Monthly Archives: August 2014

A short sightseeing trip to Paris from London

While we were planning our 10-day trip to London, I kept reading TripAdvisor message boards and other blogs to determine if we should head to Paris for a day or two. Some say it’s not worth it for that short of time because you can’t do it justice and others say it’s easy enough to go back and forth between the two countries.

Because I didn’t know if or when I would ever have the chance to go to Paris again, we decided to go for it. The Eurostar ticket was the same price whether we came back the same day or the next day, so we opted for an overnight stay, giving us about 36 hours in the city of lights.

Pont des Arts

Pont des Arts or love lock bridge in Paris

Most of the recommendations I read said to stay in the lower number aridonnsements but they were also more expensive. We ended up near the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) at the Hotel Avenir not far from where the Eurostar stops. During the day, it had the hustle and bustle of Paris but in the evening, we never had a problem getting into a local restaurant and enjoyed the slow pace when compared to the sightseeing adventures of the day.

Apologies to the French who may have heard by 9-year-old yelling from the balcony “Bonjour, bon apetit” – her only French vocabulary. (Can you image someone yelling from a hotel in the U.S. “Hello, eat well!”)

Eiffel Tower

Playing catch at the Eiffel Tower.

After learning the London Underground, we decided we could tackle the Paris metro. I had pre-booked a behind-the-scenes tour of Eiffel Tower in order to avoid the long lines and it was well worth it. When we arrived, we saw lines everywhere. Our tour took us a few yards away from the tower, down into the basement where we learned about the inner workings. We then took the short group line to the elevator to the second floor. With one child afraid of heights, we decided not to venture to the top floor, and the second floor views were spectacular enough. As part of our tour, we were able to go up on top of the second-floor restaurant for our own private views. The tour guide let my daughter unlock the gate (you just opened the Eiffel Tower!)

Arc du Triomphe

Arc du Triomphe

After the tower, we took the metro stop near the Arc du Triomphe and walked down the Champs Elysee, which boasted crowds similar to Disney World.

Paris Catacombs

Touring the Paris Catacombs

The next day, I was determined to see the catacombs, so we took the Metro there and waited in line more than two hours. It was worth it to see such a stunning display of history and learn about the past and how it came into existence. My husband and I took turns in line while the other would throw a tennis ball with the kids (always pack a ball for diversion!) and maybe a visit or two to the nearby pastry shop (pain chocolat became my son’s new favorite). After, we went back to the Seine and walked by Notre Dame, down to the Pont des Arts bridge (and added our lock of course) and then played in the gardens of the Louvre.

Crepes in Paris

Crepes in Paris

I debated a trip into the Louvre but with our short time frame, we decided that we wouldn’t be able to do it justice, and after our short trip to the science museum in London, we figured the kids didn’t yet have the appreciation for what was inside. The other site that we missed was the Sacre Coeur although we were very close to it. Alas, maybe another trip to Paris is in my future …

Overall, it was worth our time and travels to see another country, get a brief taste (that means lots of crepes in my daughter’s world) of Paris and break up our days in London. The Eurostar was very efficient and easy to get to and from. I’d love to take it again to the other countries that it visits.

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Seeing London with kids

Seeing another old building or castle may not sound appealing to kids, and it might be hard to wrap your head around a castle that was started in 1066, but when you talk about beheadings, getting married six times and starting your own church, things tend to get more interesting.

Before we left, I read the TripAdvisor message boards and learned about the National Rail 241 offers. You need to go to a National Rail stop (there are many in London) and provide them with a small photo (about 1 1/2 inch square) and request a 1, 3 or 7-day travel card. They should also have a booklet of two-for-one offers, or you can search and orient them before your trip. I never had anyone check to see if we had the travelcards while using the offers. These travelcards also work on the London Underground.

Some of our top sights were:

Big Ben

Big Ben clock tower at London’s Parliament

Carriage at Royal Mews

Carriage at Royal Mews

Big Ben: There’s not much to do except look at it, but we made it our first stop of the trip. It’s on the river Thames by the London Eye and Westminster Abbey so you get a good feel of London and the crowds of tourists right away.]

Royal Mews (241): because my daughter and I like horses, we toured the royal horses and carriages. It was fun to see the history, up to present day of the carriage that William and Kate used for their wedding.

Queen's Guard

Queen’s Guard

Buckingham Palace: it wasn’t open yet for summer but there were still crowds of people at the gates looking at the guards. We had a better photo opp down the street with some more guards. Nearby St. James Park is a great place to let the kids run and play for a bit.

Ripleys Believe It or Not (241): part museum, part activities, it was a little overpriced but an OK way to spend the afternoon. The kids really liked the spinning tunnel and the laser obstacle course.

Greenwich: we took a boat ride (241) on the Thames and I highly recommend it. It’s very relaxing and you can get some great photos of famous sites with a water view. In Greenwich, we had lunch, went to the Royal Observatory and straddled the Hemispheres at the International Dateline. We then played in the large park, walked by the Queen’s Castle and Cutty Sark before taking the boat back to London.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace (241): We took the Underground to a train station and took the National Rail to Hampton Court. The Palace and grounds are huge and you can spend a day wandering around. We got lost in the hedge maze, learned how they made chocolate and explored the rooms. We left the palace and crossed the street and had lunch at a restaurant on the river, then went back and explored some more. They have robes you can put on to become a member of the royalty and some quizzes for kids to find the answers as they tour the palace.

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens: The Peter Pan statue is not well marked and it took quite a bit of wandering around to find it but it was well worth it to see where history was made. My kids had a great time letting off some steam, seeing some waterfowl on the water and running around in the grass.

Peter Pan statue at Hyde Park

Peter Pan statue at Hyde Park

London Tower beefeater

London Tower beefeater

Tower of London (241): We altered my original itinerary because the website said the Tower would be very busy on Easter weekend and we were very glad that we did. The Yeoman Warders were one of the highlights of the trip, and my kids remember the most about this day. It was a fairly short line (under 20 minutes) to see the Crown Jewels, and my kids were intrigued with the torture devices, carvings of Tower prisoners and the former menagerie (zoo).

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey: We arrived fairly late in the day so we only toured a small portion. It’s amazing to think of how many ancient burials have taken place here. My daughter became more interested when I told her kings and queens are married and have coronation here.

The science museum (241): It was raining so both museums had huge lines. We picked the shorter of the two. The museum was packed, but my kids liked the Imax movie and the children’s area. There were a few interesting exhibits but overall it was too crowded to enjoy.

Photo opps

Abbey Road in London

Abbey Road in London

I didn’t schedule every single day in order to maintain some our sanity, so one part of a day we rode the tube around London to get in the photo opps we wanted. My husband wanted Abbey Road, so we made our way there and tried to re-enact the famous Beatles album cover, along with a couple dozen other tourists who were weaving in and out of traffic. We also made our way over to Kings Cross train station to find platform 9 ¾. The Harry Potter store now has a professional photo opp with a line where you can buy your photo in their store but they let you use your own camera, as well

With a lot of research and pre-planning, we were able to see many sights and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It was extremely easy to have our children along with us, and my son learned the underground stops much faster than I did.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

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