Posts Tagged With: travel with kids

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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Carnival Conquest cruise ports

Our first stop on the Carnival Conquest cruise was Montego Bay, Jamaica. Before the cruise, I did not find any excursions that we wanted to try. I would have loved to see the falls but that would mean 1 ½ hours on a bus each way – not how I want to spend a vacation. We took a cab, more like a bus, to Doctor’s Cave Beach. On the way, they tried to sell us into an island tour but in the end most of the people just wanted a ride to the beach.

It was $6 per person and $3 per child to enter the beach, plus fees for an umbrella and chairs. It was well worth it. The beach was clean, beautiful and had two water trampolines that kept my kids entertained all day. There were a few vendors there but mostly under control. What surprised me the most was that they were wading in shallow water, so when you went out, they stopped to ask if you wanted your hair braided or a conch shell to buy.

Overall, it was a perfect lazy day at a sunny beach, even if I did end up with too much sun.

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Grand Cayman

This was the stop we loved the most. The day was hot without a cloud in the sky. We got off the boat and met our tour guide (we had booked the cruise through Travelocity and had a discount voucher for this tour). We were taken by bus to the other side of the island (a short drive) to a boat where we were off on our stingray and snorkeling adventure.

The first time the kids felt the stingray glide across their legs, they were both back up on the boat pretty quick. Although that’s what I wanted to do, too, I stuck it out and am so glad I did. The stingrays just swam around and we held on to pieces of squid that they sucked out of our hands like a vacuum cleaner. We saw some other fish swimming nearby, too. Our guide also pointed out the point where the water changed, which is where the Cayman Ridge is.

After the stingrays, the boat took us to another location to snorkel. My son jumped in and got some water in his snorkel tube and started to sputter. He got back on the boat, adjusted it and came back in and took off exploring. I was so proud of him! He gave it another try and realized that he loved it!

Cozumel, Mexico

Now I know that there are groups who are against any interaction with dolphins but I did do some research on this company and felt that they had the best combination of dolphin care and provided an educational experience. We went to Chankanaab Park for our Cozumel excursion and swam with the dolphins.

If you’re not on an excursion, I still recommend this park. Although there’s an entrance fee, the beach is clean, there are restaurants and food service to your beach chair, and it has everything to keep everyone happy. You can even walk around a shaded path to see some stone monuments.

We decided to snorkel here, and I stayed with our gear on the beach. My husband said he pointed out a small octopus to my daughter, who then proceeded to climb up on his back, get out of the water and never went back in! And I thought she was the brave one. My husband and son ended up swimming and snorkeling while my daughter played in the sand and I read a book.

Finally, it was our turn to swim with the dolphins. We were with one other family, who was from Canada. The mother did not know how to swim and even she was able to do everything we did. The kids love kissing and talking to the dolphins, and we learned a lot about their habitats and how they rehabilitate them at the park.

The ports of call were all great experiences on this trip and our family learned a lot about different cultures and climates. We’d definitely go on a cruise again!

If you’re looking for recommendations on ports, cruises and excursions, I found the Cruise Critic forums to be extremely helpful.

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