Travels

How to travel to Paris with a little kid.

Ideas for how to take a trip to Paris and see “it all” with a kid.

Recently we returned from a family trip to Paris.  It was an amazing experience and it was made even more special because it was our first chance to show our little one how awesome Europe is!  I wanted to share a couple of kid-friendly ideas, hints and tricks that made our time more enjoyable.  Paris, we are totally, head-over-heels in love with you and cannot wait to return someday.  

Idea: Get the Paris Lib Pass.  It is totally worth it if you expect to see at least 3-5 of the major sights and their website is super easy to navigate.

 Seeing the Eiffel Tower in Spring = Heaven! 

Seeing the Eiffel Tower in Spring = Heaven! 

Day 1:

Go on the Eiffel Tower Tour.  (Yes, it's totally a necessary evil, but totally worth the NYC style pandemonium and waiting.)  Reserve your tickets online and schedule ahead to help with the lines and only go to the 2nd level if you are a little (or “OMG MAMA, WE ARE WAYYYYYY TOO HIGH UP IN THE AIR) afraid of heights. Also, do this activity first so that you don't spend the whole week with a little person asking "When do we get to go to the Eiffel Tower.....".  

Then after the Eiffel Tower, hop on the Double Decker Bus tour (comes with your Paris Lib Pass) and enjoy some sightseeing that is super fun for a little one.  Riding on the top of the bus allows the little ones to see much more without having to walk too much.  Being a tourist in Paris is a truly a marathon, not a sprint, my friends.

Hop off the Double Decker Bus tour to see Sacré Coeur.  It was awesome.  The little street that leads up to the church is hilariously funny and reminded us a little bit of Canal Street in NYC.  We climbed the stairs halfway, stopped and listened to the cutest old man quartet play some Parisian jazz and checked out the view.  Note: the stairs themselves are the coolest part of this experience for a kid.  Why do they love hopping up and down them so much?  It was a great way to enjoy a sunny afternoon with amazing views of the Paris skyline.  

 Views from Sacré Coeur 

Views from Sacré Coeur 

A crazy but amazingly delicious and memorable dinner if you are in the Place Vendome area is Le Soufflé.  Soufflé for everyone for every part of the meal.  It may seem decadent, but we were in Paris, after all. 

Le Soufflé

After Le Soufflé, head over to the Ferris Wheel in Jardin des Tuileries.  The view is amazing and it’s such a fun late night activity for a kid.  We loved seeing the city from above and having a little "pod" in the Ferris Wheel all to ourselves.  It was only “a tiny bit scary” to be up that high, according to the little lady.

Jardin des Tuileries

Day 2:

Do less. 

One thing we noticed while traveling was that we didn’t have a concrete itinerary for each day and it made the trip SO MUCH more fun.  We slept in, we ate 3 hour long lunches and played games and drew pictures at the table.  We ate bread and cheese until our bellies were so full we thought we would never eat again and then walked down the street and ate ice cream.  That’s vacation done right, we say.

If you need more advice on how to enjoy Paris without overdoing it, we loved Abby Grace’s post here.

So, after a lazy morning and midday, what does one decide to do?  Visit the Louvre.  Ok, here’s the deal.  The Louvre is BIG.  Like too big for a kid to enjoy, but you can totally outsmart it two ways: 

1.     Because you have your museum pass so you are super chill about walking in and out quickly because it was already “paid for”.

2.     Just walk around Egyptian, see the old castle walls of the original building and then pick 2 more things to see.  Take the elevators and get a map and pretend to be on a treasure hunt.  People always see my photos and think that my little one totally loves museums but let’s be real here people, they can only handle so much.  So, make a tiny little plan, bribe them with croissants and then promise them that if they let you find the Mona Lisa you will take them to the playground later.  #parenting

After the Louvre, play in Tuileries Gardens.  Wander, take silly photos and smell the flowers.

Dinner idea: Chez Monsieur in the Place Vendome area was great.  DELICIOUS food, (we had the veal stew and the profiteroles), the service was amazing and so friendly, and they were completely ok with having a happy little tiny woman in the restaurant.  We noticed that as long as she wasn’t roaming freely and shouting, Parisians were totally down with our little woman joining them for fancy meals.

Day 3:

Play in Gardens once more and then hit up the Musee l’Orangerie.  AKA MY FAVORITE MUSEUM EVERRRRRR.  Omg it’s so good.  I almost cried.  Ok fine, I cried.   As a little girl, I was totally enamored with the work of Monet and read “Linnea in Monet’s Garden” all of the time so seeing this was literally a dream come true for me. 

