Guest Notes for Episode 499: Navigating Paris: Multi-Generational Adventures and Challenges

Category: Family Travel

Discussed in this Episode

  • Paris
  • Tuileries
  • Disneyland
  • Montmartre
  • Marais
  • Paris Opera House
  • Sainte-Chapelle
  • Catacombs
  • Museum of the Resistance
  • Versailles
  • Invalides
  • Latin Quarter
  • Bois-Colombes
  • Éternelle Notre-Dame
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Gare de Saint-Lazare
  • Batobus
  • Grand Palace
  • Petit Palace

What Were Your Favorite Things on the Trip

  1. Evening strolls using your audio guides (Montmartre, in particular). Only Jackson and I did this. I tried to do the audio guide once with all four and it was a disaster with my crew. Jane refused to wear an ear bud, Owen said he was tired of history, so that left them following us and Jackson and I trying to explain what you were saying. That did not last long at all. But, in the evenings when Owen and Jane were tired of walking, Jackson and I LOVED to head out and pick and area and use your audio guides to wander, explore and learn.
  1. Paris Opera House Guided Tour
  2. Food Tour in the Marais (we used Secret Food Tours, for reference)
  3. Going up the Eiffel Tower on our first evening (sunset and seeing the lights, and then walking down)
  4. Saint Chapelle
  5. Versailles
  6. Trying different foods (especially breakfast pastries each morning) and buying lots of fresh squeezed OJ
  7. Exploring grocery stores and buying all of the different types of yogurts we could find.
  8. Audio Guide of the Latin Quarter (only this low because I never got to finish it!)
  9. Disneyland Paris
  10. Museum of the Resistance. Admittedly, I did not see a single thing in this one except a bench. This was my worst day (Tuesday), and I was in a foul mood at this point. But, the boys LOVED the VR exhibit, and my MIL enjoyed it while we were in the Catacombs. Jackson really enjoyed it and would love to return alone so he could enjoy it more fully.
  11. Les Invaldes: Adding this on behalf of Jackson, and he would likely put it at the top of his list, but he is a Napoleon fanatic. The rest of us never went in it, but he spent four hours and had the joy ofbeing caught up in a protest with bottle rockets on the way out!

Where did you stay?

We stayed at an Airbnb in Bois-Columbes. It was in a quiet apartment complex that had a food market just outside on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and a much bigger marker underneath the apartment complex on Saturday. There were five bakeries around the block, which was great, and several other quick food options, several fruit and veggie stores, plus a mono prix one block away, which was very convenient. The metro station was just across the street, and it was on the J line, which made it an easy trip into the city, but it did mean we had to factor some extra time into our travels. It was great to have four beds, which is hard to find, and three rooms, plus a washer/dryer and a full kitchen. The hosts were very communicative, and helped me figure out how to work the washer and dryer, as there were not instructions.

About the Food in Paris

Unfortunately, we did not get to sit down at as many actual restaurants as I had hoped. This was one of many things I thought we would do that did not quite work out as I anticipated. On our first evening, we tried pizza and lasagna at Chez Pippo. It was quite tasty, and the pizzas were large. Thank goodness for two boys who could make sure that there were no left overs! The staff there was wonderfully attentive!

On the two evenings that Jackson (21 year old) and I had our evening explorations, we did randomly select a wonderful restaurant in the Montmartre area called Chez Suzette. It was one of those “we are hungry, let’s look at the menu and if it has a bathroom” situations, and all of the boxes were checked, so we went for it. It was wonderful! One our final evening we also ate at L’Aube Thibault Nizard during our evening wanderings. It was not as good, but it was not bad, but I would not go back.

However, we were happy to sit down and enjoy a meal as we were at about 34,000 steps at that point in the evening.

