Paris with Travel Mom Petra
Travel Mom Petra joins us in this episode to tell us all about her perfectly Parisian adventures with husband Keld, son Viggo (12 years old) and daughter Torra (10 years old).
How long was your trip?
We spent 5 days in Paris, which I highly recommend, as part of our annual trip to Europe. My husband Keld is Danish, so we go back every year to see family and friends.
What made you pick these places?
Both our kids are in French Immersion School, so we thought we needed to get to France and test out their French. It was fun to see the kids use the language.
What was the BEST part of the trip for you?
Musée d’Orsay was my highlight. We hired a private tour guide for the museum for just the 4 of us. They made it a scavenger hunt, and for 2 hours, we were enraptured by it. She made it super fun. It’s not cheap to do these types of tours, but Carine from Unique Paris and her guides are incredible.
What was the BEST part of the trip for the family?
We only used public transportation. We stayed in an Airbnb so we could enjoy the local life, local bakery, and fresh croissants in the morning. We felt like we were really living there. Using the Metro and buses to get around was fun for everyone.
Blue Fox Bike Tours was a great way to see the city (even in the July heatwave). In 4 hours, we biked 14 km/8-9 miles and saw so much of Paris from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower and along the Seine. We couldn’t have done what we did without being on bikes. We had a great guide with only 8-10 people in the group.
There are pretty much bike lanes everywhere. They have smaller bikes for the kids. They even have attachments for smaller kids to be on your bike. They also do a private “Amazing Race” tour through the city, which would have been really fun for the kids.
What was the BEST part of the trip for the kids?
There was a huge fairground at the Tuileries Gardens with a huge pendulum ride that was 10 euro for one ride, but every day the kids asked about going back.
Experientially best was Au Vieux Paris D’Arcole, a restaurant right behind Notre Dame. It was built in 1512 from stones leftover from Notre Dame – 37 houses were built, only 2 remain today. The menu is very traditional, but it was just the coolest experience. You can even go for a cup of coffee in the afternoon.
For me, the best was sitting in the outdoor cafes having my Aperol Spritz. Word to the wise, we did quite a bit of table shuffling as there are lots of smokers.
We also did a Private Chocolate Tour with Carine from Unique Paris. We went to 5-6 chocolatiers to taste and learn to describe the chocolates. It was like wine tasting but with chocolate. The French are in the race on the Haute ‘couture’ chocolate. We learned a ton and had a good time. Torra said she’ll never look at chocolate the same again.
Top Tips and Advice
- Stay in the St Germain area. It’s such a neat part of the city with great shops and a great vibe.
- I love doing the Airbnb experience to feel part of local life.
- Yelp was really helpful as a walking tourist. Often times, even for lunch, I just went to Yelp and got amazing recommendations, including a little authentic Italian spot near the Eiffel Tower for dinner.
- Private Tour Guide, like Unique Paris, adds so much. I could see using one in the Louvre, and it could be very impactful. We didn’t do the Louvre this trip because of the advice about the crowds. Orsay was a little more age-appropriate for us.
- Biking is a great way to see the city and even Versailles. Blue Fox Bike Tours uses French-speaking guides, Fat Bike uses mostly Australian.
- Don’t go at the height of the tourist season. We were there in July. August would have been better as many European schools go back in August. Most of Europe is on holiday in July.
- Take a Seine River Cruise at sunset. We did it at night, but sunset would be a better time to see everything, including the lights coming on.
- Use Google maps to get around. It works great. Best to buy all-day travel passes for heavy travel days, otherwise, a single use is fine. A 5-day pass is likely not worth it. All stations have a live human to buy from.
- See the Opera House, it’s majestic!
- Catch a concert in Sainte-Chapelle. Just google their schedule.
- Go to Montmartre and Sacré Coeur.
- Stay at least 4/5 days – don’t rush it, feel the city.
- Consider a day trip to wine country or Giverny – Monet’s inspiration.
Why do you travel with the kids?
If I could travel all the time with them, I would. It opens their minds in a completely different way. The number of times they say, “oh, that’s different” or “oh, wow, I didn’t realize you could do it that way.” It opens them up to see so much that is so different than how they grow up every day.
As budding citizens of the world, the more they see of other places, the more empathetic and understanding they can grow up to be. There’s a much bigger world outside of their bubble in Toronto.
Next trip you’re planning or dreaming about?
I’d love to take the family on a year around the world or maybe 4-6 months. And I’d love to do a trip to one of the developing countries where you can help build a school or another type of project.
Viva la France! 🇫🇷♥️🇫🇷
For more on Paris, visit the Paris section of the website.