Archived Q&A and Reviews
We are going to Barcelona this July for 1 week for my husband's work and we are thinking of taking 2-3 weeks to travel around. We will have our 3 and 6 year old daughters with us and we were thinking of traveling from Spain to the South of France. Ideally we would stay for 3-5 nights in each location but open to other ideas. There are sooo many amazing places to go it is hard to decide. Would love any suggestions about which places would have amazing food, local culture and something somewhat to do with young kids (they love swimming, watching people, seeing animals, etc). Any suggestions of where to go, where to stay, etc- open to all of it! Gracias and Merci The family travel planner
How fun! 10 years ago we took our then 6 and 10 year old boys to London, Costa del Sol, Barcelona, SW France and Paris. The best part of the trip was the Languedoc region in SW France. We found this tiny town called Alet les Bains, about 20 minutes south of Carcassone. For me, it was absolutely perfect. It's a walled medieval town on a river. We stayed in a gite that was built in the 1600's. We would walk a half a block to the patisserie every morning for pastries and bread. We actually sent our boys on their own, but they were older than yours. It was just that safe. The town's business is a mineral water bottling facility. It has a large public pool filled with mineral water. You bring jugs over and fill them with mineral water from spouts for free. There's a ropes course there that our 6 year old loved. We toured the old church in town. We had picnics next to the river. Lots to do very close by: We went rafting on the river. We went to a dinosaur excavation site. We went to a 2 room hat museum. We went to farmers markets. We went to Carcassone and watched Knights joust. We climbed around ruined castles and saw one way up on a mountain that they said was the model for Sleeping Beauty. I'm sure you could find a sitter and go off to the casino at the edge of town if you wanted. We were there at the end of July when they had their weeklong town fete. They invited us to join in their town dinner and we joined in the town parade. We were probably one of the few American families that had ever stayed there at the time and they welcomed us warmly. There were very few tourists except at Carcassone. I would go again in a heartbeat! If you want, I can dig out the name of the gite,. Just let me know. Linda B
We are considering a trip to France next summer with our six year old. Possibly 5-7 nights in Paris,and a few weeks in a low-key beach town in the south of France somewhere. We are looking for suggestions on where to stay in Paris, and also where to stay in the south of France. we are trying to combine some relaxing beach time, with getting to experience French living. We are not interested in the big resorts, etc. in Nice or elsewhere, but would prefer renting a cottage in a small village where we could walk around, enjoy some beach time, and possibly take day trips to other local towns. anon
If you're going to Nice you should stay at http://www.villarestanques.co.uk/ - Susana Hanson is a Berkeley native and a mom of 2 girls! jennifer
We have been to France twice with our kids, when they were 6 and 10, and again when they were 10 and 14. Both times we rented apartments. Once was through chezvous.com, once through homeexchange.co. Both worked out great, and an apartment was far superior to a hotel. We could make real meals in the apartment, and it was a nice home base.
I can also offer a very offbeat suggestion for a place to stay outside Paris -- not beach per se, but wonderful. In the early 70s, when I was a young teen, I stayed with a French farm family, the Daviets, near Annecy in Haute Savoie. They are wonderful folks. The parents are now gone and the kids have turned the farm into an Inn. They have little cabins that are cheap -- like $400 Euros a week -- and a swimming pool. The area is beautiful, in the foothills of the Alps, and Annecy (20 minutes away) is a gem of a small French city on a gorgeous lake. Geneve is an hour away. There is a mountain to climb within a short drive (or long walk) of the Inn. This is real France -- the Inn caters to French visitors, and I suspect my friends speak little English (we speak French with them). The Inn is Auberge de la Caille, in La Balme de Sillingy. The proprietors are Marie-Claude Sottas (nee Daviet) and her brother Jean-Paul Daviet. website is: www.aubergedelacaille.com/ Tell them Leslie sent you.
We spent 2 weeks in Paris with our 8 year old in April. I highly recomment the Fodor's ''Paris with Kids'' guide. My sentimental favorite was the 19th century carousel at the Jardin du Luxembourg, where kids sitting on the outer circle get to hold a ''fence'' and a very nice guy that runs it makes it easy for them to spear brass rings onto it.
We didn't go to museums much (my husband and I visited Paris before, and my son wasn't that keen on them). If you ask my son, the best thing about Paris was Parc Asterix (he happened to get into the Asterix comics books right before we went). It's an amusement park centered around the characters from Asterix, with rides and shows for kids. Beware: if you buy tickets in advance and it happens to raing, THERE IS NO WAY to exchange them though.
