To read Part One, click here.
Seeing the sightsThe Paris Museum Pass is genius. Flash this pass and immediately enter more than a dozen museums and attractions. It saves time waiting in lines and discounts the regular cost of entry. Pick one up at a tabac shop or at one of the museums.
For the Eiffel Tower, reserve a time in advance online. Otherwise, wait an hour or more just to get in line for an elevator to the second floor. It’s another line and an elevator to the top. A bird’s eye view of Paris may be easier and faster from atop the Arc de Triomphe, and it’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass.
A stroller is a must for a day-long itinerary. Our son didn’t mind napping in his stroller, and it gave us the freedom to keep going from place to place. Most attractions allow strollers; it’s only annoying when taking steps to the Metro.
I’d go back in a heartbeat to Le Marais, the Jewish neighborhood. It’s filled with boutique clothing shops, bakeries, cobblestone streets and falafel stands that attract a crowd.
Grab a seat and relax
The best way to spend an hour a day is at a café. A table and two chairs set along a busy street offer the best view of life in the city. Order a croissant, cappuccino, glass of wine or ice cream and the server will let you stay as long as you like. No need to splurge on the best bottle of wine. A glass of the house red, white or rose is often good enough to pass the time. Be forewarned: Parisians love to smoke. For a waft of your food and wine, rather than secondhand smoke, size up the crowd before sitting down.
Eat like the French; walk like a tourist
We ate croissants, bread, tarts, ice cream, butter, potatoes, meat and rich sauces – and managed to lose weight. Portions are small yet satisfying. Beverages are served in smaller glasses. Eating smaller portions of whatever we wanted, and walking and sightseeing between meals, proved the perfect recipe for maintaining our weight.
Get out of the city
Versailles and Reims are only 45 minutes from Paris by train. Take in Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette’s palace and gardens at Versailles, and head to Reims for champagne tastings and tours. Theme park lovers may opt for a day at Disneyland Paris.
We didn’t feel we truly took a vacation until we left Paris. Life slowed way down once we arrived in Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera). We experienced great food, nice people who love children, walkable streets, reasonably priced accommodations and villages easily reached by car. Our favourites in Provence: Arles, Avignon, St. Remy and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. In the Riviera: Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Eze, La Turbie and Monaco. Take the TGV to either region, then get a rental car to reach the countryside villages.
On our first night in Arles, we stumbled upon a square with a huge water fountain and a five-man band performing for locals. My son stopped in his baby tracks to take it all in. It was at that moment I knew we weren’t crazy for travelling with a toddler; we were making memories and sharing priceless experiences.
By the end of the trip, my husband and I concluded a two-week trip won’t be in the plans every year with children. But for our little traveller, it’s the beginning of a lifetime of experiencing new places, people and food. He came home with a newfound love of water fountains, blond-haired women and French bread. And he learned how to walk up and down steps at Versailles. How many children (and their parents) can say that!