Musee l'Orangerie

Then switch to Airbnb.  (link to our AWESOME apartment here)

We decided to stay in two totally distinct areas in Paris to really try and soak up the “tourist” area and the smaller cobblestone street vibes of Le Marais.  I would recommend doing this for anyone who wants to really see the area and feel a bit more like you are living there instead of just visiting.  PS – Le Marais is 100% kid friendly. 

Eat crepes at Le Breizh in the afternoon.  Wait in the line if you must, it’s worth it.  Also, some people hit up the Picasso museum afterwards but we were being ultra lazy and just played in the playground and then wandered around instead.  Both are solid options. 

The best part of the Airbnb experience was that we arrived, got some groceries (bread, cheese, wine, salami, etc.) and stayed in and snuggled and watched movies.  It was a perfect part of the trip to take it easy and it made the day so much more low key.  Also, we washed our clothes in the tiniest washer ever and it was awesome.  *and hilarious*

Day 4:

Go to Ile de la Cite.  See Notre Dame (climbing is cool, I guess, but I personally think it’s overrated…don’t tell my family I wrote that.)

See more about traveling in Paris from a person who is even grumpier than me (Anthony Bourdain)

Notre Dame is gorgeous from the outside, has a sick playground and benches, and the views alone are breathtaking.  Also, the gardens. 

Go to Shakespeare and Co.  TRUST ME.  It was awesome, complete with a beautiful antique bookstore, modern bookstore, café and more.  We wandered the aisles and shipped for hours.  Also, there are ladders for climbing to get books and if your kid is into Beauty and the Beast that is literally their dream come true. 

The Seine - Paris

Take a boat ride on the Seine (it’s part of your Paris Lib Pass, but we mixed up where to get picked up so just bought tickets…it was still worth it!) 

Dinner idea: Literally any sidewalk cafe in Le Marais.  We tried out Camille (thanks to a recommendation from my friend Lauren), and it was yummy traditional food and service and totally chill vibe.  Nice for a kid because they make pesto pasta which is literally her life.  The grownups ate escargot and totally grossed out the kid.  It was a good, giggly time had by all.

Day 5:

Try a café for breakfast.  Literally any of them in Le Marais are delicious.  Order a “menu” which consists of orange juice, coffee and a croissant.  Eat outside if you can, it’s so fun to people watch and enjoy the morning feeling like a local.  

Get a picnic at Eric Keyser and head to Versailles for a day of adventure!

Note: The RER (Paris Subway) map towards Versailles is a little cray.  Head towards Versailles and make sure 100% that you are actually going to Versailles.  Or just embrace the fact that you might get lost and make some cute old lady friends in the process.  Whatever floats your boat.

Versailles, France

At Versailles, go QUICKLY thru the inside because it’s abysmally boring for kids.  Then play, play, play all day outside and frolic and picnic.  The best thing we did at Versailles was rent bikes.  A bicycle and a bicycle-built-for-two, to be exact.  It was so fun to pedal around the gardens and stop to see fun things like Marie Antionette’s pink castle, beautiful landscaped gardens and race one another through historical ruins. 

Dinner idea: Le Petit Chatelet next to Shakespeare and Co.  We decided to head back over to Ile de la Cite after Versailles and it’s so fun to see Pont Neuf’s street performers and musicians and Notre Dame at night.  Note: aforementioned "super awesome" playground.  Le Petit Chatelet is an experience!  We sat next to the fireplace where they prepared the meats and the waiter was a riot.  We know 0% French and muddled through in a hilarious fashion.  He was completely down for the adventure and we appreciated how funny he was about it all. 

Day 6:

Off to Marche des les Enfants Rouges.  Oldest street market in Paris and full of delicious and beautiful international food options.  We enjoyed some wine, lentil soup, and a charcuterie board and then indulged in some Moroccan sweets for dessert.  Also, there are flower markets and we wandered through a bit and literally smelled the roses until the flower man legit shoo-ed us away.

 Please pass all of the cheese my way.  

Please pass all of the cheese my way.  

Then, off to Luxembourg Gardens!  SO, beautiful and awesome for kids!  Rent a sailboat and enjoy a seat next to the pond. The playground situation is amazing here, but bring cash because you have to pay to play.  Also, there is a marionette show on Wednesdays and Sundays.  We spent the whole day just relaxing in the Gardens and wandering around. 

Luxembourg Gardens

Day 7:

Headed home but not without eating more chocolate croissants and stopping for a proper breakfast send off at Frenchie Jr. on Rue du Nil in Le Marais.  It was absolutely delicious and the entire street had little gems along it.  Isn’t it just cruel when you find little treasures on the day you are leaving?

Then we got some baguettes from Eric Keyser to take on the airplane and headed to Dublin.