Tour Eiffel is a must, and we all enjoyed the Paris Canal boat tours of Canal Martin.The nearby metro stations are Porte de la Villette and Porte de Pantin. The guide book recommended taking it from Parc de la Villette. I don't remember why they liked that direction better, but it could be because of the way the locks can be seen. One can also take the same tour from Musee d'Orsay though. Here is the link to the tours by Paris Canal, and also by Canauxrama which is another boat company: http://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/st-martin-canal-cruises.htm
OTher kid-friendly destinations are Versaille where our son loved the boat ride on the lake with swans (there was a swan nest right on the edge of the lake!). France Miniature is a little ways away from Paris, but you get to see the whole of France at once and it's kind of nice.
The only issue was that our son really missed playing with kids, and we were so happy to find a huge playground at Jardin du Luxembourg, next to the puppet theater. There's a small admission charge, but the park is large and clean, and full of kids from ALL countries. My son managed to communicate by pointing, laughing and trying to speak whatever language other kids knew. That also happens to be the park with the old fashioned carousel I've mentioned. take us with you!:)
The Paris recommendations you got from the other post are really good. Although, the Louvre does have the Egypt wing that was a big hit with my kids, as it has a mummified cat...
I would also recommend the Dordogne. There are 1000 castles, where some have knights jousting (in summer only) which makes it really fun for kids, it brings that fairytale to life. The caves are very cool, and the cromagnon art might be less capitvating, so I bought my girls a coloring set where they got to make their own ''lascaux'' painting on a rock. they loved it.
We are a former Berkeley family, but now we live here, and I run a house rental: les gites fleuris. we are kid friendly and have lots of outside space to play after the sight seeing...and local farm animals etc...it's not just another city experience for them. we have been reviewed on tripadvisor. We had a Berkeley family with 2-6 year old boys come here and loved it! They wanted to know if my daughters would babysit them in Berkeley sometime :)
You would be surprised just how much a 6 year old will enjoy and remember their trip to France! Renata
Our (more or less all adult) family has a chance to visit this area of France in late September. Have any nice but sensibly priced references for accommodations -- B, small modest hotels/chambres -- to share? Seeking sane, sensible surroundings
Lucky ducks! I don't have a specific town/place suggestion, but the houses that are posted to www.vrbo.com (Vacation Rental by Owner) are sometimes quite amazing and located in beautiful areas. You should check them out. I used them for a stay in Madrid in December and was completely satisfied with the accommodations, the price, and the attention we got from the owner. Linda
Lucky you! We traveled to Burgundy while visiting family in France in 2003 with our 3 yo, 5yo and 14 yo. We stayed at this fabulous chateau right outside Beaune. Unless it has changed since then, I would definitely stay there again on my next visit. Both the village and chateau are called Chorey-les-Beaune. The Germain family owns it and are very friendly and serve a delicious breakfast. The Chateau and surrounding grounds, vineyards are beautiful. When we were there there was a swing set on the grounds and a dog that our kids loved. So it was family-friendly but also lovely for an adult-only stay. By car, Beaune is only 5 minutes away and all the famous vineyards and chateaux are easily reached. Kathryn
Hi. My family and I are doing a house swap with a family in France. After the house swap we have a final week that is still unplanned. We've thought about heading back to Paris but then caught onto the concept of a 'child friendly/family focused' gite in the countryside. Our house swap will be more 'city' focused between the Loire and Brittany which is why the idea (and the gite farm pictures) seem so appealing to swim, relax more (if it doesn't rain of course) and have that bonus of being surrounded by vineyards and/or sunflowers for our final days. Has anyone out there gone to France and stayed in one of these 'family focused' Gites? Which interestingly enough seem to be managed/owned by Brits. And if so which one? We are paticularily looking at/around the Poitou-Charente area and the Dordogne (West/South West France) Thanks Hilary
Hillary, You asked the right question! Larry and Renata, who are Americans, have a wonderful gite in the Dordogne, just outside a castle town with is on the ''Best Beautiful Villages in France'' list (yes, there are such things, esp in France). They are delightful people who packed up and moved away from the East Bay with their two great daughters, and started a new life for themselves in the French countryside on several acres, with horse, hot tub, pool, etc. You can find them on-line by Googling ''Les Gites Fleuris'', or www.lesgitesfleuris.com There are 3 separate little houses; they live in one of them, and the other two are available for rent. Besides being a great place in an INCREDIBLE area (my favorite place in the world), L are wonderful hosts, warm and welcoming, with not a hint of pretentiousness, just down home good folks. They have raised 3 kids between the two of them, and understand the needs of children. They know the best places to eat, sightsee, and Larry will put on the BBQ with very little encouragement. It's also nice at the end of a long day of speaking French to come home and relax in your native tongue. I hope you enjoy your trip - there is a remarkable variety of sights to see in that area! kim
