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. 

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