Trip report TL/DR
Paris is wonderful, you should do it. I had moderate expectations going to Paris with an 8 year old, and Paris vastly exceeded them.
Things to do/lessons learned
Don’t travel during peak season, we went in late October and the attractions were plenty crowded.
Get the Paris Museum pass.
It can save big time in big lines. Many museums have separate ‘buy tickets and go in’ vs ‘have tickets come on in’ lines.
Get a guidebook, and take their ‘museums to avoid on X day of the week’ seriously.
“Frommers tried to tell you, you just didn’t listen” — Eurotrip
Book at least 2 hours to transfer if you have an EU connection flight back to the states. “It’s EU->EU and on the same airline, an hour should be fine” -> FALSE
Pack light. No, pack lighter than that. Black and dark colors are your friends. I packed for a week in a carry on suitcase.
If you’re traveling with kids, consider taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel. It will be better than taking a gang of family + bags that won’t fit well on the metro.
Your hotel will be smaller than you expect based on the US dollar/hotel room ratio. It’s Paris, there is only one.
If you’re taking a backpack while walking the city, a small/simple one will help speed things up. Almost all the museums/attractions have a bag search at the entrance and some have size limits.
Paris had all the money in the world at points, and it shows. The attractions are really worth seeing, and I was shocked at the friendliness of the Parisians after hearing a lifetime of horror stories. The hall of mirrors at Versaille and stained glass at Sainte Chappelle were both spectacular.
I liked the gardens outside the Louvre better than being inside the Louvre, and the gardens of Versailles are not to be missed. I hate crowds, your mileage may vary. The Louvre has all the art in the world, and all the tourists to match.
The Eiffel tower is very cool and worth seeing, book your trip in advance and get tickets early.
The Arc de Triumph is worth doing, climb to the top for a great view.
If you go to Notre Dame, get their early to avoid the lines…this is probably applicable to almost all the attractions.
French wine is outstanding, get some, drink some, repeat.
The French knock chicken and bread out of the park, steak was a mixed bag. Pass on the bacon at breakfast, it will be cooked about 1/10th as much as typical American bacon.
Our river boat trip would have been cool if we did it first, but it was later in the week and we’d already walked to/seen many of the attractions, which were better on foot.
The metro is efficient but can be crowded. I preferred walking for the shorter jaunts across the city.
Paris is a late-rising city. We were stoked to find a coffee and pastry shop right next to our hotel until we noticed it doesn’t open until 9am.
Many of the restaurants start serving dinner between 7 and 8pm. Pack bars(Lara/Cliff) as necessary.
The grocery stores have food/drinks at a fraction the cost of the same things you’d get at a restaurant.
Play by Play
Paris day 1
pays for itself again at DIA. Sidestep the mosh pit at regular checkin and the long line at tsa-pre, yes yes I will walk to the front now. Time savings? 45+ minutes.
Flight 1 day 1
9 hour flight Denver -> Munich
seated row 26, do not sit in 26 on an Airbus a350-900 right in front of the bathrooms. Seats don’t really recline.
Use Seatguru.com before you settle on your seats. I didn’t, I will next time.
35 minutes into the flight guy in front violently hobby horses seat back to full recline then leaves it forward.
50min into flight, euro BO starts to pervade the cabin with a foul dank odor.
Dinner on the flight is better than lunch at Mesa grill at the Denver airport. —-> Won’t be going back to Mesa grill anytime soon.
Hour 6 can’t sleep, hips back hurt no aspirin…no aspirin, this is a fail.
Getting ass to shoulder blasted relentlessly by people coming down the aisles. Marie, who is petite, reports the same thing.
Do people think it’s ok to play aisle pachinko as they bounce off people down the aisles?
Light dosing interrupted by flight attendant flashlight blinding as they were servicing the bathrooms in the middle of the night.
Logan passed out with his feet on my ribs or across my arms eliminating the ability to move at all
I have fantasies of strangling the hyperspeed seat recliner in front of me, this keeps me warm which isn’t a problem as I’m overheating badly.