Three years ago my family spent a month in Europe. At the time my boys were 6 and 10. One week was in the south of France in this little town called Alet-les-Bains. We rented a 15th century gite inside a walled village. To me this was the best of all worlds. You could relax, see castles including Carcasonne, a dinosaur excavation site, river-raft, swim in a spring-fed public pool, bicycle, do a ropes-course and eat. My boys loved getting up in the morning and walking a block to buy morning pastries on their own. They were perfectly safe and could wander the town on their own. We timed it so we were there for their annual fete. What a treat. The gite is owned by an English woman named Chloe who couldn't have been nicer or warmer. The whole town was that way. The web-site for the town is http://www.freewebs.com/alet-les-bains/ and for the gite http://www.freewebs.com/alet-les-bains/villagegitesleeps5.htm I have books on traveling in southern France with kids if you would like to borrow them. linda
Hi. Next summer I will have the luxury of a 6 week sabbatical from my employer (I'm hoping to negotiate 2 more additional weeks to make it 8 so we'll see :+}) . My husband is going to try and negotiate 4+ weeks off from his company. We already know we want to do a house exchange in France and the extent of the time exchange of course will be dependent on the other family as well. My husband and I have been to France a few times by bicycle (sans enfants) and every city and petite village was absolutely enchanting that we stayed at or cycled through. This time we now have 5 1/2 year old boys so we need to think a bit differently so right now we're just in an information gathering mode regarding this swap. We've already posted our profile on one of the house exchange networks -- it's addicting to just look at all the potential places one can go -- so to kick start our efforts we wanted to reach out to the BPN community for some input. Here are our questions 1. If you've done a house swap through one of the house exchange networks - how did it go? And what advice would you give about what went right and what could have been handled better? 2. How soon did you start either contacting families and how soon did you start receiving inquiries assuming you did your swap during a summer 3. What cities/regions might be suggested in France for us to consider with 5 1/2 year old kids? Paris is one option and if so which arrondissement should be considered? 4. While many of these swaps offer a car exchange -- we're okay with the idea of being in a city/town where much of our time is spent walking or hopping a train/bus. And where the car may be used to get a bit farther out of town for a day trip or overnight. But the goal is to stay local to where the house exchange is occurring. 5.If you are from France or visited France for 3+ weeks at a time what cities might you recommend/suggest we consider that will keep our kids (and us) engaged so we are just living like locals. We're measuring this from our current daily life of living in N. Berkeley. 6. My husband and I have been taking French lessons and our kids currently attend Ecole Bilingue so high on our list is the desire for us to practice our French and for the kids at their age to more likely listen than speak (and yes, we are getting input from EB families but like the idea of casting a wide net for perspectives). So a city/town where we'll need to communicate alot in French is okay by us. Thanks so much for any advice you can provide. Hilary
What a great plan to spend real quality family time in France! We did a similar thing for the month of May with our five year old. We had 3+ weeks in Cannes and 3 full tourist days in Paris at a hotel. From that experience, I would actually recommend doing the reverse - ie most amount of time in Paris and smaller amount of time in a smaller village (we chose Cannes, or more, Cannes chose us, because of a particular circumstance).
Paris had my 5 year old's attention 100% and now we have to go back as we did not nearly do all the things that we wanted to. I found parks I never knew existed there (previous 2 year resident) and made friends with Parisiens for the day while we were at these various cool parks. Can you imagine a 5 year old dragging an adult to the Louvre? ''I love old stuff mommy!'' Who knew?! Anyway, I was thinking I chose the right way to go, but once there I wished I had planned differently and spent way too much time at internet cafes trying to change the plans, which were majorly cost prohibitive so I could not change anything, other than to live with the decision and pass words of wisdom on to anyone else who may be considering this kind of trip.
That said, I think you are talking about time in July/August, in which case try to avoid Paris (and Cannes for that matter!) in August. Happy planning and best of luck to you - it will be a wonderful experience I am sure. sb
I have never done a house swap, but I have spent quite a bit of time in France. I really like Paris. It is a beautiful city. If you decide on Paris, consider the 16th. You will probably find the nicest (but most expensive) housing and other ammenities. You will not need a car.
You should also consider Lyon. It is beautiful country but still cosmpolitan. You can get anywhere from there. You might not need a car. To me it is more French and the people are nicer. Fantastic restaurants. I'm jealous! have a GREAT time.
In Paris, we like the Passy neighborhood in the 16th. Not many tourists there. Small streets. Easy access to the La Muette metro. Near the Bois de Bologne and not far from the Torcadero. Bus Routes are good and buses would likely be easy to use with your boys. Great little food shops and a market street. Ah... Wish I was there now.
Oh, and when you do get to or go through Paris, the Musee d'Evolution (I think that's its name) next to the Zoo on the other side of town from the 16th, has a huge amazing display of animals (dead but still cool) from around the world.
Oh, oh and also ... Paris just put in city-owned bike rental locations (this past summer) all over town. You can rent in one spot and return in another, or just rent for a short period of time (once you set up an account). They are right on the street. Might help you meet your need to bike without schlepping and storing your own. Have Fun!