Paris Highlights:

  • Crepes at Le Breizh in Le Marias
  • Bike Ride in Versailles
  • Seeing the Waterlilies at Musée l'Orangerie in Tuileries Gardens
  • Dinners at Le Souffle and Chez Monsieur
  • Picnic in the Park at Versailles
  • Riding the Ferris Wheel in Tuileries Gardens
  • Macarons at Laudureé
  • Musicians on Pont Neuf
  • Sacré Coeur Musicians
  • Espresso breaks midday
  • Croissants all day every day 

Parenting highlights:

  • Watching your kid soak up a totally new culture
  • Watching them make friends at the park despite language barriers
  • Teaching her to people watch and sit at a café for hours. 
  • Teaching her to draw or play something silly when they get “bored” while mom and dad drink wine
  • Watching her eyes light up when the Eiffel Tower “twinkled” each night on the hour for 5 minutes
  • Hearing her happy squeals as she rode on the bicycle with her best friend, Dad.  

 

How to Travel to Paris with a Little One

Thoughts on 2014...

I am reforming the way that I look at New Years Resolutions this year and making a list of achievable goals instead.  After all, no one really wants to start something so radical in the new year, only to be disappointed.  Here are my 6 achievable goals for 2014. Resolutions and Goals for 2014

Here's my list, based on this image from Pinterest... 

A bad habit I'm going to break... I am going to spin this and start a new habit, journaling in my new "line a day" journal that I got for Christmas.  So I guess that the habit I am breaking is forgetting things.  It's kind of a problem.  I blame it on having a good imagination and too many hobbies, but it would be nice to remember some things from time to time. :)

A new skill I'd like to learn... Letterpress & Encaustic painting

A person I hope to be more like... I am still pondering this one, it's a tricky one!

A good deed I'm going to do... I am going to try and do a selfless act or random act of kindness once a week for the year of 2014.  I won't be sharing them with anyone, just trying to change the way I see the world through small deeds.

A place I'd like to visit... I am dying to return to Spain, but would love to visit any new place as I am a total "wanderluster".  Also, I would love to see Nashville, Phoenix or Savannah.

A book I'd like to read... This one is EASY, because we have a super awesome ART by MEGAN book club that anyone can join!  It's based right here on the blog and on facebook, be sure to check it out for the 14 in 2014 edition.

Here are some of our book reviews from 2013 (we read 13 books in 2013!):

"The Light Between Oceans" (July 2013) 

"Sweet Tooth" (February 2013) 

Mindy Kaling's hilarious memior (September 2013)

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" (January 2013)

What are your goals for 2014?  

A double perspective on the world...

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This past weekend, we were able to celebrate the wedding of my "cousin" with family on my husband's Cuban side. The entire event was amazing; we were able to spend such good, quality time with people who we don't always get to see as often as we'd like. Everything was so much fun...babies everywhere, kids giggling, teenagers sneaking little sips of champagne during toasts, older people dancing salsa like they were still teenagers themselves...it was perfect! As I stood and talked to one of the women at the rehearsal dinner, I realized something that I have always heard about being bilingual...I have "double perspective".

I was chatting away with Cuban ladies about diapers and infants and toddlers and what I did for a living without even thinking that I was standing there (a foot taller than nearly everyone in the room and MUCH blonder) speaking Spanish. Only 15 years ago, I hadn't spoken a word of Spanish and I had not traveled out of the US yet...but here I was, yammering (and gossiping) away with the best of the "cubanas"!

Being bilingual, they say, is like living a double life. Not the kind where you feel sneaky or uncomfortable, the kind of life where things feel exponentially "doubled". Thanks, to my Cuban "familia" for including a giant gringa!

Now, I remember why I teach Spanish to those stubborn teenagers! :).

Happy Tuesday. M

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Wanderlust Friday {El Camino de Santiago}...

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Last night we watched the film made by Martin Sheen and Emilio Esteves about El Camino de Santiago. "The Walk" was a great scenic film chronicling the story of a man who becomes a pilgrim in the Camino de Santiago to honor his son, an adventurer who died suddenly. Now, all me and my hubby can think of is how to do El Camino at some point in our lives. It looks like such a beautiful way to reflect and relax in nature. Read more about the UNESCO sight, it's truly incredible!

Have you ever done it? I would love to hear all about the adventure! Happy Friday. M

DC flamenco festival + Picasso's Drawings

I can't wait for DC Flamenco week!  It looks like such an awesome event full of beautiful dancing and Spanish food.

And, at the National Gallery, there is an exhibition of Picasso's Drawings!  What a fun little Spanish day of adventure this could be!

Now all I can think about is sitting outside at a cafe drinking a cafecito and people watching.

Happy Monday.

