It figures we’d sleep in a bit after going 31 hours without so much as a real nap. Our first day had brought me to the most exhausted state I’ve felt in years (SEE: 3 Days in Paris: Day 1 – Surviving the Jetlag). I still got up fairly early, but actually felt quite rested.
While the kids continued their unbroken slumber, I showered and did some research for the day. I had a general idea of what we should see but still needed to finalize a more concrete plan. It quickly formed around some of the biggest highlights the French capital has to offer. But the first order of business was breakfast. Time to get the kids up.
Le Petit Déjeuner Parisien
Since IHG has a pretty lousy elite program, the hotel breakfast wasn’t free. And we absolutely weren’t going to pay somewhere around €60 for the three of us.
To our delight there was a wonderful little bakery just around the corner from our hotel. Aux Péchés Normands offers a delectable array of pastries, plus fresh juices, coffee and a few other items. Ordering was a bit awkward, as my attempt at French lapsed into Spanish at a couple points. How I wish I had the time to study a few more languages. Someday, I keep telling myself.
Fortunately the lady helping us was both patient and kind as I butchered her native tongue, plus took twice as long as everyone else to order. Man, could their staff work. The place was hopping and the the handful of employees were giving it their all.
With some croissants, a juice, and a café au lait in hand, we headed to a little park along a canal to the northeast of our hotel. It was the perfect place to enjoy an utterly Parisian first breakfast in Paris.
Except for the coffee. Standard French coffee is an espresso, which is simply too strong for me.
Walking the Louvre and Tuileries
Stomachs full of delicious pastry, we started our adventure with a metro ride to Châtelet once again. But this time we transferred and traveled one more station to the Louvre. I figured that even though we weren’t going to tour this most famous of art museums, we at least needed to see the beautiful Louvre Palace and walk the Tuileries Gardens.
This is also where we met a German mother an her adult daughter who asked us to take a photo of them. We chatted for a few minutes. They were surprised I was traveling with kids and also surprised we had come all the way to Europe for a week. We had a great discussion on the amazing-ness of travel, and I encouraged them to pay the U.S. a visit. They kindly took a photo of us as well.
From the Louvre we meandered leisurely through Les Jardins des Tuileries until we came to the next destination on the list: Musée l’Orangerie.
Marveling at the Water Lilies
If you’re an art connoisseur, you could probably spent a week at the Louvre and not appreciate everything. We could spend all day there, and I’d barely scratch the surface and end up with two unhappy kids. But I still wanted to get in a little art while in Paris. So we settled for the Musée l’Orangerie.
Located at the opposite end of Tuileries Gardens from the Louvre, the Musée l’Orangerie is substantially smaller than its more famous neighbor. But this trove of impressionist art contains one very iconic piece: full wall displays of Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies).
We spent a while marveling at the walls of horizonless, shifting mix of pond and plants arrayed around us on all sides.
Even I could enjoy such a moment. I’m not much into paintings, especially impressionist paintings, but I find the works of the early impressionists are substantially better than the later, abstract ones.
Most of another hour was spent on the lower floor as we examined a number of other works in the museum collection. Some were quite skillful masterpieces, such as this one.
Apparently I missed an easy career as an artist, if this is all it takes to get you into a famous museum. Maybe I could still switch? I’d have to kick the eccentricity up a few notches.
Eventually all three of us had had enough art for the day and ventured back outside to the banks of the Seine.
The highlight of the trip
It was finally time. I’d told the kids I didn’t want the Eiffel Tower to be a tale of misery, so I made sure it wasn’t on the agenda for the first day. Instead, this most iconic of Parisian structures was slated for lunchtime and early afternoon.
We’d already had some glimpses. Le Tour Eiffel often peeks at you from various corners of the city, reminding you that it is always there, always watching. When we left the Musée l’Orangerie, our view was the best we’d had so far. But a short train ride later, and we were standing underneath it.
Unfortunately, one of the entrances to the Eiffel Tower was closed, and we’d managed to pick the longest security line of them all. Ask my wife sometime how I feel about lines.
