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Paris // Mom and daughters need a little help, s'il vous plaît.

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Bonjour! For anyone who has been to Paris and/or traveled abroad with just your kids, I would love to hear from you. I've planned a 10 day trip to Paris with my 2 daughters, ages 16 and 11. This was my 16yo's choice, over a sweet 16 party. (yay!!) It is our first time. I have an itinerary planned, read several books, researched, studied maps, and the 3 of us are learning a little French. We're very excited!
Here is where I need help - I am feeling a little anxious about the trip, mostly re: figuring it all out and finding my way around. I am trying to do this and get around all on my own, without tours and guides. I have read/heard such varying opinions on the Metro, from "it was so easy!" to "it was so confusing!!"... "The batobus is not an efficient way to get around" (from a Parisian), to "We used the boat every day!!" (a friend who visited). Long story short - I am getting overwhelmed. Need a little encouragment, and would also love to hear things you wish you knew before your first trip to Paris! Merci.
 

Parigi

100+ Posts
"figuring it all out and finding my way around. I am trying to do this and get around all on my own, without tours and guides."

Excellent. That's how I did it the first time and all subsequent times. You will gain time and independence and enjoyment this way.

"I have read/heard such varying opinions on the Metro, from "it was so easy!" to "it was so confusing!!"..."

It is very easy, very user-friendly. On my first trip to Paris, I was 18. I had just come from London. I understood the metro system quite quickly, and found it more user-friendly than the London tube, even though in Paris I had to deal with a foreign language.
The trains are very frequent. No kidding: we locals are so spoiled that during daytime on a week day, if we have to wait for more than 3 minutes, we start complaining bitterly: what ? It's coming in 4 minutes ? Grrrrrr.

Google Map is very useerful, for the metro, for public transport in general, and for walking too.
1. Input your destination.
2. Click the "getting-there" icon.
3. Then input the address of where you are.
4. Choose one of the icons on top: driving, or public transport, or walking.
Then an itinerary will appear. It will also give you the estimated time of getting wherever.

"The batobus is not an efficient way to get around" (from a Parisian), to "We used the boat every day!!" (a friend who visited).

If you consider it pubic transport, it is not good, not like Venice's vaporetto or Bangkok's Chao Prya Express. All public transport that takes longer than a 15-minute-wait is self-defeating.
But you're a traveller. You have no appontments. Your only duty is to make memories, and you should make the best, most beautiful memories.
Think of the Batobus as an inexpensive and comfortable hop-on-hop-off tourist boat on the Seine, and you will enjoy it immensely.
The river Seine is more than a river. The entire history of Paris has happened around it. The riverview is unbelievably beautiful. I am still smitten with it, with its big concentration of the city's major historical monuments. A boat ride always offers you a different view of a city, and a boat ride on the Seine will seal your love for the city.

"I am getting overwhelmed."

The pre-trip overwhelm is norminal.
It will work out. Paris is user-friendly. You can walk everywhere. Every street corner is beautiful. 10 days will fly by.

A few anti-overwhelm tips:

1. In your planning, choose one theme at a time, and not all the themes together. Transport is one theme. Food another. You canalso try some (half-)day trips, to Versailles or to the beautiful Normandy coast (2h train one way).

2. Involve children in your planning. What are their interests? And for example, when we say kids, we mean tech-savvy. At night in your appartment, have a road-map session together. Ask them to figure out for you a general concept of road map(s) for next day's sightseeing.

3. Be prepared to walk a lot. Don't worry about getting tired. You can always stop on a park bench or in a café.

4. You will get lost. Don't hesitate to ask passers-by to help. I'm a local and I still do that all the time. Just did it this morning. You will have great fun in these little interactions with the locals. They don't bite. :)

5. Pickpocket is a real problem in Paris, as in all the major European cities. It is not an insurmountable problem. Carry the kind of bags that would not facilitate it. And be alert at all times, especiall in those major spots for sightseeing: around the Louvre, in the metro lines frequented by tourists…

6. Whether you are traveling with friends or with family, always be a team. No blame game. Be supportive of those who try to deal with a foreign language. I remember what a pressure it was on my first trips. Make the planing a collective game and not a chore.

7. Meet others' culture half-way. If people eat late, you eat late too. It is more fun, and you will eat better and have a better experience. Besides why do you care whether you are eating late or not? You're jetlagged. Another simple thing to meet the French culture half-way: always, ALWAYS, say "bonjour" when you enter a shop, a café, a restaurant. And when in doubt, ask.
If you do these little things, Parisians will love you and adopt you.