Can’t wear eye mask or neck support pillow as I am Jack’s sweaty armpit.
Breakfast, I eat it because i have no idea what will be open in Munich airport. Meh eggs, but its been on the warmer for 7+ hrs.
Land in Munich, nice airport, get coffee and eat a bit of pizza.
Get to Paris/CDG, bags come out ok.
Take taxi to hotel. Planning on doing this or the train, but train wasn’t running. Note, parts of Paris randomly go on strike, sometimes those parts are major infrastructure pieces….it’s a thing.
Van driver is man on a mission, grumbling the entire gridlocked way with hand gestures which convey his low opinions of traffic around us. I dig him.
“Maybe wasn’t the best idea…” award goes to the….
Kamikaze motorcycle drivers blitzing the center lane. They seem to be the only people making progress, until we realize a good portion of the traffic backups are due to motorcycle wrecks.
Pass at least 4 motorcycle wrecks. Most of these now wrecked riders passed us via splitting lanes just moments before.
The drive is the land of the “Friday night fails” and “leg repair howto”.
Get to Hotel Bonaparte
Front desk is super friendly. Elevator is out of order, so get a decent workout humping bags up 4 floors. They throw in free breakfast for the trouble. No worries, but the 91 year old woman we ran into on the second floor was not nearly as amused with the stairs.
Room is nice, other than the carpet.
Truestory(tm): The carpet actually saw Napoleon rise to power and fall.
Stroll to nearby Luxembourg gardens, walk about a bit.
Hungry, we wander and wander and ponder and ponder….I’m utterly unthrilled passing 2-3 panini and ‘food now’ type places.
I am a zero blood sugar zombie I need food in any form….now!
Finally find a restaurant which survives Sherrie/Marie menu assessment and is open. Au Pere Louis, and it’s AMAZING. Order a bottle of otherworldly red
Dinner of pork Sherrie gets the duck, Logan gets steak, it’s all wonderful, best onion soup ever.
Order a 2nd bottle of otherwordly wine with intention to save and take with us. 2nd bottle didn’t stand a chance.
Creme Brule of the gods for dessert.
Pass out on contact with bed at 9pm
Come awake 1-2:30ish, then FULLZOMBIEMODE at 6am-ish, this is not a great way to sleep.
Sherrie gets up at 6:30 and drags me out of bed at 7:00, I’m protesting like a kid in high school.
Get light but good breakfast at the hotel, and then mis-wander-mis-wander to find metro to get to Trocadero station and enjoyed spectacular views of the Eiffel tower.
“Magellan didn’t need a map!”
“Yeah, he died before completing his trip”
The Magellan reference becomes a recurring meme with us.
We have a map, but orienting in the city is a bit tough. Also our brains working at about 30% capacity is not helping either.
Eiffel it is
Get off the metro at the Champ de Mars station and walk to a vantage point to see the Eiffel tower from a distance. Sherrie takes a very long time to get coffee at a nearby coffee cart. She is awesome and even better WITH COFFEE!!! Mmm…..ahhh….
We take many pictures and amble to our 10:30 Eiffel appointment.
Holy up there batman, fun tour
Notes: You couldn’t go into the bathrooms near the Eiffel Tower with a backpack bigger than a medium. Even full sized laptop bags were being turned away, much to the dismay of the people needing to use the restroom who didn’t have someone to babysit their backpack.
Post Eiffel tour, we wander out, get food at Cafe Eiffel. I get the omelette, it’s excellent. Sherrie gets the crioq de missuer, it’s fantastic as well. Logan gets an ok sausage and fries. We wander to Museum de Infideles. Fantastic museum.
Amusing tired-travel moments. We lose Logan’s camera in my Scottevest, million pocket nerd-jacket-from hell.
Logan has been putting his camera in one of my many Scottevest jacket pockets all day. A quick ‘where’s your camera Logan?’ Yields “Don’t know” followed by Sherrie yelling at Logan after I confirm the camera is 100% NOT in my jacket.
We’re bummed about losing the camera so early in the trip, then get into the musem de invalides
. I lean against a wall, and the lump of Logan’s camera inside my jacket in my lower-back….