Luckily, once inside, the wait wasn’t as bad. This was mainly because I’d elected to go with the cheap and character-building Eiffel Tower experience, to the dismay of my children: the Snyders were taking the stairs up the tower! It was definitely for the best. Instead of waiting in a giant line for an elevator, we started up the metal stairs after a mere 10 minutes in the queue. Here are my two troopers starting out:
I had a blast. In the end, the kids did, too. But the adventure wasn’t without its share of whining and complaining about hiking up the Eiffel Tower when there was an functioning elevator available. But once we’d scaled the first floor, the smiles came back.
The views from the first floor were lovely.
But the views from the second level are even more stunning.
I’d read that this was the best level from which to view Paris, as you’re high enough to have a sweeping view of the city, yet close enough to pick out landmarks. I considered going to the top, but given the cost and time, we’d be happily content with the second level.
Lunch was had at the tiny cafe, which to my shock had prices within the realm of reason. The baguette sandwich was delicious. Nothing beats French bread.
Once we were all satisfied that we’d soaked in enough of the view, we headed down, taking the elevator this time. Turns out you don’t need a ticket to go that direction. Just up.
I’ll have more on the Eiffel Tower later, including a rundown on why I consider the stairs to be the better experience, even with kids. On with our adventure!
After conquering the Eiffel Tower by foot, it makes sense that our next stop was a monument to victory. Napoleon’s victories, to be exact.
We took our time getting there, though. Across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower is a grand set of fountains and park called the Jardins du Trocadéro. From here you can get some great shots of the Eiffel Tower.
After walking a little further an up the stairs, we headed down to the metro and rode it three stops to the Arc de Triomphe.
Although the Arc de Triomphe isn’t especially tall, the views from the top are great. The Eiffel Tower is still fairly close, and being at the center of 12(!) different avenues makes for some unique photos.
Like many other places in Paris, the kids got in for free. And “child” prices typically last until they turn 18. This is one reason I would suggest visiting Paris as a family before the kids are grown, especially if you can travel hack the flights and hotel. The former is fairly easy. The latter is a pain.
The Arc de Triomphe involved more stairs, to the kids’ dismay. They asked why they didn’t install an elevator. I had to tell them they weren’t exactly common in the early 1800s. Not to mention electricity as we know it wasn’t a thing. And renovating an stone monument like this wasn’t exactly…eh…simple.
My last comment is to avoid the Arc de Triomphe if driving in Paris. Unless you relish a challenge. The giant circle is an utter free for all.
After our stop at the Arc de Triomphe, we found a cheap restaurant on a side street to grab dinner. There was still one more stop on our itinerary.
A Montmartre Evening
Montmartre is a neighborhood of Paris that I never knew existed prior to our trip, or that it is a favorite for many people visiting the city. When I was searching hotel award options (which is pretty difficult for a party of 3+, let me tell you!), one of the hotels I examined was the Holiday Inn Montmartre. It just seemed too far away from everything else, and the metro wasn’t all that convenient, so I quickly decided it wasn’t a good fit.
But it definitely may be on the table for consideration if we ever visit Paris again. The Montmartre area is charming. It consists of a mix of narrow cobblestone streets, small plazas, and a lovely hill to climb from where you can enjoy a view of the rest of Paris.
And atop the hill is the stunning Sacre-Couer Cathedral.
You can access Montmartre via the metro, but it is a bit of a walk up the hill. We rode the metro to the Anvers stop and then walked the streets to Square Louise Michel from where we took the funicular for the final stretch. I have an obsession with funiculars. My wife and I enjoyed the one in Quebec City when we visited in the winter of 2016 (SEE: Canadian Adventures in 16 Pictures).
The kids and I spent some time sitting on the hill enjoying the view. There was quite the crowd who all had the same idea. I don’t blame them; it was a lovely evening.
Even though there was a good amount of daylight left, I figured being out much past 8:00 was going to be too much for the kids. We’d seen a lot and walked a lot, and they needed to turn in early enough to be rested for the next day’s adventures.
We finally arrived back at the hotel around 8:30. It wasn’t long before the kids were asleep, hopefully dreaming about the fun we’d have the following day, our last full day in Paris.
I drove the two of them hard on our second day. They were troopers, and definitely enjoyed exploring Paris. But they were quite tired. I probably wouldn’t recommend an itinerary as full as ours, especially if your kids are younger. I was already planning on taking things easier on our last full day, and this just confirmed it.