Paris Travelogue

Where do you go when you have a week off and are kind of sick of flying? To Paris via the Chunnel, of course! IMG_0984Since we’re in Birmingham and not London this meant two 2 hour trains, but it was still easier than flying. I’ve spent some time in Paris already – when I was 13 for a semester, a few months for a study abroad during college, and Derek and I spent a week or so there when I was pregnant in 2012. But it’s Paris, so it’s still worth it to go back. It was also really nice to not feel pressured to see anything specific. We saw a ton last time so while we hit a few big sites, we just did what sounded fun.IMG_1159We stayed in an apartment in the Marais not far from the Centre Pompidou, which I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never been to. So, after we got the keys to our apartment and dropped our bags off we went to the Pompidou. I’m actually quite glad I waited this long to see it. I was 19 when did my study abroad and I’ve learned a lot about modern art since so I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much if I had gone then. Additionally I think toddlers get more out of modern art museums than (for example) a museum focusing on renaissance art, like some of the ones we visited in Florence. There’s something really appealing to toddlers in big bold swatches of color or spattered paint or minimalist lines and circles (like Mondrian). Modern art is so visual and easier to talk about to a 1 or 2 year old than other periods of art. For example when the two of us were in the Tate Modern a few months ago she really liked the Bacchus series by J.M.W. Turner because we could talk about the red vs. white contrast and trace the circles in the air. We saw, traced in the air, labeled colors, and more at the Pompidou that day. IMG_1515 One must-do in Paris is to climb somewhere to get a good view of the city, be it the top of the Eiffel Tower, the bell towers of Notre Dame, or somewhere on Montmartre, the view is worth it. I didn’t realize until we were there that the view from the Pompidou is pretty great too! You can buy a ticket just for the external escalators and the view, or a ticket for the exhibitions and the view combined (what we did). IMG_0928How fun are the plants on the roofs? Paris, I love you.
Last time Derek and I were in France we left without taking advantage of nearly enough good food. I think some of it was my pregnant pickiness, some of it was also a hesitancy to order something with unpasteurized cheese in it (which I think I won’t care about nearly as much next pregnancy. Apparently that’s not a thing in Europe) and some of it was our unwillingness to spend a ton of money (we still had have some college student mentality). We regretted our decisions, so in my research before we went I tried to look up some fun places to eat (aiming for places that wouldn’t break the bank and that would be accepting of us inviting a toddler in with us). I read a few good things about Rue Montorgueil and as it was close to where we were that’s where we headed for dinner. We were looking for a place that specializes in French onion soup, but must have passed it. Instead we ate at Au Rocher de Cancale and loved our meal. IMG_0948 I had been stressed about dining with a child because I know culturally children aren’t as welcome at restaurants at dinner time in France. Largely because the meals are meant to last and be enjoyed (isn’t that a nice cultural tradition?) and even the French don’t expect their toddlers to last through a 3 hour meal. However, our first meal was delicious, yes, but the service was so good and the waitress was totally patient with us and my struggle with my long-forgotten French. They even had a little treat for Daughter as we left. IMG_0947 We started our next morning with a river cruise on the Seine. Actually, we started that morning with some pastries that we sat and ate at the very tip of  Îl de la Cité. IMG_0956 Then we went on our river boat cruise. I had done one of these on the first day of my study abroad. They’re a nice introduction to the city and they’re much cheaper than Chicago’s river/lake architecture tours. IMG_0973IMG_0991Eiffle Tower from boatIMG_1064IMG_1052Side note: Did you hear about what happened on the “love locks” bridge (Pont des Arts)? That was just a week after we were there!
After our cruise we walked into the left bank to have lunch, then headed to the Musée d’Orsay. I’m a big fan of Impressionism (who isn’t?) so I love the Orsay. But after visiting I must admit that I stick to my opion that modern art museums are better for littles. IMG_1070Sacré Cœur and Montmartre from the fifth floor of the museum.
Daughter was more of a pain here than at the Pompidou and we went to both at the same time of day. One super random thing that happened at the Orsay – I ran into a girl who majored in Dance with me at BYU! So crazy and unexpected. I didn’t know her well when we were in school (she studied ballroom and I am a contemporary dancer) so it took us a second of awkwardly staring at each other to realize how we knew each other. It is a small world. After getting our fill of wrangling a toddler the Musée d’Orsay we walked back across the river to wander the the Jardin de Tuileries. We checked out the ducks and Derek got a sparrow to eat from his hand. IMG_1083IMG_1103After eating dinner near the Palais Royal, we stopped in the Cour d’Honneur for some play time at the pillars. We weren’t the only ones – there were some boys playing football, some other toddlers and people meeting up for a chat. IMG_1110IMG_1136IMG_1134Wednesday morning we did some shopping then headed to everyone’s favorite icon of Paris – the Eiffel Tower!IMG_1258 IMG_1182When I was in Paris as a 13 year-old I lived in an apartment just across the street from the École Militaire Metro stop, so