After touring London, my twin boys and I head to Paris.
-Deborah Perry Piscione, BettyConfidential.com
Day 5: Tuesday
The Eurostar to Paris
I have to admit that I am probably one of the few people in the world who is not a big fan of Paris, and I was challenged to figure out how to entertain little boys there. We were excited, however, about taking the Eurostar, the train that travels below the English Channel and arrives in Paris in about 2.5 hours. (One-way tickets starting at $57) I remember the days when, if you were a starving student, you had to bus from London to Portsmouth, take the 4-hour ferry over the English Channel, and then another bus to Paris from Cherbourg.
The Eurostar is fantastic to travel. Plus, rather than shepherding back to the airport and waiting in the lines for security and passport control, St. Pancras, the central London train station, offers the simplest pleasure of traveling from one country to another. The Eurostar trains are super clean and offer white glove food service (served at your seat), and very respectable fellow passengers - not one passenger was rudely squawking away loudly on their cell phone. I actually slept for a few blissful moments on the train.
From the train station, we regrettably took a car service on a 10-minute ride to our hotel, at the cost of a mere 130 euros -- about $150 dollars! You can take a taxi for about 10 euros, so don't do what we did.
We stayed at the Hôtel du Louvre (272 euros or $337 per night for a deluxe room), which is the most charming and historical Parisian hotel right in the 1st arrondissement (district). The hotel offers an amazing all you can eat breakfast buffet for 19 euros. This is a great deal considering there were not many breakfast places nearby.
Little did we know that arrived on the inaugural day of the new French President Francois Hollande, so the madness and energy was exhilarating. The president's motorcade caravan passed by us on the street as we were trying to make our way over to the Musée d'Orsay in the midst of a hail storm. My California boys had never experienced hail so they thought it was pretty cool to be hammered by small ice particles. We wanted to see the d'Orsay because the boys were studying Van Gogh and other artists in the post-Impressionism period.
Day 6: Wednesday
Jardin Des Tuileries, making friends, a tut-tut ride, the Eiffel Tower
My original plan was to rent a car for about 59 euros and head to Giverny and Monet's Garden and then onto Versailles, but since we got to do very little in Paris the day we arrived, we decided just to walk around Paris for the day, and walk we did -- about 10 miles of walking!
Since our hotel was next to The Louvre, we headed to Jardin Des Tuileries, the spectacular gardens and park in front of the Louvre. Any parent can appreciate that you can spend an enormous of amount of time and money, and your kids will find the one playground to keep them occupied for hours! Fine if we're at home, but we're in Paris, and I am not about to lose time at a playground! What was sweet, however, was watching my son Dominick befriend a French boy, and while they could not communicate verbally, they could communicate through hand signals. I think this may have been one of my most favorite moments of our trip - watching my child engage with another boy about his age, but from a completely different culture.
Nearing the end of Jardin Des Tuileries, the boys really wanted to ride in one of the tut-tut taxis which are famous in India and Thailand. Its like being in the back of a golf cart, with a "driver" on a bike in the front of it. The boys thought they looked like a ride at Disneyland and had been seeing them around in London, but I didn't want to pay the high price to ride in them. So, I asked a French tut tut driver how much he'd charge to take us to the Eiffel Tower, and he said 10 euros, so I agreed. It was the best 10 euros I spent, as we had a blast riding in the open air!
Of course, as we approached the entrance of the Eiffel Tower, I cringed as I witnessed the long tail of the long line. I proceeded to inquire about the elevator entrance for the restaurant Jules Verne, on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, to see if we could possibly eat there for lunch. As I was brushed away by a maître d' and told that lunch was not available for another 15 minutes, I saw a ticket area with no line. I thought, "What the heck?" It was the entrance to walk up the stairs to the first and second platform. If you wanted to take the lift up to the top from there, you could just pay at the second level.
We all jumped at the opportunity to take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower -- until I actually took the stairs. Holy cow… I didn't think I was afraid of heights and I'm not, at least I don't think so, but as I began to climb the open stairs, and looked down below at the ground as I climbed each stair, I began to freak. My sons, on the other hand, have seemingly no height perception, and were giddy to run up to each next flight of stairs.
At one point, nearing the first level (which is over 300 steps up), I had to stop to calm myself, not sure that I would make it much further. "I am here for my boys," I think, and so I negotiate with myself that if I make it to the first level, I don't have to go to the second, and I am sure as hell not going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, no way, no how! That did not work for my boys however as they begged and pleaded me to go all the way. I mustered every ounce of strength I had in my already exhausted body and lagged behind, trying to not look down.
We finally made it to the second level and I must say, every single step I had taken to get there was worth it. The view was beautiful. You could see everything from the Seine River and about 45 miles of Paris all around. Next time however, I am definitely taking the lift.
Returning to the States…
It is tough to put into words exactly what this trip meant for all of us. In a few short days, I witnessed my boys' introduction to the world as they became global citizens. Dominick now wants to live in Paris and work at the Eiffel Tower and Drake wants his kids to be born in London so they can speak with a British accent.
I learned a lot about myself as well. My kids were cool as cucumbers as they sang and danced through the streets of London, and by my second day I went from being like a mother hen at a tennis match (keeping an eye on each boy back and forth) to being completely relaxed knowing that - please forbid - should we lose each other, we had walkie talkies, my mobile phone, and their developing street smarts to guide them back to me.
My boys now comprehend what a passport is, how to conduct themselves going through customs, and the use of trains and buses as a method of transportation - something we have not used in our native Northern California.
I can't wait for our next trip -- this time with their little sister too!
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