Adventures in Paris with Toddlers

Though it seems like ages ago now, there may be others getting ready to pack their bags for a summer adventures in the City of Love. And so, I’m delighted to share our six-day trip to Paris.

We took the train from our home in Germany to Paris which was a trams, trains and automobiles kind of experience thanks our booking on Trainline. I have to believe that it afforded us some sort of discount to take the route that we did but I remain unconvinced. Still, we found train travel to be very easy with plenty of storage space for strollers and baggage. We packed new small toys including the new small LEGO set that our kids now expect anytime we travel as well as a robust supply of stickers, crayons and little notebooks. These stickers and notebooks are also how we survive any long waits anywhere. They live in a small bag in Mommy’s purse and the girls know to ask for them if I don’t instantly pull them out when we sit down.

It was still a long day so when we finally got to Paris, we pushed the stroller out of the hotel and went for a walk along the river where we found a food truck with the familiar delights of burgers and fries. We inhaled these delicious, overpriced treats while watching all the street performers which the girls thought were a complete thrill. But to be honest, in this pandemic era, to see people dancing in the street together really was a whole other kind of joy.

On our first day, we ventured straight to the Eiffel Tower where we had tickets booked 11:30 am. We went against all advice in traveling with toddlers and spent money to go to the top. This is ill advised with tiny humans but we were only in Paris this once so we thought why not? My two-year-old fell asleep in my arms before we ever got to the elevator so she missed it entirely but both kids were really way more excited about the bazillion playgrounds in the parks surrounding the Eiffel Tower — and there was a coffee and crepe stand for Mommy and Daddy.

We rewarded ourselves for surviving this landmark with ice cream in the park which really did seem like the best thing on a hot summer day. Then, we went to find lunch. It was late already and we didn’t plan this out so we settled on the first cafe we found. The food wasn’t amazing but the wine was delicious and the waiters were incredibly kind.

Our next day was spent at one of the other biggest attractions, the Louvre. It goes without saying that this place is huge and can’t be tackled in a day even when you don’t have kids. We decided to tackle this by taking a taxi to the museum so that we could arrive right when it opened. We had no idea that because we had a stroller that we would get to skip the whole line and only wait for them to work the funny elevator for the stroller to get down to the lobby. This was amazing — and an experience we found repeated again and again while in Paris. Bring your stroller. It is totally possible with the metro which we took quite a lot — especially when your husband is willing to throw it on his shoulder and schlep it up and down all those stairs.

We didn’t expect both of our girls to fall asleep for a long nap while in the museum but that wasn’t such a bad thing. Still, I was prepared with an Adventure Book to guide us through the museum and see the highlights. Both girls had crayons and a print out book that they used to find the big works as we tried to figure out how to read the map. I did a ton of research for this and it was still confusing but the plan was to head first to the Sully wing and make our way from there. You can download my Adventure Book for the Louvre which features all the details I was able to find in how to navigate this gigantic museum with toddlers. I don’t promise you won’t get lost though.

There was supposed to a snack break and then we were to make a small jaunt back through the Denon wing where we will see the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss — but alas we missed these things. It’s outlined in your downloaded Adventure Book though so hopefully you won’t miss it.

They fell asleep and my husband wasn’t as game to make the trek without their enthusiasm. I’d already been to see all of these things when I was a wee art student in college. Our plan was to venture to the Jardin des Tuileries which were once the palace grounds when the Louvre was a palace but it was raining. And the kids woke up almost the second we ventured outside the doors so we decided to break our COVID protocol and venture indoors to treat ourselves to chocolat chaud maison (homemade hot chocolate) at Angélina’s right off the park. The kids ordered colorful macarons and were delighted which provided the necessary fuel to venture back into the park.

We were hunting for the carousel but ended up at the playground sandwiched between gelato stands. We didn’t have any gelato this time. Too cold! Somehow, we got a second wind and decided to explore Musée de L’Orangerie. I didn’t expect the booklet in English leading my kids through the collection. It was superbly done and still sits on my kids’ bookshelf seven months later. For me, it was amazing just to see my kids take in the wonder of Monet’s Waterlilies. That alone was worth the price of admission.

On our third day, we embraced all of the wonders that could be found in the city’s largest park, The Luxembourg Gardens. We spent the entire morning at the playground right next to Théâtre des Marionnettes du Jardin du Luxembourg. We heard every single one of the curtain calls for the puppet theatre but there was zero interest from our kids. Nor were we really excited about cramming into that little theatre in a pandemic. We met another American family and our kids relished in finding friends to play with and that was all the magic that we needed. Before saying goodbye, the kids celebrated their new friendship with a ride on the carousel where the kids got to try to catch rings with sticks as they whirled around. This was no easy skill for our little ones but there were lots of squeals of delight in trying.

We got hungry and found a cafe just off the park for lunch with a lovely outside terrace. Aside from the very grumpy staff who were frustrated that we didn’t have the QR code administered by French pharmacies (it had become mandatory for French citizens the day before), it was a lovely spot with yummy food. We never did get that documentation and never had a problem after the one spot.

After lunch, we ventured back into the park for boat races and pony rides that we were never able to find. Were they closed down for COVID? Was it the wrong day? I still have no idea. The boats were magical and my four-year-old loved it. We didn’t leave the park without another ride on the carousel.

The next morning, we set out for the best croissants in Paris at La Maison d’Isabelle. They were just OK. I apparently had too high expectations as they didn’t taste that much better than those from the hotel breakfast. Everyone, including me, was a little grumpy this morning but we trudged on to see Notre Dame still under construction. I was touched by the way the church had used this time to encourage dreaming about what this community could be. You can see the children’s artwork on the walls around the work site. We went to my favorite place from there to see Sainte-Chapelle with its impressive stained glass windows. I had been there last on a sunny day and the light really does make a difference but it was still beautiful.

That afternoon, we headed to Pont Neuf for an hour-long with a boat ride along the Seine. We chose this company because it was supposed to be very child-friendly with a snack included but there was no snack and it was not as advertised. Still, it’s a nice way to see the city and the kids were excited to see the Eiffel Tower again. It was indeed their favorite site. 

On our last day in Paris, we took the train to Versailles. This felt a little more complicated than it needed to be because there was construction on the regular train line but the very kind and patient woman in the metro booth told us what to do.

As with everything else, I had booked tickets ahead of time so we knew that we were going to enjoy the grounds first — and really for toddlers, that might have been enough. They were not so interested in the interior and audio guides are not a thing when your kids want to go at lightening speed. Back in the gardens though, we loved the music at the fountains with timed shows where it seems the water dances to the music played on loud speakers. We tried to find as many as we could but these are big gardens and we aren’t quite certain we didn’t find them all.

We had thought we might rent a golf cart or ride the little train but the lines were so long that we just walked. Or rather, we skipped and ran and pushed the stroller through the gravel. These were some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

I have a ton of notes for what to do next time and things we could have done in the rain including the Cité des Sciences which is supposed to have a great hands-on section for toddlers to experiment and learn. I also was keen to check out the collection at Musee en Herbe. I even have a list of things that sound fun when the kids are older. French cooking classes with kids? How fun!

I had thought I planned a ton of options for where we might eat but the only place that was open was that food truck. Every other place I had researched was closed for summer holiday so I have no reference of where we ate. We stopped when we were hungry and the food looked good. We were sure to sample some mussels, French onion soup and a few other things that the French do so well. We definitely didn’t have the most amazing food ever nor did we stay at the most amazing hotel — but our kids think this was the most amazing trip ever. They cannot wait to go back especially after they learned that Mickey Mouse lives nearby.

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