In February 2016, 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 in 24 hours. 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 12 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… le 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 is to use the Metro system as much as possible. In fact, we have become zealots of public transportation. Not only does it save a ton of money but it teaches kids 1) how to be self sufficient, and 2) a little about the place they are visiting. One transfer later and we were 2 blocks from our hotel – all for under €25 and in less than one hour.
A last minute Hotel tonight 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 basically tourist central, 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 teen one of their business cards to keep in her pocket should she be wandering around alone and wanted to find her way back. 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 family “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 for the basics like the bathroom, or the check or even just please and thank you. 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”.
Because this trip is so short, we decided to just spend our time soaking up the atmosphere without trying to tackle any major tourist destinations. So, 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. Like every other Parisian on a Sunday afternoon, we headed straight for the Marais for window shopping and wandering. The Marais is located within the 3rd & 4th Arrondisement and is popular on Sundays because it is one of the few places in Paris that shops are open. Roaming through the winding cobblestone streets of the Marais, you will find gourmet shops, boutiques, galleries and museums. It is a perfect way to spend a few hours enjoying the magic of Paris. Start at the Rue de Bretagne and pop into the beautiful Square Du Temple. Wander around the famous Marche des Enfants Rouge – consider gathering food for your stop later in my favorite place in Paris, the Place des Vosges. A break for café and macarons at one of the many beautiful bakeries in the neighborhood will only enhance the experience. Another typical Marais experience includes a visit to the Rue des Rosier to weigh in on the “falafel war” in the old Jewish Quarter. L’As du Falafel or Chez Hanna, you choose. With teens, don’t miss the chance to spend some time in a concept store – they combine the best in art, fashion, food and interior design and have something for everyone. My two favorite are both in the Marais – Merci and Fleux.
With limited time, we grabbed a taxi to take us to one more spot. The nieghborhood of Sacre Coeur and Montmarte is one of my favorites and is abound with Instagram worthy spots. Don’t miss the sinking building, the wall of love and La Maison Rose for the best shots.
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).
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 and getting off in a different neighborhood.
So, just after dusk there was enough time to wander over to the river and the docks of the Baton Mouches to take a one hour boat ride along the Seine. When the sun goes down and the city lights come up, the City of Light takes on a whole new appearance.
We got off the boat and ended our day in the neighborhood of the left bank’s Latin Quartier . With reasonably priced restaurants and lots of energy, this little neighborhood is a fun and lively place for teens to spend an evening. Don’t miss the English language bookstore Shakespeare and Co (also a great Instagram shot). 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.
We strolled along the Seine back to our hotel room in the 1st arrondissement, and I do believe, both me and my teenager experienced a 24 hour sojourn in Paris that we will never forget!
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