8. Oh, adopt ! Yes, choose one nice café near you and make it yours. Don't think of adopting a café. Think of getting it to adopt you. By the next morning the waiter will remember your orders. And next year he will embrace you and greet your like his long-lost cousin from Brittany.

"Need a little encouragment, and would also love to hear things you wish you knew before your first trip to Paris!"

I fell in love with the city immediately. I'm still in love.
We - I was 18, my then bf slightly over 20 - would starve for a meal in order to go to a good restaurant for a real French feast.
We walked forever, and the city was always beautiful and never boring.
I would point to a graffiti and ask locals what it meant. I ended up learning a lot of cuss words.

P.S. For transport I also like using Uber or the French version of Uber called Kapten. Both have a very clear English-language app. Just that alone makes me prefer it to taxi. This is good option if you are looking for a more comfortable tansport, or if you have luggage or if you are not feeling well. Often in Paris, a car is not the fastest way of getting somewhere. Metro is the fastest and most reliale. But walk, walk, walk.
 

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Parigi - merci beaucoup!! This is JUST what I needed to hear! I am so appreciative that you took the time to write this wonderful and thoughtful advice. I am going to print this out and reread it when I start to feel overwhelmed. But I already feel a little more relieved, and a lot more excited. 2 weeks from today, we will be in Paris! Merci!!
 

JMichael

10+ Posts
Parigi has great advice. Our son and daughter were 18 and 16 years-old the first time we took them to Paris. We rented an apartment in the Marais and rode the Metro everywhere. Pick some sights that appeal to you children's interests. My daughter is a Jim Morrison (The Doors) fan so we had to visit his grave at Pere Lachaise Cemetery. My son is a visual artist so the Louvre was a no brainer. He also wanted to see gargoyles up close, which meant a climb to the top of Notre Dame. I was a history teacher and thought it important to visit the beaches of Normandy. My wife and I wanted to help them become familiar with the culture and public transportation with the idea that they would return someday as "experienced" travelers. I wouldn't overload your schedule. We usually did one or two big things a day and spent the balance of time visiting small shops to pick up groceries or relaxing at cafes. Cut each other slack and have fun.
 

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Merci beaucoup JMichael! We are also staying in the Marais! Did you enjoy it? I love your advice and have definitely involved them both in the planning - museums and the Catacombs for my 16 year old artist/lover of unusual things, and some outdoor parks and scoping out the best desserts for my 11 year old. Did you happen to visit Giverny? That is also on the birthday girl's list!
 
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JMichael

10+ Posts
Didn't make it to Giverny, but did do the catacombs and the kids still talk about it. Wear shoes you don't mind getting dusty. The limestone dust seems to cling to shoes and cuffs. Our favorite street in the Marais was Rue Rambuteau. We shopped daily at the bakery, wine shop, charcuterie, and green grocer. After a couple of days, they recognized and welcomed us as we entered.

Check out the Paris by Metro app. I've found it indispensable each time we've visited Paris. It will find your nearest station, and you can plan your journeys, including transfers to the RER.
 

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Thank you so much for the street suggestion, it is 10 minute walk from our apartment and we will be sure to go! And good to know on the Catacombs. Again - merci!
 

PeterCL

New Member
A few thoughts, and suggestions. First off, trust everything Parigi has mentioned. She is an incredible resource for practical advice. I would add to her note #5 about pickpockets and being alert at all times — don’t be casual with anything valuable. For example, leaving a cellphone on an outside table at a café terrace while you’re just sitting there taking a coffee, etc. break. With a blink of an eye, that phone will disappear. A camera resting on your lap in the metro, etc., etc. You get the idea.

“Meet others' culture half-way.” Yes, yes, yes. Take a class. Are the girls interested in cooking? Take a cooking class for a couple of hours. It will be a great experience, a great memory, and you’ll meet some people. Or, take a tour that is (1) limited in size, and (2) focused on just one thing: chocolate shops (yeah !!), food shops, etc.

You say you have an itinerary. I really hope it is not crammed with “must do” things. Give yourself plenty of “free” time. One of the most rewarding things to do in Paris is simply walking through the city. Look up when you do — there’s a whole lot of interesting stuff above street level. My wife and I are at the far end of “slow” on the slow spectrum in slow traveling — one destination place, if that, per day, and that’s it. The rest of day is spent just enjoying the city, on its own terms.

