Taking my two daughters away for 4 days to Paris has been a memorable experience for many reasons other than the fact it has been our first trip abroad together and their first flying experience. More will become apparent about the other reasons as I explain later.
Arriving at the airport early in the morning on Saturday 13th April was a good way to begin our trip. Although very tired from little sleep it gave us extra time to explore later in the day. Charles de Gaulle airport is vast and once we got our bearings it is well signposted. Plus the staff are friendly and helpful. Customs officers are straight-faced and intimidating, which in all honesty it’s how they should be.
To travel around in Paris on foot or by the Metro is a minefield. There are beggars everywhere, con artists and pickpockets. Wherever you go there is never a moment to relax as they appear from nowhere. Ranging from a fake petition clipboard to plastic models of the Eiffel tower.
Saturday afternoon we took our trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. As a vertigo sufferer, it was no mean feat to take the lift to the top. The things you do for your children. However, the view from the top is breathtaking.
This attraction is sadly now surrounded by large reinforced strong plastic barriers and airport security-style entrances. For terrorist safety, I expect and to keep out the migrant beggars surrounding the area with plastic sheets covered in tourist that. All you can do is blank them and make your way past them all quickly.
When anyone from France tells you it’s like London I can absolutely tell you it certainly isn’t. Check online for the scam lists compiled when visiting Paris. We saw at least half a dozen of them and were approached by a few.
Disneyland was our main attraction and on Sunday we spent the whole day there. The train from Paris to Disneyland is extremely well signposted and it cost around £30 return for the three of us. The legitimate staff that work at the Stations are very nice and helpful. Beware though as con artists wearing information lanyards will try to rob unsuspecting people by offering them cheap tickets to buy. Then clone your card from their machines. Only buy from legitimate vendors and ticket machines.
Disneyland is a unique experience. I bought the two parks ticket and we started in the smaller one Walt Disney Studios. It’s well laid out and the maps provided are easy to follow. We cherry-picked our ride choices from friends who had been there and ones the girls had googled.
For a unique ride experience that is not a rollercoaster, I would urge anyone to try Ratatouille the special 3D effects are amazing. We all came off exclaiming “wow that was fantastic”. The mouse whisks you off to his small and chaotic world dodging the kitchen staff in the kitchen where he works in the Paris restaurant.
The end of the evening light show and fireworks held at Disneyland most nights is a sight to behold. It’s an incredible showcase of moving pictures and things swimming up the castle turrets is a must see for all. You certainly do not have to be a Disney fan to enjoy it here. You see Disney characters around but they are not on mass. It’s quite expensive but worth visiting.
Some amazing street art we found
Sadly our visit will always be overshadowed by witnessing the flames and smoke from watching the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on fire. We saw it first from the Bridge while on a City bus tour. We had been diverted due to the incident and were crossing the bridge. We just couldn’t work out what we were watching at first. As the horror of the event sunk in the mood in Paris changed.
We left via the Metro and a local lady on the train suggested we leave straight away “as Paris will now turn dangerous with thieves and pickpockets”. We had already decided to but that comment heightened the kid’s desire to be away as far as we could.
The photo above was taken an hour before the event started.
The news reports that evening was bringing more and more updated reports. Being there was eerie and many friends and family checked we were ok. Which we were of course.
Our hotel was about a mile away and smoke could easily be seen from that district. However, listening to news reports and seeing the event unfold first hand I realise that events are not reported accurately. Apparently, helicopters arrived quickly, I don’t recall that being the case at all.
Notre Dame about 30 minutes into the fire. It was such a surreal experience.
Paris turned sombre that evening as to be expected, a great monument of Paris and a beautiful iconic building had now been severely damaged. The enormity of what was happening left a heavy feeling in the City that evening.
Our last day was a stroll around the Gare D’lest area where we were staying. We took a wrong turn during our walk and we ended up in a very unsavoury part where we just walked through rather quickly to make sure we stayed safe. Another of life’s experiences though.
For our journey back to the Airport I ordered an Uber which was quite cheap, this meant we could relax too and be dropped straight at out terminal 2E.
On the outskirts of Paris, miles of tents next to the roadside are a clear indication of how large the migrant problem is in Paris. I had seen scenes on the television but it never prepares you for the stark reality. These conditions seem a hard way to let people survive in but I really don’t have any other answer as the large volumes of people make it impossible to see how a long term solution can be found. It needs to start at the core of the problem and help the countries prosper and be a place of hope.
However uncomfortable it can be experiencing those situations I do have a degree of empathy towards them. How would I survive if my life was mapped out differently? What measures would I take to look after myself? It’s an impossible question to answer when you are honest with yourself.
It has been a fun-filled holiday and one where we made a lot of memories together and those are what you take with you as you journey through life.