Guest Notes for Episode 265: Paris with Preschool Children

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Categories: Family Travel, Paris

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Discussed in this Episode

  • 3 days in Paris [06:21]
  • Why did you decide to take your preschool children? [07:21]
  • Preparing preschool children for a trip to Paris [08:12]
  • Language Apps for children [08:39]
  • Most French people react positively to young children [10:25]
  • Learning about the Thinking Man before the trip [[10:44]
  • Paris Hide and Seek book [11:18]
  • Mission Paris book [11:50]
  • Bringing Up Bébé book [12:47]
  • Annie's Spotify French music playlist [[14:41]
  • Teaching the kids about pickpockets [15:53]
  • Getting cameras for the children [16:50]
  • Debating about taking a stroller or not [18:01]
  • Company in Paris that will rent you a stroller if you need one [18:37]
  • Strollers are not cheap in France [18:53]
  • Dropping off bags at Nanny Bag [20:04]
  • Check opening and closing hours! [20:50]
  • Kids loved Notre Dame because they had seen the Disney movie [21:10]
  • Quick visit to the Sainte Chapelle [22:02]
  • River cruise with Vedettes du Pont Neuf [22:03]
  • Don't schedule anything on your first day in Paris! [23:38]
  • Enjoying the Place des Vosges [24:58]
  • Listening to Annie's VoiceMap Tour in advance [26:08]
  • Getting food at Maison Plisson [27:07]
  • Plan on dinners at the airbnb [27:41]
  • The Louvre isn't good for preschool children [28:09]
  • Great visit to the Luxembourg Gardens [30:03]
  • Save your legs for the venues by using Citymapper [30:20]
  • No walking on the grass at the Luxembourg Gardens [32:16]
  • French people don't understand Mexican food at all [33:23]
  • Do a photoshoot! [33:55]
  • Pickpockets at the Eiffel Tower [34:54]
  • Preschoolers love the Eiffel Tower [35:21]
  • A lovely dinner at Qui Plume la Lune [36:18]
  • The Rodin Museum is great with preschool children [38:04]
  • Dinner at L'Entrecôte [38:16]
  • Going to Bordeaux and the Gers [39:38]
  • When traveling with kids it's good to get out of big cities [40:10]
  • The price of Uber rides in Paris [40:35]
  • L'Atelier des Lumières is great with kids [42:40]
  • Potty training in France [43:06]
  • Have a separate room for the kids [43:48]
  • It was all worth it! [45:20]
  • Thank you Patrons and Donors! [46:56]
  • Annie's Itinerary Review service [49:06]
  • Support the show without spending a penny more [49:56]
  • Top 10 Join Us in France episode of 2019 [50:34]
  • 2020 plans for the Join Us in France Travel Podcast [55:35]
  • Share the word about the podcast! [58:39]

Outline

  • Basic Info
  • Why Did We Go to France?
  • Why We Decided to Take Kids
  • How We Prepared Kids for Trip
  • The Great Stroller Debate
  • Flight to Paris
  • Landing in Paris (Day 1)
  • Day 2 – Louvre and Luxembourg
  • Day 3 – Photo Shoot, Eiffel Tower, Michelin-Starred Lunch, Rodin Museum, L’Entrecote
  • Day 11 – Back in Paris
  • A Few Notes About Bordeaux & the Gers
  • What I Wish I’d Known / Done Differently

Basic Info

  • Traveled to France with husband Armen, daughter Ashley (4.5 years old) and son Nathan (2.5 years old at the time – just turned 3)
  • Currently live in Atlanta; husband from Los Angeles; I’m originally from Minnesota but lived in California for 10 years
  • Went to France (Paris, Bordeaux, the Gers – Barbotan les Thermes – from August 26th – September 7th 2019)
  • Discovered your podcast in about March 2019 through an Apple podcast search for France travel

Why Did We Go to France?

