Ideas for Paris Travel with Pre-Teen Kids

Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel, view

A friend asked me what to do in Paris as she was going with her kids for a week or so.  I do not have kids but I was one once and that, coupled with the fact that I have stayed at a Holiday Inn, fully makes me an expert at recommending stuff for kids.

My brain immediately thought “Paris Disney” but I really thought this would be a criminal offense when they have the opportunity to have a much more unique experience – and ilivetotravel is all about experiences.  Like chocolate and macarons.

chocolate, macarons, maison du chocolat, Paris, France, food, foodie, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

All sorts of good stuff can be found in Paris. And I am sure kids & adults alike will enjoy!

So here is what I tell my friend to do:

  • Jardin de Luxembourg – This, the second largest public park in Paris, was part of the Palace that sits right by it.  The Palace was built in the early 17th century and is now the French Senate.  The park has many statues and fountains.  Maybe your daughter can imagine how it must have felt in the 17th century being a princess walking around the gardens!  And your son may enjoy renting a sailboat to operate in the large fountain while you sit and watch people go by as you enjoy this garden!
  • The Pantheon – This is likely a quick visit.  Some of the most notable French figures are buried here but I don’t think that will impress the kids.  However, it was free (at least when I went years ago) and seeing a building with such a unique interior may be interesting for the kids for, at least, 10 minutes.  And you, the parent, get to see it!
  • Go up the Eiffel Tower.  I don’t know if the kids will be up to hiking up as far as they let you before you have to take the elevator to reach the top but I know you are fit and can climb it with no issue!  While the climb may be more work than the kids want to do, seeing the structure up close as you go up is neat.  But, in the end, it’s the view from the top that matters most so, whether you all climb it or not, go up!
  • Walk up the Arc de Triomphe. OK, if the kids didn’t want to climb the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe is another option available to help you burn the calories of all the delicious pastries you are likely going to be eating (I will be mad if you don’t!).  It is deceiving but it is like 14-16 stories high so it is not trivial.  The view is not as cool as the one from the Eiffel Tower but you can look down the Champs-Elysées from it and, on the other side, towards the modern arc-shaped building in the distance.  Oh, and please use the tunnels that go under the road – don’t attempt to cross the street to get to it!
  • Visit MontmartreIt is a great place to and walk the narrow and hilly streets (still making you exercise with this plan!).  To get up, you can climb the stairs but I will cut your kids some slack and suggest you all ride the little funicular.  Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with the massive Sacre Coeur church.  And guess what?  You can climb it to the top!  This one, I think your kids will definitely enjoy and great views of the city to boot!

    Montmartre, Paris, France, photo

    The narrow and hilly streets of Montmartre – explore!

  • I feel obliged to suggest a museum that may be good for kids.  But I had to do some research on this.  I found the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, or the Museum of Hunting and Nature (60, rue des Archives, in the third arrondissement).  It is supposed to be interesting for kids mixing animals (dead) and art.  Let me know how it is!
  • Pompidou Center (19, rue Beaubourg, in the fourth arrondissement) has a hands-on children’s area, not sure for what age exactly but it is free for kids so you can get to check out some art under the guise of taking them to a museum that has stuff for them (even if it turns out they are too old for what it has!).
  • Notre Dame is quite impressive even for kids but it may be a quicker visit with them.  On neighboring Ile St. Louis (the island in the river near Notre Dame), there is an ice cream place that is really good.  It’s called Berthillon (31 Rue St.-Louis-en-l’Ile).  Use that to reward the kids for letting you visit Notre Dame 🙂  And you can have one too.
  • Take a boat ride in the Seine.  Some of the boats offer fancy dinner cruises but there is a batobus (boat bus) that you can take to travel up and down the river –more fun than the metro (for the kids AND you!) and you can use this to see the city from a different perspective.
  • The Tuileries Garden (right by the Louvre Museum, at the base of the Champs-Elysées almost) is one of the most kid-friendly spots in Paris, and also one of the most beautiful.  There are trampolines, a merry go round, etc.    A large Egyptian obelisk is located outside on the west side of the park on the Place de la Concorde – could be a unique thing to see from ancient Egypt in Paris.

