Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Paris with a Toddler

We spent this past Thanksgiving in Paris.  Thanksgiving morning we woke up to a nice snow fall.  Thankfully our neighbor offered to drive us to the train station in what he called a "Blizzard."  We took the ICE (high speed) train from Germany and it took around 3.5 hours to get to Paris.  The last time I went to Paris was when I was pregnant with one of my friends who came to visit.  It was a girls getaway and a lot different than traveling with a toddler in tow.

Snow covered ground on Thanksgiving.  Taken from the train.

I am so blessed to have such a great husband.  Collin mapped out our destinations and lead the way.  We spent 4 nights in a 3 star hotel.  We had a suite on the top floor (6th floor) with two balconies.  We had three beds and a crib.  They gave us that room because they didn't know how old our son was when we booked our room.  It was a nice hotel except we didn't have a shower but a bathtub.  That was interesting!  Worked out nice for our boy but was not so nice for us.

During our four nights, five days we went to Museum d'Orsay, the Louvre, Montparnasse Tower, Arc de Triomphe, walk along the Champs Elysees, night walk along the Seine River, sunset cruise along the Seine River, toured the Eiffel Tower, ate at Restaurant Tour Eiffel 58, located on the first floor of the Eiffel, did some shopping, and had a wonderful time with my husband and son.

Travel Tips for Visiting Paris with a Baby or Toddler:

The Metro: The Metro is great for getting around but is NOT stroller friendly.  Make sure at least two people traveling are able to carry the stroller up and down many flights of stairs.  We never saw elevators and the few escalators were either not working or going the opposite direction we were.  At night, many of the stroller entrances are closed which makes getting into the Metro very challenging.

Eiffel Tower: You can take your stroller up the Eiffel Tower.  However, to get to the top level you have to carry it up stairs.  The top level is very small and crowded.  Since I had already been to the top I stayed with my son on the second level (which has better views).  I do, however, recommend going to the top at least once.  Once at the top you are able to buy champagne and toast your time in Paris.  Expect to spend at least an hour going to the top level and coming back down to the second level.  There are several fast food options, sandwiches, pizza, etc. on the 1st and 2nd floor.  There are also two nice but expensive restaurants in the Eiffel.  We ate at the Restaurant Tour Eiffel 58 for lunch and spent 50 Euros for two meals.  It is much cheaper to eat during lunch than dinner and the food was very good.

 Restaurant Tour Eiffel 58

The Louvre: There are elevators in the Louvre but expect to spend more time trying to find them than enjoying the museum.  It is quite a maze when you are unable to use the many stairs.  It is worth it and if you have a young child that naps and can nap in the stroller this would be a good place for them to do so.  The best way to enter the Louvre is downstairs through the mall under the pyramid. The mall under the Louvre is also very nice, there is a food court with a good selection of food and a few stores that sell toys if you want to buy your child a gift.

 Above the Louvre
Inside the Louvre in the mall

Museum de Orsay: This museum is smaller than the Louvre and easier to see everything with a stroller.  There's a side entrance for handicap and families with strollers. Our son was asleep and they did not make us take him out of the stroller to go through the medal detector.  It was a great way to avoid the long line to get into the museum.

Seine River Cruise: We took a one hour sunset cruise along the Seine for 11 Euros a person.  Children under 3 are free.  Dinner was available.  There are several boats and tour companies located along the Seine near the Eiffel Tower.  You can take your stroller on the boats.

 On the Seine River Cruise
 Notre Dome
 Eiffel Tower glowing at night

Montparnasse Tower: The best views of Paris are found from this tower.  This was super easy to get to with a stroller.  The elevator was fast and stops in a climate controlled room that gives you 360 degree view of Paris.  Here you can see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumphe, and many other wonderful views of Paris.  There is a small restaurant that sells sandwiches, coffee, and desserts.  There is also a mall nearby that has a few restaurants as well.  If you want to go to the top, you can leave your stroller by the entrance upstairs and walk the two flights of stairs to the roof.  The views are nice from the top but are better a few floors below inside.

Picture at the top of the Montparnasse Tower

Arc de Triomphe:  There is an elevator that is stroller friendly to get to the top.  However, it takes you to the inside part of the museum and you have to walk the stairs to get to the roof.  There are nice views from the top of Arc de Triomphe as well but the views from Montparnasse Tower are better.