every time I get out of the Metro there it feels like home. The geraniums on the windowsills and the little librarie across from the brasserie. It’s all perfect. I love Rue Cler – just a block away from the École MIlitaire stop. The boulongerie at the end of the first block on your right is one of my favorites. Try the éclair à la pistache (so good!) or at least an almond croissant. We got lunch (pizza & some snacks) and headed over to the Champs de Mars to picnic. IMG_1187mom and dad eiffelToss Ellie EiffelThe French Open was going on while we were there (hence the big tennis ball in the middle of the Eiffel Tower) so we stopped and watched a bit before heading underneath and then around to the side. IMG_1251Derek and I climbed up it when were there in 2012, so we chose not to stop and go up again. Instead we made our way to the Jardin de Luxembourg. I had wanted to get to the gardens on Wednesday afternoon to see a Guignol marionette show, but we took stock of how we were all feeling and decided sitting in a dark room trying to translate French for 45 minutes wasn’t as appealing as it was when planning our trip. Alternatively we rented a sailboat and pushed it around the Grand Bassin.  IMG_1307IMG_1269IMG_1282We also stopped at one of the smaller playgrounds leading up to the main gardens and let Daughter run around for a bit. Always a good idea! The rest of our afternoon included a trip to Le Bon Marché and a few other shops, the courtyard of Saint Sulpice, and of course a trip to Pierre Hermé, my favorite place for macarons. (Flavors céleste and pistache-framboise were our favorites this time). That evening we bought some Disneyland Paris tickets online. This was a good idea as they were cheaper online, but a terrible idea because we had to have them printed before we got there. We stayed up way too late trying to figure out the printer in our apartment – it would print anything we needed except the password protected PDF of our tickets. Stress! We luckily found an internet cafe on our walk to the train the next morning and everything was fine. Which left us to enjoy Disneyland! IMG_1328IMG_1460I’m not the right person to give a detailed description about the differences between Disneyland Paris and Disneyland. I’ve only been to the one in California once. I do know the Indiana Jones ride was completely different – a short coaster instead of a jeep ride through the movie, there isn’t a Matterhorn, the food is different, but lots of things were the same – Fantasyland was close to identical. Which makes sense, Fantasyland is the nostalgic core of Disneyland. Regardless – it was Disneyland and we had tons of fun. As always there were lines and ride closings as we got to the front of the line (boo!), but we had a great time overall. We totally took advantage of “Baby Switch” in which one person waits in line and rides, while the other waits with the baby at the ride exit and then parent 2 doesn’t have to wait in line for the ride. Awesome! Some rides were more organized than others with this – Space Mountain was super easy to switch and it’s an awesome ride so we went several times. IMG_1418In front of It’s a Small World:IMG_1367Our matching was completely unplanned.IMG_1377How happy is this kid?!? Disneyland, you were worth it.
IMG_1345IMG_1352Daughter doesn’t really know any Disney characters which meant she was maybe a little less excited to be at Disneyland in general, but that also meant we didn’t have to commit to standing in line for hours to meet any princesses! Score one for us. She was however, pretty excited for the carousel because she likes to say “neigh!” (always enthusiastically with a head shake like a horse) and likes to say “round and round and round” while moving her hand around – as in the wheels on the bus go round and round. So horses going around in a circle? Score one enthusiastic point for her. We stayed way too late and didn’t put her to bed until 11pm. Crazy? Yes. Exhausting? Naturally. Worth it? For sure. IMG_1431She is his biggest fan.IMG_1443Our last day was only a half day before our train back to London. We went to Paris’ prettiest square – Place des Vosges and played on the playground.  We also did some window shopping and crêpe and pastry eating – which is our favorite way to enjoy Paris anyway.IMG_1501IMG_1510 A few things: We rented an apartment through Airbnb and it was cheaper than hotels in the same neighborhood. I have found that apartments make staying away from home with a toddler much easier, but they can be pricier. In this case though the price was comparable. We’ve had good experiences with Airbnb in London and now in Paris, but I know since you’re dealing with individuals rather than corporations some Airbnb users have had crazy experiences.
I think the negative French stereotype is a (stereotyped) reaction to negative American tourist stereotype. Don’t be that loud English-demanding tourist and you won’t be as confronted with the uppity French stereotype. Be polite and use as much French as you can and in my experience you’ll be much happier with your service.
Before we went I read a handful of blog posts on traveling to Pairs with a toddler. Here are some of their links:
Hither and Thither Travelogues (her posts were super helpful for planning)
Paris Mini-Moon from Oh Happy Day
Paris Cheat Sheet on Design Scouting
Paris Insiders Guide
And we didn’t buy any of these this time, but I love DesignMom’s list of 5 French Souvenirs under $5.

My mom always says, “Everyone should visit Paris at least once in their life,” and I have to say, I agree.

2 thoughts on “Paris Travelogue

  1. Pingback: Ma Mère & Ma Sœur: A Weekend in London | Our Second City

  2. Pingback: Sunday Talk: “Norway Travelogue: I’m a Mormon (Arendal)” | Highlighting Mormon WordPress Bloggers

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