Top of the list for everyone had to be both the breakfast pastries and fresh squeezed OJ we got daily from Monoprix (we are not complicated people). Jackson LOVED the kebab that he got walking around in the Latin Quarter. Everyone loved every type of bread that we consumed, and Owen could have lived off of the yogurt. Owen really regrets not having more opportunities to sit down at actual restaurants to eat “real” French foods, but he ended up taking my mother in law back to the Air BnB early on a couple of nights, and, sadly, the always ended up at a fast food chicken place or a pizza place. The food tour was fun, and everyone enjoyed the croque monsieur. I was not a fan of the falafel, but I have never been a fan, so that was not a total surprise. Everyone LOVED the meringue dessert (cannot remember the name), but it was a soft meringue, unlike what we have in the states.

One definite regret is not sitting down for more lunches. I would definitely change that in the future.

What Did You Learn about Paris on this Trip?

We walked a good bit (the least amount of steps in any day was 24,000, most was 38,000), but otherwise we used the metro. We did use a private drive when we arrived to get from CDG to our Air BnB and then to the Eiffel Tower area. And, on our last morning we opted for an Uber to CDG because the metro seemed to be having closures on the lines we needed.

We learned that Paris is a city that is welcoming, pleasant, open and wonderful. It is fast paced, and that you have to make time to slow down. Otherwise, you will speed along through the day. There is so much to do that you will never do it all. I thought that this would be my last trip to Paris, but now I am not so sure. I will not be returning soon, but I know that I will be returning. I know that my mother in law does not want to return again. She has checked that box and she is good. 🙂 Jackson (21) would like to come back, but he would also like to explore other areas. Owen is set on Paris for now. 🙂

Did you make any mistakes on this trip? Is there something you wish you had known before you came?

I made LOADS of mistakes on this trip. LOADS. 99.9% of the planning fell to me (which I was fine with), and it was kind a short notice trip (we booked it in November. It began as a trip with just Owen and myself because IcelandAir offered up really good winter sale prices. Then I offered to bring my mother in law along since she has never been anywhere abroad. She was beyond thrilled. And in December, Jackson decided to join us. So, the trip changed over time, and my planning had to change over time. Everyone had different interests and the planning was a challenge. The biggest mistake I know realize that I made was trying to give my mother in law tools to make things easier for her. For example, she has always carried a purse. Every single travel guide advices against that (as does my experience), so we got her a backpack. It seemed like a GREAT idea. Small, lightweight, dries easily if it rained, . . . this was a great idea. Wrong! She had never worn a backpack and did not mention this to me until we were in Paris. It was so hard for her to get on and off, and literally caused her pain to do so.

It was a slow process anytime that she had to take it off, so she simply left it on all day, which was also not comfortable and made her back hurt.

Another example: I bought everyone collapsible water bottles. The seemed like a wonderful idea.

When we did not need them, they took up very little space, we would not have to constantly buy water bottles, etc. However, my MIL had her’s in her backpack, sat back on it, the top was not on tight enough, the water leaked out, everything got wet, and she was soaked and miserable. It seemed like a great idea. . . .

I learned that changing things for her is a bad idea. She is very comfortable with things she knows.

Going out of her comfort zone was REALLY tough, and it caused a lot of anxiety. And then to change the daily “things” and tools she uses just added more anxiety for her and made it harder.

I also wish I had realized how many levels down the Paris metro system runs and how it is not super friendly for the older population. I knew that she did not love escalators, but I did not realize that in many stations, she would have no choice but to ride them (or spend ten minutes finding an elevator and then waiting for a turn). The Paris metro system is amazing, but you have to be physically fit and willing to climb steps and have issues with escalators, that is for sure. LOL I wish I had gotten familiar with the bus system so that we could have used that for her (and one of us with her) as an option. I think she would have been far more comfortable and less stressed). The crowds in the metro were super stressful for her (she is 5’4″ and we are all 6 feet and above) and she kept getting lost, even though we could put one son in front and one behind. She had trouble holding her space in the crowds and it was just a tough environment for her.

What tips do you want to share with other visitors? Perhaps something that surprised you?