    Paris, obelisk, Place de la Concorde, Sacre Coeur, photo, France, travel

    A view towards the Place de la Concorde and the obelisk. Note Sacre Coeur in the background!

  • Go into the many places that have phenomenal pastries and other decadent things, like these.  For the kids, you know…
    • Ladurée – several across town (one near La Madeleine, another on the Champs Elysees, etc.)
    • Dalloyau – there is one at 2, pl Edmond Rostand, right across the Jardin de Luxembourg; there are other locations like 101, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
    • Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli, right across the Tuileries/Louvre; incredible hot chocolate).  As you can see, I have conveniently picked places close to the others I have recommended so you have NO excuse for missing these!
  • Visit where Raúl lived (24 rue de Tilsitt).  OK, it’s a boring building one short block from the Arc de Triomphe.  Thinking it over, it may not impress the kids – or you – so only go if you run out of things to do 🙂

    Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel, view

    Yea, the building I lived in was boring but this is the view from the rooftop terrace!

Enjoy Paris and be sure to let me know what the kids enjoyed – from this list or otherwise!

Photo of the Week – My Dear Paris

Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Tour Eiffel, Paris, France, view, vista, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, city, magnificent

A dozen years or so ago, I got to live in Paris.  I did not get to choose where I lived during those six months as my employer took care of that.  The place was nothing special EXCEPT for this one thing… The building had a rooftop terrace with a great view.  I assume it is enough to just show it to you and not describe it…  Voilà!

Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Tour Eiffel, Paris, France, view, vista, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, city, magnificent

Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower

Visiting a “Secondary” Town – the Cultural Capital of Romania: Iaşi (Iasi)

The airport in Iaşi, Romania

As I have been exploring Eastern Europe in recent years, I have begun realizing how much I enjoy visiting secondary towns in these countries (Krakow in Poland; Plovdiv in Bulgaria; Braşov in Romania; etc.).  Then I realized I have also enjoyed other such cities elsewhere.  I guess being away from the business of a capital city or a tourist mecca (e.g., London, Rome, Paris) draws me.  I wonder why that is.  I can’t say capital cities are not “real”; I mean, people live there and do the normal things people do.  Is it just that these secondary towns anywhere are more charming because they are not busy trying to be important?   Iaşi in Romania afforded me another chance to confirm this preference.

How did I decide to go to Iaşi of all places?

As I planned my visit to Romania and my side trip to neighboring Moldova, Iaşi (pronounced yash) was brought up to my attention as an interesting town from which to leave Romania to enter Moldova.  I was curious as to why it was suggested so I did some research.  I was already going to hit Braşov as the base for my Transylvanian Alps hike so I certainly could see another town.  Well Iaşi is referred to as the cultural capital of Romania and that was all I needed to hear for my curiosity to now require satisfaction!

Sometimes my approach to visit new places is flying by the seat of my pants and I may miss some neat little museum or site of local historical meaning.  But I like exploring, for the most part, without a pre-defined script.  My visit to Iaşi was like that.  I did get a map, I did read what were supposed to be THE main sights to see but, for the rest, I just meandered around town.  And it was very cool to be in a city that most tourists never get to see.

Getting to Iaşi from Bucharest

I considered taking a train from Bucharest as it is oftentimes a good way to see the countryside but I had very limited time so I would have only been in Iaşi for an evening.  So I decided to take a very cheap flight to maximize my time in the town.  As with most airports, the domestic flights terminal in Bucharest was much “simpler” than the international flights terminal.  Don’t count on the ATM working on the domestic terminal…  And the airport in Iaşi?  Thanks for asking!!

The airport in Iaşi, Romania

The Iaşi airport – tiny!

The TAROM plane in which I flew from Bucharest to Iasi, Romania

My plane into Iaşi

I landed at around 11 AM which afforded me an entire afternoon of walking around.  I got into a taxi at the airport and $5 later, I was in town.  Though Iaşi is not a large town, it has plenty of monasteries in and near town that could have been great to visit but I decided to focus in the town itself to keep it simpler.

My hotel in Iaşi in Unirea Square

As usual, I used TripAdvisor to find a hotel that sounded well-located and that was well-reviewed by other travelers.  The Traian Hotel sounded perfect:  located in the Unirea (Unity) Square, it was within walking distance of many of the places I sought to visit.

