Two weeks ago, we returned from a five night break to Paris and I'm putting all the photos and memories here so that I don[' forget them.
We had a wonderful time. Paris is as charming, picturesque and touristy as you would imagine. August meant lots of crowds but I don't have the luxury of going during term time, so I don't mind the crowds too much.
We took the Eurostar train from St Pancras to Gare du Nord in Paris. I loved travelling this way it was so much less stressful than flying. No waiting for you luggage, you just walk straight off the train and get on the Metro, and you're already in the middle of Paris.
On our first day, we had pre-booked tickets to go up the Eiffel tower. You don't have to pre-book, but it is significantly quicker if you do. All the lift tickets had gone so we opted to walk up the 650 stairs to the second landing. Although tiring, I actually really liked walking up through the tower, you got more of a sense of how it was built.
It was a really fun way to start the holiday and orient ourselves in the city.
Next we walked to Les Invalides, to see Napoleon's tomb and look at the military history museum. Angus and John loved it.
We had lunch there, then made out way towards the Champs Elysees which Bella and Angus particularly wanted to see.
I enjoyed the walk there more than the destination. Champs Elysees is like Oxford Street, and on a hot day it was not a relaxing experience. The kids enjoyed the noise and bustle, but I was happy to leave it behind and head back to our apartment.
On the second day, we made our way down to the bank of the river Seine to catch a boat up river towards the Left Bank and Latin Quarter.
I was very keen to visit this famous English language book shop, but it was not to be. The enormous queue of people, plus knowing that John and the kids were waiting for me, was not condusive to a quiet browse, so we left it.
I really loved this part of Paris though, lots of charm and history to the streets.
We walked towards the Pantheon
and stopped at a little bakery to buy some lunch.
We took our picnic to the Jardins du Luxembourg. I loved the parks and gardens in Paris, more formal than the parks of London, but with so many benches and places to sit and rest.
We had booked tickets to go to the Musee D'Orsay, my favourite of all the galleries in Paris.
Housed in what was once a railway station, the building is impressive, but it is the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist rooms I love.
Sadly, they were incredibly busy (as you'd expect) which made it really hard to linger and take in the art as you were always blocking someone's photo. I could have spent hours in that room. Angus also absolutely loved it. He really enjoys any kind of gallery or museum, he just finds them interesting. He reads every piece of information. Bella is happier walking through the streets and looking at a city that way.
But despite the crowds, it was brilliant, I really recommend it.
We stopped for drinks.
before catching the boat back to our stop.
I always very much enjoyed the views as we walked from the river back towards our apartment.
On day three, we got up early and caught the Metro to the Louvre. We had not pre-booked, but hoped that if we got there for when it opened at 9 we would not have to wait too long.
However, everyone else had had the same idea, and the queue of people who had not booked was very long.
Rather than waste precious hours of our holiday queueing to see a painting none of us really wanted to see (well, Angus did), we decided to cut our losses and explore Le Marais.
We explored lots of shops (particularly loved the BHV department store!) and then wandered up to Place des Voges for a little bit of people watching.
On the edge of this beautiful park is the home of writer Victor Hugo, although we didn't go in.
Instead, we made our way to the Picasso Museum and what a gem it was.
Small but not too small, each room with its own unique personality and style, and so much art to look at and think about. A big hit with all of us, and very few crowds.
We loved Le Marais. It has great shops, cafes and restaurants but we found it really friendly and welcoming.
We headed towards the river and in the direction of Notre Dame.
It is still covered in scaffolding but you could get the odd glimpse.
Then we got the metro back. I loved the mosaic work at this station.
After dinner, we headed back out to see the Eiffel tower at night. Our apartment was about a ten minute walk from the tower so it was easily done. It was a warm evening and the sky was very pretty.
The Eiffel tower at night is really special. Lots of people gather in the park nearly to sit on blankets and look at it.
Every hour, for the first five minutes, the lights on the tower flicker and flash, which is really fun to watch.
That was a lovely evening. One for the memory bank.
Day four, our final day, and we took the Metro to Montmartre, home of Sacre Coeur and with a colourful history of ladies of the night and artists.
Montmartre is a large hill, with the Basilica of Sacre Coeur at the top. You know about those hills. They are steep.
There are artists and small galleries everywhere, displaying and selling their work.
We climbed the stairs to Sacre Coeur and took a moment to take in the view. You can also catch a funicular railway, which you can see below, if you do not want to walk.
It is a breathtaking building, it really is, and I wanted to go inside. but - guess what - there was a massive queue. It was a very warm day and going and getting a cold drink seemed a more sensible idea that standing in the late-morning sun for an hour.
Back down the steps we went, as we wanted to see the famous Moulin Rouge theatre.
We had bought sandwiches to eat for lunch and, while looking for somewhere quiet to sit and eat, stumbled across the cemetery. It was so interesting.
So many tombs, some which looked like mini houses, some derelict, others new and well-tended. It was a real surprise.
I found Montmartre to be the busiest and most touristy of all the places we visited in Paris that week. I felt some of the charm of the area was a a bit lost on me.
It could have been the hills.
Or the complaining teenagers (who had done a staggering amount of walking that week to be fair).
But I did absolutely love the street art, which was everywhere you looked. This felt like the Montmartre I had imagined: not so much overpriced coffees, but artists living and working in an area, making their mark.
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in La Muette, in Passy, the 16th arrondissement. The neighbourhood was quiet and very chic, but also a short walk from the metro and river. The location was ideal actually, and we loved it.
We would have breakfast and dinner at the apartment, but buy lunch out. Sometimes this was a restaurant, other times a picnic in a park. We spent a lot on coffees, crepes, ice creams and drinks. Paris is not cheap and it all adds up.
We used the Metro trains a lot. We found them easy to use, clean, safe and cheap. John has this brilliant app called City Mapper which basically tells you which bus or train you want and what times they are. It's really good, but the maps are easy to understand too.
If you are going at a busy time of year, I would recommend pre-booking visits. We very much wanted to see the Catacombs but they were fully booked, and we should have booked the Louvre too. But you don't want to pre-book everything, or there is no freedom or spontaneity in your trip. It's a tricky balance. If you're lucky, you can go in September when all the teachers and children are back at school and the city has much less tourists.
But overall, a really good holiday. Lots of family time, walking (50 miles over the week!), sightseeing, eating, drinking and evenings spent reading which was heaven.