We are doing a home exchange this summer for 2 months in Monteux, near Avignon and Marseille, France. Does anyone have any suggestions on where to visit or eat (we are primarily vegetarians but do eat seafood on occasion). We will be travelling with a 2 year old boy and a 14 year old boy. Our preference is to stay in the within 3-4 hours or so of our home base, and are interested in travelling to Spain or Italy as well. om
Lucky you! I will have to check out this home exchange thing! For eating vegetarianly, there is always good pizza and paella places usually have vegetarian option. For things to see, check out the Pont du Gard, the big Roman aqueduct, Saintes-Marie de la mer in the Camargue (a little beach town inside a big nature preserve with wild black cattle, white horses, and pink flamingos, and the site of the big gypsy pilgrimage), Aigues- Mortes, a walled city that is where Saint Louis left for the crusades; Arles (maybe see the movie ''Cher Theo'' about Vincent Van Gogh before you go. In Stes-Marie and other towns there are non-lethal bull spectacles like ''Taureau-Piscine'' (Bull in the pool!). Have fun!
My husband and two daughters and I are in search of finding ways to get a home or villa to rent in St. Remy, France (Provence) next summer. Probably for a one month stay. I was hoping to get input on good websites or even referrals on specific persons/entities that might help our search. Doing a simple google search is simply overwhelming! JM
Hi, A couple of years ago my parents rented a fabulous house in St Remy de Provence and my sister and I brought our spouses and kids to stay for a week. (We had a GREAT time and I am envious of your plan to spend a month there!) I'm not sure if the place is still a rental (and it's probably bigger than you are looking for) but it's a great place for a family vacation.
Congratulations! You are traveling to my favorite part of the planet. I don't have a recommendation for a specific agency but rather a place to start your search that isn't too daunting. Check out France Magazine (either at the library or a subscription from Amazon.com). They have a classified section at the back of every issue that includes vacation rentals. Be sure to read Peter Mayle's ''A Year in Provence'' to get in the spirit for your trip and if your trip must include a hotel stay, I recommend ''Hotel du Forum'' in Arles. It's centrally located and was very nice when I stayed there and reasonable too laura
I'm trying to get two adults and four children to France as cheaply as possible this summer. Tips on cheap travel often advise one to find a travel agent or consolidator that specializes in one's destination country. Can anyone suggest an agent whose specialty is France (but not high-end travel)? The agent need not be local. We're also willing to travel via a third country (Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, U.K. etc.) to get lower fares. Any and all money-saving advice is welcome! (I did check the website before posting.) Siobhan
My family travels to France most summers to visit relatives, and we have often used Edith Yhuel at Calparrio/International Travel Brokers. The number is 415.243.0233. We usually check online first, then call her to see if she can beat the fares we've found. Usually, she can. (website: http://www.sfstation.com/business.php?blId=2197) Jennifer
I recommend trying these sites:
www.kayak.com www.sidestep.com www.farechase.com
There was an article about them in the NYT. Expedia, Orbitz, etc. searches airline sites but requires you to buy through them, as they are online travel agents. These sites above act as search engines, searching airline sites PLUS other online travel agencies, so you're not having to go to Expedia, then Orbitz, etc. to comparative shop. They also have you book directly with the whichever vendor you choose to fly with, so they aren't tacking on additional charges. anon
Can anyone recommend a method for buying train tickets for France before leaving home? (I don't want to use RailEurope.com because of the large markups and the difficulty in using their particular site to arranging exactly the itinerary I need.) A travel agent would be fine, and a website even better. I do know about the SNCF's website, but given that I'd have to pay with a credit card with a U.S. billing address, and the U.S. is a country that the SNCF site does not serve, I can't see how to actually do it. (If you've found a way, please tell me!) I also know that I could probably buy the tickets much cheaper and more reliably after I arrive in France, but the timing of my trip is very tight, and I am afraid to go without a reservation. Siobhan
I bought tickets for travel in France last summer through Santini Tours and Travel in Berkeley. Patrick, I think was the fellow--very helpful in making reservations and purchasing tickets--it made our travel a piece of cake! Bon voyage! a mom
You didn't say where you plan to go to/from in France. If you will be travelling to (or almost to) Germany, you can order tickets at the German Rail (Deutche Bahn)website. The URL for the ''ticket inquiry'' page in English is: http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en.
Even if your ticket goes farther than you plan to travel, perhaps the convenience will be worth it. You can click on a train number and find out every stop it makes.
Even if you are not going to/toward Germany, the site is FABULOUS for info on almost any train in Europe. You can use it to check schedules, connections, how long different options take, etc. You can also link to a page that tells you every train leaving and arriving at a particular station for each hour of the day - for every station in Europe! Enjoy your trip. R.K.
