As an adult, when you plan a trip to Europe, you have a list of the Stuff You Want To See And Do, but kids usually don’t have that sort list and it’s frustrating when you want to involve them. “Come ON Francesca, what do YOU want to do when we’re in Maastricht? Hmmm? Hmmm?”
Luckily when it came to Molly and Paris we didn’t have this problem: “I want to go up the Eiffel Tower”.
Of course I’ve been to Paris before, a few times during my last OE, but I’ve never been up the Eiffel Tower. Mainly because there’s lots of other things to do that don’t need you to queue for two hours. But when your kid actually comes up and says “While we’re in Town X, this is a thing I want to do”, you do it.
We went to France in the October school holidays and had four nights in Paris in a good apartment we found on AirBnB.
In terms of getting up the Eiffel Tower and avoiding the queues, I was happy to volunteer to leave the apartment at 7am, start queuing and then others could join me an hour later and by then we should be near the front. The problem was, on that first morning in Paris the weather was so hazy that from the Sacré Coeur you could hardly see the Eiffel Tower itself. With weather like that there would be no point going up there at all. So we walked around Montmartre, down towards the Louvre and Tuileries and bought tickets to go to the Louvre the next day. Yep, you can do that (there’s a gift shop near the Louvre that sells them) and that also saves you a bunch of queuing. Did I drag my kids to the Louvre? No way, I was dreading it! But when we got to the Palais du Louvre – with the intention of giving the kids a runaround in the courtyard – they looked through the glass panels near the side exits where you can see into the gallery and insisted they wanted to go. In saying that, they did also enjoy running around the fountains in the courtyard.
As an aside, I love that damn pyramid. For us in the 20th and 21st centuries, when it comes to most old and historical buildings, we’re reluctant to add anything new that might look “out of character”. But for many of these buildings, that’s exactly what happened throughout their histories. “You can barely see the medieval bit because in the Tudor period two new wings were added. Then it got a Georgian makeover in 1780 during which all the beautiful baroque ceilings were painted over – there’s only two left now…” You see where I’m going? So yeah, I love it that some Chinese guy walked into the middle of this 18th century Parisian palace and went, “You know what this really needs? A giant glass pyramid, right here.” And I love it even more that the French went, “You’re damn right. Let’s do it.”
The haze also cleared up that afternoon, so we thought we’d see what the weather was like the next day after we’d been to the Louvre, and maybe give the Tower a shot.
The following day was hazy again, but the forecast said it would clear up. We went to the Louvre and I managed to keep Molly’s attention span up long enough to catch The Big Two (Mona Lisa & Venus de Milo), plus quite a few others. We particularly liked looking at the style of the paintings of Napoleon, and how Christ-like he appears when visiting the plague-stricken in Jaffa or the battlefield in Eylau on his white pony. We also enjoyed looking at the enormous Wedding Feast at Cana, and how Veronese, like many Renaissance painters, painted himself and a selection of his Renaissancy mates in there, supposedly in cameo roles, but still front and centre and the most brightly dressed. Cheeky bugger.
After the kids ran out of steam at the Louvre, we went outside and the haze had cleared up. Time to take a deep breath, head to the Eiffel Tower and start queuing.
We queued for two and a half hours before we got into the elevator. The queues run from each of the tower’s four legs (if you like) into the middle area right underneath the tower. Molly and I left Joe and Jack in the queue to do a sandwich run, we were gone about half an hour, and when we got back for some reason the queue – like, the whole queue – had moved! We had no idea where Joe and Jack were and walked up and down for another nerve-wracking 15 minutes hoping they hadn’t somehow gone up the tower already!
The view from the tower was pretty amazing. Obviously it was late afternoon by the time we got there and we watched the sun setting over that unique Parisian skyline. We knew the tower’s lights came on at 6pm and we thought it would be cool to get down in time to watch them come on. But just as we had no power of how long we would queue to get up, it was the same to get down. In fact what happened was we were actually in the lift going down on the stroke of 6pm – so in effect we were right amongst the lights as they went on. The whole lift carriage went, “OOooooh!” it was pretty cool!
The next day started hazy and stayed that way, so we were lucky we went up when we did. We went past Notre Dame, met some friends for a lovely cozy lunch and the next day set off for Le Quesnoy and Belgium.