France

Strolling the Streets of Paris with Kids

Strolling the Streets of Paris with Kids

In November of 2019 when our children were just about to turn 6 and 3 we flew to London for four days and then traveled through the Chunnel via train to Paris for four days. Since we had been to Paris before it was a pretty relaxed trip. We didn’t feel the need to run around catching all of the sights. And it was magnificent! But even if you haven’t been here, you can make Paris with young kids a memorable and fun trip for everyone. We sat on the grass outside the Eiffel Tower, went to the top of Montparnasse Tower, played in the Luxembourg Gardens, ate croissants and drank hot chocolate everyday, strolled the cobblestone streets, and made our way out to the champagne town of Reims for a day. The best part about this trip was that we were able to meet up with our close friends who were living in Germany at the time.

Family Photo

Eiffel Tower

I mean, you have to see the Eiffel Tower, especially if it’s your first time or second time here. We visited it multiple times with the kids during our stay. Since we had gorgeous weather we were able to sit on the grass, let the kids run around, and enjoy the scenery. They were impressed by its size and genuinely enjoyed seeing it from different angles and vantage points.

We had bought timed tickets to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. This was the one part of our trip that I wasn’t too excited about. We did it in 2011 during the off season and it was just as busy as any other time. But we wanted to show the kids the top and the beautiful view, so here we were. Even in November, it was crowded and pushy and overall just not enjoyable. But the views were amazing! And the kids had a really nice time and loved it! But that’s it… I’m never doing it again!

Because of the time change the kids were staying up later than normal, which worked out because we all got to experience the Eiffel Tower light display! The light show starts at sundown, takes place every hour until 1:00am, and lasts for five minutes. After a very long dinner we were able to make it there for the 10:00pm show and it was fantastic. The kids really enjoyed it, and over three years later STILL talk about it!

Luxembourg Gardens

The Luxembourg Gardens, Jardin du Luxembourg, is a popular place to relax and get away from the busy Paris streets. The expansive gardens are well maintained, with large fountains suited for toy boat sailing or reading a book. It also has an incredibly fun playground for kids called the Ludo Jardin. At the time it cost a few euros a person to enter, but what you get from an hour or two of the kids playing here will help you continue with the rest of your day in Paris! The area is fenced in so the kids can run around while parents can sit with a coffee or tea.

Montpanarsse Tower

Tour Montpanarsse is an almost 700 foot skyscraper in Paris and was the tallest building there until 2011. The tower is known for having the best views of the city, with an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower.

Strolling the Streets of Paris with Kids

We were excited to go here since we hadn’t been before. It’s right near a metro stop so it was easy to get to, and we had bought our tickets online so there was no hassle at arrival. Besides the view, the great thing about this visit was that it was empty… there was hardly anyone there! We were able to read about the history of the tower, some interesting facts about Paris, and enjoy the view in peace! It’s not obvious when you first arrive, but there are several more flights of stairs that you can climb in order to get to the rooftop terrace. This was our favorite as you can truly relax and enjoy the view at your own pace unlike the Eiffel Tower.

Eating & Strolling

We spent the majority of our time eating and strolling. Every morning we started our day with croissants and hot chocolate. We snacked on macarons, ate crepes with various foods heated inside, and had a lot of bread! Jon and I drank French wine while eating decadent food, and enjoyed somewhat peaceful meals while the kids played with some toys we brought. We walked around the different areas at a very relaxed pace – no running around to different sites, no early wake-ups to sightsee; we just… were.

Dinner with friends!

Traveling to Paris with young kids from the U.S. can be done! The key is finding a balance between what the kids want to do and what the parents want to do. It also helps to find activities that the whole family can enjoy together while finding times to just, be. Either way, take the time to stroll and eat your way through this vibrant city!

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Skiing the Sunny Slopes in Chamonix, France

Skiing the Sunny Slopes in Chamonix, France

Skiing in Chamonix, France has been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Like Zermatt, it is consistently in the top 10 lists for ski resorts around the world. The town of Chamonix is a true mountain town, surrounded by the towering French Alps, and catering to winter sports enthusiasts. Lying in the shadow of Mont Blanc, the highest of the Alpine peaks, Chamonix is in the Rhone-Alpes region and is in a “corner” of Europe consisting of France, Italy, and Switzerland.

