Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Our Journey to Paris!

When we planned our trip to Italy, we expected we’d fly into Rome and make our way to Florence, as Zach and I had done on our first trip many years ago. 

As we researched flight options, though, we found that Paris was a much better choice - more flight times and almost 1/3 of the cost. Sold! Once we knew we were flying into Paris, we decided to stay a few days to break up the travel and visit another city. The kids were really excited about Paris (macarons! the Eiffel Tower! the movie Leap!) and Zach and I had each only spent a few days there during our study abroads, long before we knew each other. It was a great decision and Paris was such a highlight of the trip! As fancy and romantic as I think of Paris as being, it was really kid friendly and we all loved it.  There was so much green space - parks and gardens and playgrounds - which were all really great for kids to run around and explore.  There are carousels everywhere and the food was a mix of adventurous and accessible.  I'm so glad we added Paris to our itinerary!

Our kids had never done more than a one hour time change and the sleep routine is king in our house, so I was super nervous about the overnight flight and five hour time difference (and how excited were we when we learned that we had to do daylight savings time AGAIN while we were over there?! NOT.). We booked the trip in the fall and told the kids about it on Christmas Eve, so we had plenty of time in advance to get excited, set expectations, and make plans. Our family motto for the trip was “patience and flexibility.” We told the kids (and ourselves) that everything was going to take longer than we thought and pretty much nothing would go as planned, so we needed to be patient, flexible, and love each other well through it all. I think Mommy and Daddy needed those reminders more than the kids!

The overnight flight was the first test of this motto! The flight was at 8pm on Tuesday, and we got to the airport around 5pm with kids in PJs and bags of food packed for dinner and snacks. 
The plane configuration was 2 window seats on each side with 3 seats in the middle. We had those middle seats, and Erin, Henry and I sat in front of Ryan, Zach, and Nettie. 
What we did not bargain for is that when the flight left at 8pm, there was a good 2 hours of service - dinner, drinks, etc. - before they turned the lights down. Why?!? We gave the kids melatonin gummies, which we had “practiced” with a few times at home before the trip (those things are MAGIC), but it was hard for any of us to settle down because of excitement, uncomfortable seats, and all the lights on - even when the service ended, tons of people on the plane had their TVs on, which was a huge distraction. Consistent with our expectations, the flight went nothing like our expectations! Nettie, who is generally our kid who needs the least amount of sleep and is often caught reading well past her bedtime, slept almost the entire flight. Henry, who loves himself some beauty rest, was bopping around the whole time. All in all, everyone slept at least an hour or two, and the time passed pretty quickly and uneventfully.

When we arrived in Paris on Wednesday morning, we flew through customs and baggage quickly and easily, and got in a cab to the hotel. I didn’t realize that it was a solid hour ride from the airport, but it was a blessing because all four kids fell asleep in the car. 
We stayed at the Residence Charles Floquet, an apartment style hotel with three bedrooms, living area, and small kitchen, in the 7th Arrondissement right near the Eiffel Tower.  It was a cute little area and while it was a bit removed from all the major sights, it had a really nice neighborhood feel.  

I felt really ill by the time we got to the apartment - in hindsight, I wonder if I had vertigo or if it was just exhaustion and nerves from the trip - but I felt very dizzy and off-balance, nauseous and anxious for almost 36 hours after we arrived. Almost immediately upon getting to the apartment, which was around 9:30am, we all lay down for about two hours. Ryan and Nettie were sharing a room and I don’t think they slept - they were excited and played with their backpack activities (paper airplanes everywhere!) but Erin and Henry were out cold and Zach and I caught a few winks too. It was nearly impossibly to rouse Henry, but we all rallied, changed out clothes, and headed out to explore, probably around 12:30/1pm.
We knew our first destination was the Big Bus Paris office, where we wanted to get our Paris Pass for the hop on/hop off bus tour and museums. We asked the concierge if he could point us in the direction of the Louvre and he said, “it’s way too far to walk - you have to take the Metro.” So of course, we walked. 😉 Never so thankful for that stroller!
Our plan for adjusting to the time change was to take that first nap, and then get as much fresh air and exercise as we could in order to power through until bedtime. It was a struggle at times, but we did it and it was worth it! We had brought the “Mission: Paris” book along, which was great - it’s basically a kids’ scavenger hunt and I would highly recommend it. We didn’t follow it to a tee, but it gave the kids some ownership of what we did and stuff to look for along the way. 
We meandered our way from our apartment near the Eiffel Tower, up to the river, and throughout the city. Everyone had their turn to be cranky and fought over who got to ride in the stroller, and I was feeling terrible, but it was a beautiful day and we felt like we were off to a good start. One of our main lessons learned that day was that street food was way harder to find than we thought - we had expected to find crepes carts on every corner, bakeries to pop into for a baguette, etc. It may have just been the route we took, but at one point we were splitting a bag of Cheez-It’s from the airplane six ways 😂 Finally we stumbled upon a crepe cart on one of the bridges - Nutella banana and lemon sugar crepes were the kids' favorites!
We landed at the Tuileries and Erin found a map that mentioned an in-ground trampoline park. The kids found it right away and it might have been their favorite thing of the whole vacation. They each did two rounds of jumping and then decided to use their own euros for a third turn. They also checked out an awesome playground and took a ride on the carousel.  After all this playtime, we stopped at a patisserie for some treats, at which point I was really having a pity party that I felt too sick to eat any of these delicious things, but those chocolate eclairs sure perked the kids up!
We finally found our destination of the Paris Pass office. The Paris Pass was perfect for us and I would totally recommend it. We got the two day pass, which gave us unlimited use of the hop on/hop off bus, a metro ticket, and admission to most of the major museums. We bought it after 4pm (yes, it took us awhile to walk there 😆) so that day was free and the pass was good for two more days after that. The hop on/hop off bus tour was a huge hit - it was so easy to get around to all the sights and the kids loved the novelty of the open air top level. Ryan napped on the bus a bit too, which was a bonus. The museum pass was great to have too, because it let us skip the ticket lines and we didn’t feel guilty if we only spent an hour in each place, since it was included in our ticket price.
We didn’t want to overdo it on the first day (although re-reading this in hindsight, it feels like we missed that goal!) so we mostly just rode the bus all around and saw the sights, but we hopped off at the Musée D’Orsay and spent a bit of time in there. The boys were cranky about that but the girls and I enjoyed seeing the impressionist art and I was feeling a little better by then.
It was chilly on the last bus ride home to the Eiffel Tower, but we rode all the way through the Arc de Triomphe on the way back, so had a great big loop of the city. 
We got off at the Eiffel Tower stop, walked past our apartment, and had dinner in the neighborhood at a place called Firmine that our friends had recommended. Once we sat down, I felt terrible again but everyone else enjoyed it. The service was very French - slow, one course at a time, and you had to ask for the check, but there were lots of kids in there and it was super convenient and fun to be in a real neighborhood bistro.  The kids got pizza and pasta, Zach had a delicious burger, and I had the French onion soup (when in Rome...).
We walked back to the apartment after dinner and got upstairs just in time to see the Eiffel Tower twinkling from 9-9:05pm, which was such a highlight! We didn’t know what time that happened and felt so lucky to catch a glimpse - Ryan said it was his favorite part of the trip. The kids crashed at about 9:30/10:00 and slept almost 12 hours - success!

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