Our 7 year old has been talking about the Eiffel Tower for a very long time. While we skip the city of lights traveling south, there is no way we want to deprive our kids of experiencing Paris, no matter how young they are. Absolutely last-minute we decide on accommodation through Bookings, and we land in an apartment on the Quai De Marne inside of the Périphérique, walking distance from the metro.
To be clear; we had to drive our ancient diesel bus into Paris, where we supposedly needed a vignette for environmental reasons. We could never obtain this vignette with our Berry Bus, so according to all the official resources online there was no way we could make this work. Fast forward to the next day, when we are trying to figure out how to park the van for the rest of our stay. Parking a 2.40 meter high van in Paris is a complex endeavor in itself. We come to the conclusion that we are best off staying parked in front of the condo, and pay the jackpot. Calling the parking service for information, it turns out that we can pay by phone and every two hours, drastically reducing parking costs. To top it off, they inform us (twice, because we call back to verify with another person) that vehicles from abroad do not get ticketed if they don’t have a vignette. (Especially to our Dutch friends: the ANWB is incorrectly informing everyone to get a vignette when heading for Paris.) Problem solved.
The apartment is kind of weird. It’s just as if someone lives here during the weekend, and rents it out during the week. Yet there is no decent pot to be found in the otherwise reasonably equipped kitchen. I guess we are still getting used to Airbnb style renting. But hey, the kids sleep in the living room and we have a bedroom, there is a shower and even a washer. It does not look like it is used very often, so I give it some work to loosen its joints.
Sometime before lunch we head towards the metro. We decide on an unlimited travel ticket for the day, so we can hop around town however we like to. Although our intention is solely set on la Tour d’Eiffel, we know better. Getting off the metro close to the Notre Dame to find a crêperie for lunch, we roam the cathedral in which every statue is covered. Easter is coming up.
It is so different to be here with kids, rather than by ourselves. Locating bathrooms in Paris at the most inconvenient moment is definitely my favorite. Kids never have to go at the same time, they much rather alternate. Maneuvering in a narrow restaurant with small kids without spilling wine, completely taking over the general sounds of ambient background music and still for the most part keeping my cool: go mom. And although I know that plenty Parisians take their kids underground every day, I am impressed when my kiddos don’t flinch when we are suddenly stuck in rush hour traffic.
Anyways, on to the famous tower. We are not visiting in the high season, nor is there anything dramatically special to be seen (in my humble, maybe a bit too traveled opinion) but we are shuffling in a stream of mostly Asian tourists from the metro to the Eiffel tower. When we get there, all we see is a huge, metal wall. We try to walk around it, and stumble upon TSA-like security. The line to get through the metal detector and your belongings through the x-ray machine runs around the corner. Tickets to get in are not inexpensive for a family of five. Geez what has happened to the family friendly, laid back visit that we were anticipating? Don’t get me wrong, I understand where these measures are coming from and people are working hard on improving the experience of a visit to this monumental structure. I believe the wall is supposed to become a glass wall. But the memory of just leisurely walking underneath, pondering whether or not you are going to head up there, is true history. We opt out of spending our day in line and spend time in the adjacent park instead. Four soldiers well equipped with weapons (some sort of machine guns, I am no specialist) friendly say bonjour. In the park we pick up glass from a wine bottle that a couple guys just purposefully kicked around and broke. A moment later, Finn ends up with a bloody nose because a girl accidentally hits him in the face when she swings her arm around. He runs to me screaming, and only when we both have blood all over ourselves I notice what happened. The group of Spanish students feels terrible. They try to help out and cheer him up by giving him little gifts and candy. So sweet, but it was just an accident. Quite the excitement here in Paris.
At this point it is getting close to sundown, and Antoine wants to go to the Sacré-Coeur. In spite of rush hour and frequent stops to listen to the street musicians all over town, we make it there just in time. On the massive steps in front of the cathedral is a lot going on; people gathering with beer and wine, and a group of musicians playing Gipsy Kings. Slowly the sun disappears and the city lights up. After a quick tour of Montmartre we try to head out. Having climbed up to the Sacré-Coeur (first out of the metro station, then up the stairs on the hill to make sure we get our exercise) on the other side, we are not completely sure how to get back down. Trying to figure out the map in front of a restaurant, Metta melts down and a friendly lady steps outside and asks if the little one would like a piece of bread. So kind. Plus we were probably disturbing her customers on the other side of the window. Whoops.
The lady points us to the nearest metro station, and when we get down the hill we are also surrounded by stores and cafes again. It is past dinner time, so we get quiche, fruit and desert which we enjoy under a streetlight on a bench. We end up taking several metros to get to a walking distance from our temporary home, and crash into bed. For a change, all our kids sleep through the night. We have had a fantastic day in Paris, with a 2 year old, a 5 year old and a 7 year old in tow.