High on J and my list of places to travel in Europe has been Paris. How could I not love Paris after I memorized all the words to “Twilight in Paris” by Jem and Holograms in 1985. Seriously. I held up a tape recorder to the television on a boring day during the holidays to record the song and played it over and over until it is seared into my brain for eternity.
So for our first trip “abroad” from our homebase of Dublin, we chose Paris to knock that one right off the list. The flights were cheap and short and we had this crazy week long break at Halloween that we could use for our trip. As the planning commenced (which is just me planning and then asking the family at dinner preferences about certain options), I knew that I wanted to include Disneyland Paris in there so that the kids could also experience Disneyland which seems like a iconic American kid experience to me. Everyone was finally over the age of three! So, Disney here we come!
I booked flights directly into Charles de Gaulle Airport and booked a flat in an AirBnb in the Centre Pompidou area so we could be walking distance to the metro and be able to take a train directly from CDG into the Le Halles station. From there we could also book train tickets that would take us directly to Disneyland Paris. It ended up being a superb solution and we fell in love with traveling with the kids on public transport. It made it so much easier and it was brilliant that the kids learned how to read the metro maps and signs to navigate around Paris.
We arrived in Paris on a Friday afternoon, managed to purchase tickets for the metro plus tickets into Paris and from Paris to Disneyland at the billet window at the station. We managed to get onto the train and take it into Paris to the Le Halles station which turned out to be a massive underground shopping center with connections to other metro lines and train lines on several floors. It was madness to find the exit with construction and people and escalators going everywhere. But the kids figured out that green signs saying “Sortie” meant exit. We exited the building and found ourselves in a busy shopping area.
Luckily the walk to our flat was very short – maybe five minutes and we quickly headed over. We were glad that we only had backpacks for luggage, because our flat was five story walk up in a charming older building in the heart of a busy shopping and dining area. It turned out to be a brilliant location because the front door was steps away from food stalls selling hot food, crepes, hot dogs in baguettes for easy, on-the-go dinners and also steps away from a bakery that served hot baguettes and croissants every morning.
After quickly checking out our flat, we headed back downstairs to grab some foot long hot dogs and had some fun returning when we couldn’t figure out how turn on the lights inside spiraling staircase and headed up the five flights in the darkness.
Notre Dame Cathedral
On our first day in Paris, we wanted to see Notre Dame Cathedral and go to the des Catacombes de Paris. The des Catacombes de Paris was at the very top of our list of things to do. I mean, who wouldn’t love to see human bones underneath Paris? Notre Dame Cathedral was on the way and was only about a five minute walk from the flat.
When we got to Notre Dame, we saw that there was a long queue circling around the courtyard. We got into the queue which moved quickly while the kids played around in the flower petal scattered about the courtyard. Once we reached the massive front doors, we stepped into the dimly lit church. There was a service going on while tourists circled around on the sides of the cathedral. It was massive and there were so many people inside. We followed the crowd, only stopping to light a candle for J’s grandmother who had just passed earlier in the month.
After a look around, we went back outside and the kids were enraptured by a man feeding the birds. He handed each of the kids a small handful of seeds and the birds just swarmed them. Then the man set a small bit of seeds at the top of each child’s head and the birds landed right on your head to get the seeds. The kids loved it and although the man didn’t ask for any money, I gave him some change to pay for all the seeds the kids distributed to the birds.
On the other side of the courtyard, there is a sunken access that allows you to explore a museum under the cathedral. We looked at old Roman ruins and other interesting stuff. As we moved along, we saw another queue on the side of the building which turned out to be tours that went up into the cathedral itself. We got into the queue and spent 45 minutes waiting until we could ascend the steep stairs that would take us along the top of Notre Dame. The views were amazing and we peered at the gothic statues guarding the top of the cathedral and the famous flying buttresses from above.