Paris is always a good idea. That’s a bold statement. Especially when you are traveling with kids. Pizza is always a good idea with kids. Naps are always a good idea with kids. But a place—a bustling city of nearly 12 million people? Perhaps it’s only a good idea for the likes of Ms. Hepburn and other young, single, beautiful people. Nonetheless, we decided to test the theory. We went to Paris with kids. We went at the height of summer tourist season with three young kids and a teenager in tow. It was hot, we had less than 72 hours to explore, and only the teenager had a decent grasp on the French language. What could possibly go wrong?
A Rocky Start
The answer came even more quickly than anticipated. Service issues on the metro gave us an early and inhospitable welcome to the city of light. Forced to exit the metro well before our intended stop, we were left at the mercy of cab drivers who scoffed at fitting our motley crew into their cabs. The upward trek from underground subway to the surface was less than pleasant. My mule of a husband silently ascended countless steps while hauling the giant backpack and our folded stroller. I wore the baby and lugged the whining 30-pound toddler on my hip. The teenager dragged the boisterous five-year-old who lost count of our steps somewhere around 80. We emerged into the daylight with no idea where we were or what to expect.
There were no taxis in sight. We waited. The kids grew restless. Then, as if in answer to prayer, a taxi appeared—and, miraculously, it was a van. Seizing her first opportunity to speak French, my cousin engaged the driver. Everything was set. She reached to open the door and the rest of us approached the van. The driver saw our crew and suddenly his doors locked. He said something quickly, rolled up his window, and was gone. It would take us calling a cab and waiting half an hour to finally get a ride to our hotel.
Even my cousin’s enthusiasm for her first visit to Paris had been tempered by our transportation fiasco. The “adventure” had indeed begun and no one was thrilled about it.
Despite a lackluster first impression, the most romantic city in the world nearly lived up to its name over the next day and a half. And that’s a tough feat when a brood of kids are in the equation. Our apartment exceeded all expectations. We had to drag the kids out an hour after settling in to find dinner and explore the city. Refreshed and regrouped, we were ready to give Paris another shot. And the first night was magical. We arrived at the Louvre a few hours before closing and the anticipated long lines were non-existent. We wandered right in and found friendly, helpful faces all around. Night and day from our experience a few hours before. Maybe Paris with kids was a good idea?
Saturday also went exceptionally well. Insanely long lines, stalker bees, and the scorching heat couldn’t take away from a beautiful day of sightseeing. The youngest made sleeping through nearly every attraction his hallmark, and there were no complaints from his parents. We walked from Notre Dame to Place de la Concorde that afternoon. Covered in sweat and numb to our kids’ whining, we caved to the relentless tuk-tuk promoters and
accepted paid a small fortune for a ride to the Champs-Élysées.
The day may have been long and exhausting, but it was followed by another enchanted evening. We watched the sun set atop the Arc de Triomphe and dined with a cool breeze against our back at a cafe overlooking the Arc. My children were edging closer to meltdowns and I was oblivious.
A Beautiful Finish?
Our final day in Paris was to be spent at the Eiffel Tower. We’d saved the best—or at least most recognizable—Parisian landmark for last. We even shelled out the extra money for skip-the-line tickets to avoid hours of waiting.
And everything seemed fine until we reached the second platform of the EIffel Tower. My middle child, AKA meltdown central, was beginning to unravel.
The impending tantrum crisis was averted as the exhausted child passed out in daddy’s arms. With both boys now having napped, we hoped emotions would remain in check for the remainder of the day.
By the time we made our way to the lowest platform, the first level, both boys were awake and happy. My fearless children giddily jumped over and over and over again on the glass floor—much to the dismay of a multitude of less trusting onlookers.
And there you have it. A beautiful, uneventful weekend in Paris with kids.
Say what?! If only our story had ended there. But no, mommy hadn’t yet captured the required photos of her children with the Eiffel Tower in the background. And that’s where the real fun would begin.
But really now, is Paris ALWAYS a good idea?
Lunch beneath the Eiffel Tower with throngs of other tourists seemed like an expensive, but worthwhile, endeavor. The kids frolicked in the grass relentlessly photobombing every other family or group’s pictures. But then my youngest took a closer look at the grass beneath his feet and things took a turn for the worse. The grass around the Eiffel Tower is LITTERED with cigarette butts. They are everywhere. And my child was carefully collecting them one by one and shoving them in his mouth. Mommy was not okay with it. Baby screamed for the remaining photos because mommy kept taking cigarette butts away from him. It had begun.
After lackluster crepes and baguette sandwiches we decided to end our Eiffel Tower experience with a ride on the carousel and some ice cream. A perfect ending to our afternoon. Yet somehow carousel + ice cream + gorgeous day equalled another screaming child. But this time it was my oldest. She all out lost it over ice cream being wiped off her arm. Like people stopping and gawking kind of meltdown.
Miraculously, the middle child responsible for the majority of our travel meltdowns kept it together in Paris. I’ll take my small victories.
Is Paris always a good idea? I still haven’t decided.