Strolling the Streets of Geneva

We flew into Geneva, which is about an hour away from Chamonix. We drove into the center and decided to explore this international city for a few hours. Almost half of Geneva is made up of people from 147 different countries linking together businesses from around the world. Walking down the streets felt like walking on Rodeo Drive or 5th Avenue; Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and the like, dominated the streets, as well as the prevalence of very high-priced watch brands such as Rolex and Cartier.

We strolled along Lake Geneva, taking in the sight of the Jet d’Eau Fountain, Geneva’s most famous landmark. It is one of the biggest fountains in the world and the largest in Europe. The spray of the fountain reaches about 460 feet and pumps out 132 gallons of water per second!

Skiing in Chamonix

After Geneva, we drove the hour to Chamonix and checked into our lodge. We spent three glorious days of skiing in great conditions; it had just snowed the night before we arrived, and the sun was shining clearly in the sky for us to see. Miles of groomed trails and un-groomed fresh powder laid before us and we were presented with a variety of descents for us to choose from.

Each day we made our way to our favorite lunch spot in the middle of the mountain. We would laze in the outdoor loungers, sip our vin chaud and beer, and chow down on some local grub. One day while we ate, a local band played music which could be heard up and down the mountain.

Delicious Food!

We ate at some fantastic restaurants while in Chamonix. If I could eat foie gras at every meal I would, and I can’t resist ordering it. Combine that with an undying love for cheese fondue and we were all set! Each dinner was better than the next and we left each meal satisfied, but wanting more – it was so good!

Skiing in Chamonix, France was such a wonderful experience. The people are very friendly, the scenery is beautiful, and the food is sensational! Next time we could see ourselves renting a cabin with friends (any takers?), skiing some fantastic runs during the day, drinking delicious French wine, and dipping bread into a never ending pot of cheese fondue. Sounds perfect!

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french riviera

The French Riviera: Our Visit to Eze and Monaco

View from the top of Eze

We’ve been spending time on the French Riviera, which has been a good trip so far. There’s so much allure to this region, with celebrities visiting and glamorous people shopping and touring. After our visit, though, we’re starting to wonder if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Still, we’ve enjoyed the trip for the most part. Today we visited the towns of Eze & Monaco.

Getting Lost in Eze

The ancient village of Eze lies on a rock 1,400 feet above sea level. It centers on the ruins of a 14th century castle. The maze-like, narrow streets are home to some small art shops and restaurants. We found ourselves lost a few times in search of the castle that eventually gave us quite a site over the water and St. Jean-Cap Ferrat. The Jardin Exotique surrounds the castle ruins and consists of different cacti, citrus trees, and tropical plants.

Eze was by far our favorite stop out of the French towns that we visited.

Our Visit to the Famous Monte Carlo Casino

Our last stop on the French Riviera was to the second smallest country in the world, Monaco (Vatican City is the first). Of course our first stop here had to be the Monte Carlo Casino.

At first site, this casino dominates the view from far away, with beautiful fountains and gardens leading up to it. Before we even went into the casino, we spent 20 minutes watching the parade of fancy cars line up, which was a spectacle in itself. 

The architecture and decor of the building is stunning and beautiful. If you’re expecting to have a James Bond-like experience though, you will be disappointed. It was basically heaving with tourists and was not very glamorous at all. We had thought about dressing up, but decided not to after doing some research (and I’m glad we didn’t!). There is a dress code at night, but nothing as elegant as we would have thought.

We wanted to gamble here, but didn’t because there were only two roulette tables open, plus slot machines, neither of which piqued our interest. We gambled in Nice, so all was not lost (except for our money). Overall, there wasn’t too much atmosphere in the casino, but the building was gorgeous to look at.