View from the Unirea Hotel at the same-named square in Iasi (Iaşi), Romania

From the top floor bar at the Unirea Hotel, looking at Unirea Square with the Traian Hotel on the right

Interesting architecture of the Unirea Hotel in Iasi (Iaşi), Romania

Interesting architecture of the Unirea Hotel

The Traian Hotel was built in the 1880s by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, a few years before he created the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower!  It has hosted the Romanian government (during WW I), famous people (like Greta Garbo), etc.  It was one of the first buildings in Europe to be molded on a metal frame.  The hotel was pretty inexpensive for an American pocketbook.  The lobby was not much and the spacious room was simple but it offered cable TV, a modern bathroom, and yet decorated to reflect its period/heyday.  It also included a free and very nice buffet breakfast at its restaurant.

Traian Hotel in Iasi (Iaşi), Romania designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame

Traian Hotel in Unirea Square

Room at the Traian Hotel in Iasi (Iaşi), Romania

My room at the Traian

I had read that there was a tourism office right by Unirea Square.  However, it was not on it but on one of the main streets going through it right after it exited the square.  I am glad I persisted in finding it as they were very helpful, providing me with great information not only what to see in the town but also in neighboring regions of Romania and Moldova as well.  I thank the the folks at the Department of Tourist Development of the Iaşi Municipality and Delia for their help with the map and the info!

View from my room at the Traian Hotel in Iasi (Iaşi), Romania

View from my hotel room (could not figure out what this building was)

Old cinema in Unirea Square in Iasi (Iaşi), Romania

Old cinema in Unirea Square (right around the corner to the right is the tourism office)

Walking around beyond the Unirea Square

I walked down to the Palace of Culture, built between 1906-1925, a beautiful piece of neogothical architecture and the image of Iaşi.

Palace of Culture in Iaşi, Romania

Palace of Culture in Iaşi, Romania

The Palace of Culture hosts several museums but I was more interested that day in walking the town, exploring its streets rather than museum-visiting so I walked around and ran into a festival area where the smell of sausages cooking and large tents from Timişoreana beer (Timişoara is a city in western Romania).  The festival was seemingly starting that evening but I took advantage of the setup to have some good and VERY cheap lunch!

Sausage and Timisoreana beer in Iaşi, Romania

Yum

I visited churches and monasteries and that will be the subject of another post.  Besides those impressive places, I also walked past the imposing School of Medicine and Pharmacy and other university buildings (it is a university town after all).  The National Theater was also a beautiful structure (wished I had gone inside).  Here are those buildings and a couple of other neat sights around town.

University building in Iasi, Romania

Interesting architecture in a university building (note the construction; it seems the EU is pumping good money for improvements in infrastructure in Romania)

School of Medicine and Pharmacy from the Unirea Hotel in Iasi, Romania

School of Medicine and Pharmacy from the Unirea Hotel

National Theater in Iasi, Romania

National Theater

National Theater in Iasi, Romania

National Theater detail – dig the “mask” at the top

Movie theater, or cinema, in Iasi, Romania

Tram in Iasi, Romania

Iaşi was definitely different than Bucharest and even Braşov (which is not a capital city and of which I will write later).  Perhaps being further away from the capital of modern Romania and closer to Moldova and the Ukraine gives it an influence lacking south of the Carpathians (where Bucharest is).  It did not feel a rushed place. And it did not seem to have a café culture as other European towns have like Paris, Rome, etc.  or even Bucharest with Old Town or Braşov with all the cafés around the town center.  I cannot say it was incredibly beautiful like Salzburg, Krakow or others.  However, Iaşi felt more accessible and “real”.  It also allowed me to -yet again- experience how non-capital, non-touristy cities offer the visitor a different experience – and it was certainly worth it.