How did the camera get THERE???
It takes 5+ minutes of 4 of us rifling through the jacket before Bella manages to find the secret exit to extricate the camera.
Chocolate at Angilenas + expresso at 4pm.
Take metro to hotel get recommendations from super friendly front desk lady, ignore them after googling places. I think they were thrown off by the ‘kid friendly’ we threw into the ‘what restaurants around here would you recommend that are kid friendly’
Mis-wander google maps vs compass, End up at a random cafe. Great burger, pretty good wine, excellent risotto.
Back in room by 9:15. Tired.
Observation. People are seriously nice here. I’m sure there are kooks and we’re only at day 2, but …100% are super so far.
Don’t know if it’s an appeal to the dollar or cultural changes, but very impressed so far. I don’t mention this to anyone…it’s like talking to your pitcher during a no-hitter.
Wake and out the door at 8ish. Coffee shop next door! SCORE!!! Opens at 9:00am…..BUMMER!
Breakfast was fine, but waitress overwhelmed, also minding the espresso bar, and 19 patrons. This was not a quick breakfast.
Walk to metro, get out at Louvre.
Louvre is HUGE, take some pictures, get in long-looking line it is surprisingly fast.
Head toward french/itialian artists section. Amazing art overload.
11:00am, hit crowd tolerance limit.
Mixing cultures not always a good thing.
Asian hoards not representing themselves well as they shove their way around.
Screw the Mona Lisa. Screw these old ladies shoving to the front.
11:30, contemplating full on crowd-a-cide.
Fuck the Louvre, fuck these crowds get me the fuck out of here.
Pretty sure anyone who says they’ve been to the Louvre and hasn’t considered mass-murder is lying.
I’d pay triple the entrance fee to get out quickly.
Spoiler, there is NO getting out quickly.
I want to use the next person to shoves into me as a human battering ram ala Arnold in Total Recall.
I don’t exactly know which way is out, decide on passing on the human battering ram idea.
Magellan on the museum map, we wander this way, go up that way, go down that way, loop back this way.
“Look kids, Big Ben, Parliment!” — European Vacation
Tired kids(and me) in a sea of people. Can’t picture what this place is during high season. Rather I think I can, and it’s a horrible image.
But then there is hope, there is Starbucks in the Louvre food court. Team America FUCK YEAH!
Get the worst Americano at Starbucks in Louvre. I think they put 1 shot of espresso in 20oz of boiling water with euro spec lid which kept popping off. Fuck the Louvre.
Buy some beautiful art from a street vendor and carefully stow it in our gear.
Despite temps in the low 50s and gusting wind, get crepe at La Terrasse de Pomone. Get ‘super’ crepe. Was excellent. Waiter is awesome. Kids throw acorns in water while birds peck at our feet. My mood soars. Paris is gray and beautiful.
Sherrie and Marie take the Bella and Logan to Museum L’Orangerie on the way out of the gardens to use rest room. I’m so over the crowds I stand outside, appreciating the gusting winds and dropping temps at the top of the hill. I’ve got a fleece and no one is running into me.
Kids hit up the in-ground trampolines in the gardens, have fun for about 30 bouncy minutes.
Walk the Champs de Lisse(sp), crowds thicker as we get near the Arc De Triumph. Watch your wallet and purse. Arc is cool. Head to top. This is worth doing.
The Paris Museum Pass(PMP) is fantastic, allowing us to skip much of the endless ticket purchase lines.
Magellen back on the metro map, we navigate to the Metro. Metro rejects us as our should-be-valid metro tickets get mutumbo’d at the entrance gate.
SHERRIE WITH THE WIN! -> still has metro receipt which surprised both us and our ticket agent.
Our 6 day metro ticket tapped out on day 2.
-> Keep your metro receipts
Get now-valid metro ticket, get back to hotel. Wander to Bartolo a block away to get pizza to appease the Logan-needs-pizza gods. Wine was good, really good. Back in hotel and pull up Eurotrip on the tablet. Pass out around 10:30pm.
