I love Paris. Simple as that. So this might be a bit of a biased post, but I’ll do my best to give a broad and fair description of our short visit to France.
We took the Eurostar train from London to Paris, and it passed through the “Chunnel”. Oddly enough though, we never could figure out when we actually went under water and through the Chunnel. The train was very nice and quite an easy way to travel; I would highly recommed it. However, they’re very strict about arriving to the train station with plenty of time to get through security; we about missed our train back to Paris due to needing a lot more time than what they recommended to get through all the security checkpoints. I will say though that they were much better at helping us get through security with all our bags, strollers, and kids. One of the security guards even told me to not wake my baby up, but leave him in the stroller the next time we go through security. That was a nice relief compared to all the hassle that we experienced in the American airport security checkpoints.
Once we arrived into Paris, we did struggle to find an English speaking person to help us get our passes onto the Metro. My husband and I encountered one rude Metro ticket seller, but he did at least direct us to an English speaking man who was very helpful in explaining all the options for tickets onto the Metro. After speakig with him, I realized that the customer service windows are marked with tiny French flags for French speakers and tiny British flags for English speaking customer service representatives. Once I realized that, I always waited to speak with the customer service rep who spoke English; that made life much easier.
After we sorted through the train pass process, we headed down to the Metro. If you’re traveling with children in strollers, be prepared for a giant headache and a lot of work. The first obstacle is to get through the gates, which typically requires the help of a Metro attendant to buzz you through the gate. Once you get through, you quickly realize that carrying strollers and kids is not optimal for subway travel. Thankfully, the French were always so kindly attentaive and would stop to help us carry our kids/strollers up and down the zillions of stairs. If our boys had been smaller, we definitely would have opted for leaving the strollers at home and carrying them on our backs. But carrying a toddler and a preschooler through Paris wasn’t ideal either…
Finally, we arrived at the door of our flat and let me just say that we loved seeing what was behind that door. It opened up to a big courtyard that was filled with potted plants, bikes, strollers, and many doors leading up to flats. We located the next door, got buzzed in, and walked up a beautifully old staircase to the door to our actual flat. It was so much like all the movies and books that I’ve encountered as I could imagine all the families that had lived in this building. Our flat was a two bedroom that was so well organized, wonderfully decorated, and perfectly sufficient for 5 adults and 2 kids. We all fell in love with it and applauded my sister for finding such a treasure (email us if you are planning to stay in Paris and would like to know where our flat was). The next morning we were doubly blessed as we got to see how conveniently located the flat was in the middle of Paris. We were one block from the nearest Metro station, one block from the canals, and within about 15 minutes of walking distance to Notre Dame. Perfecto!!
The next two days were a big flash of trying to fit in as much as we could see. We spent a great day in “Montmartre”, enjoying the sights, visiting the “Sacre Couer,” experiencing a bizarre little street band of an electric guitar player and an accordion player, and walking through beautiful neighborhoods, each with its own selection of shops, bakeries, delis, etc. We then walked through the shady area that runs in front of “Moulin Rouge”, which always creeps me out, yet once we were passed it, we found a bench to just sit and people watch while our boys ran and got their energy out. We ate at as many little street bakeries as we could. We saw the “Notre Dame” and hit “St. Germain;” we were able to try out some yummy treats and specialty food shops and sit at a cafe for a coffee. Unfortunately, about 5 minutes away from the “Eiffel Tower,” which my 3 year old was desperate to see, we were hit with a torrential downpour of rain. It poured the rest of the day, so my boy didn’t get to go up the Tower, nor did we get to see the “Champs d’Elysess,” or the other things on our list. It was a big disappointment for my sister as she was the only one who had not been to Paris before (besides the boys). However, thanks to the coziness of our flat, we were able to grab some groceries on our walk back and make a very yummy dinner while we waited out the rain.
On our last morning in Paris, we had high hopes to hit the corner bakery and to experience more fabulous pastries. Yet disappointment hit again as the bakery was not open on Saturdays. So my husband and I walked until we found something that was open, and we bought a bag of pastries to take on the train. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to grab a chocolate filled beignet. I didn’t try it until we got on the train, and it was by far the absolute best thing that I ate on our trip. So if you get to visit Paris, and if you encounter a chocolate beignet, be prepared for wonderfulness!
In conclusion, I’m always impressed with the stylish residents of Paris, amazed at all there is to see and do in this lovely city, and simply love the food. The history of the city is so wonderful, and the architecture and detail on everything is such a special sight. I will say that we were very surprised to see how graffiti has taken over the city. It was not like that in 2007 when we last visited, and it was quite shocking to see graffiti on almost everything. Very sad. Yet I still encourage our readers to go and experience this amazingly beautiful city; you will not be sorry that you did. My 3 year old loved every moment of it and speaks every day of his plans to move there. His mommy is in agreement…
((Video taken with Iphone.))