The Overall Verdict

Overall, we’re glad we visited this region, but we don’t feel a need to come back again, at least in the near future. While we had a great time in Nice, Cannes, Eze, & Monaco, we don’t see what all of the fuss is about. Cannes was unimpressive and stuffy, and Monaco is good for a quick visit to the casino – otherwise there’s not much to do. While pretty, Nice is similar to other beach cities that we’ve been to (with a higher price tag and uncomfortable beaches). Eze proved to be a pleasant surprise away from the hustle of the beachgoers and was by far our favorite. Nevertheless, we did get to swim in the Mediterranean, take in the amazing landscape of the mountains, shop at an amazing and vibrant market, and marvel at how some people live everyday!

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french riviera

The French Riviera: What to See in Nice and Cannes

The Promenade di Anglais in Nice

During our time in Europe, we wanted to experience the French Riviera. September was a perfect time to go. Summer weather is still in full force, but the huge crowds have dissipated (though there were plenty of people there). The French Riviera (aka Côte d’Azur in French) is the Mediterranean coastline of southeastern France, including the small country of Monaco. We stayed in Nice, but we explored well beyond it, finding a lot of incredible sites to see in Nice and Cannes, as well as Eze and Monaco.

Site-Seeing in Nice

As we made our way to the Old Town from our hotel, we came across a lively market selling fruits, vegetables, spices, soaps, paintings, and anything else a local or a tourist might need. We picked up some Herbs de Provence and some other spices that would be fun to cook with.

After browsing the market, we spent our time in the Old Town (Vieux Nice), walking through the old pedestrian passageways and alleys. We made our way to Parc du Chateau, a hilltop park with great views over Old Nice and the beachfront. We also came across an old Jewish cemetery next to the park. 

The water seemed to be calling out to us as we made our way back towards the seaside. We soon realized why so many people were wearing crocs or other water shoes. The beach was not sandy as it had appeared, but was made of medium sized stones that weren’t comfortable on our bare feet. Nevertheless, we took a swim in the clear water and hopefully maintained our subtlety when we caught glimpses of bare chested women on the beach.

Fame in Cannes

After our swim, we got in the car and headed towards Cannes. Cannes is mainly known for its celebrity film festival that occurs during two weeks in May. But this town attracts tourists year round, as people hope to get a piece of the glitz that the celebrities leave behind.

Jon and I aren’t into the whole celebrity and high-end shopping scene, but felt we should get the experience. We looked at the festival theater and walked along a path where celebrities imprinted their hands into concrete. Next, we ate a spectacular lunch on the waterfront consisting of our favorite French sandwich (Croque Madam) with some white wine. We also went to Cannes’ historic quarter, and took in some nice views from the top of the hill. 

We had a ball exploring all there is to see in Nice and Cannes. But, there’s still more fun ahead of us on the French Riviera! Next up: Eze and Monaco!

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major landmarks in paris

Major Landmarks in Paris

Our trip to Paris was absolutely packed with history, culture, food, and wine. I loved every single minute of it! While enjoyed time simply walking around and soaking in the ambiance, we took advantage of our surroundings and visited many of the major landmarks in Paris.

During the first day of our trip, we saw Notre Dame, the Louvre, and more. Our adventures today brought us to Versailles, Sacre Couer, the Arc de Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower!

Versailles

After our usual breakfast, we headed to Versailles. The royal palace in Versailles was the official residence of the Kings of France from 1682-1790. This palace is massive! I’m sure that we missed some rooms when walking through, but it’s just so big! It has over 700 rooms, 2,000 windows, 1,250 fireplaces, 67 staircases, and more than 1,800 acres of garden area. We would imagine it would take forever to find anyone or anything!

Each room served a different purpose and was decorated with paintings, sculptures, furniture, and more. The ceilings and walls were adorned with elaborate moldings and wallpaper or paintings. One room, the Hall of Mirrors, is especially famous as it was the sight of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I.

After Versailles, we took the train back into Paris. As we walked towards Sacre Coeur, we stumbled by Moulin Rouge. It was nothing spectacular on the outside, but cool to see something that once was and is a place for extravagant shows and attractions.

Moulin Rouge in Paris, again.
Moulin Rouge

Sacre Coeur

After lunch, we headed towards Sacre Coeur. Sacre Coeur is a Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica. It is located on the highest point in Paris and gives you great views of the city (which were continuously interrupted by some guy asking us if we wanted to buy string from him. Um, no thanks?).

