Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

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alexp
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Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by alexp »

We are planning a trip to France + one other European country during this Summer. We haven't taken many international vacations, other than visiting some Caribbean countries. This will be our first trip to Europe. I have gone through some old posts in this forum trying to come up with a plan. Please critique and provide suggestions. We will be travelling with two kiddos of ages 5 and 15. I have tried to keep the plan as relaxed as possible, considering that the 5yr old may not be interested in walking from time to time :happy .

Plan:
Day 0: Land in Paris

Day 1 - 4:
Paris tourist attractions - Eiffel Tower, Siene River Cruise, Arc de triomphe, Louvre Museum, Musee d'Orsay, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Luxembourg Gardens <Take pass of the hop on/off tourist bus>
Day 5:
Château de Versailles <Train from Paris>
Day 6:
Some shopping, Leisure
Day 7 - 8:
Travel to Bruges, Belgium <Train>. Explore Bruges
Day 9 - 10:
Travel to Brussels by train
Spend time at City Square. Visit Atomium

Day 11: Fly back from Brussels


Questions:
1. Does the plan above seem doable with a small kid? Any opinions?
2. Instead of travelling to Belgium on Day 7, we can also travel to Switzerland and spend days 8, 9, 10 in a city (not too touristy after spending a week in Paris). Will that be better and which city would you recommend?
3. Should I rent a car for this itinerary?
4. Any suggestions on areas good for staying in Paris (Apartment/Airbnb) that are close to public transportation?

Thank you in advance.
- AlexP
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windaar
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by windaar »

Just a few ideas; others will have more.
1. Renting a car not a great idea; just use trains and public transportation.
2. Skip the side trip to Switzerland; just enjoy France and Belgium. Maybe just Paris & Brussels. Switzerland can be its own future trip.
3. parisperfect.com a good place to rent an apt. in Paris. Have used several times.
Bon voyage!
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AnnetteLouisan
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by AnnetteLouisan »

Make sure to buy a lot of boxes of chocolate at the duty free shops at Brussels airport on your way back. Some would quibble,
especially the Swiss, but I think it’s literally the best in the world.

If you do Switzerland instead of Brussels I vote for Zurich. As far as which is better, it depends how often you get to Europe. I think for kids Switzerland is more exciting than Brussels, but Brussels has simply incredible museums! Depends what you’re into. Brussels can be overcast even in summer.
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wabbott
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by wabbott »

I agree on the train. Last spring we traveled from Amsterdam to London via train and also from London to Plymouth and back. European train travel is a dream compared to air, lots of room, and very smooth. Investigate buying a rail pass. Here is a website than can help.
https://www.seat61.com/
Also, try to book hotels close to the train terminals for convenience.
jebmke
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by jebmke »

AnnetteLouisan wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 3:52 pm Make sure to buy a lot of boxes of chocolate at the duty free shops at Brussels airport on your way back. Some would quibble,
especially the Swiss, but I think it’s literally the best in the world.

If you do Switzerland instead of Brussels I vote for Zurich.
It is quite good - I lived in Brussels for 4+ years. My quibble is with the choices in the airport -- or at least the ones I recall. For me, I'd go to Marcolini in town. Even if Marcolini is now available in the airport it is likely that the selection and freshness is better in the main shop.

Mary chocolate is also very good and not likely to be available in the airport.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
bob60014
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by bob60014 »

Recently in Paris, my thoughts.
Skip Hop on Off bus, almost everything you posted in Paris, especially if you stay in the St Michel/Notre Dame area, is within walking distance. Use public transport or G7 taxi for longer distances.

With a small kid be careful of too much museum time. Even for adults it's overwhelming.

Check attraction (museum) websites for advance tickets.

Add Sainte-Chapelle (lovely stained glass) to your list.

Notre Dame - Don't count on it being open. Security fences and construction still ongoing. You can walk around the perimeter and take pix from a distance and while on the river cruise.

Skip Arc de triomphe, ok for a pix but with a kiddo, the area is too busy (traffic).

Do not rent a car for Paris, not needed or recommended.

