I am not a huge city person, especially when I have two toddlers in tow. We much prefer outdoorsy trips. When my sister and a friend had a couple days overlapping in Europe we all decided to head to Paris and leave the kids with their Daddy. This was my first trip away from both the boys, and it was a little hard but I have to admit I needed a getaway after a couple months of solo parenting.
Where we stayed
This was a pretty last minute trip so getting a hotel in the arrondissement we wanted was impossible. August is a busy month is Paris. Hotel des 3 Poussins in the 9th arr. was a good last minute find. It’s a cute boutique style hotel near a metro station and about 10 minutes walk from the Moulin Rouge. The area was pretty quiet and we felt safe walking around at night. No views of the Eiffel Tower but we were happy!
How we got around
We took a flight to Paris but took the Eurostar train back. I highly recommend the train over flying. Easier check in, no long lines, more comfortable, and we had no luggage restriction. Plus, there were some shady characters circling us at CDG. We had men stopping very close to us and pretending to tie their non-existent shoelaces, etc. Paris is the only place I’ve visited in Europe where I was constantly paranoid of being robbed.
From the airport and within the city we took the metro. It was very cheap, especially compared to the London underground…but it was also pretty grotesque. It smelled of urine everywhere and we generally just didn’t feel safe, especially walking through the metro stations at night. Next time I would just spend the extra money on a cab. Erica and I had an incident where the doors shut behind me before she had hopped on and we got separated without her having a phone. We thankfully found each other at the next station but that was pretty nerve wracking.
We did spend some time on the hop on hop off bus which is a great way to see the city on limited time. We only had one full day and two half days. Even being busy tourist season is ran very efficiently.
Where we ate
Honestly, all the food in Paris was great. Probably one of my favorite things about the city. I was excited at all the possibilities of eating out without children and wasn’t disappointed! Erica had cravings for pistachio macarons and pasta so we had plenty of that. Our favorite restaurant was near our hotel in the 9th arrondissement, Ristorante al Caratello. We had the best meal, some drinks and great conversation with another patron and the owner.
Our only negative experience was outside of the train station before we went home. While the food was good, we chose to eat outside and there were beggars constantly stopping and asking us for money and food. One woman actually took my plate of fries and dumped them into her bag when I said I was done with them. You can avoid the harassment by simply eating inside the restaurant.
The Eiffel Tower
Shame on me… but I didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower. Partly because I don’t like heights all that much and partly because I didn’t want to waste half a day with ticketing and lines. Paris in August y’all- it’s busy. Instead, we chose to enjoy from below. We walked around, took pictures and spent a good amount of time frantically looking for toilets for my sister and niece. Something that’s majorly lacking at one of the largest tourist destinations in the world? Bathrooms. You could probably spend just as much time waiting in line for a toilet as getting up the tower.
My favorite thing about being at the Eiffel Tower was getting to experience it with my niece Emily. My boys are little and I am sure there is plenty Kellan will remember when he is older. But Emily is definitely old enough to remember that she got to travel around Europe with her Aunt. I also loved being able to tell she appreciated what she was experiencing. I am really big on experiences and making memories over having things. This is a special memory we will always have together.
We spent a couple hours walking around the Louvre which was pretty grand and at first a little confusing to navigate. Not quite as maze-like as Vatican City but you can definitely spend a lot of time here. At first we were unsure if we wanted to spend time here, knowing it would be very crowded and seeing the Mona Lisa would be a spectacle. However, I am really glad we decided to go. Afterall, it’s the most famous paintings and the most famous museum in the entire world. We also didn’t have any issues buying tickets on site and walking straight into the museum because we took the entrance from the metro below ground.
And yes, seeing the Mona Lisa was an event. Pretty sure it’s the closest I’ll ever feel to being part of a cow herd. You enter the back of the herd and slowly inch forward while your body is pressed up against strangers on all sides. Once you get to the front you have to take a minimum of ten pictures and then turn around and get a selfie with her too. It’s all a part of the experience and I am still thankful we got to see her. Erica mentioned to me that no one actually gets to sit and admire the painting, and it’s true, which is quite sad. If that’s something you would like to do- don’t go to the Louvre in the summer.
This is the famous avenue surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a touristy area everyone has to visit when they come to Paris. Lots of shopping, dining, and the views of the Arc are amazing. Don’t buy your souvenirs here though as they are twice as expensive as you pay elsewhere.
Something to consider when you visit this area is preparing your children for what they may see. There are many homeless refugees lying right in the middle of the sidewalks either sleeping or begging for money. At one point I saw three small children sleeping with their mother on a mattress right under a window display. This kind of stuff just tugs at your heartstrings and I imagined the questions my 4 year old would have had had he seen those children. How do you explain to a small child why some children don’t have a home? Why people walk right around them and pretend they aren’t there?
Other sites from the HOHO bus