I do not know a way for you to buy a French train ticket here. I know that it is only SNCF which sale a French train ticket. Why don't you put as billing address your address in France I know that The SCNCF do accept American credit card. Also, the trains in France are not all the time full...unless you are traveling during a weekend, bank holiday, or at the beginning of vacation. You can buy your ticket at the train station or in the train. I do not know if it will help you. God luck and enjoyed yourself in France Myriam
My husband and I are considering taking our 2.5 year old and our 6-month-old to France this summer. We'd like to spend about 5 days in Paris and then rent a house somewhere in the country. I checked the website and read the reviews about things to do in Paris with little ones. But I'm wondering first if we're nuts to think this might be a good idea. Second, can anyone recommend a place outside Paris to stay for a week or so with kids? Thanks in advance. Dreaming of Paris
I've not been there with kids, but I thought the south of France, particularly Nice, was awsome! The people are SOOO much friendlier there than in Paris and really appreciated when I tried to speak French with them than in Parish where they truly are snobs about it. The Mediterranean is beautiful and you can hop on a train and go to Cannes, Monte Carlo....hmmm, now that I think about it, it sounds like more of an adult vacation, but maybe not! Try some research on internet!
I have made 3 vacation trips to France with my son, the first time when he was 6 years old. For me, as a single parent, the most important thing was focusing on kid stuff, and letting go of my grown-up notions of what you are ''supposed to do'' on a trip to Paris. This actually is liberating, and fun. With two adults, you can even take turns doing some grown up things, while the other is with the children. There are tons of fun things to do that get you out with Parisians and their children, like the playground and the boat pond in the Luxembourg (we went every day) There are marionette theaters in the Luxembourg and at the Champs des Mars, near the Tour Eiffel. The Bateau Mouche lets you sit down while seeing the city, and there are also boats on the Canal St. Martin. There is the Fabulous Jardin d'Acclimatition in the Bois de Boulougne. There is a fun, funky amusement park at the Tuileries, and lots of other little parks that are great for kids. I didn't even try to do much in the way of museums, though the Ecole Militaire, with halls full of knight's armour, swords, cannons, etc. is thrilling for a 7 year old. I did not attempt any fancy meals with my son, but the markets and even grocery stores are full of great picnic supplies, and you can make a feast from the wonderful patisseries in every neighborhood. Even the department stores are fun, with great toy departments. My son is now taking French in school, and looking forward to returning as often as we can afford it--go ahead, and have a great time! francophile mom
Ah Paris! My family and I just met last summer in Paris for two glorious weeks. We spent 6 days in Paris going to every museum and creperie possible. My 1.5 year old came with me and my mom brought my little sisters 12 and 8. We used the Metreo and the bus system easily. Go to the park and the jardin luxemburg they have a really fun park for kids there with a giant pirate ship kind of thing and a giant web of ropes- there's a little cost invovled but not bad. The only thing I noticed was that there was never another child at any of the restaurants. The staff always was helpful with my son but the french don't seem to bring their little kids out much.
We then took the train to Aix en Provence and drove from there to a little mediviel village called ansouis where we stayed in a little house with a pool and a little plot of land in the shadow of the grand chateau. Everyday we would pack up and go to a different market somewhere. We spent a day on the beach in cassis tasting wine and bouillabase and playing in the sand. We went to the Rhone Valley. It was all great. I rented a car seat with the car so I didn't have to drag mine through the airport. I used my stroller more than the backpack I brought but be warned they don't usually allow you to bring the stroller to the airplane as they do here in the states. I had to make special arrangements to do this and they put it with the regular baggage it isn't waiting for you at the runway like here.
Get a bulkhead seat so the kids can play at your feet on the plane. We foudn our apartment in Paris and the house in Ansouis on www.vrbo.com. They have some great places- the hard part is fidning the right one! I have a friend that rents an apartment in Montmare so if you were thinking of staying there let me know and I'll get you in touch with her. I thought the trip was great and was so glad I got to share it with my son. Even though I know he won't remember it exactly it will still be meaningful and certainly is for me. Have a wonderful trip and enjoy every moment! Juliette
Paris with kids can be difficult. Accomodations and food can be expensive, and since the French are very quiet at meal time, Americans can be ostrasized for what seems like boorish behavior. That said, there are a couple of really good books-the Cadogan guide, Take the kids: Paris, and another, which I seem to have loaned out called something like 50 things for Families to do in Paris. It lists all the great puppet shows, and the park where you can rent little sailboats and launch them across a little pool with a long pole - very cute, and a Kodak moment! So take a peek at those, take notes, and go have fun. The parks are wonderful.