Can't comment on the rest. ENJOY!
Last edited by bob60014 on Sun Jan 22, 2023 4:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
jebmke
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by jebmke »

OP although I lived in Brussels for quite a while, for a trip to Europe it would not be high on my short list of places to go as a tourist. IMO Bruges is overrated and in the summer will be crawling with tourists -- and it is quite small.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
mallard1
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by mallard1 »

What? Wrong forum. In any case, this is a crazy itinerary for a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old. Cannot imagine doing it with that age spread. Been there done that with those ages, just not at the same time. Teenagers want to smoke cigarettes and hang with other teenagers. Five year olds just want their age-appropriate fun, and the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Versaille tourist trap crush of tourists do not fit their idea of fun (or mine). Take a bus ride and admire the Eiffel tower from a distance, just don't try to go up there with kids.

No, don't rent a car. Take only trains. Don't go to Bruges in the summer. Maybe take a couple of trains to visit the crazy giant kid-friendly, sleeping beauty chateau of the Loire Valley around Tours, the ones with amazing gardens to run around in and explore. Or maybe take a couple of days to go to Deauville/Trouville to hang out on beaches and go to a horse race. Find a town with medieval silliness to go spend a day watching jousting and that sort of thing (they are all over France).

Stay in the biggest apartment you can afford in Paris as close as possible, within walking distance to the Jardins de Luxembourg or the Jardin des Plantes. Go to those places every day. They are great places for jogging and many other things like tennis and puppet shows. Sign your 15 year old up for outdoor boxing/exercise classes in those places. Buy bags of food and take them to the parks.
Your five year old won't care about all the sights. Best thing to do is to just experience Paris as a city, as a great urban place. Buy food at bakeries and cheese shops and meat stores. Experience all the spectacular public parks. (luxembourg, park monseau, acclimitation, ranleagh,tuileries). Eat ice cream. Visit a different park each day for a long time each visit. Look at whatever interests any of your party along the way. Eat lunches in outdoor cafes. Eat dinners at home in your apartment and then just collapse and watch tv at night. Visit as many food markets as you can. Take your kids to the Tuileries, the Jardin des Plantes to see the intelligent orangutang at the little zoo there who likes ipads, hang out in the Luxembourg Gardens, (see marionnete shows, ride ponies, let the teenager flirt with other teens hanging out there, eat food in the park). Do a day trip by train and bus to the Jardins acclimation (a kids zoo/carnival place) in the Bois de Bologne very worth an entire day. Take a day to go swimming in one of the outdoor pools or Aquaboulevard. Don't rush around seeing sights and tourist things. That would be BORING and a recipe for tantrums and exhaustion and you'd be missing the entire point of Paris which is that it is a great city where people figured out how to live successfuly in cities of great density. THAT is what is amazing about Paris (yes the museums are great but you have to be a grown up tp appreciate them and you have to visit them when the tourists are not killing the experience).

Visit a couple of old medieval churches, but not Notre Dame. Skip the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and all the tourist traps. Maybe take a bus ride instead, or one of those boat trips on the seine which if they have food could be okay.. Maybe sign the 15-year-old for a film school program in the 18th arrondissement for a week to get him/her out of your hair. Hire a babysitter for a couple of days for the little one so you can go do the stuff you want to do. Don't stay in hotels with kids.
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alexp
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by alexp »

Thanks for the replies. Yes, I see a Marcolini chocolate shop at Brussels airport as well, just in case.

- No car needed, so we will skip one. Will look into the suggested train pass.
- Added Sainte-Chapelle to the list.
- I have been wavering on whether keeping Belgium in the itinerary is good idea. The alternatives would be London, Barcelona, Zurich, etc. Came down to Belgium because of these reasons:
-- Relatively small towns which will be different from Paris (touristy)
-- The alternatives are huge cities best covered by separate trips?


-Alexp
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by neilpilot »

alexp wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 4:46 pm Thanks for the replies. Yes, I see a Marcolini chocolate shop at Brussels airport as well, just in case.

- No car needed, so we will skip one. Will look into the suggested train pass.
- Added Sainte-Chapelle to the list.
- I have been wavering on whether keeping Belgium in the itinerary is good idea. The alternatives would be London, Barcelona, Zurich, etc. Came down to Belgium because of these reasons:
-- Relatively small towns which will be different from Paris (touristy)
-- The alternatives are huge cities best covered by separate trips?


-Alexp
Whenever we looked into a Eurail pass, we found that so long as we had a specific itinerary in mind it was much cheaper simply to purchase tickets. This is particularly true if you plan somewhat in advance and purchase tickets accordingly.

https://www.seat61.com/how-to-use-a-eur ... nt-tickets
worthit
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by worthit »

We were in Paris in August 2022 and spent about 8 days and covered pretty much what you are going to except the Luxembourg gardens. Based on what we experienced, here are some suggestions. By the way we took our preteen who never complained except that we kept him fed and rested.

