Paris (November 9-12, 2012)

Our friends Jes and Derek invited us to go to Paris with them on a 4-day weekend. We were thrilled to go! They had already been to Paris, so their main attraction for this visit was Disneyland. We had thought that we would go there when Connor was a little older, but, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to go!

Friday
We took the ICE train (Intercity Express) from Kaiserslautern to Paris. It was awesome! It was a 15-minute drive to the train station, then we just had to find our platform and hop on the train. It was difficult to find a place for our suitcase and stroller, but once we got settled, it was an easy trip. It only took 2.5 hours, versus 4.5 if we had driven! Connor started our trip on the right foot by sleeping and playing the whole ride. Jes, Derek, and their boys (James and Andy) were in a different train car, so we met up with them when we arrived in Paris.

Then came the first challenge of the trip: getting to our hotel. I had asked the hotel receptionist ahead of time, and she had given clear instructions for the metro (we assumed the metro was the train). Her instructions said to take metro line N° 4, but the buses were labeled with N*, so we weren’t sure which to take! We finally asked inside the main train station and got directions on the metro. (I figured out later that the hotel receptionist used N° to mean “number,” but it confused us because it looked so similar to the markings for the bus.) If you ever consider going to Paris and using the metro while carrying anything more than a backpack…DON’T DO IT!! The Paris metro is the most stroller UN-friendly place I have ever been. I guess you are completely out of luck if you are in a wheelchair. Connor was in the front carrier, so we were able to just carry our stroller up and down the stairs or through the ticket turnstiles, but Jes and Derek had a double stroller. After tackling the stairs and squeezing onto the PACKED trains, we finally got to the last turnstile to exit our station, and there was almost no way for them to get the stroller through. They had to take out both boys and all their bags so that they could fold up the stroller, and Charlie and Derek had to lift it up and over the gate. Phew.

Our hotel was by L’église de la Madeleine. It was a pretty short walk to the hotel, and I redeemed my previous metro/bus mistake by successfully navigating us to the hotel. We checked in and went up to our rooms. Thankfully there was an elevator =), although, it was a tight squeeze with the stroller! The rooms were nice – modern and very clean. After changing Connor’s diaper and feeding him, we all met downstairs for our first adventure. We walked through the Place de Concorde (the site of the guillotine where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed), and saw the Obelisk. We kept walking…and walking…until we reached the Arc de Triomphe. It was amazing to see! Jes and Derek went to find a park with their boys (they had already seen the Arc de Triomphe on a previous trip), so Charlie and I walked underground to come up underneath the center of the Arc. Charlie took lots of pictures and we walked around, then it was time to head back to the hotel.

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It was starting to get dark, and we needed to get back in time to meet my friend Sarah for dinner. We started the long trek back to the hotel, and it seemed like it was getting even colder! Connor was in the front carrier and I have a winter cover for it, so he was cozy and warm. It started to rain so I put his rain cover on, but then we saw an entrance for a metro station and decided to take the train instead of walking in the rain. We figured out which line we needed and which direction to go, and before long we were back at our hotel. We had a little bit of time to relax before going downstairs to meet Sarah.

Sarah and I were at CCM at the same time. She plays viola, and we were both in SAI (the music fraternity). She now lives in Paris, so I was excited to catch up with her while we were here! Charlie and I were done with walking and the metro for the day, so Sarah was kind enough to find a restaurant very close to our hotel. She met us at the hotel and we walked to the restaurant together. We had 7:00 reservations, which is the START of the dinner service! Sarah said she normally eats at 9:00 or 10:00, but thankfully she was happy to eat “early” with us =) We had a nice 3-course meal. Charlie wasn’t too impressed with his entree (steak), but he loved his appetizer (mushrooms with a poached egg on top). I had a terrine for my appetizer (kind of like a slice of cold meatloaf…similar to a pâté) and fish for my entree. Both were very good! Connor hung in there pretty well. I fed him some spinach that we had brought with us, but he was pretty exhausted from his first day of vacation. He spent most of the meal incognito as he nursed/slept. Not sure how the French feel about that, but hey, he was covered, and he needs what he needs! It was great to catch up with Sarah, and we got to meet her boyfriend when he joined us towards the end of the meal. They walked us back to our hotel, and we were ready to crash! Everyone slept pretty well.

