Friday, October 12, 2012

France Part 1

It's autumn half term here and so with two weeks and no school the children MUST be entertained.

Last year we went to Rome, it was, I have to confess, a huge success, the weather gods smiled down on us, the children will both happily eat pizza until it comes out of their ears and the history was delivered in small enough doses that neither the older son nor the younger daughter were bored.

Easter I tried Naples, big fail.

This October I took us all to France, Paris to be exact. I thought it would offer everything that Rome had, it's just that there would be no pizza and the language would be different and the monuments also...

First problem: the weather gods were on strike (something the French do have a bit of a reputation for, so I should have anticipated this). It rained most of the journey* there and the rest of that afternoon, stopped on Sunday, then started up again Monday, fun.

Second problem: the teenage son decided to act like a full on teenager. He didn't want to see anything of Paris apart from the couple of things I had booked, little git, so we left him in the hotel room with the wifi connection while we explored the Champs Elysees the first afternoon and the Seine the second afternoon. He did join us for dinner, otherwise he'd have starved!

I have been to Paris before, at least three times I think, but the Eiffel tower never ceases to amaze. We saw it by night as we walked back to our hotel along the Seine, timing it perfectly** so that it was the top of the hour when it goes from being lit up and beautiful, to sparkly and breathtaking.   We also did a tour on Monday morning, which was very informative, there was mention of the number of rivets, an elephant and even Hitler, it's just a shame that the weather had closed in so much that when we got to the top we couldn't see the ground.

On Sunday afternoon we watched the Eiffel tower being used as a backdrop for the filming of a flashmob style*** recording of "Gangnam Style". As we set out to catch one of the Batobus (hop on & off taxi style boat)  they were all practicing and then as we returned, an hour or so later, we caught the actual filming.

In cities before I've booked tours, in New York we did a cycling tour of Central Park, Rome we cycled around too and Naples we did a culinary tour that ended in a pizza making workshop. For Paris I would have booked Segways, but J is too young, was about to book bikes when I stumbled across 4roues-sous-1parapluie. Wow! What a great, personal way to see Paris, 90 minutes being driven through light, Sunday morning traffic from the Eiffel tower to Notre Dame and most points in between (including up the Champs Elysees and around the Arc d'Triomphe****. It was made even more entertaining by the fact that this car is a French classic and people were stopping to take photos of us as we drove around.

All in all we had just 48 hours in Paris, a little taster, nothing more than that, saw the Louvre (only from the outside) and the Sacre Coeur (just about, from the Eiffel tower) but at least the children can report back that they've been up the Eiffel Tower and around the Arc d'Triomphe and along the Champs Elysees.   If they're interested, they can go back when they're older...

* We chose to drive, it's five hours, door to door.   We figured a flight plus all the airport transfers, hanging about etc. would take about the same time, plus we needed the car to drive to Disney.
** and accidentally
*** I'm sure the name "flashmob" is meant to imply that it happens on the spur of the moment in public, but these guys had an area in the Trocadero roped off and were all rehearsing in groups for most of the afternoon.
**** and it's an urban myth that your car insurance doesn't cover you here, what does happen apparently, is that any accident is declared to be the fault of everyone involved and so costs are split equally.

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