Paris: December 23-31ish, 2018.
Bucket list: Christmas in Paris with the kids. Check!
In March and December 2017, I went to Paris on my own (or with my mom) and kept thinking how magical it felt. When I walked past the window displays or the holiday decor, I thought to myself that my kids would love this. The tree in Galeries Lafayette. The 2017 hot air balloon at Dior on Montaigne. The Dior exhibition. Christmas tends to bring about that spirit.. and I was definitely in need of it this year.
With the riots happening earlier in the month, I was a bit hesitant. Whenever I go anywhere with my kids, I’m on extra high alert.. at the same time, I’ve always said I didn’t want the fear of the unknown to stop us from anything. I booked the tickets and registered with STEP (for the embassy to provide important safety and security information, or support if need be). As an extra precaution, I opted to book our stay outside of the Champs Elysees because that’s where most of the protests had taken place.
Our last flight with Norwegian was a bit of a nightmare on their Newark to Paris route. They canceled the flight the same day and they had to put us up in an airport hotel. There were no updates the next day and no attendants to help passengers. Finally, we called customer service and was on hold for hours. We were on the phone at the same time as the family next to us, with us calling first, but they managed to get a nonstop flight out of JFK and our nonstop flight turned into a layover in London to get to Paris. Because a lot of their fleet was down, they subcontracted with other airlines. Wamos Air was the worst thing ever. Very outdated. Some restrooms were out of commission (and smelly). We were reimbursed 2400 euros for the trouble (it’s a european law that passengers be compensated up to 600 euros per person if a flight is cancelled or delayed for more than 3 hours.. thank you google).
Still.. Norwegian was a great nonstop option to fly out of FLL (our base airport) and we were hoping the New York incident was a fluke. I try to avoid Miami airport as much as I can. We’ve never had an issue from FLL with them so we took a chance since we booked less than a month prior to the trip. We took a red-eye out and landed on the morning of Christmas Eve. Gratefully, it was an uneventful flight with the kids sleeping for the most part. We learned how to pack light and carry on only because it allows us to skip baggage claim (wearing our one pair of shoes and our jackets for the trip and rolling our clothes in our luggage).
We got in a taxi and dropped off our bags at Hotel Brighton. We’ve stayed here once before in July 2016. It’s in a great location.. right across the Tuileries and in the Louvre/Vendome area. We booked the executive room (with a city view) with a special request to have the highest floor possible. They were very accommodating and emailed us a week prior to confirm our arrival and what time to expect us. Our room was ready an hour early so we dropped off our bags and were pleasantly surprised that they left gifts for all of us. A little suitcase for Olivia (with the cutest print), a book for Nathaniel (although more suitable for a younger child), and tea for the adults.
Unless we’re using points, I really don’t like to splurge on hotels. We only sleep there and spend most of our time exploring the city. I would say Hotel Brighton is above average, but the carpets are stained and the shower had a weird odor until you aired it out (the showers were fine the last time we stayed here). Otherwise, it was clean, the location is ideal, and the view was fantastic. We could see the entirety of the Tuileries and the Eiffel Tower was in the distance. At sunset, the sky was breathtaking and at night, watching the Eiffel sparkle is one of the most magical things ever (the kids loved spotting it every night). There aren’t many hotels in Paris that will allow 4 people to a room either (they’re strict about how many people can stay in a room in Europe and in Asia).
Things We Did:
The Christmas market and carnival in the Tuileries was a daily thing. Olivia begged every day to go. She loved the fun house, the little obstacle course, and the slide. Nathaniel enjoyed it as well so it was something both kids could agree on.
Ice Skating at Grand Palais. This is the biggest ice skating rink in Paris. We went at opening because we weren’t sure how crowded it might get. After buying tickets in front and upon entrance, we waited in a short line to get our ice skates. We traded our shoes for skates; they had double blades for Olivia, which made it so much easier for her. They had vending machines for gloves because there are signs that say it’s mandatory (they don’t enforce it, but they do tell you it’s at your own risk). They section off a small rectangle for kids where they’re able to use little animal shaped guides and walkers; they didn’t open up that section until 20 minutes after. At night time, they have a disco ball and lights going off.
We explored Montmartre some. Walked past Sacre Coeur and down to the carousel/playground.
We checked out the holiday window displays at Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marche. Galeries Lafayette has a different Christmas tree in the center of the store every year. This year, they also had a glass walk where you could walk right next to the top of the tree and take a free photo.
We visited Musee d’Orsay for the first time. We’ve been told it’s many people’s favorite museum in all of Paris. We walked from our hotel because it was directly across the Tuileries. We didn’t purchase tickets in advance so we waited in a fast-moving line (10-15 minutes) to get through security. After that, the ticket booth had no lines. It is beautifully laid out and there’s a magnificent clocktower on the top floor. You can see a view of the Tuileries and the right bank through it (on non-foggy days).
LV Foundation. Or attempted to. We didn’t pre-purchase tickets and there was an extremely long line in the evening so we saw it from the outside.
We stopped by the Hermes flagship because their Christmas decorations are always exceptional. Upstairs, beyond the fine jewelry section, they transform the room in the back into something different every year. This year, it was a secret room behind the fireplace. You were able to write your name on an iPad and a constellation would appear on the walls. It was like stepping into space.. so magical. The kids loved it. They also wrote on postcards provided by Hermes (they mailed it out too and we received one back so far). Before Christmas, you were able to make mini lanterns as well.
What We Ate:
Breakfast was inclusive with our room so we stopped in every morning. We were able to order it up to our room too.
Le Coq Rico in Montmartre. We booked reservations way in advance because we missed out on our last trip. We’ve been told this is the best chicken people have ever had and the reviews are great. When eating the chicken + gravy + roasted garlic together = yum.
Tao Kan near our hotel. We usually eat here once a trip, but this time, it wasn’t as fulfilling as past trips.
Claus. Cute little spot near the Louvre. There is usually a line here. The brioche french toast was a little too soggy. The smoked salmon dish was delicious. I get it.. but this isn’t really our type of dining.
Lao Lane Xang in the Chinatown. Good enough. We preferred this one over Thai Vien 2 below.
Thai Vien 2 in Chinatown. They had Vietnamese and Thai/Laos dishes. The banh cuon and mango sticky rice was good. The shrimp ceviche and the papaya salad had a weird after taste.
For our flight home, we opted for premium economy on Norwegian because the fare was a small difference from the main cabin. Nathaniel loved having more recline and more space to himself. Olivia thought the pull out table and entertainment unit was cool. They gave free headsets and blankets to use. The meals weren’t any better than the main cabin. The stewardesses weren’t that friendly.. one seemed like she didn’t even want to be there. Was it worth the upgrade? I think for a small fare difference, yes. Otherwise, not so much. Olivia ended up sitting on my lap half way through because she likes to be close to me.
I must be a francophile because I just love Paris. I love it even more during Christmas. I’m glad we crossed that off the list with the kids. Olivia is already asking to return.. mostly for the carnival.