I suggest you buy tickets way in advance online (we used Viator). This will also help beat lines in some cases. If you can, do the Versaiiles through a guided tour. It was worth every penny for us. Pick up and drop off near the Eiffel tower. We didn't go up Arc de triomphe, nor the Eiffel tower. Just enjoyed seeing it from the ground near by. In fact our Seine river boat cruise drop off was near Eiffel tower. Please be aware that Notre Dame isn't slated to reopen till 2024. But you can see it from the outside as construction is still ongoing.

We did Brussels in half a day. Took the train back and forth. We also took the train to London and Amsterdam to spend few days.

Use the metro (you get famaily passes) as it is very economical, safe, easy to navigate after the first ride or 2 and much faster to get to your destinations that you have listed.

We cannot wait to go back to France.

IMHO you have ample time for all these places. Enjoy the trip!
coalcracker
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by coalcracker »

Are you decided on a big city? I’ve been to France three times with young kids and thoroughly enjoyed staying in smaller villages. We stayed in Uzes and Menerbes in Provence and Saint Cyprien in the Dordogne. All were lovely.

France prides itself on sustaining village life, and you will find shops/restaurants/bakeries/patisseries in even the smallest villages. If you do stay somewhere more rural, I would recommend getting a rental car.

If you are into hiking, the French or Swiss alps would be a nice complement to your time in Paris.

Enjoy the cheese!
cashheavy18
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by cashheavy18 »

One item to be aware of, certain sectors recently went on strike in France (protesting pension reform) causing some transportation disruptions. Who knows how long this may drag on, but good to be aware and potential impact.

In late 2019 - we experienced when metro/train drivers were on strike. Very disruptive and quite the pain!
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Watty
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by Watty »

alexp wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 3:32 pm We will be travelling with two kiddos of ages 5 and 15.
....
Day 5:
Château de Versailles <Train from Paris>
It would be good to consider if you really want to go to Versailles and carefully research it. I didn't enjoy it much and the day we were there it was very hot, long lines, and crowded. Especially with a five year old that might not go well. I don't know anything about them but you might see if you can go on some sort of small or individual tour to get you past the crowds so that you might enjoy it more.

We really enjoyed the river cruise that left from near the base of the Eiffel Tower. We just took one of the more basic ones where we could sit on the top deck on benches to enjoy the view. Out hotel was near there and we enjoyed it so much that we went back a second time a few days later right at sunset which was great. If possible I would suggest that you do it at sunset. Try to get there in time to board early so you can get the best seats.
mallard1 wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 4:18 pm In any case, this is a crazy itinerary for a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old.
+1

I have not been there and it would not be for everyone but with kids that age going to Disneyland-Paris for a day would also be an option to consider. If you do that you might want to spend the night before and after near Disneyland so the five year old could take a break in the middle of the day then go back in the evening for fireworks or whatever they do.
alexp wrote: Sun Jan 22, 2023 4:46 pm - I have been wavering on whether keeping Belgium in the itinerary is good idea. The alternatives would be London, Barcelona, Zurich, etc. Came down to Belgium because of these reasons:
The problem is that you will only have 10 days on the ground and if you try to do a second country that will basically burn up a the better part day in travel time.

If you want to do Paris then I would suggest just Paris and also spending some time in the countryside outside of Paris then fly back out of Paris.
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by tigermilk »

We did a week long trip to France some years ago and rented a car once we left Paris. On the way to Rouen by car we did Monet's Garden (kids probably wouldn't like that), castle ruins in Les Andelys (could be good for them), and Normandy. On a separate trip to Belgiom it was just trains (stayed in Ghent, went to Brussels. Bruges, and Oudenaarde).
LearnsTheHardWay
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by LearnsTheHardWay »

We took our children to Paris twice. Once when they were 5 and 2, and once when they were 14 and 11. I think you will have a great time as long as you don't try to see too much each day.

Of your potential sites: My kids enjoyed going up in the Eiffel tower, the Seine River Cruise, and the Luxembourg Gardens. The Louvre was too much much when they were young.

Some things that worked for us that you may consider:

The Paris Metro is fun. I would take that instead of a hop on hop off bus.

Renting an apartment is nice and lets you have a refuge for preparing some of your meals and doing a load of laundry.