There was truly nothing that we did not enjoy on some level. With four totally different people, we each enjoyed things at different levels. Owen (15) is happy never to set food in Versailles again, whereas I would like an entire day there again to see all that I never got a chance to because he was bored out of his skull. I am happy to never return again to the Louvre, but Jackson would love to go again as two of the things he most wanted to see (Napoleon’s apartments and the Asian exhibit) were both closed.

Definitely plan, but then know that your plans will go array at least half of the time. And that it will be ok. One of the things I was most excited about was our evening river cruise. It was one of the things my mother in law really wanted to do. However, with our group, it was a challenge! None of us like seafood (hugely popular on river cruises), none of us like wine or champagne, and I knew that there was no way that Jane would do well leaving on the river cruise at 8 pm. She is usually asleep at 8:30 pm.

So, I dug around and found an Italian themed river cruise that left at 6 pm that had good reviews. It was perfect . .. . Until they called the morning of our cruise and told us it was canceled. They offered to move us to a 9 pm cruise with seafood and champaign, but I declined. However, it was disappointing for everyone.

Know that you need to plan extra time into all transportation plans. Just err on the side of caution and give yourself extra time. You can always be early! We epically failed on our morning at Versailles and missed our paid guided tour, and we were not able to join an afternoon tour.

Overall was your trip restful or stressful? Did you try to do too much or was it just right?

I actually laughed outloud when I read this question. There were not a restful aspect about this trip, but I knew that going in. It was much more stressful than I anticipated, however. I adore my mother in law. She is amazing and wonderful. But, this trip gave her MUCH more anxiety than I ever foresaw and it made it really challenging. That was the greatest source of stress. Thank God I had two sons there to help with her and we took turns being the one right beside her, because I might have lost my mind otherwise.

There were days that we had too much for Jane and that Owen was just bored of doing history type stuff. I was grateful that he was capable of taking her back to the Air BnB. It is really challenging when you have four different ages, four different sets of interests and four different sets of expectations.

I will say that my kids learned a TON. They have both thanked me several times. They are glad that they had the time with their grandmother, but they also learned that they only want to travel with her in places she is comfortable in, as otherwise it is just not too much fun. Owen (15) has decided that he would prefer to travel with just me so that we can tailor the trip to what he enjoys (which is nothing that ends with -eum). Jackson and I are already planning next winter’s trip to London with all things historical. And I learned many things. So many things. .. . about myself, about my kids (many good things) and about my mother in law. I love them all, and I am grateful for the experiences and the memories. And as time passes and I can look back on the trip, perspective is a great thing to have. But, I also learning that traveling with multiple generations is a massive challenge. You truly need someone to partner with the older person, as a source of reassurance and care. It is hard to be that person and the one in charge (almost impossible). You have to be able to let the younger ones go and do what interests them. And you have to accept that no one is going to come home having done everything that they wanted. Everyone will have checked some boxes, but many boxed will be unchecked. It is just a process of compromise. Everyone has to understand that going in, or people will be disappointed. And if you pack any single item, pack patience. And lots of it. I needed more.

Your podcast was a gift, truly. I listened to everyone single one on Paris. They were all helpful. They helped me narrow down which places to visit and which to skip on our itinerary, and they helped me attempt to figure out how much time was reasonable to spend at each location. Even the basics of food knowledge was incredibly helpful! Information on tipping, different types of food establishments, reassurance that most Parisians would speak English is your start in French, the basic French phrases needed, tips on pick pockets, tips on public transport, and so many other things. I have truly enjoyed them all! Now I am enjoying the ones that have nothing to do with France as I am planning a year of retirement in Europe. 🙂

The audioguides were a true highlight. I adored them!!! I wish I had had time to do them all. It is my second largest regret (not packing enough patience is my first).

Je ne vous remercierai jamais assez. Je te souhaite le meilleur! J’ai hâte de vous parler en personne bientôt.

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Category: Family Travel