My Everyday in Paris

Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris, France at night

I am sure the world does not need another writeup about Paris.  But I think we all experience Paris differently so here is my take.  It is such a unique place (as are other places like Venice, Rio, Istanbul, etc.) that I never get tired of visiting.  At some point I will add to the endless writeups on Paris out there to share my favorite sights.  Today, the everyday takes center stage…

Landing in Paris in 1999

I spent 6 months in Paris in 1999 on a work assignment with another group of folks from the U.S.; we had all worked together for a few months prior to going to France and the trip felt like an adventure.   It was great to be sharing it with others even if we all didn’t hang out together all the time.  At first, most of us lived in the same building near the Arc de Triomphe and with a rooftop terrace with one of the best views in town!  Check it out!

Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris, France by day

Want to better see where this location was?  Check THIS out!!!!

Aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe and Charles de Gaulle Etoile

The star marks the spot!!

Once there, most of the time I was working which was crazy and unfortunate and for which I have given myself grief in retrospect, with no real effect on the past (how does that not happen??).  However, even with the long days and many days of work, living there was a fantastic experience as I got a taste of life in a one-of-a-kind city.  There were some experiences I would rather forget and probably have (… except the work ones!).

The daily life of a non-Parisian in Paris

Of course, being there for 6 months, we got to see a lot of the main sights in our free time.  But we also got to live and deal with the mundane.  Among the mundane, I can recall going to a hardware store looking for a particular type of lock (with my back-then limited French so I didn’t even know how to say “lock”), phoning locksmiths on behalf of my American colleagues (still not being able to say lock but using the words “cannot close the door” to indicate we needed help), doing laundry at public laundromats (which was quite the experience the first time as we didn’t know where the detergent went in those industrial machines), fighting to be able to buy a monthly carte orange for the metro with the more obtuse clerks, dealing with the throngs of tourists in the summer who made our commute in the metro more painful, etc..

Of course, I have to talk about food

The best part of the everyday (which, actually, was only possible on the weekends – if I didn’t have to work) was having breakfast at the neighborhood cafe (where the bread with butter was more butter with bread) and sit there for a few hours reading a book and watching people.  The cafe au lait, of course, was the ever faithful companion of the butter with bread… and it was delicious.

I guess there was the other everyday breakfast routine which I also enjoyed – the one during weekdays.  During weekdays we would go to the bakery near our office which offered -how can I say “selling” when these things were glorious- the freshest bakery items.  Our everyday routine was to take a break around 9 AM and gather any interested colleagues for the 5 minute walk to the bakery.  The baker didn’t speak English but baked goods know no language (I should be a philosopher).  Her pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) was fantastic and, of course, freshly baked.  In August, as many other locals do, she took vacation and went to the beach.  We had no idea at first what had happened and why the bakery was closed.  We figured it out and rejoiced upon her return when, with my limited French, I managed to figure out she had gone with her family to the beach and to tell her we had missed her baked goods.  Worthwhile to note, I lost like 10 lbs when I lived in Paris, even with this diet…  That’s what walking daily does to you…

I also loved the movie theaters where you could enjoy a beer as you watched a movie (how adult of the French).  I mentioned in an earlier entry about Paris about my favorite steak place and my favorite hot chocolate place so I will not repeat here lest this entry become War and Peace length.

Glorious end of the day

For me, and possibly for my friends Troy and Cybil, the “highlight” of the everyday was the end of the day and I don’t just mean leaving work which was probably the runner up of the highlight of the day.  We lived in the first ring street around the Arc de Triomphe across from the Belgian Embassy.  Our building had a rooftop terrace overlooking the Arc and behind it, further away, was the Eiffel Tower with its sign counting down the days until the year 2000.

Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in Paris, France at night

At the end of just about every night, we would grab a bottle of cheap local wine (for like $2, perhaps the French version of two-buck Chuck?  what would that make it?  cinq-franc-Jacques?) and go to the terrace to drink the wine and sit back and take in the view until, 10 seconds before midnight, the counter would begin flickering, and at the stroke of midnight, the counter would change.  At that point it was “good night”, “good night”, “see you tomorrow” and off to bed.  That was the life.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France 62 days before the year 2000

Eiffel Tower 62 days before the year 2000; the counter we saw change just about every night!

I have surely left off many aspects of the daily life.  If I think of others, I will add as comments but please, if you have your own routines or experiences to share, would love to hear about them.  I will add to the Paris category in the future. 

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