Over half term we decided (pretty last minute) to have a few days away in Paris. These are my notes written up mainly at the time. If you're looking for a quick read, click away now, this is NOT a user friendly blogpost and breaks all the rules about maximum word count.
It is a diary of our holiday for the kids to read and look back on - so it is loooong and I don't expect anyone else to read it all the way through.
Wednesday 18th February 2015
We decided to fly as it made it more of an adventure for the kids and cost less than Eurostar.
Remember to pack light with Easyjet because even though we'd paid for 1 piece of baggage hold luggage, it would have cost £20 extra for going 2kg over the 20kg weight limit. We just popped a couple of pairs of shoes across to hand luggage instead.
When we booked our few days away, we didnt realise that Miss T's foot was a long term problem. Neither had we banked on her getting a deep gash to the head needing an amblance trip to A&E only two days before our holiday. And nor had we banked on her getting a random nose bleed at Gatwick airport and dripping blood all over my jeans.
They all enjoyed the flight and we felt a sense of satisfaction navigating our own way to the hotel using the trains and metro. The boys also loved the 'double decker' trains you get in Paris.
|The kids loved the novelty of double decker trains in Paris|
And as D had pointed out that Paris was supposed to be a romantic city, there was time for a quick kiss.
Thursday 19th February 2015
Woke up to a promising sunny day in Paris. It was cold but sunny. We went for a little explore and found the nearby Parc du Citroen and the Paris hot air balloon. This is very weather dependant and thankfully we had not included it in our plans as it wasn't flying today.
We picked up some sandwiches for lunch from the Monoprix around the corner and bought some swimming trunks for the boys at M&S in the nearby shopping mall. Upon checking into the hotel we'd been told that swimming trunks as we know them in the UK (i.e. swimming shorts) are not permitted in the pool and only what they consider to be proper swimwear is permitted.
Afternoon involved seeing the Eiffel Tower close up and then looking down on it from Tour Montparnasse which is taller and far less busy than the Eiffel Tower.
|at Tour Montparnasse|
|from the top of Tour Montparnasse|
This came as a huge surprise as we had checked the pool opening hours prior to booking and again upon arrival and told it was open until 10pm weekdays.
Not only is it closed regularly throughout each day for classes but also has a maximum capacity of 15. The hotel has hundreds of rooms (over 800 apparently) and so a maximum of 15 was another disappointing surprise. Even though the pool is located within the Novotel hotel grounds, it turns out that it is run by a separate organisation.
That's where a further swimming pool disappointment came... The main reason we booked Novotel was for the pool. Having stayed at Novotel hotels in the UK with stunning pools, we were expecting the same Novotel standard here but the pool is more like a run down public pool rather than the stunning luxury pools that Novotel hotels that we had stayed at previously boast.
Due to the changes in swimming plans, we ended up with a room service dinner. It's not worth splashing out on the Benkay bento meal but the other meals were fine albeit the 25 minute timescale we were advised of becoming a 50 minute unexplained wait.
Friday 20th February 2015
Woke up to a rainy day in Paris so we decided to do an indoor activity. We headed off to the Palais Decouverte for a day of science discovery. We'd read that the planetarium and lectures were in French so didn't bother with these but there was still plenty to see and do and there definitely was a whole days worth of activities there.
We had a slightly stressful journey back with customer service on the Metro leaving a lot to be desired. The gate which Miss T's pushchair fits through at the metro station was locked and unmanned (as seems to be the norm). There is a call button where they are supposed to open the gate. I got hung up on several times despite my increased panic in my voice as J and D had already gone through to the other side of the barriers with their tickets. Even when a helpful local lady buzzed and explained in French that we needed to get through as we had a buggy they hung up on her too!
With everything going on with Miss T's foot, its not to easy to get her in and out the buggy as her swollen foot doesn't even fit into a shoe at the moment. She is still having to wear the 'shoe' that she had when she had her plaster cast but we had to find a way to get through and ended up having to do lots of lifting the buggy over and lifting Miss T over. It seems a ridiculous situation to have this system where buggies and wheelchairs cannot get through when they need to and yet plenty of people evading fares are hopping over and under barriers all the time.
|Miss T still not in proper shoes so makes walking really hard|
Another success for today was managing to place an online order for Dominoes pizza in French. We had a bit of an uncertain wait not even being sure if they would take the delivery address to the hotel seriously but we were all pleased when our pizzas did indeed arrive.
