese in the fridge back at the apartment. We have some serious work to do.

    We also poked our head into the boucherie, but did not pull the trigger, and that’s ok, because we have a decent amount of pate back at Chez DDCC. But we did stop into the Franprix and Leader Price stores, though not the Shopi around the corner, and at the Leader Price we bought some cranberry/raspberry juice, a poule cordon bleu, and a poulet avec fromage (both were in the refrigerated, not frozen section), and a pate de crème aux champignons – because clearly we just didn’t have enough pate in the house. CC says that this mushroom pate was definitely the best.

    By the way, Leader Price is in no way a “shiny, sterile, bulk shopping” market, as Rick Steves says. It is another smallish market very much like Champion or Franprix, with a letter “U” shape dictated by the building it is in. Just thought I’d mention.

    At this point, we did need to get back, and it wasn’t snowing (had it been snowing, I think we may have risked being late just to walk in the snow), so we headed down into Metro Ecole Militaire. I bought another carnet of tickets for us, and a carnet tariff reduit for the kids,. . . and handed them over to Deb. See above incident re Disney tickets. Took the 8 to Le Motte Piquet- Grenelle, transferred to the 10 and took it to Mabillon. Stopped at Champion for supplies, but the lines were bad, so Deb and the kids took the keys and headed home to meet Madame. . . who was in the hallway when I got there, but neither of us realized it until we both walked up to the same door after a very tall guy had come down the stairs heading out and let us in, since I was sans keys.

    Oh, Madame owner’s sister was un type. She seemed very provinceaux (a word we picked up from the “Stuff Parisians Like” website:, and she spent 90% of the time on the phone with her brother, who was apparently in the mountains, perhaps with his Deneuve-ettes. He tried to walk her through getting the TV to work, and it took forever. I felt at least 2 dozen times like saying, “Please, we don’t care that much about the TV, it’s OK.” But she was working very hard, so we let her be – besides, both Deb and I realized we were really enjoying her saying “wah” every 7 seconds (that’s “oui” in her interesting provinceaux accent), and CC later let us know the kids had noticed the accent, and were listening in as well.

    Although Madame’s phone kept cutting out, she finally was talked through getting the “Orange” (like Comcast) box to talk to the TV, and then took another 20 minutes to get the dialogue box off the screen, but she did it, and we had TV. Then Deb asked her to take a look at the washer/dryer, which had cleaned and heated the clothes, but not dried them. Madame played with it a little, and showed Deb how to use it to dry the clothes. She also insisted on writing down instructions for the TV, which were hilarious, and made virtually no sense. All we really needed to know was: turn the TV power on at the set, use the white remote, not the black remote, and leave the remote power alone.

    After she left, well, we watched TV – all in French, if that bears noting. This included “River Wild” dubbed in French, and a year-end Entertainment Tonight-type show, but with a lot of bloopers. Checked out various other channels, and the “publicite” – the ads at the end and beginning of each show. The kids ate it up. Meantime, we set up the extravagant apartment picnic, with all the various cheeses, pates, terrine, moutarde, tapenade, cornichons, chicken cordon bleus, vin rouge, cranberry/raspberry juice – mmmm! CJ, though, just wasn’t hungry, so it was just the three of us eating.

    At about 8:00 p.m., we wrapped things up, and debated where to go, and checked out the laundry. Well, it turns out Madame had simply run the same cycle, and she was as clueless about the washer/dryer as we were. So we turned on the towel heater bars and hung some key clothes on it. Worked like a charm.

    We decided to go to the Pompidou, because it is open til 9:00 each night, right? Checked our route: Odeon to Chatelet, Chatelet to Rambateau. Followed the Pompidou Centre signs, went under some buildings, to the huge square in front of the Pompidou, looked around. . . and saw about three people. Tried one entrance, and noticed it looked kind of dark and empty inside. Then it hit me: the Pompidou is closed on Tuesdays. What’s ridiculous about this is that I think I spend more time than any tourist on earth obsessing over schedules, to the point where I had a sheet of paper listing the closing days for each museum and monument back at the apartment. Oof.

    A quick compliment to the kids here: nobody complained, ever, about places we wanted to visit but couldn’t. They have, thank goodness, adopted our attitude about the journey being more important than the destination. I got to hang out with two travelers who will do well in the future, two people who are able to adapt very well to unusual circumstances, and enjoy the unusual parts of travel.

