03 January 2013

Paris: 3 Useful Resources & My Planning Strategy

If you follow me on Instagram (see the right sidebar), then you know that we've just returned from a lovely stay in Paris. While I did consult a host of resources when planning this trip, I'd like to recommend three that I found to be incredibly useful and appropriate for our party of three.

The key to spending a week in a world city with an eight year old is finding ways to engage and excite her before and during the trip. It is not always easy, but it is always possible. All kids are different...mine is certain she should have been born French and actually scolded us for "walking too fast" in the Louvre, preventing her from taking in all of the art.

She tried strange foods and never complained as we waited in long lines and covered nearly fifty miles on foot during the week, as reported by Richard's new Fitbit gadget. She carried a small sketch book and pencil wherever we went and was incredibly mature and engaged, often causing Richard and I to raise our eyebrows in amazement. There were lots of proud parent moments this week.

But I digress...here are the recommendations.

Not For Parents Paris: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
I rather randomly selected this as a Christmas gift for Young One without paying much attention to reviews and without having seen it, thinking the "Not-for Parents" claim would attract her. She loved it.  Carried it with her in her bag across the city. Asked to read it together. Recounted facts gleaned from it. Read it waiting in lines, so many lines in Paris around the holidays. Ensured it was in her bag each morning.

I checked out many a book from our library leading up to this trip, but this was by far her favorite: a non-fiction with engaging drawings, a bit of kid humor and random (but true and meaningful) facts. I will definitely invest in other versions of this book when available. By the way, Richard and I enjoyed it, too!

My friend Elizabeth, seasoned traveler, mother of sons in the age range of Young One, offered to let me borrow this box of cards from her. Again, these had been under my travel-related paraphernalia radar. Again, I will undoubtedly borrow or purchase these for upcoming trips when available.

The box includes 52 walks around Paris, some inside museums, highlighting things of interest for children. These are not meant to be read or used by the children, but offer great advice for short walks with children with adults in the lead. I found them helpful in providing the highlights and giving me just enough info to engage an eight year old somewhat. This coupled with the aforementioned book created a fabulous resource package.

Elizabeth also recommended this helpful app, and not a huge Trip Advisor fan, I half-heartedly downloaded the app before our trip. Fantastic. The app downloads the info to your phone, so no connection is necessary as you are out and about in the city. By far the best part is the interactive map. I still can't wrap my head around how this works, but the map is able to detect the location of the user...without a connection = no expensive roaming charges. How does that work? Please tell me.

For someone who had lots of ideas of where I wanted to go, the app was fabulous. I would look up a museum or cafe or monument or shop using the app (forget the reviews) and then press the "Point Me There" button, at which time the app would point me there, including an estimate of the distance and a Metro stop.

Want to head to Angelina's for an unforgettable cup of hot chocolate? Look it up. Press the direction button. Head on over. It's great for finding the nearest Metro stop, too. AND...the blue dot on the map indicating your location remains live while you are walking. How'd they do that with no data services and no wifi needed? A mystery. 

To plan a week-long stay in Paris...
I listened to the online advice of David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan and read online forums for advice on museum passes and best bets for Metro passes. I also found a hip, well-located apartment in the 1st Arrondissement, steps from the Louvre, online. I reserved and purchased things online when possible, including our appointment at the Eiffel Tower and tickets to Disney, often for lower costs. Admittedly, there were times that I just had my fingers crossed that all would end well because of lack of fluency in French. This was especially true of the Disney tickets, which I scored at about half price on a mostly French language ticket site: FNAC.

I learned from the experience of fellow bloggers like LuciaEmily, and Katy, as well as others that I stumbled across along the way. (Thanks, ladies!) Listened to stories of friends who have recently visited and had the good fortune of meeting with my Francophile friend, Mo, who was visiting from Germany, just a couple of weeks before the trip.

I searched my library system's online catalog for Paris-themed books, fiction and non-fiction, many that we didn't have a chance to explore in the busy month of December. I relied on past experiences; this was my fifth visit to the City of Light. I lugged the big camera on board the plane with me but left it in the apartment in favor of my smart phone camera most days.

I made a promise to go with the flow...enjoy each baguette, stop to watch the Tower sparkle every single time, and sleep in after late nights.  I kept to it except for that one time that I won't mention here!

It was a wonderful time for our family.

1 comment:

  1. I love the ideas of the cards. I am glad you had a wonderful time. I am glad young one had a good time too !