I have several friends (Americans) who have places in Southern France, especially the Dordogne, which they rent. This is a fabulous area for families because of the terrain, the food, the prehistoric sites, canoeing on very gentle, shallow rivers, etc. At most campgrounds, one can find a swing set and an inexpensive eatery. Pizza is everywhere, as well. The main caution is that once you are out of the urban areas, mealtimes are pretty strictly observed, and you may not be able to get food whenever you want it. A place with some kitchen facilites can be quite helpful. If you want info about my friends'places, feel free to contact me. kim
First of all, I would like to throw out a broad suggestion -- it seems to me that many of us, having children later in life and centering our lives around them, are giving way too much consideration to what will amuse the kids in a given situation and way too little to what we ourselves will enjoy. I of course don't know your ages or predilictions and shouldn't assume anything, but your posting put me in mind of many others and many remarks from friends like ''oh, we couldn't do that, our kids wouldn't enjoy it.'' My current philosophy -- if it's not outright dangerous for them, drag them and ignore all protests. Whew, I got that out of my system. Now to your question.
I took my son (and my mom!) to Paris when my son was four. He loved going up in the Eiffel Tower (we went at night) and visiting the many playgrounds (there are playgrounds in great places like the Jardin des Plantes, the Luxembourg Gardens, even a rudimentary one at the Place des Vosges, etc.) There were little carnival rides at one Metro stop (I can't recall which one right now), pigeons to chase on the square in front of Notre Dame, crepes to consume (with Nutella!), Orangina, picnics in really great places for kids to run around (the Rodin Museum -- great garden!). The puppet theater in the Luxembourg Gardens is great -- no knowledge of French required for Punch and Judy (some tolerance for mild violence required, however). If they've been very good kiddles, you can take them to Le Nain Bleu (The Blue Dwarf), toystore heaven. The boat rides on the Seine are OK but can get long for little ones (yes, I do give in to their demands on occasion). But subway rides and train rides are great entertainment. My son liked the heavily armed police on the Metro trains :) Even the Louvre is OK if you head straight for the mummies and don't linger long.
In short, the stuff they love here, they'll love there, and you'll love it more 'cause you're in France. Bon voyage France 4-ever
We've gone to France about 6 times throughout the life of our 5 year old -- once for 6 weeks at a time. We've always had wonderful experiences. (I now have a 3 month old, so we haven't yet tried it with two). The French have always been open and accepting of kids, and there are great adventures to be had. We've traveled extensively throughout the countryside, and rented houses a couple of times. Renting a house is great with kids as it provides the obvious--more room, a kitchen, and a laundry. A good source is www.justfrance.com--we always had good experiences renting through them. The train system is excellent, and a great way to travel to the country, btw. Try to take TGVs when possible (the high speed trains). As far as areas, they all have their romance. Provence feels wonderful and the most exotic. The Dordogne is slightly less traveled, and has EXCELLENT castles. The Loire valley has the wonderful chateaux, as well as lots of river activities. Normandy and Brittany are beautiful, but I think would be slightly less attractive to kids.
Bon Voyage -- you are not crazy to go! Email me if you'd like more specifics. Nancy
We travelled last summer to France with (then) 11-month-old twin girls. We didn't stay in Paris, but in the country in the south, with relatives. I can't recommend specific kid-friendly- activities because we took every opportunity to leave the babies with their grandparents for a few hours while we roamed. Outtings we did take with them included to the local pool, the local park, and on short hikes with our backpacks.
Here are the tips I can provide about our travels:
1. Our kids' allowable baggage was a stoller only (I think this was because we bought both girls a space in an infant bassinet that hangs on the wall, so their luggage allowance was minimal). But because we were flying internationally, we (the two adults) were allowed two 70 lb. suitcases EACH, and one carry on each. In our carry-ons, we packed all the food, books, diapers, and toys the girls would need for two days. (we also managed to carry on my purse and my husband's camera case without anyone seeming to care that we really had two carry-ons each.) We each packed one suitcase only. In both were clothes for all four of us. This allowed us another ''bag'' each used to check two infant/toddler backpacks (instead of the second 70 lb. bag). We also checked the stroller as luggage.
2. The wall-mounted bassinet was a lifesaver. It allowed more storage space, a place to set the baby down and let her play, and a sleep space. Our girls were about 21 lbs., so they didn't sleep very well in the bassinet (especially on our return trip, when they definately outgrown the bassinet), but it still allowed us loads of space to prepare food, let a girl play, etc. The alternative would have been exhausting: holding a baby each for hours, kicking our carry-ons under our feet, preparing baby food in our laps. Air France charged us on 10% of an adult fare for the bassinet.
3. We used the stoller and the backpacks the entire trip.
4. We found that flying at night worked much much better than starting a flight at the beginning of the day. This was because everyone in the plane, on an overnight flight, settles down and tries to get some rest. This allowed for a quieter environment and our girls slept about five or six hours on the overnight flight. The day flight was much different. As we returned to the US, we found we would land around 5pm SF time, but we were on French time still which would have been around 1am. However, everyone on our plane stayed awake, socialized, mulled around, bumped into us in the aisles while we tried to rock a baby. (I assume everyone stayed awake to integrate themselves onto SF time which was still daylight.) Our girls slept about 45 minutes because of the background noise and the bussle-about everywhere. It was exhausting for us all.