Highchairs: Very few restaurants have highchairs.  We have a Jeep Travel Anywhere 2-in-1 Sport Booster Seat and Everyday Bag that is great.  We used the bag part to carry diapers and food and it fit nicely under the stroller. 

Language: When traveling to another country it is always helpful to know a few key words and phrases.  However, most people we encountered in Paris spoke some English. 

Disneyland Paris: We decided not to go this time because of the rain and snow.  However, we did find out that there is a train from Paris that goes to Disneyland Paris for 8 Euros each way.  You can purchase cheaper tickets from many Parisian hotels or visitor locations for less than you would pay at Disneyland.  Children 3 and under are free and many hotels offer tickets where children 3-12 are free with the purchase of an adult ticket. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Super Easy Homemade Playdough

Last week I made playdough for my son.  I used the recipe from the book The Toddlers Busy Book: 365 Creative Games and Activities to Keep Your 1 1/2- to 3-Year-Old Busy by Trish Kuffner, which by the way is a great book.  My son first ate some then played with it a little.  Thankfully it is made of edible ingredients.  You can also store this in the refrigerator.  I kept mine in for about three days and it was still great.  Here is the easy recipe.

Homemade Oatmeal Playdough

1 part flour
1 part water
2 parts oatmeal

Mix well.  That's it!  Very simple.

I used half a cup of flour, half a cup of water, and one cup of oatmeal.  I wanted to see what it was like before making a big batch.  It turned out nice and was quick and easy to make.  You could probably use food coloring if you want to add color to it.  I might do that next time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rabbit Museum

Last weekend our city opened its doors to a Rabbit Museum.  The museum is on the bottom floor of our city's water tower.  Water towers in Germany are a lot different than water towers in the US.  They are generally beautiful and made of brick.  There are no signs on the water towers for high school football teams or with the city name.  At the museum we met our city mayor and got to climb the tower and see the beautiful views of our city.  Our son loved looking at all the rabbits.  Here are a few pictures.

 Our city's water tower
 Views from the water tower
 Other side of town
 Stairway inside the water tower
 Picture of the museum from upstairs
 Some of the rabbits in the museum

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Comparing Children

By nature I am a competitive person.  Thankfully I am also pretty compassionate.  What I find challenging is not comparing my child to another child.  I love parenting books, however, do they sometimes create an unnecessary competition?  I have heard it's common to wonder if something is wrong with our child if they are not crawling, walking, or talking by a certain time.  So we tend to push our children sometimes to the point of tears.  In some ways I think encouraging them and teaching them is good but when it comes to comparing them to our friends' children or a child in a book it is not. 

I love having friends with children close to my son's age.  I do not, however, like the comparisons that go along with it.  I have one friend who has an older yet smaller child than mine.  A new family who moved to the area committed on how much bigger my child was than hers and that it looked like my son ate her son's lunch.  I was insulted.  Not that I'm worried about my son's size, I think he's the perfect size for him, but that a stranger would point out an obvious difference in our children and make both of us worry.  Is her child really too small?  Or is my child really too big?  This happens with older children and sadly eating problems can form from this because the children understand what someone else is saying about them.

My main point, however, is not about a comment someone made about my child several months ago.  But rather it's reflecting on my self.  I think it's natural to want a healthy, smart, and beautiful child.  Thankfully that is what most people have.  But just because your child is not walking at 8 months does not mean she is behind.  Children like adults have different temperaments and personalities.  There is a range of normal milestones each child reaches.  Instead of pushing our children to be more like another child we should give them love and help them grow at a healthy pace for them. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween in Germany

Germans do not typically celebrate Halloween.  This was our third Halloween and out of three years we have only had one trick-or-treater, I think they were Americans who lived in our neighborhood.  Last year we didn't buy a costume for our son but we decided to get him one this year.  We didn't take him trick-or-treating but I did take him to a little Halloween party.  He was a cute dinosaur.

We also took our son to a pumpkin farm.  While Germans do not tend to carve pumpkins they do have several farms where you can buy them.  The man who owned the farm talked us into buying a baking pumpkin to eat.  I cooked it the other night and it was really good.  Our boy enjoyed chasing the farm dog and looking at the horses.  He also loved picking up small pumpkins.

So how did we spend our Halloween?  We blessed with incredible weather so we went to the Heidelberg Castle.  Our "prince" pretended to be ruler for the day as he ran around the castle grounds having a great time.

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