Saturday – Disneyland
Connor, aka Mr. Sleepyhead, didn’t even wake up until about 8:00am. That gave Charlie and me enough time to get ready, then we got Connor ready once he woke up and we all went downstairs for breakfast. One of the draws for choosing this hotel was the free breakfast! I had my fill of French cheeses and croissants, then it was time to walk to the train station. We took a metro line and connected with a bigger line to go to Disneyland. I think it took over an hour to get there if you include walking to the station and both trains, but the train dropped us off right at the front gate of Disney! We had a great time in the park. Our tickets were for both parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park), but we only ended up having time for Disneyland Park, which was fine by us. We rode Space Mountain first (I rode with Derek, then I rode with Charlie), and then we caught the end of a parade. This was the first weekend of Disney’s Enchanted Christmas, so the parade was filled with holiday music, elves, and Santa! The entire park was decorated for Christmas, and that was really fun for us.

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We all went on It’s a Small World, then by the time we stopped for restroom breaks and diaper changes, the parade was coming through again and we caught the whole thing this time…right up front! By that time, Jes and Derek split off to head to Disney Village (Paris’ version of Downtown Disney) for their lunch with Disney characters. Charlie and I decided to walk to Disney Village to find a place for lunch, and we ended up at the Rainforest Cafe. (That’s where we had lunch when we were at Disney’s Animal Kingdom last summer!) I was anxious to find a place to stop and sit so that I could feed Connor, but by the time we got into the Rainforest Cafe, he was passed out in his stroller! The hostess was very kind and gave us a table near the entrance so that we could just roll his stroller up to the table. We had a decent meal that was way overpriced, stopped by a Disney store and picked out a few things, then headed back to the park. Our next goal was to meet Mickey =) We waited in line for about half an hour and got our picture taken with him! Charlie and I had our picture with him last summer in Orlando, so it was really fun to have a picture with our new family of three =)

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Connor liked the parade!
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He munched on an apple while we waited to meet up with Jes and Derek 20121116-121158.jpg

Really? I came all this way and I’m not old enough to ride the roller coasters?20121116-121340.jpg

We met back up with Jes and Derek, and their boys had a blast meeting the Disney characters at lunch! We walked around to hit some more rides (Indiana Jones roller coaster, Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride, Haunted Mansion boat ride), then we stopped to decide what to do next. It was almost dinnertime…should we eat and then try to catch the evening lights show? Should we wait 30 minutes for the Peter Pan ride? I stopped to feed Connor while we were debating…and then we noticed the black clouds rolling in. I quickly put Connor back into the front carrier (which thankfully was already decked out with the winter and rain covers), Charlie whipped out our ponchos and threw mine over top of Connor and me, Jes and Derek got out their stroller cover and umbrellas…and it was POURING. Raining cats and dogs. The heavens opened up. Take your pick. We decided to just call it a day and walk to the train. We had to go underneath Cinderella’s castle to get out, and all of the entryways were PACKED full of people trying to stay dry. We noticed the other side was empty, but an employee shooed us away because that area was closed to prepare for the evening show. Some very colorful words came out of Derek’s mouth, and another man expressed the same sentiments for us in French. We managed to squeeze through all the people standing and got through to the other side and continued our trek. Jes noticed her little guy, Andy, was really upset in the stroller, so we stopped for her to check things out. Somehow, the rain cover was leaking and the poor guy was soaked =( She held him under the umbrella while we kept walking and decided what to do. Either way, we needed to stop and change Andy’s clothes, so we decided to walk back to Disney Village and find a place to change Andy and have dinner. We stopped at the first restaurant we came to…along with many other wet people! We were able to get inside quickly, and Jes took care of Andy while we got a table. (By the way, Connor was fast asleep in the carrier throughout this whole ordeal.) We had dinner, dried out somewhat, then went to the Disney store next door. Charlie and I found a few more things for Connor (he now has a baby Mickey doll, classic Mickey doll, and a soft fleecy Dumbo head with a small blankie body). There was a Starbucks in Disney Village, and Jes and I were craving pumpkin spice lattes…but of course the line was waaaay too long. So we all stopped at a cart on the way out for vin chaud, the French version of Glühwein, or mulled wine. Our warm and toasty wine got us back to the train station, and we were on our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we learned another lesson about the Paris metro the hard way: when the doors beep, the doors will close QUICKLY and WILL NOT re-open, no matter how many people pull on them. Jes and I were left on the platform with Connor and Andy while Charlie, Derek, and James were on the train. Luckily, we all knew where we were going, so we got on the next train and met the guys at our next stop. We finally made it back to the hotel and crashed for the night!

Sunday – Versailles, Eiffel Tower
After a good night’s sleep (although never long enough!), we all emerged warm, dry, and ready for a new day. We still couldn’t believe how wet we had been the night before. Sunday was colder, but at least it was dry! I was grateful that the cashier at the Disney store had offered us a fleece blanket for half price and we said “ok” on impulse…it definitely came in handy on this chilly day for the little man in his stroller! We walked, once again, to the dreaded train station. It was about a half hour train ride to Versailles. There was even some on-board entertainment this time: a soprano saxophone and accordion duo! They were really good, and I was disappointed when they got off at the next stop to hop on a different car. We started walking towards the Château, and soon ran into a French military band playing at a WWI memorial. We quickly figured out that it was Armistice Day! After listening for a few minutes, we walked the rest of the way to the Château de Versailles (the palace that Louis XIV built).

