This morning we left our hotel before dawn and headed to St. Pancras Station. Before we boarded the Eurostar train for Paris, we took the kids across the street to King’s Cross Station to visit Platform 9 and 3/4! I think I was just as excited as the kids to see this Harry Potter landmark. We all posed in front of the stone wall, pretending to push the luggage trolley through to the other side.
While we waited to board our train, we were able to get some food and do some last minute shopping for souvenirs. None of our students had ever ridden a high speed train before, so the Eurostar was a new adventure. However, none us us were pleased about the popping in our ears.
I fell asleep for most of the ride, including our passage through the Chunnel. When we pulled into Gare du Nord in Paris, I was still a bit sleepy but managed to wake up once we stepped out into the sunshine.
Before heading to our hotel, our local tour guide gave us an orientation tour of Paris via bus. We saw the Paris Opera House, The Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Les Invalides (where Napoleon is buried), and of course, the Eiffel Tower. I thought some of the kids were going to cry when the tower came into view – it seemed to finally hit them that we were in Paris.
We stayed at Hotel Sofia in Monemartre, a district that has been a longstanding hub for artists in Paris. Despite being in a somewhat seedy area, the hotel was clean and comfortable, and the staff was friendly. After putting our luggage away in our rooms, we headed to Basilique du Sacre-Coeur, which was a short walk up the hill. Built from 1875-1914, the towering Roman Catholic church offers great views of the city below. At the base of the church is a small playground and an expensive Merry-go-Round, so if the little ones don’t feel like climbing, there is still plenty to entertain them as you take in the site.
Addie made the entire climb up to the Basilica. When we got to the top, street performers were just beginning a show, so we grabbed a spot on the stone steps and watched. Addie loved the music and dancing, and started doing some of her own moves!
Though the visit was worth it, unfortunately, the steps up to the church are lined with pickpockets and pushy vendors. (I am being generous when using the term pushy – quite frankly, they were downright rude to our kids and made some horribly racist remarks to our Asian students, as well as inappropriate ones to one of our Black students.)
My advice? Don’t go at night, and don’t go alone. Keep your hands in your pockets – the vendors will try to tie “love bracelets” on your wrist, which you are then expected to buy from them. Watch your surroundings, and be mindful of the people around you at all times. By no means avoid the area, but be smart. It was no surprise to me when all the tourists were suddenly asked to leave the area by uniformed police. We took that as our cue to head out to dinner.
We had a great meal of crusty French bread, salad, quiche and omelets. Though we also had dessert, it didn’t stop any of us from getting nutella filled crepes on the walk home!