Sep 13, 2009

A Trip to Paris and Brussels

My wonderful husband surprised our family with a trip to Paris this year!

The trip came about because of my oldest son. I started reading the Magic Treehouse Series to him about three years ago, and almost two years ago we got to the book where the two main characters go to Paris and climb the Eiffel Tower. When we finished it, he turned to me and said “Mommy, can we go to Paris? I want to climb the Eiffel Tower.” I smiled and said sure, we’d go someday, and then figured that would be the end of it.

Not so. He continued to ask me at least once a month for the next two years, “When are we going to Paris?” So, finally, my husband planned out a great trip for us, then surprised us with it after it was all planned out. My oldest was beside himself with excitement.

After we landed and got settled, the first place we went was (of course) the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t go up to the top because the lines for all the elevators was several hours long. And there was no way any of us was going to walk up the thousand or so steps. So we took some pictures, walked around some more, and then came back the next day. Fortunately the lines were much shorter, though still long (an hour).

The elevators were pretty cool, powered by these huge wheels and moving at a slant up the side of the tower. Then we had to change to another elevator to go the rest of the way up. Both boys were really excited because elevators are just too cool to them, much less one that goes diagonal. The view from the top was impressive, but windy. And insanely crowded. So we didn’t get many pictures.

After the Eiffel Tower, the kids were about ready to go home, because they didn’t think there was anything left to see in Paris. But it didn’t take much to convince them there was more, a lot more. We walked all over the city, took a boat ride down the Seine, and checked out a cheese shop. We didn’t go in, though, because as we were staring at the window display, someone came out. Strong, pungent cheese smells filled the street around us, and my youngest wrinkled up his nose and asked me what that smell was. When I told him it was the cheese, he said he didn’t like it and wanted to go. He’s so cute.
We also took a bullet train for a day trip to Brussels. The boys LOVED the train, of course. Brussels is a quaint and pretty town. We were still a little jet-lagged, and had gotten up at 5am in order to catch this train, so we were too tired to walk around the city. Instead, we bought tickets for the local hop-on-hop-off tour bus, and sat on the top to see the sights. We sampled the amazing chocolates, had some authentic Belgian waffles (which are so amazing I will never be able to enjoy regular waffles the same again), and then headed back to Paris on the evening train.
Over the next couple of days, my youngest son developed a bit of a limp. I have no idea why, except that he probably wasn’t used to walking so much (we didn’t bring a stroller). I had been taking turns carrying the boys on my back whenever they got tired, but with my youngest son’s injury it was clear he couldn’t walk. So I carried him on my back for the next two days. During that time, we went to Notre Dame and climbed up to the bell towers. And yes, I carried him up all 400 stairs. The funniest part was when we got to the top and I told him I had to put him down for a moment. He sighed heavily and said “Yeah, Mommy, I’m tired!” I laughed, then asked him why he was tired since I’d carried him up the whole way. He looked at me like “oh yeah,” then peeked through the fence at the view. He’s so funny.

We also visited Sacre Coure, which is an amazing churce at the top of a hill. And I carried Youngest all the way up there, too. I definitely got my workout on this vacation! On the way down, we spotted a double-decker carousel, and the boys rode it three times in a row. It was pretty cool.

On our last day in Paris, we had planned to go to the Louvre...but it was closed! On a Tuesday! So, we ended up hanging out in the plaza just outside the Louvre, and my husband took pictures while the kids ran around and played. I think on our next vacation I’m going to plan more time like this for the kids. They had as much fun in this plaza as they had riding the elevator on the Eiffel Tower. And I enjoyed sitting and watching them.