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We bought tickets for the tour, found out we had to check our strollers, then finally went in to start the audio tour. Connor fell asleep in the carrier, and he literally slept through the entire tour. We managed to find Jes and Derek on the other end of the tour once everyone was finished, we stopped by the cafe for a snack, then started exploring the gardens. The gardens were huge! If it had been a warm, sunny day, you could easily spend hours walking and exploring. It was cloudy and chilly, but we started exploring, anyway. I decided to head back to the cafe so I could sit and feed Connor, and the rest of the gang met me there once they were finished in the gardens. From there we walked back to the train station…spotted a nearby Starbucks but decided not to burn our daylight…and got on the train. Instead of heading straight home, we got off at the stop for the Eiffel Tower. It is so beautiful! In a way, I thought it wasn’t as big as I had imagined, but it was still impressive! Charlie took tons of pictures, and we relaxed while Jes and Derek’s boys ran around at a playground.

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We could have taken the train back, but we were all fed up with the metro and had just enough energy left in us to walk back. It was a loooong walk, and Connor fell asleep all bundled up in the carrier. We walked along the Seine River and saw two different wedding parties taking pictures.

A view from the walk back to the hotel 20121116-121833.jpg

We were exhausted and starving when we got back to the hotel. We asked the receptionist if there was a NEARBY restaurant, and she tried to send us on the metro again. No thanks, we were NOT up for another walk, let alone a train ride! It was Sunday evening, so most places were closed. We decided to just order room service and all eat together in the hotel’s dining room, and that worked out well. Dinner, dessert, and a bottle of wine later, it was definitely time to crash! I think Connor and I were in bed by 9:00. Charlie went down to meet Derek for a drink at the hotel bar, but Jes needed some help getting the boys to bed, so Charlie came back up and went to sleep.

Monday
We got ready in the morning, packed up most of our stuff, and went down for breakfast. Connor was mostly breastfeeding during this trip, with the exception of some spinach the first night and gnawing on an apple at Disney, but he had some hard boiled egg yolk at breakfast on Monday! We all bundled up for one last walk in Paris. After stopping at a bakery for macaroons and later at a cafe for hot chocolate, we arrived at the Louvre. It is enormous! We just looked from the outside, then headed back towards our hotel by walking through the Tuileries Garden.

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Connor had fallen asleep before we even got to the Louvre, but by the time we were in the garden, we were three for three – all kids asleep at the same time! The grown-ups enjoyed crepes from a food cart, then we walked the rest of the way back to the hotel. It was time to pack up the rest of our things and call a cab. We decided NOT to take the metro with all of our strollers and suitcases, and it was worth every penny! It was a van, so we were able to share it. On our way to the train station, we caught a glimpse of Notre Dame. After arriving in plenty of time for our train, we found a food court and had some lunch. Soon it was time to get on the train, so we said our goodbyes to Jes, Derek, Andy, and James (they were on a different car again). Charlie found a place for our suitcase, and ended up putting the folded-up stroller in the seat next to me. Connor was busy playing for first ten minutes or so, then he was ready to nurse and nap. He woke up for about the last ten minutes of the train ride! We found our car, paid for parking, and were on our way home. Taking the train was great – it was such a quick and easy trip compared to driving or flying! We had to go grocery shopping once we got home, but we all hung in there and then came home to relax for the evening.

Paris was a wonderful trip! I’m so glad we could share it with Jes and Derek. I’m sure Charlie and I will take Connor back sometime and see some of the sights that we missed. Connor was Mr. Happy the entire trip!!! The only time he really fussed a lot was at Disney when he had already let me know he was hungry, but I didn’t stop right away to feed him. Can you blame the guy? We are so blessed with his easy-going nature. We’ll see how long that lasts 🙂

Here are are few more pictures of our world traveler:

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Connor was still passed out when we got back to the hotel on Monday…

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. U.Steve
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 21:17:20

    Paris is a great walking city, plenty to see and chock full of history. And the food is great if a little strange. They also have a landmark cemetery, Père Lachaise, with its own Metro stop.

    Reply

  2. U.Steve
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 21:34:02

    We’ll miss you at the dinner table next Thursday, and out on the front lawn. Here’s a question for Charlie: Can I buy a CD of your band playing music? I curious what you guys sound like and the tunes you play. Hope you get enough college football on Thanksgiving, or have you converted to European Futboll?

    Reply

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