    So after what didn’t even seem like a setback, we decided to go try the Eiffel Tower again. I tried to figure out the route in the dark, empty Place – well, almost empty. We realized a guy had mosied over to within about ten feet from us and was watching us. So I closed my guidebook (clever, no?), and headed back to the Metro. We were not followed.

    Back at Rambateau, the issue was, we did not want to take the RER again, which ruled out the closest station to the Tower, the “Eiffel Tower” station (which isn’t all that close to the Tower). I decided on Ecole Militaire, in part to take a nice walk up the Champs du Mars toward the Tower. This was going to be tricky, but we figured out the route: Rambateau back to Chatalet, transfer to the 7 to Opera, transfer to the 8 to Ecole Militaire. Easy peasy, and we got out right near Rue Cler! Can I just say that the Metro is the greatest?

    We resisted the temptation to go back to rue Cler, and went the other way, trying to figure out which direction to walk, but when we looked up (and saw the Eiffel Tower dominating the view), it became very obvious to figure out which way to walk.

    Which was up Avenue de la Bordonnaise, until we realized that the Champs du Mars was to our left, so we cut over, and wow! what an even better view! But we quickly realized that the composite walkway we were on was alternately muddy and frozen. So the kids had fun trying to skid, while we tried not to slip, which was actually kind of hard to do. Took a few pictures of the Tower as we approached, and as we got there, we quickly (for we are just so attuned to these things) discerned that something was amiss. Where were the lines? Hmmm. Then we saw the electronic billboard: “Tour fermee pour le soiree pour cause de givre – Tower closed for evening because of frost.”

    Denied again! We had to laugh at this point. I could take the blame for the Pompidou, but not for this one. So Deb said, let’s go to the merry-go-round, just across the road. I had mentioned that Paris had set up free merry-go-rounds in almost every arrondisement. So we toddled over to the carousel, only to find out that this was not one of the free ones, and we felt quite strongly that it wasn’t worth the 3 euros each to ride it, and the kids agreed. Then we saw another one across the river, by the Trocadero, and felt sure that it would be free. But no!

    This is when we realized that forces stronger than us were at work, and decided to move on. Which involved climbing the massive Trocadero steps, since the closest Metro station was, once again, Trocadero, which I think is closed now, and was very sketchy – all the tile removed, lots of lights missing, very “Escape from New York”-y. But we survived. On the walk to this very un-Metro-like Metro station, we debated going to check out the Hotel de Ville ice skating rink, but decided to shut things down, fearing some bizarre closure there as well. Besides, it was too late to skate at this point. Well, except for CJ, who found he could “skate” in his tennis shoes on the frozen sidewalks, and had, once again, a blast.

    So, we repeated our trip of a few nights ago: Passy to Le Motte Piquet Grenelle, then on to Odeon, or possibly Mabillon. To review our Metro stops in the past 3 hours: Odeon, Chatelet, Rambateau; Rambateau, Chatalet, Opera, Ecole Militaire; Trocadero, Le Motte Piquet Grenelle, Odeon (or Mabillon). This may be some sort of record.

    Finally home, with a quick stop at Champion (our second home) for more supplies. A little bread and butter for CJ who ate nothing in our earlier big apartment picnic, some juice for both, a surprise call from my brother, and then some TV, and this journal entry. And for I think the only night on this trip, no crepes!

    Two days left in Paris, and we need to make plans to make to ensure we aren’t left high and dry on New Year’s Eve/Day.

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    I "stopped by" Fodors just for a few minutes but could not stop reading your report! Please, keep writing!

    You gave me the idea for our upcoming trip: I'll make my DD to write about the places we eat. She writes for her school paper as a food critic, so this would be right in her territory. Thanks!

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    I really enjoyed reading how you and your family enjoyed your stay in Paris. CJ and CC are real troopers and of course, CJ will be a famous restaurant reviewer and critique in the future. Felicitations, CJ!!!

    Waiting for the next installment..........

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    My wife and I loved the account of your trip. Where can we find the last 2 days?
    We are planning a trip with 2 of our grandchildren for New Years and would love to see the balance of your trip report.

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    thanks, Bruce, for bringing this to the top. I missed it the first time around and enjoyed it all today. I hope maybe the author will see it and finish it. Hope he hasn't lost the journal.

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