OK, some suggestions while you’re staying the Marais. Le Peloton Café (on Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe) is both a café (with excellent coffee) but also the location for a group that conducts all sorts of bike tours. Run by ex-pats, very convivial. Might be a good source for some suggestions.

Some food/restaurant suggestions. Nothing fancy or high-end.

Meert, an ornate pastry shop with very unusual Lille waffles.
https://parisbymouth.com/meert/

Les Philosophes, a bustling, popular neighborhood bistro/café.

Breizh Café, generally regarded as having the best crêpes in Paris. Might seem counter-intuitive for a crêperie, but given its popularity, you need to reserve.

Brasserie Bofinger, a big old fashioned brasserie with a great interior. Reserve.

Le Petit Celestin, a casual, good, bistro down by the river. Reserve.

Le Bistrot des Vosges, Aveyron focused menu. Casual, probably don’t have to reserve, but just to make sure . . .

The Oyster Club, in the 4th. The name pretty much explains.
https://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/john_talbotts_paris/2019/05/the-oyster-club-in-the-4th-oysters-anyone-have-i-got-a-deal-for-you-and-in-that-food-desert-the-mara.html

Oh, just thought of this. Friends of ours with two youngsters just returned from Paris. Before leaving, mom and dad bought each one of them a small notebook to keep a diary of the trip. Rewarding for all four of them.
 

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Bonjour! Thank you for all of these great tips and suggestions! I just looked up Meert - it looks amazing!
Re: a tour... We have a one-on-one walking tour booked for our 2nd day - "Paris hidden gems"... just a local Parisian and us. The 3 of us love off-the-beaten-path-type places, and I thought spending time with a local would be a great way to start our trip.
I am with you 100% on not packing too much into a day. I don't have many things for each day, and am going into it knowing things can change. I've also taken into consideration my daughters - they will not enjoy getting up and out early every day, rushing through major sites and exhausting themselves. I am looking forward to the days where we really slow down and soak it all in; those are usually my most memorable moments when I travel!
I am bringing a travel watercolor set for the 16 yo, and a Paris scavenger hunt book for the little one.... a little notebook is a great idea, too!
Lastly, re: pickpockets. We are from NY. Is it equivalent to that? I am so used to being aware and safe with my stuff in NYC - just wondering if it is similar, or a whole other level?
Big thanks for all the info!! Really helpful. Merci!
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
What an exciting trip for you and your daughters!

I've gone to Paris every year, for maybe 13 years now. Since my husband died, I've made the last five trips alone. You can do this!

Does your 16 yo have a smartphone? Perhaps letting her help with navigation will intrigue her and help you?

I use my cell plan (Verizon, $10 per day, so I can have all of my services, including data. On a recent trip to the UK, I didn't use 1GB, even though I wasn't being careful with my data). Having the same cell phone number is critical for me since I use two-factor authentication for many apps.

Even if you don't use your data plan (through your service, or by a French SIM card), there are many mapping apps that work off of GPS. CityMapper, CityMaps2Go are quite good.

To me, the RATP Paris Metro app is a "must have" for Paris. Before heading out, you can enter the closest station and your destination station, and you'll see the schedules, train changes, alerts to delays, etc. You can take a screenshot of it, store in your photos, and then you can look at it later, if you aren't using your phone in real-time.

However, when I was in London, I let Google Maps lead the way -- I used AirPods in my ears, had my iPhone in my purse, as it told me when to turn, etc. Of course, wired headphones work, too. Google Maps does use data, though minimal. I think I read it's about 5mb for an hour of navigation.

You can go to Giverny on your own. I've done it twice without a tour. With three of you, though--a tour that gets you from Paris to Giverny may be easier for you than dealing with train tickets. In case you want to go on your own, I wrote up instructions a few years ago on my old blog--you'll want to double-check trains, stations, etc. since things may have changed.

There are all sorts of precautions about scams and pickpockets. Just do a bit of searching in this forum, and on the web, and you'll find information to ease your worries by knowing what to avoid--be careful of ATMs on the street. You'll find many bank ATMS inside buildings (press a button for the door to unlock).

The Batobus can be slow, but it's a wonderful "overview" of the iconic places along the Seine. That said, it's faster than walking from Notre Dame to the Eiffel!