  • Daughter got a Paris snow globe from her “secret santa” at her school last Christmas; wanted to know everything about Paris and France
  • Got a great redemption value on Delta miles to go nonstop from Atlanta to Paris; planned to go to Spain from there but started to love what we heard about France through your podcast so decided to skip Spain altogether and spend our entire trip in France
  • Why did we choose  . . .
    • Paris – have to experience, plus kids wanted to see Eiffel Tower
    • Bordeaux – wine has a played a big role in my relationship with my husband (we met at a wine and cheese party, we got engaged at a winery, used to live very close to Napa and have explored lots of different wine regions), so knew we wanted to go to either Bordeaux or Burgundy.  Chose Bordeaux based on recommendations from Join Us in France Facebook group
    • Barbotan les Thermes (Gers) – we once stayed at a Relais and Chateaux resort and loved it; husband wanted to stay at one of their French resorts in the countryside that did not break the bank.  The one he chose was in this spa town

Why We Decided to Take Kids (vs. Leave Them at Home)

  • We didn’t get to travel much as kids, and we felt it was important for our kids to see different places and experience different cultures
  • We live far away from family (California and Minnesota); they couldn’t come to Atlanta so we would have had to fly kids there and then head out to France; too much hassle
  • We know that our son may still be too long to have any long-term memories from this trip, but we knew he could at least fly okay most likely; know that our daughter IS likely old enough to remember!

How We Prepared Kids for the Trip

  • Language Apps – we wanted our kids to learn at least a few French words and phrases.  We looked online and ended up purchasing subscriptions to these two:
    • DinoLingo – ~$17/month; can cancel any time
      • Pros:
        • Had great games that my kids LOVED and that helped them learn and remember words (such as colors, fruits, vegetables, etc.)
      • Cons:
        • Videos glitchy; constantly crashing
        • Videos were like an amalgamation of six different developers (who may have been high?)  being asked to do videos on the same topic; videos very disjointed and did not seem to mesh together at all
    • MuzzyBBC – $29 for 3 months
      • Pros:
        • Story and video quality were EXCELLENT
      • Cons:
        • Games weren’t as appealing to my children; seemed geared toward older children.  Also was focused more on emersion than vocabulary; was harder for my kids to comprehend
    • Overall, as much as it drove me nuts, I would recommend DinoLingo for preschool-aged kids.  Also, there were Little Pim kids French videos free to us through Amazon, but we only watched a few.  The kids were not that into them.
    • Note:  I used Duolingo and Mango (both free through local library) and Pimsleur (paid audiobook course) to learn French, as I’d only had one summer of French in elementary school.  I found Pimsleur to be the most useful.
    • We also used Google Translate to help us learn a few key phrases (for example, how to say “I am 4 years old”); that worked well but the camera reading aspect of Google Translate did NOT work well
      • Example:  Listed food on a menu as “mule” when it was actually a type of fish that was delicious!
  • Art / Museums / Books
    • My husband taught them about Rodin and the Thinking Man; kids would take turns making suggestions for what the Thinking Man was thinking about (example:  “What’s that smell?”, “I think I’m going to have ice cream for dessert”)
    • We also bought “Mission Paris” book and read parts of that that pertained to places we would be visiting
      • Book taught us about the theft of the Mona Lisa, which interested the kids
      • It also led us to look for fleur de lis and castle prints in Saint Chappelle, which made that visit more interesting for the kids
      • Note:  This book is actually free to borrow electronically through Kindle app if you have an Amazon Prime membership!
    • Also bought “Paris Hide and Seek” book (at suggestion of a JUIF Facebook group member I think) and read that to the kids before bedtime.  They really liked this book, and it made them familiar with Parisian landmarks!
    • Another book that I found helpful but only got halfway through before our trip was “Bringing Up Bebe”.  It’s written by an American mother raising kids in Paris.  She researches how French parenting differs from American parenting – she says that French children are much more well-behaved, and she wanted to know why.  I wanted to read this book to learn what standards kids are held to and to make sure that my own children would behave properly in France.
      • I wish I’d been able to finish it before the trip, but I really wish I’d read it before I had kids – it would have helped with raising my own kids!
    • We really didn’t reference any travel books on this trip – your podcast was all we needed!
  • Music
    • My husband downloaded a LOT of French music.  I think he looked at your Spotify list for inspiration.  The kids really got into the music “That’s the ‘fire truck’ song!”  The kids loved “Boum Boum” by Mika and Benabar songs “Pas du Tout” and “Les Couleurs”.  The latter helped teach them the colors! My husband and I also loved Zaz and Stromae. And Charles Aznavour is also a favorite of my husband’s, since they both share Armenian heritage!
  • Pickpockets
    • We’d heard a lot about pickpockets in your podcast and saw a lot of stories about pickpocket encounters posted on the JUIF Facebook page
    • We wanted our kids to understand why we might be mean to some people and why it was important for them to ALWAYS listen to us on the trip
    • We told them that some people might try to take our things from us, and if we thought they were doing that, we might be mean to them and walk away from them, and it was important for our kids to follow us, be quiet, and walk away
    • More on how we actually handled this when I get to our trip narrative below
  • Camera
    • I listened to the episode with the photographer mom and how she got a camera for her kids (who were older than our kids), yet I still thought it was a great idea to have our kids have a camera!
    • I researched child-friendly instant cameras and ended up getting the Fujifilm Instax 90 for around $50.  The kids loved using it! The picture quality was not that great, so I would maybe invest in something a little nicer next time, but we wanted a camera with that instant film quality, so overall I’d say this worked well for us!
    • We found that our son has quite the artistic eye – we thought he was just taking random shots (which really, he was), but a lot of them turned out great – cool ceiling beams, etc.
    • I wish we would have been better about identifying a case that we could store the photos in while we were traveling; they are in random pockets in my purse, in my husband’s backpack, etc.  Also bring a Sharpie to write on the pictures to remember where they were taken! We ended up buying some at a Monoprix