5. We rented convertable car seats from our rental car agency for the price of about $25 for the entire three weeks were rented the car! This was a great deal! Since we wanted to travel with stroller and with backpacks, we didn't have the added luggage allowance to bring car seats.
6. Airline staff were very helpful for the most part, regarding the special needs of our kids and the lack of sleep we were getting. The let us keep the bassinets attached to the wall for the longest possible time before we landed (you have to strap kids without their own seat into your lap on take off and landing) so our girls would sleep (they noticed our girls had been asleep only a few hours). They also kept our dinners warm until our girls went to sleep since we had to hold them much of the time they were awake.
7. The single most difficult travel detail I can remember was that we had no stroller to roll kids from terminal to terminal when we connected from Paris to the south. This was because we *had* to check the stroller as luggage. We begged to carry it on but the airline could not store it on the passenger deck. The lack of a stroller in connecting airports was a real ''bummer'' because we were dragging carry-on's and sleeping kids through an airport (one of you can push the luggage but the other can't really carry two kids).
8. Jet lag: keep your expectations low about getting out and sightseeing for the first four days. Your kids will be jet lagged and waking at California times for two - four days. This is tiring for you too, needless to say. They do adjust though so plan your more ambitious plans for mid trip and late trip. Allow for jet lag when you return too. I'd not recommend returning to work the day after you arrive home.
Hope this helps! travelled with twins
My family spent 3 weeks last summer in France with our (then) 12- year old. Although she's not really a little kid one thing we did that she enjoyed that younger kids would also enjoy was to stay in campgrounds instead of hotels. European campgrounds are wonderful and are where the European middle-class with kids go for their summer vacation. As a result everywhere we went we found lots of other kids of various ages just waiting for new kids to show up to play with. All the campgrounds had nice pools or even waterslide parks where the kids hung out (it was really hot last summer). I can still picture my daughter running around and having tons of fun with a group of Irish kids she met in one campground. Just take your tent and sleeping bags from home. Jon
We just got back from a trip in October with our then 20 month old son. Had a blast - also visited Belgium and the UK, but were in France for almost a month. Everyone was delightful - our son had balloons thrown to him from open windows, and was given coloring books, suckers and cookies (he'd never had them before) by everyone from shop vendors to waiters. We were even invited in to someone's house to play with the granddaughter and her toys. I can't imagine anyone here doing that to a tourist. In contrast to what some people have said about restaurants, most were quite happy to have him. Most diners were far more tolerant than our fellow Californians. We did not go to dinner as late as the single couples, and we did not go into restaurants where everyone was wearing a suit. The brasseries and local restaurants were wonderful. You might think about take away food for dinner, restaurants for lunch, as lunch can be both less formal and less expensive.
We had been to Paris before and so decided that that part of the trip was our son's. Up til then we took him in to all the tourist places, one of us leaving when he was cranky. He often fell asleep in his stroller, and didn't mind being carted round such places as Mont St Michel (make sure there's two of you to carry).
In Paris, we had ice cream across from Notre Dame on the Ile St Louis - Berthilland, I think is the name. We explored the parks and playgrounds behind Notre Dame, by the Invalides, and by the Eiffel Tower. The latter is terrific - a hand cranked carousel that children can ride without adults standing by them (safety belts) There were also tons of children, all multilingual - Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Italian and English being the most common languages. The Rodin Museum sculpture garden is free and has all the best sculptures, and the kids love to run around in it. We ALL had a magical time.
For a slightly older child there are many things of interest in the museums - the mummies and big sculptures spring to mind. The three day pass to the Louvre allows you to go in and out as you please, and avoid the queue of people buying tickets, once you have bought it.
Packing - by all means have two days supply of milk, snacks, and diapers if required. Don't overpack though - you can buy EVERYthing you need from diaper wipes to diapers to toothpaste to whatever there, and half the fun of the trip will be the odd side trips to find said items in some small town or out of the way corner in Paris. We took one big suitcase with wheels for our clothes, a small duffle for our son, two carry ons, the stroller, car seat, and a ''food bag'' with our sons on board stuff. We were gone for over a month and had a PC and telephone too. That and the cameras took up most of the carry on space. Nancy
We will be traveling in France this summer, and plan to rent a car for about two weeks. Two questions: Does anyone have a positive experience with a particular consolidator or discounter? And, what about rental carseats? We will have to lug our giant Britax with us if we can't rent a seat for our soon-to-be-two-year-old. We'd like to have a carseat rental included with the car, but I'm concerned about the safety and reliability of the seats that are provided. Does anyone have experience with a French childseat rental? Alexa
We rented a car in France this past March with our then 4 month old. We lugged the Britax along with us, and we're happy we did. THe quality of car seats that we saw seemed to vary a lot, and none looked a ''solid'' as the big Britax. It fit fine in our medium (by US standards; large by French standards) car--an Opel. We rented from Avis; my husband did the price checking, and I believe they were the most affordable.