Wake to alarm at 7:30am, little later start on the day today. Shower is excellent.
Carpet in the room so old I’m pretty sure it saw Napolean during his good days and bad. I typically stretch out for a bit on the floor to start the day.
Hard pass on that.
Get up later to get coffee at coffee shop next to hotel that opens at 9am.
9am opening for coffee shop, wtf people?
Take metro to RER train to Versailles. This is a bit of a hike.
Get more coffee at Starbucks near Versailles stop which is excellent and head to castle.
The late start and coffee stop were a mistake, bit mistake, epic mistake. Tuesday Versailles was a mistake as well.
Disney snake of humans is 170 yards long and 5 turns deep. I’d estimate 3-5000 people waiting to get into Versailles.
One picture can not do the lines justice.
Going glass 1/2 full, the weather is blue and cool.
Takes 2 hours to get into Versailles. Kids read books while the snake slowly progresses……Still better than being at the Louvre.
Get inside, and the crowds are thick, still better than the Louvre.
“Frommers tried to tell you, you just didn’t listen”— Eurotrip
While in line, we have time to re-read out guide books, which recommend avoiding the Louvre on Mondays, and Versailles on Tuesday. Crap, crap, crap…. reading, it’s fundamental. Stupid should hurt, this hurts, I’ll try to be less stupid next time.
Versailles is amazing, check out hall of mirrors, then to the fantastic gardens outside. This place IS brochure awesome.
Kids go crazy in the gardens. Run kids run. After stuffing them in lines forever, it’s time to let them go kid crazy.
Versailles gardens have singing fountains. They have music which plays while the fountains dance.
We rent row-boats on the small man made lake in the massive gardens.
Boat ride, feed the seagulls goldfish. Seagulls everywhere.
Place is beautiful beyond description.
Take metro back, super crowded.
Dinner at Cassette Cafe. Place is cute, food is pretty good.
Thick with smoke and terrible service. Have to ask for the check multiple times, Waiter advancing sobriety initiative by pacing drinks out at a tee-totaller pace.
Get back to room, have some wine and pass out.
Wednesday, Notre Dame
Tired, but getting out of bed earlier to avoid yesterday’s mistake
Notre Dame before and climb to the top after breakfast. Zombie mode from me and the kids getting there. I’d rather be 1/2 asleep and exhausted than stuck in crowds.
Clearly the church had all the money in the world. Built over 800 years, how the hell did they get this built with no power tools?
Good omelet at Notre Dame cafe excellent coffee. Bacon is floppy and just this side of raw…a sad sad distance from the crispy goodness of home.
Go back and take Notre Dame tower tour, worth the 400+ steps to get up. Great views from the top.
Get ice cream for the kids at Berthillon, fantastico!
Sherrie convinces us we need to see Saint Chapelle. I’m not at all stoked, but as it turns out, IT’S AMAZING.
Sherrie and Marie decide having a picnic in a park would be a fun way to get lunch. Many small bistro’s cater to this notion. I’m less sold on the idea, but defer.
To my mind, the definition of picnic is:
Picnic(noun): the act of spending the time it would take to eat in a restaurant to acquire picnic-friendly food then walk to eat cold food outside.
I stand with kids while they read out of the way on the sidewalk. We’ve been there a while.
Picnic fail, food just sold out as Sherrie and Marie got to the counter. We were hungry before standing on the sidewalk for close to an hour.
I’m falling asleep on my feet.
We choose a close restaurant, Khao Thai. Everyone but me liked the food.
I’m crashing like Ricky Bobby.
Walk to our River boat tour to avoid metro. Walking is good.
River boat tour, Logan falling asleep in my lap.
River boat tour would have been great early in the trip, but we’ve walked to and seen many of the sights we’re drifting past on the river.
Walk back to hotel, 2 miles on tired feet are still better than the metro.
Dinner back at Au Pere Louis, too much wine, stayed up too late. My ribeye was bad, chicken looked to die for good.
Thursday Museum overload
Tired, over the whole church and museum thing.