The Great Stroller Debate

  • Our daughter has not been using a stroller for awhile.  We occasionally use an umbrella stroller with our son, though he’s mostly outgrown it.  We knew that we’d be doing a lot of walking on this trip
  • Pros of bringing a stroller:
    • Would be easier for our son to take naps and would otherwise allow him to rest
  • Cons of bringing a stroller:
    • It’s one more thing that we’ll need to deal with on planes, trains, and in automobiles
    • Daughter sometimes gets jealous when she sees son in stroller and wants to ride in it; knew that kids might argue about whose turn it is to ride in the stroller
    • Didn’t know which museums, buildings would allow in strollers
  • We ultimately decided NOT to bring a stroller, but identified a company that we could call in Paris if we decided we needed one
  • We never found ourselves needing a stroller, so we were VERY happy with our decision; however, we did end up carrying our son a fair amount (my son rode on my husband’s shoulders a lot)

Flight to Paris

  • We took a red-eye Air France flight from Atlanta to Charles De Gaulle; kids got a few hours of sleep and did really well (meaning no crying)
  • We found the Air France team to be very courteous.  The food was pretty good, and they gave the kids special travel kits (can send you a picture later if interested).  The kits included stickers, a card game, a mini passport, and some coloring pages.
  • Based on our experience, I would highly recommend Air France

Paris Day-by-Day

Landing in Paris (Day 1)