Also, you might want the Britax for the plane. We were able to use it on every flight we took. Just ask if there's a free seat just before boarding, and you might get lucky. It's a long ride to hold a little one...
Good luck. Again, I say, haul the Britax with you. anon
I have no experience with renting car seats in France, but for a long term car rental, I did best by handling the reservation from the US, dealing with the US branch of the rental company. This was 5 years ago. The best rate I got at the time was from Hertz. Laura
Alexa, Bonjour, I'm French, and I assure you that French car seats are the same ! Don't worry, you can rent a car with a car seat, I think it's free, just need to ask for it. But rent a good car, because in case of accident, the car is more important than the baby seat. Bon voyage ! Chine
Last summer we rented a mid-size car and car seat through Avis, I believe. The seat was made of foam and anchored only when the child was strapped in, definitely flimsy compared to our Britax here. OUr son was happy, we didn't worry about getting hit- we were in Provence with its lavendar, sunshine, and chevre!. If you are not going to be comfortable with a seat much less safe than your Britax, then I would suggest lugging it along. Bon voyage- christina
We've rented cars in France several times through AutoEurope, which is the main consolidator. Each time we've had a car seat included with the rental, always with great results. They were not as luxurous as our deeply padded one at home, but they all seemed very new, well-maintainted, and I felt very satisfied. The rental agencies over there are on the par with Hertz/Avis here. Nancy
I am planning to go on spring break to a village in France called Noirmoutiers which is on an island near Nantes. Does any one have suggestions on travel and places that are interesting to a 7 year old girl in that area. Restaurant suggestions are also appreciated. Also what is the best route, fly into Paris and train to Nantes or Fly into Rennes and drive from there. Thank you in advance for your help. alan
I just went to Brittany with my mother a few years ago. It's fascinating. We traveled around quite a bit, so I don't know what to recommend for your 7-year-old around Noirmoutiers, but you might look up the Rough Guide for Brittany and Normandy and see if it has anything helpful to say. I have loved all of their guides that I've bought; found them very accessible and plain-speaking.
As for getting there, I highly recommend taking the train in. We took it to Rennes, but from the SNCF site, it seems like the train from Montparnasse to Nantes is just a bit over 2 hours. I found it easy (except for my mom beating me at Gin Rummy). Have a great trip! Jennie
When we were in Normandy two and a half years ago we rented a car at the Paris airport. Trains are great but driving around on the little country roads (once we got out to Normandy) was really wonderful. You can find a lot of off-the-beaten-track villages and cafes and bistros. I don't know how far it is from Nantes, but Mont St Michel is really cool. It is on the coast at the Normandy-Brittany border, I think. Just walking along the beaches anywhere on the coast can be fun, too. In Normandy there are some neat wetland parks. Great for kids who like walks. I don't know what nature parks are in Brittany. Market days are also great fun. Lots of local food specialities and lots of entertainment value. Don't know if they have them year 'round where you will be. It is always worth asking which towns might be having market days and when. Churches can also be really neat for kids who like art.
I am sure you can find info. on parks, events, museums, local craft studios and other stuff on line. Search under ''Brittany'' and follow links to the different ''departements'' (?) within Brittany. Recently I was able to find a lot of stuff on line regarding Normandy for a friend.
You have probably been to France before and you proably know this already, but just in case....make sure your daughter knows to say ''Bonjour Madam'' to the proprietor when she goes into a store and ''Merci Madam'' when she leaves. It makes such a difference to the French! Have a wonderful time! anonymous
Can anyone recommend some nice relaxing places to stay for a week in France with a 2 year old? We'd like to be near the ocean.
This is in response to the family that will be traveling to France. My husband, daughter (16 months at the time) and another family with a 17 month old daughter traveled to France in October. We spent a weekend in Fontainebleu and the next 10 days in Provence. We used Tom Reich with French Escapades. He is wonderful. I cannot say enough about the service he provided in finding us a great cottage. He asked us what type of accomodations we were interested in (apartment, house, cottage, hotel), the price range, and the must have's (washer, dish washer etc). He gave us a choice of 3 places, ranging in price from $850 - $1200 for two weeks. We ended up paying $550 for our share and had a wonderful house in the vineyards with walking trails, a 10K sq ft garden, patio, 3 bedrooms, and a great dining and living room area.
Tom also provides car rentals and train tickets. He found both families terrific deals on cars. I work for the airlines and usually my rates are really great but he got a better deal for me. We paid less than $200 for a station wagon. His number is 1 800 999 0244 or 510 253-7514. His web page is :http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/french_escapades. Lastly, his email address is:100755.2444 [at] compuserve.com. He will also be able to help you out with places to stay in Paris. Have fun! Gloria