After half a day in the airport, a canceled flight and a sleepless passage over the ocean, I expected my children to nap away our first day in the City of Lights. But the magic of Paris revived us and it was 11 p.m., admiring the fire dancers at the Sacré-Coeur when my son said, “Mom, can I get an ‘I love Paris’ t-shirt? ‘Cause I really love Paris.”
A dream destination for every traveler, Paris is rarely considered a haven for families. I’d like to challenge that assumption. The first concern is usually cost. While not cheap, Parisian retreats are about the same price as a trip to Disney World. Most people think Disney World is a reasonable goal, but why visit Epcot when you can indulge in the real locale?
Deals on flights are everywhere; all museums in France are free for those 18 and under; public transportation is inexpensive and most importantly, an apartment rental saves a fortune over hotel accommodations.
Ahem, this is the moment I need to make a disclaimer that Haven in Paris isn’t compensating me in any way. I begged them to let me write about our incredible experience with HIP.
My family spent a marvelous week in HIP’s gorgeous Champs Elysées; everything from the darling girl who met us at the apartment to the plush bedding, was perfect. We gazed at the Arc de Triomphe from our window and the Metro stop was literally right outside the front door. The location made transportation easy and delightful. Adults might find subways tedious, but for kids riding the Metro is part of the adventure. My boys loved navigating the family throughout the city and the 5-day Visite pass is a steal.
An enormous benefit of apartment rental is the full kitchen. We visited two markets, filled the cupboards and prepared nearly every meal in the kitchen. Foodies might be horrified, but with the exception of visiting creperies, we didn’t eat out once during our stay. The selection and quality of food in the French grocery stores is exceptional; we didn’t feel deprived for a moment (ooh, I’d love to spoon into some French yogurt right now or crack open a baguette from the local bakery).
The French government believes firmly in the education of children and opens every museum and monument to those under 18 free of charge: the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Napoleon’s Tomb, etc. I almost felt guilty strolling through turnstiles with my six freebies in tow. Exclaiming with joy each time they saw a painting from their textbook, my children devoured the museums and delighted in practicing their public school French.
Some may think kids won’t appreciate Paris. Rather, it’s a grand opportunity to inspire kids to educate themselves. Gazing at the mirrors in Versailles prompts questions about European History;
visiting L’Orangerie develops a love for Impressionist art (my two older boys visited it five times during our one week stay),
and ambling down the Champs d’Elysees stirs every Yankee to learn French.
When tired legs need a respite from museums, les Tuileries are replete with playgrounds and carnival rides.
Beyond education or dining, the most important element of a family vacation is time, sweet time, to enjoy each other’s laughter, conversation and moments of delight. And Paris, beautiful Paris, gifted us a week of pure magic.