  • Took a cab (as you had suggested in a podcast)
  • Driver tried to charge us 55 Euro, but I knew he was driving us to the Right Bank and so the rate was only supposed to be 50 Euro, so I spoke up and then he only charged us 50 Euro
  • We got in really early (around 9 a.m.), and our AirBNB would not be ready until 1:00, so we used Nanny Bag and dropped our bags off at a souvenir shop near the Pompidou Centre
  • We had REALLY wanted to take our kids to the Pompidou Centre based on what we’d heard on your podcast, but we learned a few days before our trip that it was not open on Tuesdays (our first day), so we could not go there
  • Instead, we headed to Ile de la Cite and had lunch at a very touristy food place across the street from Notre Dame.  The kids LOVED seeing Notre Dame, even though we couldn’t really get near it; it was still worth walking by
  • Next we headed to Saint Chappelle.  When we got there (around 10:30), there was no line.  We went inside, looked around for about 10 minutes, played the hide and seek game with the symbols that I mentioned above, and then left.  By the time we left, there was a line about 15 people deep!
  • We knew we wanted to do a Seine boat cruise, ideally that day, so we looked up which boat companies were nearby, and we found Vedettes du Pont Neuf, which we thought we’d remembered from the Two Dads and a Kid podcast episode.  We just jumped right on and were launching 5 minutes later. It was good – we sat in the very front and had a hard time hearing the cruise narrator, but that was okay.  The kids loved the cruise!
  • After that, we picked up our bags and headed to our AirBNB in Le Marais
  • We were originally planning on cashing in hotel points and staying in the 8th arrondissement, but decided instead to do an AirBNB in Le Marais after listening to your podcast.
  • This is where we stayed.  It was sort of at the intersection of the 3rd, 4th, and 11th arrondissements.  It was perfect for us! I HIGHLY recommend making sure you book a place with at least two separate rooms when you’re traveling with young kids (if you can).  It’s so nice to have a separate space where the kids can play and relax. This place had 3 bedrooms and a small living area, along with two bathrooms. It was in a nice, quiet location but near the Place des Vosges and a busy street with restaurants, so it was perfect for us!
  • Here’s where we made a mistake:  I knew we would be battling jet lag.  We intentionally left our morning plans very fluid, but I wanted to have something for us to do in the late afternoon so we would keep going and not fall asleep too soon.  I had booked us tickets to Atelier de Lumieres, which wasn’t too far from our apartment. Well, as soon as we got in the apartment, we all crashed for a 2 hour nap. When it was time to wake up and go, my daughter (who is usually very calm and chill) got VERY cranky and refused to go.  My husband offered to stay with her, so my son and I got ready to go but then our Uber canceled on us and we didn’t think we’d make our ticketed time, so we decided not to go, which was the biggest disappointment of the trip for me
    • This was also a key theme for us on the trip;  once we returned to our apartment/hotel in the afternoons, the kids usually did not want to head out again, so we had to plan accordingly
  • Instead we convinced my daughter to head out again, and we walked around the Place des Vosges.  The kids spent a lot of time playing in the sandbox. We found a small playground later but didn’t spend time there
  • We didn’t get to listen to your audio guide live while we were there (too hectic with the kids), but we had listened to it in advance, which helped us to enjoy that area more than we might have normally
  • We grabbed dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant and headed back to the apartment.  I headed out again to a nearby grocery store / food purveyor, Maison Plisson, which I loved.  I bought some cheese, crackers, and a few snacks there.

Day 2 – Louvre and Luxembourg

  • Took Uber to the Louvre
  • Waited 25 minutes in line to see the Mona Lisa, but that was really the only line that we dealt with during our entire trip!
  • Kids only lasted another hour after that at the Louvre.  It was confusing to navigate.
    • I wish I had a good app to navigate me
    • Also, we listened to your podcast about the scavenger hunt and considered it but thought the kids were too small.  We’re very glad we didn’t do it – I think it would have been too overwhelming for preschool-aged children!
  • Had lunch at Paul, wanted to take bus to Luxembourg Gardens but couldn’t find a bus stop that allowed us to purchase tickets, and we didn’t have change, so we walked the entire way, stopping a few times along the way
  • One key learning:  there were a few times that we bribed the kids by saying we’d take them to a patisserie if they were good.  However, we learned that most patisseries don’t actually have seating, so we’d have to pick something out and then take it to go and find somewhere else to eat them!
  • Luxembourg Gardens:
    • Kids played on grassy area immediately on north end of park; after 20 minutes a guard came and told us in French that the kids couldn’t play there (we think); good to know that some parts of the park are “off limits”
    • We agree that the green lounge chairs are INCREDIBLE!
    • Kids launched boats in the pond and loved that!
    • Were too tired to walk to the playground, which was on southern end of park
  • Dinner:  Grabbed some yummy meats and cheeses and salad from Maison Plisson and ate them at the apartment
    • Interesting discovery:  cold chili; they marketed it as a salad!
    • Kids LOVED the salami

