This past February, my teenage daughter and I went to Florence on a work trip. This trip happened to fall on the same weekend as snowstorm Jonas – the one that dropped almost 3 feet of snow in Manhattan. Needless to say, Jonas kept us girls from flying home from Italy for our regularly scheduled flight. Our original flight included a layover in Paris, so having explored Florence for several days already, we thought we should wait out Jonas in the city of light! With a little finagling with Delta (and a hold time of one hour and 46 minutes!), we were able to arrange to fly to Paris on our regularly scheduled connection and then leave the next morning for New York giving the airports time to clear all that snow. This would leave us about 10 waking hours in Paris (plus 8 sleeping hours) and a whole city to explore – and we were up for the challenge! Now, to be fair, this was not our first trip to Paris. We spent a few weeks in the city about 3 years ago, when my daughter was 11. However, at 14, you can imagine how her priorities have changed (ahem…shopping).
We arrived into Charles De Gaulle airport at noon and took the RER train directly into the city. One of my favorite ways to get to know a city it to use the Metro system as much as possible. One transfer later and we were 2 blocks from our hotel – all for under €25 and in less than one hour!
A last minute Expedia search helped us find a special room rate at the Golden Tulip – Washington Opera in the Louvre/ rue de Rivoli for under $80! Normally, I would not stay right on the Rue de Rivoli because it is so touristy, but with such a short amount of time, we wanted to be close to the action. The folks at the Golden Tulip were wonderful. The first thing they did was give my daughter one of their business cards to keep in her pocket should she be wandering around alone. They seemed to really understand the need of a 14yr old to have a little bit of freedom.
After checking in, we dropped our bags and went straight to a typical French bistro for some lunch and acclimation to our now French (no longer Italian) environment. One of my “travel rules” is that when we arrive in another country, I tell the kids they have to learn how to order for themselves in that country’s language. All during our trip we work on travel related speak. They learn how to ask the basics like, where is the bathroom? May I have the check please? etc… Having been to France before, she just needed a few little reminders and we were all set. First reminder was to stop saying “grazie” and start saying “merci”.
After lunch, we walked down Rue Rivoli to get a glimpse of the Louvre and the Tuilieres gardens, and of course a quick hello to la Tour Eiffel – albeit from a distance. No time today for too much sightseeing so we decided to be like every other Parisian on a Sunday afternoon and we went to the Marais for window shopping and wandering. Roaming through the winding cobblestone streets of the Marais, was a perfect way to spend a few hours enjoying the magic of Paris. A stop for some café, or thé and macarons during the process only enhanced the experience.
After a quick detour through the Place Vendôme (because no trip to Paris is complete without it!), with tired feet we once again hopped on the metro and made our way back to the hotel for a quick recharge (both cell phones and bodies). Just after dusk there was enough time to wander over to the Seine and the Baton Mouches to take a one hour boat ride along the Seine. My favorite thing to do is to see the sites of a city at night – it is so romantic. When the sun goes down and the city lights come up, it takes on a whole new appearance.
Paris is conveniently laid out so that many of the major sites are visible from the Seine. So if you only have a short amount of time in this wonderful city, the best bang for your buck would be a boat ride on the Seine. A few years ago, when the kids were 9& 11, and we spent a few weeks in Paris, the best thing we did was buy the Hop on hop off Batobus boat pass for a week. We used it as a means of getting around the city instead of taxis and the kids loved the excitement of getting on a boat everyday in the middle of the summer.
We ended our day in the lively neighborhood of the left bank’s Latin Quartier. With reasonably priced restaurants and lots of energy, this little neighborhood is a fun place to spend an evening. For a late and affordable dinner, we decided on a gyro from one of the many Greek spots in the area. Even in February, it was nice enough to eat outdoors. After dinner, a quick jump over the bridge to see the Notre Dame at night adds just the right amount of magic to a beautifully complete day in Paris.
A stroll along the Seine back to our hotel room in the 1st arrondissement, and I do believe, both me and my teenager experienced a 12 hour sojourn we will never forget!