2 metros to walk to stand in front of some Harry Potter door which is supposed to be cool.
My exhaustion is fouling my mood today.
Construction everywhere, get crappy overpriced breakfast before walking to a square. On the plus side, the coffee was excellent.
What another $100+ for breakfast?, sure….
Kids play then we head to Starbucks then the Pompedeaux’s museum
Place seems designed around standing in line to stand in line. Don’t care about cubism in general.
Once we get past the N lines there is some honestly great stuff here and of course some ridiculous stuff. Yes I am that heathen that looks at a blue square and does not appreciate the inner-toil it represents.
Tons of great art here, but I simply don’t care. I’m tired of standing in lines.
Sherrie wants to see a fountain of some note. I’m pretty much done with sightseeing, we’ll see if I have a comeback.
Grab a ‘taco’ at a Lebanese place for take away so we can sit and eat at the fountain.
We walk to the fountain looking for a place to sit and eat. Fountain not running. Food was pretty excellent. At 28 euro, we could fail 3 times to end up par with what I’ve been paying for the average lunch, so I risk the taco despite the raised eyebrows of a local who hears my order.
Taco wasn’t a taco, but it was delicious.
Get to metro station and pretty much walk 1/2 way back to the hotel underground while heading to the metro line.
Sherrie bought new metro tickets to avoid the clanging gates of disappointment with our should-be-but-not good 5 day metro tickets.
Get to hotel, change clothes and head to Luxemborg gardens. Logan and I race steps and do sprints, then Logan and Bella rent small sailboats and let them roam about. We are the only people doing sprints in the park and I have to coach Logan to NOT dive onto the concrete to win our races up the stairs. The kid is motivated, but I don’t want him broken.
We hit up grocery store on way back to hotel, pick up water and beer. In 45 minutes, I drink and entire 2 liter of water, a pint beer and still don’t have to pee. Holy dehydrated batman. I think Paris’s aversions to bathrooms has left me not wanting to drink anything.
Espresso makes more sense than a Starbucks vente americano when there is 1 bathroom stall for 4k people in line at the Palace of Versailles.
Get to hotel and shower, then head out to Bartolo, the pizza place. Head back to room and do a bit of netflix’ing before bed.
Friday Begin the trip home
Have that dbl espresso feel in the middle of the night. We have 2 alarms set, but I still have a hard time sleeping before early morning flights.
Shuttle arrives promptly at hotel, and 7:06am Paris time we’re off to CDG.
Almost no traffic. Get there in about 45 minutes.
A bit pricy, but we didn’t want to take luggage and kids on the metro.
Get to airport to find out, despite what our hotel assured us, the Mercedes shuttle only takes cash, no credit cards. It’s a Mercedes van for christ sake, and I can use a credit card to buy a taco…Umm, ok, we scrounge our last euros, 100 of them. Oh well, this will save us the hassle of trading them back in, but it’s still annoying.
CDG airport, wait in line to drop bags. Drop bags and clear security, where the attendant is urging us to pack closer together…ignoring the fact this human stacking doesn’t get people past the scanner at a higher rate.
Cdg is labyrinthine but we navigate to our gate without issue in search of a restaurant to chill and get breakfast.
CDG terminal 1 sucks something awful. It’s super small. Small coffee stand, large purfume place, micro newstand and not much else here. So much for breakfast.
We cleared security and such so quickly, that it’s 2 hours of tablet time before the flight. I’d work in some exercise of some sort, but the terminal is too small and crowded for anything but sitting down.
Ok, I’ll sift photos and work on the trip report.
Our departure from CDG to Frankfurt is delayed by 20 minutes. We’ve only book about an hour between flights, but since we’re Luftansa -> Luftansa and EU->EU it should be fine….right?
We get to Frankfurt. My last trip through Frankfurt was over a decade ago, and I hated this airport. Let’s see how a decade combined with NOT flying Aeroflot changes things.
We’ve made up 10 minutes of our delay in the air, so we’re rocking 10 minutes behind. Nervous but hopeful we deplane, and our stomach’s drop. Instead of getting directly to the terminal, we have to wait for the entire plane to get off and load into busses, which then take us to the terminal(+10 minutes). Crap.