The Orangerie museum (https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en) was an unexpected family favorite. It has huge Monet water lillies paintings, and other art from artists that you will have heard of. But by far the best part is that it is so much less famous than the other art museums in Paris, that it is much less crowded and therefore much more enjoyable.

The Luxembourg gardens (and other big parks in the city) may be wonderful, especially for your 5 year old. Some of the parks (sorry, can't remember which ones) have big climbing structures (much higher than US playgrounds) that our children loved. And some of the parks have sets of outdoor trampolines or merry-go-rounds with brass rings for the kids to grab. If more than one adult is going, I would recommend maybe one touristy activity as a family in the morning, and then the adults alternate days taking the 5 year old to a park in the afternoons, or seeing other sites with the 15 year old, and then come back together as a family in the evenings.

When you visit Versailles, consider seeing the grounds first, and maybe renting tandem bicycles from the bike rental place on the grounds. The line for the palace tour was much shorter in the afternoon.

My other recommendations are to let each kid pick out some of the activities and don't cheap out on on cold drinks, ice cream cones, and crepes when out sightseeing.
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by sfmurph »

Go to a puppet show in the Théâtre des Marionnettes du jardin du Luxembourg. Even w/ a language barrier, it will be fun.

In addition to using the metro, try a city bus too. Seeing where you're going is great.
SimonJester
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by SimonJester »

I agree with some other posters the Museums might be a lot for a 5 year old just be prepared to bail out if they are not enjoying them.
Try to find times in your day to rest and make sure everyone is fed. Tired and hungry makes for a cranky time adults and children!

One of our most fun days in Paris this last fall was taking a day off and having a picnic in Monceau park. We went to several different fruit / outside market stalls, plus a local grocery store and bought our picnic food.

We caught the early train to Versailles and were the first tour group inside. We toured the castle during the morning then went through the gardens, ate lunch, rowed in a row boat in the Versailles canal, then walked more through the gardens.
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jpelder
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by jpelder »

It's been quite a while since I went to Paris, but a few thoughts...

The Musee d'Orsay is more accessible than the Louvre. It's also laid out in a pretty linear fashion (take the elevators to the top, wind your way down through the galleries), so you can cruise through and spend as much or as little time as you want on any particular piece of art.

I wouldn't try to do Belgium on this trip. You'd do much better to just focus on Paris and some surrounding areas on a 10-day trip. The school trip I took to France was 10 days, and it felt very rushed (we did a big loop in Northwest France: Paris-Chartres-Orleans-Tours-Saint Malo-Bayeux-Paris, with day stops in Mont Saint Michel and some other places along the way). And that was with a charter bus to take us everywhere outside of Paris.

The Loire Valley is lovely. I wuold consider using a day or two to get out there and see some chateaux, drink some wine, etc.

In Paris, don't bother renting a car. The Metro is great and will get you anywhere you want to go. I second the Saint-Chapelle recommendation. One of the most beautiful places I've been.

I'm not sure how much the 5-year-old will get out of any of this. All else equal, I might wait a couple of years. Maybe do it when your oldest is 18 (like a graduation trip). A lot of the things I would recommend would be better for an 8-year-old than a 5-year-old.
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Re: Inputs needed: France in Summer 23

Post by otinkyad »

I would pick two places to stay, with day trips. We liked to see things our kids had learned about in school, such as the Tower of London, the Waterloo battlefield near Brussels, and Napoleon’s Tomb in Paris. We started with 9 days in London and Paris at ages 6 and 8, and it worked a treat, but our 6-year-old was teed up with Henry VIII and Napoleon in school, and was reading the first 39 Clues book, so he had some idea of what he was seeing.

The Midi Fair in Brussels was a delight, although it runs later in the summer during the more crowded school holidays. Mini-Europe is a short walk from the Atomium, and I feel like the adjacent shops had more to offer than we saw.

Parks in Paris (and France, generally) frown on playing on the grass. There are small playgrounds throughout the city, and carousels here and there as well. Our kids liked Montmartre and the tram ride up the hill near Sacré Coeur. The sailboats in the Luxembourg Garden were amazing. There’s a Roman amphitheater in the Latin Quarter. I would not skip the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, but I would expect to overpay and overwait for the experience. The Eiffel Tower is nice in the rain because it shrinks the lines more than it dampens the experience. Whether going all the way to the top is worth getting there is hit or miss.
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