If you have a fantasy like dream of visiting Paris sipping espresso and eating macaroons beneath the Eiffel Tower in a picturesque setting then I advise you to stop reading now.
I too had romanticized Paris. I took French throughout school as my foreign language and was smitten with it. When cheap flights to Paris popped up and we were open for time I was so excited to book that trip!
Our flight to Paris was uneventful. By this point our kids are pros at long haul flights. We try to book our longest flights for overnight so that we can feed the kids dinner as soon as we get on and get settled in and sleep. This has worked out very well for us with our kids sleeping eight or nine hours on an overnight flight.￼
We arrived in Paris at 10 o’clock in the morning. We walk straight out the airport and found a taxi that could accommodate our family. There are lots of taxis outside the airport there’s a little area where you wait and the attendant will get you the next taxi in line or call for a taxi that fits your family.
We were quickly disappointed in Paris though. The city is disgusting. The sidewalks were littered with trash, panties, dirty clothes, dog poop, and puddles of urine (the human and domesticated animal kind). We saw men peeing on the sidewalks, steps down to the river, and even in front of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately this nastiness wasn’t limited to one neighborhood, we experienced it all over the city. I would venture to say that Paris is Europe’s equivalent to New York City.
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment right in the city center. The apartment was wonderful as was the host. It was in a great location just a short walk to the Louvre Museum and several Metro stations.
Getting around Paris using public transit is fairly easy. Their bus system is not that great, but Metro is accessible almost anywhere. The metro stations do not run on the honor system like Germany and they’re a little complicated to use. First not all stations have ticket kiosks and you have to have a ticket to even enter the station. This caused a problem for us on our first day because our nearest station didn’t have a ticket kiosk. We ended up having to walk until we can to a metro station with a ticket kiosk. Once you have tickets you slide them through and go through the doors one at a time. This is hard to do with a bunch of kids because the doors do close on you quickly! For us Andrew would go through first and wait on the other side while I scanned and pushed each kid through! The mentor station lines and stops are posted on the walls of the stations and easy to read. Once inside the train you can watch the map or listen to the overhead audio of which stop is next. If you can’t hear or see the maps each station has the station name in huge letters on the wall so you will be able to see if it’s your stop when you pull in.
Paris metro stations and just Paris in general is not stroller friendly! We didn’t have strollers with us so this wasn’t an issue but I know most people travel with their strollers. There’s a lot of stairs and if there is an elevator it’s most likely not working. Also keep in mind if you are traveling with someone in a wheelchair or mobility issues.
Along with not being stroller friendly, Paris is not very big party friendly. Our kids were welcomed and accepted everywhere, but we found almost all restaurants just had tables for 2 and it was hard to find places to eat that could accommodate 6 people.
Our first day in Paris we stayed close to our apartment and just wandered around a bit getting familiar with the area. There was a national worker strike going on that day and protesters out in big public areas so we decided to steer clear of most places. This also caused a breakdown in public transit due to no workers so a lot of metro lines were down that day.
The next day we found a little bakery right down from our apartment that served breakfast and cappuccinos. We ended up eating breakfast here every day because it was so good and close!
After breakfast we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. We had planned on eating lunch in the restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower but it was closed for renovations. Most likely because January is freezing and dreary so not exactly a popular tourist month. Nonetheless we were about to go up in the Eiffel Tower and the kids thought that was really cool. You have the option of taking the stairs or paying extra for an elevator ticket. We definitely opted for the elevator, I didn’t see anyone using the stairs as that would be a hefty climb!
Although there was a pretty long line to get in and buy tickets I didn’t feel like it was too crowded overall. As I said earlier though January is not a very popular month for tourists.
We had lunch at a very traditional French restaurant on the corner across from the Eiffel Tower and then walked over to the Arc de Triomph. The ADT is a hugely famous monument to celebrate Napoleon’s victories of war. It is also surrounded by an enormous chaotic roundabout that would give me nightmares to drive through!
Because of the national strike The Louvre museum was closed the entire time we were in Paris which was a bummer so we decided to spend a day at Disneyland Paris! There is a train that goes from Paris city center directly to the gates of Disneyland Paris that is about an hour long ride but very comfortable, convenient and cost effective. I’m going to dedicate an entire post to Disneyland Paris later, but I will say it’s definitely not up to par with Walt Disney World!
Our last full day in Paris we had breakfast at our favorite little bakery then decided to at least walk over to the Louvre and have a look around even though it was still closed.
We then walked down the Seine River to Notre Dame Cathedral. Unfortunately the cathedral caught on fire just 9 months before our trip so we could not get very close as they had the entire block closed off with walls up. Our walk down the river between the Louvre and Notre Dame was probably the highlight of our entire Paris trip though. There were so many artists set up along the river selling their paintings, artwork, and other goods. We had the beat time admiring all the stuff and even came home with several paintings!
The next morning we got up early to head to the airport. For our trip to the airport our apartment host set up an Uber for us with a friend that was a driver. Our trip to the airport with him was the same price as our taxi from the airport on arrival but took less than half the time! Instead of driving us through all the crazy side streets like the taxi driver did, he took us directly to the airport. We accidentally left our paintings at the apartment and didn’t realize it until we were already at the airport. Our Airbnb host was the sweetest and she mailed the home to us! They arrived safely a few days later! Her name is Julie and her apartment is listed on Airbnb right in the city center. If you need the direct link to it just ask, she was wonderful!