Day 3 – Photo Shoot, Eiffel Tower, Michelin-Starred Lunch, Rodin Museum, L’Entrecote

  • Started off with an early photo shoot near the Eiffel Tower with Gloria Villa (she was recommended on the recent Honeymooners in Paris episode).  Side note: We received our photos two weeks after the shoot and loved them! We highly recommend her.
  • Had two locations for shoot; typical spot everyone does, and then a park closer to the Eiffel Tower
  • At the park, the police or some guards came by to warn us about pickpockets
  • Soon after, two young people came up to my husband with clipboards while the kids and I were being photographed.  I sprang into action and shouted “No!” “Pickpockets!” and then they grumbled under their breath and left
  • After the photo shoot, we walked to the Eiffel Tower and were approached two more times by suspected pickpockets.  I yelled “No!” so forcefully that they jumped. This is the only location we had problems with potential pickpockets on the entire trip
  • There was no line for security and no line for the tower elevators
  • Note:  We forgot our hard copy tickets at the apartment and were freaking out, thinking we had to go back to get them, as the email said we needed to have the physical tickets.  However, I had the confirmation number on my phone and we told Security, and they had an information desk where they printed out our tickets for us.
  • The kids loved the Eiffel Tower!  We especially enjoyed the first floor, where they had special displays to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the tower
  • After, we briefly went back to our apartment and then headed out for lunch at Qui Plume La Lune, a Michelin-starred restaurant near where we were staying.  I felt like we hadn’t had an authentic fine-dining experience yet and wanted one.  We were nervous that they would not be welcoming to kids, but they saw the kids when we came by and showed us that they even had a kids’ menu, so we knew we’d be okay.  It was 50 euro for 3 courses for the adults and 35 euro for 2 courses for the kids. The food and service were incredible! The kids loved it. We had to remind them many times to keep their voices down, but they did.  The restaurant had a great ambience and I felt like we were eating in a wine cave. It was very cool! I highly recommend it!
    • Note:  Most restaurants give kids the same utensils as adults, which sometimes means very sharp knives and glass cups!  Besides a LOT of dropped forks, we didn’t have any mishaps!
  • Next we met up with a friend who was in Paris at the same time as us, and we basically ended up walking the Rue Cler and stopping for ice cream there.  It seemed like a neat shopping area.
  • After, we went to the Rodin Museum.  This was good for us with kids this small, because they loved the outdoor garden space, and they played “hide and seek” with the statues; they “hid” by posing the same way as the statues.  We laughed a lot. Plus the kids took turns guessing what the Thinking Man was thinking.
  • The kids were incredibly tired at this point, but we toughed it out and went to L’Entrecote in the Saint Germain area.  Note that this is NOT the same L’Entrecote that is in Bordeaux, Toulouse, etc. This one has some branches in Paris and a few in Switzerland.  We got there 15 minutes before opening and the line was already forming and was probably 30-40 people deep by opening time. Our son slept through dinner; our daughter enjoyed it a lot.  We thought it was pretty good and are glad we experienced it. The line was still very long when we left an hour later!