Ok, LET’S HUSTLE PEOPLE….shit, there is EU passport control. While standing in line, we find out there are 13-15 other people on our flight also trying to make the Denver direct flight.
‘They know we’re coming, it will be ok’ is sentiment which floats between our nervous fliers as the Disney snake approaches passport control.
We’re through(+10 min) and literally start running to our gate.
Flight departure is 10 minutes from now as we approach the gate. Since we’re running late of course the gate is the farthest possible.
We slow as we see a glum faced fellow Denver bound traveller walking back from the gate toward us.
“They closed the doors. The plane is STILL THERE, but they won’t let us on”
Complications and time pressure
We were scheduled to arrive in Denver, Friday around 3pm. Logan had his last pre-playoff football practice Friday at 5:30pm before the Saturday noon playoff game.
This is kind of a thing. It’s the first time the Age 8 Broomfield Bearcats are in the playoffs and Logan’s team only has 13 regular players, with the team playing 11 at a time.
Logan is one of the key defenders, so him missing the Saturday game is kind of a big thing for everyone involved.
The Lufthansa gate guy suggests ‘just take the same flight tomorrow’ but this will get us into denver at 3pm, too late.
The gate agent, Sherrie and I start a mad techno-dive to find flights that will get us to Denver in time. Sherrie and I are typing as quickly as we can on our phones. Thank god for smartphones.
The Luftansa agent says he can get us into JFK or San Francisco in the evening. Getting into SFO at 9pm doesn’t afford any friday night flights, but there IS a 5:30am flight which will get us to Denver at around 9am. SOLD.
The agent reserves us seats, but tells us ‘you have to talk to United to get tickets’. We’re inside security, so we need to wait until the gate agents show up 2 hours before the flight. Great. We scope out hotels near the airport in SFO, but don’t want to purchase until we’re holding tickets.
We keep getting shuffled between gate 20 and 22. “No, you’re flight is at the OTHER one.” This happens 5+ times. I think the Germans must have a sense of humor and are screwing with the 10-12 people who are already queuing up.
United agents show up, and after a painful wait, we have tickets.
Ok, book a room at the SFO Westin, I buy a couple of beers at a newstand and Sherrie texts her mom for everything game-necessary.
Get on the United flight, and the 3 of us have a 4 seat row to ourselves->SCORE.
10 hours in the air is a long time. We make Logan sleep for a few hours and our plane lands in SFO around 9pm.
We wait at customs to claim our bags. Between the 5 of us, 4 bags come out. Logan’s is missing. We put in a locator for the bag, and they ‘think’ it’s still in Paris.
We hail a Lyft minivan, and make the short drive to the Westin. It’s 10pm and I’m crashing hard. Sherrie is insisting on getting Logan food, I want nothing on earth but to sleep.
The room is dark and I set the temp at max-freeze.
Sherrie got a $27 burger+chips from the downstairs restaurant and I barely hear her waking Logan up to feed him.
3am->BANG we’re up. I take a few bites of the burger and it IS a tasty burger.
We get the 3:30am shuttle to SFO and by 3:40am we’re there. Surprise, there is NO ONE at the airport and the only thing open is security at 3:45am.
We get to our gate and Sherrie scores coffee in the 10 minute window between shop opening and us boarding. We go over Logan’s football plays for the umteenth time.
Land in Denver 9am, and the plan is in motion. Grandma Judy retrieved Logan’s uniform from our house, and Don and Judy meet us at the airport in separate cars. Sherrie and Judy are handling the bags and filing the lost luggage claim. Don and I take Logan to the car where there is bacon and breakfast for him.
We have about 20 extra minutes before heading to the game. We stop at Don and Judy’s house which is on the way.
Get Logan to the game, and he has the game of the season. He was everywhere on defense and a tackling machine.
Pick of Logan tackling here.
Loved Paris, can’t wait to go back, but I could have passed on the surprise ending and the 30ish hour door to door.
Until next time Paris.