Chris, the kids and I just spent a fabulous eight days in France (celebrating my 30th birthday along the way) and it went even better than I could have hoped for. This was Chris’ second and my fourth trip to Paris, but we were able to focus on the places that we hadn’t been before so a lot of things were as new for us and they were for the kids. We did have a few mishaps along the way with the kids naturally causing a scene in various national monuments, and I was unfortunately sick for the entire trip, but all the same it was an amazing trip.
Day One in Paris
We actually arrived in Paris Friday night, but since we got in two hours later than expected — a situation I’ll be talking about after I have finished arguing with Chase — we didn’t do anything but go to a restaurant, eat and smash a wine glass. So, let’s kick off on Saturday morning.
Our first stop had to be the Eiffel Tower, obviously, because the kids have been obsessed with it for some time. When we drive through Indiana, Owen and Fiona would frequently ask if various radio towers were the Eiffel Tower.
Fiona’s first birthday was even Paris themed, haha.
Their reactions to seeing the tower were great! But naturally once we got into the area — for security reasons the Eiffel Tower area is now fenced and has metal detectors and bag checks — they were most interested in chasing pigeons with other child tourists. What is it about trying to catch those dirty birds that offers such universal appeal to young children?!
We had assumed that we weren’t gong to be able to go up the Eiffel Tower unless we walked the stairs to the first level, something I wasn’t really up to doing since I had been sick all night. During the planning phase, Rick Steves and various websites had basically described trying to get on the elevator to the top without reserving a ticket beforehand to be madness, unless you showed up well before opening and waited in line for ages. To our surprise, however, we found that the line wasn’t all that long, maybe half an hour? Then an additional perhaps 40 minutes of waiting to cram onto the elevator.
I’m not entirely sure why our experience getting tickets was different than others, but I expect it had to do with the chilly, overcast weather, relatively early hour (within first hour of opening) and off-season timing of our trip. I still recommend trying to get tickets ahead of time if you are going, and doing so immediately after you know your dates.
I have been to Paris before, but only ever gone to the first level of the tower. We decided this time to go big or go home, so all the way up to le sommet it was! The view from 1,000 feet up was worth the wait.
View of Champ de Mars on this side.
The Seine on this side!
She looks cute in this picture, but looking through this thing led to one of about three tantrums at 1,000 feet. The kids were obsessed even when we ran out of coins to put in the telescopes.
Once we had our fill of the tower, we grabbed a few sandwiches and headed to the Champ de Mars greenspace right next to the tower. While part of it was fenced off for landscaping, there was room on the sides for an impromptu picnic and some running around time.
Our second stop of the day came at the insistence of Owen: the Catacombs. If you aren’t familiar, the Catacombs are underground tunnels in which the bones of millions of Parisians are laid to rest. They were moved to the tunnels in the late 1700s because overflowing cemeteries in Paris were creating a health hazard. I honestly didn’t really think we’d go there when I was first planning because I thought Owen, previously afraid of things like the movie Kung Fu Panda, would be too freaked out. But when I told him about it he latched on and got OBSESSED with the idea of going. Sure enough, he loved every minute of the roughly 45-minute underground journey through the a portion of the tunnels.
At this site we DID have to wait in a lengthy line (perhaps about an hour and a half?) but it went faster that it might have because a couple from Chicago were behind us in line and we spent the whole time chatting, while their 9- and 11-year-old boys entertained the kids for much of the time. Also, about five bathroom trips for Fiona helped break things up.
The tombs themselves were delightfully creepy, with several signs that said (in French) things like “Stop! This is the Empire of the Dead!” and “Whichever way you turn, death will be waiting for you.” I found it more fascinating than I expected, though I do wonder how these people would feel about their bones becoming a tourist attraction.
Fiona didn’t love the tunnels as much as Owen by any means, saying repeatedly that it was “too dark,” but since she was in the carrier on my back she did fine. I, on the other hand, thought that the stairs coming up from the tunnels might kill me. Narrow spiral stairs are the worst since you can never see when it will end, and you can’t pause without holding up the line!
The kids, who had been up incredibly late the night before, were pretty tired. We had a little dinner — some of us, anyway — and headed back to our AirBnB to collapse.
Owen fell asleep at our dinner table. Fiona, who seems to not need sleep, was hyper instead.