M

 

 

Havana Road in Towson, MD

New restaurant alert! Havana Road in Towson is authentic, delicious and has sparkly twinkle lights wrapped in the rafters. Plus, everything there feels very like "home". In college I was able to study in Cuba for a couple of weeks and the trip to Havana Road brought back memories of dining in Havana's popular "paladares": restaurants literally run out of people's homes where you dine in their kitchen on the best croquetas, ropa vieja, picadillo, and mojo that you will ever eat!

See more about Towson's new "tesoro" here

Oh and another awesome thing about Havana Road....they have great recipes on their website for traditional Cuban dishes! Mi esposo cubano seria un hombre feliz :) croquetas de jamón

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Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store

Very rarely do I revert to the 8 year old version of myself who wore tutus while climbing trees and playing make-believe. I can think of two , make that three exceptions: Magic Kingdom, anything Harry Potter related and a new discovery - The Superhero Supply Store. I almost bought a cape, that's how charming it is. This place is serious business.

Read more here: Brooklyn Superhero Supply

And here's the NYTimes article about their mission to make kids (and adults) feel like superheroes. nytimes article about the "store"

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The best part of this organization is that reading, seeing a tutor, and learning now have a cool guise. Super heroism!

Read more here about the good guys behind the "front": 826 NYC

And there is one in DC! Must go visit. The "Unnatural" Museum of History 826 DC

Mac's Landing Cafe in Brooklyn...

Last weekend on a trip to visit friends in Brooklyn, NYC, we stumbled (thanks to Groupon) upon Mac's Landing in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood. It's a hidden treasure off the beaten path that is definitely worth seeing!

Reasons to love Mac's:

1. Amazing, fresh brunch dishes. I had a Mexican Omelet full of fresh veggies and chorizo...yum!

2. Delicious and creative hot drinks and a huge selection! I had a beautiful latte with the right pinch of cocoa on top...heaven.

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PS- There are crayons at every table. It was basically love at first sight!

3. Quirky, creative environment with a non-pretentious cafe vibe. And great music. And a lovely waitress / barrista. And nice patrons. And a picnic bench out front for a sunny day.

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4. A penny tiled threshold. I made a wish :)

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Their location: 305 Halsey St (between Tompkins Ave & Throop Ave) Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn, NY 11216

Find out more on Facebook. Mac's Landing Cafe

Brooklyn love...

After a quick weekend trip to NYC, it's official, I have a real life crush on Brooklyn. Here's why: (more detailed posts are in the works)

1. Outdoor Sunday Market on 5th Avenue with local vendors and interesting products.

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2. Brooklyn Superhero Supply. This is the coolest concept for a "store" that I have ever seen. Jaw dropping-ly cool, I kid you not.

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3. Brunch at Mac's Landing. A diamond in the rough with amazing service, delicious and fresh food, awesome hot drinks and a cool, hip but not hipster-snobby atmosphere. Just good down to earth fun with a splash of quirky.

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Iranian Art @ the MET

At the MET on Friday with my Art Students I discovered a new love - Iraqi and Iranian art from 1100-1400!  The vibrant blues, mosaics and elaborate script are just so beautiful.  It is so refreshing to see art from the non-western tradition and so interesting to see art from a new perspective and to enjoy a culture's art that is so often overshadowed by violence and negativity. Check out the Collection here: 

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2011/islamic-art

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How to dress like a Spaniard...

Conversation in class: (these are direct quotes, this IS why I love my job) Student: "Señora, can I ask a random question...(note, no pause was made for me to answer "no" and continue with my lesson)...why do you sometimes look like you are from another country?"

Me: "Haha (yes, I laugh out loud at them more often than not, don't judge my teaching style), what do you mean?"

Student: "Well, like, somedays you look like an american and other days you wear scarves.  Are you from London or Canada or Spain or something?"

Me: "Point taken, haha no I am from Maryland".  "Ok chicos, back to our notes".

 

However, this little philosopher (aka curious student) started to make me think about Spain and how people dress so darn well there.  Then, I googled "How to Dress in Spain" and came upon a hilarious blog written about the topic. Check it out!

http://ymuchomas.com/2011/02/02/how-to-dress-like-a-spaniard/

How to dress like a Spanish lady:

Step 1:  Wear a scarf.  Always.  Even when it is 89 degrees out and you are fanning yourself on the bus.  Never take off scarf!  (note: always bundle up way more than appropriate and never sweat)

Step 2:  Have a hilariously embarrasing house dress that you come home to put on.  My friend's husband calls her version of this her "matapasiones" (passion-killers).

Step 3: NEVER wear flip flops, white sneakers, shorts, hoodies or t-shirts.  Unless they are trendy and cool, of course!