Saturday 21st February 2015
More rain today so we thought a trip to the Pompidou centre would be good. D is really creative and into art so we thought he'd love it but he'd decided that today was the day to get homesick. That today would be the day to moan and shout at the top of his lungs that he hates Paris. He hates the dog poo in the streets. He hates everyone smoking. And he wants to go home. It wouldn't have been so bad if his shouts hadn't echoed throughout the entire escalator corridor system of the Pompidou centre. A visit to their coffee shop and 1 cookie and 1 apple juice later and he was feeling back to himself again.
We ended up just getting the tickets for the view and not the galleries at the Pompidou Centre. Kids are free anyway so it makes a great value activity but the coffee shop is pricey. You can get into the building without tickets so you can have a pitstop at the coffee shop and a toilet break even if you don't want to see the rest of it.
The weather just got colder and wetter as the day went on. We showed the kids the Louvre but the queues were too long to contemplate going in. We always have to consider queue length because of J's asperger difficulties. We also saw Place de la Concorde and spotted l'arc de Triomphe in the distance.
Making our way back to the hotel we found the free crepes happening once again which was perfect go tide us over until dinner.
Dinner was a selection of sandwiches and salads from M&S.
Sunday 22nd February 2015
At last better weather today. It turns out I stopped writing notes at this point so the rest is from memory.
We had heard about the Pet and flower market on the Ile de la cite so we headed over there after a leisurely breakfast. It is the same area as Notre Dame. Again avoided going into Notre Dame because of queue considerations.
Then we headed across to Ile Saint-Louis where there are some lovely little shops, tea rooms, gift shops, galleries and chocolate shops.
Although the famous Berthillon Icecream parlour was closed, the kids got Berthillon ice creams from another tea room which they really enjoyed.
Then a swim at the Novotel pool. Although as already mentioned, the pool was a huge disappointment overall, this was the first day Miss T was able to go swimming after the cut to her head so she enjoyed it. We had to wear swimming hats and when she saw herself in the mirror she said 'I wear chefs hat like Daniel' as she often sees D in his chefs hat for cooking.
Having pre-booked tickets meant we didn't have to queue to get our tickets but that was just about the only benefit as once you are through, the queues were horrendous. It was the height of inefficiency.
Buggies had to be collapsed and so daddy had to carry Miss T for ages. And because of her foot and the crowds she couldn't stand herself so needed to be carried.
J and D were brilliant despite how difficult the queuing is for J.
Was it worth the queues for a few minutes at the summit of the Eiffel Tower? In my view not. But for the kids it was a huge thing ticked off their bucket list.
On the way down we stopped at the first floor because the boys wanted to see the glass floored sections. It was VERY quiet on the first floor and the stairs were empty. Miss T needed to go down in the lift but the boys did the steps down. My advice for anyone thinking of doing the Eiffel Tower...forget the summit, avoid the lifts, just do steps to first floor. It's still high up and you get to see lots but avoid the queues.
Monday 23rd February 2015
Our last day. Our flight wasn't until the evening so we wanted to make the most of the day with a visit to the Chocolate Museum.
The Chocolate Museum was probably the first place that we came across that was truly geared up for tourists and had the sort of customer service standards that we take for granted in the UK.
It is a little out of the way, with the nearest metro station being Bonne Nouvelle, but definitely worth a visit.
It was educational, interesting, and fun. There was a trail for the kids to do. There was a lift for the buggy to get to different floors. And at the end there is a short demonstration and you get to taste chocolate!
I know this is an incredibly long blogpost...but a few words more....It was hectic doing Paris with kids in tow but I'd packed my Alive! multivitamins I've been taking to help keep up my energy levels. I know Alive! are keen to hear about all our adventures whilst taking the multi-vitamins so they'll be pleased to know they helped me in Paris.
Gatwick airport deserve a huge thanks as they were amazing in providing Miss T with special assistance upon arriving back in the UK. Because the buggy only arrives back this end with our baggage, they sent a wheelchair and airport electric buggy vehicle for Miss T to take us right through to the baggage reclaim. Superb service - that was such a big help!
We were upset to see that Miss T's stroller had got damaged on the return flight home. I thought for a moment that the savings we'd made by flying Easyjet would now have to be spent on a new buggy but we had awesome service from James at Damagedluggage.com in sending out a new stroller for Miss T to replace her broken one. So our faith in Easyjet has been restored.
If Miss T's condition turns out to be a long-term one then we may well have to look into getting a special-needs style buggy for older children as the footrest on her new one isn't quite in the best place to support her foot. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Final pic of the Eiffel Tower - we really were staying pretty close to it which delighted the kids.
Linking up with #AllAboutFrance linky at Lou Messugo:
Linking up with Coombe Mill Country Kids (ok so Paris isn't countryside but we did spend a lot of time outdoors):
and with the next #Pocolo at Vevivos if I remember to link up as has been too long since I last linked up: