We are just back from the briefest (but most wonderful!) of trips and I wanted to get started on documenting it all before I forget anything crucial! 🙂
I was a complete Paris novice prior to this weekend, and can’t quite believe now that I haven’t made it there before. We have done EuroDisney previously, but never the city itself, and it completely blew me away with its beautiful architecture and also how family friendly it is too. I have so much to say on it all (and a LOT of photographs to share!) so I’ll split this up into a few different posts over the coming days. Quite a few people have commented on my Instagram pictures that they would definitely consider it with their children now, and so I’ll focus on it from a family perspective too – sharing some good things to do with the kids (especially if you find yourself in a bind with the weather, as we did!), some resources we found helpful, and good child-friendly restaurants too. I should say that none of this is exhaustive, and it is all totally inspired by the wonderful suggestions we had from friends, both in real life (thank you Nia!) and also our insta-pals too. We are so, so grateful, thank you!
This time, where to stay with a family and how we spent our Saturday in the city!
where to stay?
The problem with big cities (and anywhere really, when it comes to holidays with three children!) is that hotels can be very expensive, and very often only cater for families of four. In all our travels with our children in the past eleven years, we have only ever stayed in two hotels. Self catering options have gained us the space that we really need when away, whilst still giving us that ‘home from home’ vibe. After our trip last Summer I got very evangelical about the benefits of straying off the beaten track, and it’s something I really stick by even now. I hope that the information contained here might encourage you to do so too!
We found our rental property through Airbnb, as we have done in the past too. The key to finding a property via this site is to really narrow your search down by using the filters to their fullest. Think about the elements that are crucial to your stay – air conditioning? On street parking? (if you are hiring a car.) Location? Then read, read, read the reviews. These give a great indication of opinion on both the quality of property itself, and also of its situation in terms of major sights and attractions.
We opted for this rental, and it completely exceeded our expectations in terms of it’s position and also how beautiful it was internally. It was in a beautiful building, set back from the main street, and separated by a courtyard and keycoded doors. However, the street itself played home to a lot of working girls in the evening, and it’s definitely something to be mindful of whenever you’re choosing a property in Paris in general. It appears to be an occupational hazard with the city – prostitution is not policed, and so is rife in very many areas. That said, we didn’t feel intimidated or unsafe at any point, and the kids didn’t notice at all. Once we were in the building itself, there was no indication of it, and it actually seemed to be home to very many well-to-do Parisian people.
This apartment was situated on the edge of Le Marais, about twenty minutes walk from the Louvre, the Tuileries and Place de la Concorde. Everywhere is really easily accessible by Metro, and we did use it quite a bit during our trip too, but walking is definitely the best way to see the city, especially when it comes to finding those pretty little streets off the beaten track. Our children are eleven, nine and seven, and managed the ten mile walk on Saturday brilliantly (with lots of little stops along the way!) Younger children may struggle, and you might want to use our itinerary as a guide, adapting it to suit your own pace.
saturday in the city, let’s go!
Based on a recommendation from a friend, we got up early and headed for breakfast to Café St Regis, on Ile Saint Louis. The walk there took about twenty minutes, and we passed the Hotel de Ville and the Pompidou centre en route, before crossing the Seine. The café is full of old Parisian charm, and we absolutely loved it, both for its super friendly staff, and also the delicious food. It reminded me a lot of Rene’s café in ‘Allo Allo’ (showing my age there! 😉 ) and I’d thoroughly recommend it. Set breakfast menus are around 18 euro and include eggs, pastries, preserves, fresh juice and hot drinks.
From here we headed towards Notre Dame and chased pigeons for a little bit before catching a metro directly to the Eiffel tower. We opted to stay outside as much as possible this trip – most of the major attractions had long queues and, in any case, I think might have been a little lost on our children at this stage. Next time!
It’s best to buy a carnet (book) of ten tickets for the Metro (costing around 14.50 euro) if you plan to use it a fair bit during your stay. It’s quite a saving on the individual journey price, and also saves time when you are trying to move between places quickly. A metro operates direct between Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower and takes around ten minutes.
We took some pictures and polaroids at the base of the tower before making a move towards Place de Trocadero for a better view. Unfortunately it started to snow on us pretty heavily at this point and so we sought shelter in one of the very many carousels that the city has to offer. It was the coldest, wettest carousel ride I think I’ve ever been on, but it didn’t seem to dull the kids enjoyment, and got us out of the worst of the weather, albeit briefly!
When the weather dried up we headed to the streets behind the Trocadero to get a better view of the tower from further back. I’ll write a separate post on our favourite photo spots, but this was definitely one of them. Perfect little cobbled streets, old Parisian buildings and an almost ghost-like tower peeping through the mist.
After a little hot chocolate stop, we made our move on foot, towards the Arc de Triomphe, stopping to buy some apples from a grocer along the way!
Situated at the top end of the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe is definitely one of Paris’ main marker points. It is every bit as grand and imposing as we imagined, and stunningly beautiful too.
We made our way down the Champs Elysees in search of another restaurant recommended to us, Vesuvio George V. Perfectly authentic Italian food, down a little street off the main thoroughfare, it didn’t disappoint. Pizza and pasta for the win, eh? 😉 It also provided the perfect little pit stop to fill hungry tummies.
We skipped dessert, with the intention of heading to Angelina for their world famous hot chocolate (on the recommendation of SO MANY! Thank you!) Our walk took us through the Jardin des Tuileries which, even in the Winter, was completely beautiful. I really want to visit again when everything is in bloom! We stopped briefly for a bounce on the trampolines, and another carousel ride because – when in Paris! 🙂
Angelina was a game changer. Beforehand I was reluctant to believe the hype but, my goodness, it was fully deserved. I opted for the white hot chocolate (like melted Milky bars!) and Andrew had the regular (dreamy!) The kiddos ended up with milkshakes but really loved them too!
After refuelling, and feeling sleepy now, we headed towards the Louvre, and to catch the tower glittering from afar. I’m so glad that we stuck around to see it by night as it really is something else. Previously I had imagined it to be static lights, but it really took my breath away to see them actually glitter. Like some sort of Swarovski crystal in the night sky. Photos just cant do it justice, but I hope you maybe caught my insta-stories on Saturday evening to get the full effect!
We caught the Metro back to our apartment and fell into bed, ready to tackle day two (and all your very many recommendations!) with gusto.
Back very soon with those!