Bordeaux and the Gers

Day 4:  Off to Bordeaux

  • Took TGV from Bordeaux to Paris
  • Had trouble finding the Uber pick-up stop at Montparnasse; as a result, our Uber canceled on us, and we had to go with a cab, which was more than twice as expensive!
    • The positive about the cab was that our driver was Corsican and pretty funny.  He told us a joke. “What do you call someone who only speaks one language?” Answer:  “An American!” Note: I’ve since told that joke to a Dutch friend of mine and he said “Well that’s funny, because the French insist on speaking only French wherever they go in Europe!”
  • We stayed in the 8th at the Hotel Napoleon, which we got on points.  It was nice, though I felt like we were staying in a big city, almost like NYC except for all the Haussmann features!
  • We did last minute gift shopping in the 8th for family and friends (mainly tea from Mariage Freres and chocolate from Maison du Chocolate and Patrick Roger.
  • We went to dinner at Le Mermoz, which was recommended by a friend.  It was very hip-seeming, but we sat away from the bar in the back and it was fine.  Great service and amazing food.
  • From there, we walked to the river on Rue George V (which was recommended to us) and we got a great view of the Eiffel Tower and watched it sparkle, which was the highlight of the trip for the kids!  We also saw the Princess Diana memorial and a lot of high-end shopping spots and hotels. This was our last night in the city.

A Few Notes About Bordeaux and the Gers

  • We found Bordeaux MUCH easier to navigate by tram than Paris was.  The kids loved the tram!
  • There are a lot of great playgrounds down by the banks of the Garonne.  The kids enjoyed them.
  • The kids also loved Miroir d’Eau.  What was fascinating to me is that it regularly drains and then it appears to fill up again just by having mist come out of some of the vents on the ground
  • Librairie Mollat was awesome!  It was a whole city block.  We picked out some cool activity books for the kids from here.  My husband also found a great toy store in Bordeaux and got some neat things for the kids there.
  • We really wanted to do a wine tour while in Bordeaux, but when researching, it seemed like all the group tours only allowed kids 10+, so we knew we’d have to do a private wine tour.  We went with Bordeaux with Elodie and had an incredible experience!  It was clear that they took care to pick spots that would be appealing to kids (one with underground caves, another with wide fields and a state-of-the-art tasting room with rotating floors, etc.)  If you want to do a wine tour with kids, this is the way to go, and it wasn’t that much more than it would have been if we’d paid for a group tour for two of us!
  • The Gers was great because of the countryside feel of it.  Our kids were the only kids we saw in the area the four days we were there, but there were lots of elderly people who doted on them!

What I WIsh I’d Known / Done Differently

  • You are SO RIGHT when you say that you need at least 5 days for Paris!  I wish we’d been able to see Atelier Lumieres and also done more shopping – I had all these toy stores and food shops plotted out in Google Maps, but we never had the time to get there!
  • It’s VERY hard to get kids to go out to dinner once you’ve gone back to your apartment in the late afternoon; I’d advise eating breakfast and dinner at your apartment/hotel and then have lunch out.
  • If you want to shop, don’t do it as a full family.  Have one parent go alone while the other stays back with the kids, or have one parent take one kid shopping.
  • Having a place to stay with at least two separate rooms is critical.  We had this everywhere and it worked out very well for us. We had enough space to decompress.
  • We wish we knew how to use the washer/dryer at our AirBNB!  We ended up hauling a lot of very wet clothes with us to Bordeaux because we couldn’t figure this out!
  • The toilet situation was not as bad as I was led to believe. Our son was in the middle of potty-training when we were there (and he still is), but he didn’t have to rely on pull-ups at all in Paris! He always told us when he had to go, and we were always able to find a toilet. Can’t say the same for the Gers – he regressed a little in his progress there.
  • We liked Le Marais a lot. I might be interested in staying somewhere close to Luxembourg Gardens next time, just because it is SO amazing! I would have gone there every day if I could have!
  • We were VERY prepared for French driving thanks to the podcast that you and your husband did together!

We had a FANTASTIC trip and were pleasantly surprised that our kids did so well and that we enjoyed it so much as a family!  We are already trying to figure out when/how we can get back to France!

 

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Categories: Family Travel, Paris