(Photo: Getty Images; Tobias Staebler)
By Jennifer Gould Keil
Paris has always been good to me — as a 15-year-old studying abroad, a college student, an expat journalist, while pregnant — but this was my very first trip with children. Mon dieu!
The concept was daunting — Kaitlin is 9 and Braden is 10. The kids study French in school and had been dreaming about seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. So we did our homework to ensure that seeing the best of the City of Lights would go as smoothly as possible.
Exclusive Resorts, a family-oriented luxury vacation club, was a key part of that plan. Their accommodations — more than 300 residences in 75 destinations — may be pricey (from about $2,000 per night), but they require no security deposits and are now available to non-members for a three-night minimum. In a town of costly hotels and pricey restaurants, the fully equipped units can actually offer value to larger families keen to take some meals at home.
The trip began about one month before departure with a call from Daniel, our Exclusive Resorts concierge. He asked about my kids and their interests. I told him our absolute musts — such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Centre Pompidou — and he came up with an itinerary. He also offered to stock up the kitchen with supplies. I requested lots of fruit and vegetables and some of French kids’ favorite treats. He nailed it — even down to the sticky sweet cherry syrup local children mix with their water. There were even thoughtful toys and activities laid out on their beds when we arrived.
The elegant three-bedroom apartment at La Reserve. (Courtesy: La Réserve)
We stayed in a modern, elegant three-bedroom apartment at La Reserve, a centrally located luxury hotel at 10 Place du Trocadéro, in the très chi-chi 16th arrondissement.
The apartment came with a housekeeper, laundry, a chef’s kitchen, terraces and dramatic views of the Eiffel Tower. (“Mommy, can we stay for a year?” my son asked with a straight face.)
The next morning, we slept in (bonjour, jet lag!) while the housekeeper stealthily prepared a French breakfast for us, with fresh-squeezed orange juice, croissants, hot chocolate, café crème and other delights.
Dining on cheeses and pastries at the hotel.
At the Louvre, Daniel arranged for a guide to whisk us through with a VIP pass. (If your time is limited, this extra luxury is priceless.) My kids were awestruck by the museum, walking through its dungeon, circling its Greek and Roman statues, checking out the paintings and photographing whatever inspired them.
From the Louvre, we walked across the Seine. Some Left Bank window-shopping, while pointing out the Café Flores and other sights, ensued. With kids, some things in Paris are just must-sees, like Notre Dame Cathedral (too long a line to get in), and others are must-dos, like the Centre Pompidou. The kids loved the colorful, magical building and the interactive children’s floor, where they worked with their hands, creating their own model art with other kids from various countries and cultures.
I also took them to some of my old haunts, as well. We walked by Rue Maître-Albert, where I often stayed in the ’90s, and was surprised at how touristy it had become. We dined at a creperie — skipping our intended, more formal lunch destination. (I knew the kids weren’t up for it and have learned, especially while traveling, how to pick my battles.) We found a used bookstore and the kids got a kick out of buying their favorite series — “Rainbow Fairy Books” and “Goosebumps”— in French, for about 20 cents each.
The Shakespeare & Co. bookstore.
Next: touring Saint-Sulpice and then lining up for “the world’s best ice cream,” according to the stylish Parisians in front of Pierre Hermé (72 rue Bonaparte, pierreherme.com), a macaron maestro dubbed “the Picasso of pastry” by French Vogue. We walked with our ice creams (filled with marvelous, mushed-up macarons) into the Luxembourg Gardens to the pay-to-play playground. The fee was small but the elitism of it gravely offended my children. “Playgrounds should be for every child, not just the ones who can pay!” they said. I had to agree, especially in the country of liberté, égalité, fraternité and all that. Still, the kids loved the playground so much that at dusk they were the very last to leave (it gets shut down by a whistle blowing staff).
Also on the list was Shakespeare & Co., the English bookstore by the Seine. My kids found a little nook where they could read some English books, and I found old and new author discoveries there as I have since I was a teenager.
Whenever we returned to the hotel, after full touring days, there’d be plates of pastries and French cheeses laid out beautifully. And that view of the Eiffel Tower, beckoning us to visit, lit up so gorgeously at night. Trust, it’s a must. Order tickets online — adults are around $20 and kids are around $14 — or return at sunset and wait in the non-elevator line (it moves surprisingly fast). We walked up the tower and stayed there close to midnight, with a hot cocoa break mid-way. It was an adventure the kids will never forget.
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