Arc de Triomphe

Our last stop of the day was Arc de Triomphe. We bypassed the line (thank you museum passes!) and were able to climb all the way to the top. Here is where we had spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of Paris.

Eiffel Tower

On the last day of our trip, we visited probably the most popular landmark in Paris: the Eiffel Tower. It was a picturesque day, giving us the perfect background to observe the Eiffel Tower from the ground and its amazing views from the top. It was simply gorgeous.

Located on the Champs de Mars (an incredibly large public green area), the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world. It was built in 1889 as an entrance arch into the 1889 World’s Fair, and it was the tallest building in the world until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was built.

We were in awe of its beauty and captivated by its size. Who would have thought that interlaced iron shooting up into the sky would look so magnificent?

Luckily, we had bought our tickets in advance so we skipped the ultra long lines and went right into an elevator. We got off on the second platform (there are three) in order to switch elevators to go to the top. Once we got to the summit we were welcomed with impressive views of the city. Because of the clear day we were able to see for miles. It was fun picking out the places we had already been to. As if we didn’t need another reason to love Paris, the Eiffel Tower provided the best views of the city, and provided its own beauty to the skyline. Simply amazing!

We will definitely be visiting Paris again in the future!

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Falling in Love with Paris

I think we’re falling in love with a city other than New York… Paris!

Paris was nothing as I expected it to be, and everything I could have dreamt it to be! This city reminded us so much of New York, but had a more chic and sophisticated feel to it. The people, despite what everyone says, are very friendly (even to us Americans). They greeted us with open arms and welcomed us into their city.

The streets and sidewalks are wide and lined with “old school” lamp posts and chateau-like apartments. As you stroll along, you can hop in and out of many restaurants, bars, and boutiques. Trendy men and women walked about their day, clicking heels on the pavement and chatting on their phones. We loved not seeing anyone who could be on the website “People of Walmart.”

Getting the Full Parisian Experience

The food was delicious! We had a ton of foie gras, and tried foods that we hadn’t ever tried before, like escargot and sea urchin.

We tried to speak the language as much as we could, but it kept coming out as a mix of English and Italian with one or two words in French. I think the effort was appreciated though! We were impressed by the cleanliness of the streets, the easy accessibility to everything by metro, and the overall beauty of the city. Paris has an aura of romance emanating from all directions; we were sad to leave it!

Our small boutique hotel was in a great location. Tucked away down a quiet side street, we were a two-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, a metro stop, and many restaurants, pastry shops, and bars. Each morning, we started our day off with a croissant, pain au chocolat, a cafe latte, and a hot chocolate.

Visiting Paris’ Cultural and Historical Sites

On the first day, we walked along the Champs Elysees, a very high-end street with many people toting their recent, very expensive purchases.

We made it down to the Louvre, which was about a 2.5 mile walk. Luckily, we had purchased museum passes, so we were able to skip the long line that we saw from afar. As we went inside ,we made sure to see the most famous art work first and then walk around at a leisurely pace.

After the Louvre, we strolled along the Seine River. There are 37 different bridges that cross the river in different places. Pont Neuf is probably the most well known, as it is the oldest standing bridge across the Seine in Paris. But the one that caught our eye was the Pont des Arts. Here, couples affix locks to the bridge in order to symbolize their everlasting love.

We then came to Notre Dame, a Gothic Catholic cathedral. Inside it was decorated with colorful stained glass and large natural sculptures.

After stopping in a little restaurant for some lunch we made our way up the Seine again towards the Musee d’Orsay, which holds pieces of work by Van Gogh and Gauguin, among others.

Finishing our Day with Fine Parisian Food

When we came back to the hotel, we mapped out our day and realized we had walked over 8 miles! Time to rest and eat! We had reservations at a small restaurant where they guarantee personal attention and amazing food. They gave us two glasses of champagne to start the evening and brought out a few knives for Jon to choose to cut his steak. Here is where we tried escargot (which were great) and stuffed ourselves silly. The day was a fantastic start to our vacation!

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