You're going in August, correct? There may be some closings during that time, as French take vacations. If you're set on a restaurant, check out the website, call, or walk by, to see if/when they're closed for holiday.

Breizh Cafe is, I agree, a good place to take your daughters. They may also have their "food truck" on the banks of the Seine, near Museé D'Orsay (I think), with picnic tables.

Speaking of picnics -- your daughters may have fun gathering foods from the shops to take on a picnic to eat on the banks of the Seine. @Parigi and I often picnic when I'm in Paris. The gardens at Palais Royal are fun for a picnic, too.

Eric Kayser Boulangeries are great for sandwiches with a drink and dessert combo. I've always enjoyed high quality from this chain (don't be put off by that). Locations in Paris are spread out across the city.

Since you're staying in the Marais, there's a casual place (a hole in the wall) called Miznon that has fresh veggies and even boeuf Bourguignon in a pita! Just across from the famous L'as du Falafel. Eat there or take out, from both.

Enjoy your special trip, with your daughters!
 

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Cameron - thank you very much for your tips and words of encouragement! Yes, we will be there in August. I am glad you mention getting to Giverny, as traveling there is something I've been wondering about. I did plan on doing it on my own, after researching many different tours and such. I will definitely look for your post with instructions! Two questions on Giverny - how long would you suggest for a nice, slow day in Giverny? And what day of the week would be best to go? I've read not to go on Sundays as that is when the cruise ship crowds are there. What are your thoughts? Merci!!
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
Cameron - thank you very much for your tips and words of encouragement! Yes, we will be there in August. I am glad you mention getting to Giverny, as traveling there is something I've been wondering about. I did plan on doing it on my own, after researching many different tours and such. I will definitely look for your post with instructions! Two questions on Giverny - how long would you suggest for a nice, slow day in Giverny? And what day of the week would be best to go? I've read not to go on Sundays as that is when the cruise ship crowds are there. What are your thoughts? Merci!!
I would go on a weekday for sure. I'd look at the forecast (not always accurate) to decide on a day to visit. As for photos, the flower colors are best on cloudy days, though the sky is gray, so don't let cloudy days deter, but it's more comfortable to not have heavy rains.

I've always taken an early train, to be there when the gardens open at 9h30. Mornings are best, though the gardeners may also be taking advantage of the cooler temps, though that made it more interesting to me.

After spending the morning in the gardens, there are some dining options in the village of Giverny, by strolling up the little road. Here are some lunch spots. You cannot eat or drink at Monet's Gardens (last I checked).

There's the Museum of Impressionism in the village, but look at the website to see what's on display. I've been during great displays and some so-so. They have a cafe with a simple menu and it's okay, but not memorable..
 

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Thank you so much for this info! I am looking through your blog site and love it! I, too, am a lover of gardens and flowers. Are there any "hidden gem" gardens in Paris that you can recommend?
 

milgreen2

10+ Posts
The Rodin museum has a wonderful sculpture garden. There's an elevated walkway -- sort of like the High Line -- called Coulée verte René-Dumont or Promenade plantée , that I would love to visit on my next trip.

We visited Giverny on a weekday in October and the crowds were pretty bad. Got there early, too, as we had stayed overnight nearby. Lots and lots of buses..............

Another fun thing, if you and your daughters love sweets, is to focus on a particular treat and try to find the best example. Our family is partial to macarons and can say hands down the Pierre Herme has the best :~).
 

Sandiamo

10+ Posts
Merci milgreen2! I love the sweets idea! We love sweets, and when in NYC are always on a quest for the best cupcake. Doing this is Paris, with some other treat, is an excellent idea.
Rodin is already penciled in on our wishlist, and I will check out the promenade you mention. Thank you so much.
 

JMichael

10+ Posts
When it comes to pickpockets, remind the girls that you are a team, each of you looking out for the others. We often stand facing one another on subways so we can see who's behind us. When things get crowded, purses should be cross-strapped (left shoulder to right hip), and if facing one another, carried in front. Make it tough for the pickpockets and they'll look elsewhere. Your NYC experience will come in handy.
 

Mark

100+ Posts
Check out Paris Walks tours are inexpensive and in English.

Watch out for the string bracelet scam at Sacre Coeur as well as the dropped ring scam along the bridges.

Take a sunset cruise on the Seine

Go shopping at Gallery Lafayette and Printemps

Food
 

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