But the French capital defied my reservations on both counts. Turns out old chestnuts like the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and the Latin Quarter are extremely entertaining for kids. On the Champ de Mars at the base of the Eiffel Tower, for instance, a pair of bubble buskers (pictured above) delighted a crowd of children with massive, writhing airborne globs of detergent. I don't remember those guys from my last visit in 2007, but they may well have been there. Maybe I only noticed them this time because I had my daughters with me. My wife Angela, of course, is several steps ahead of me: She carted a pair of tiny easels and canvasses (pictured below) across the Atlantic for the benefit of our brood.
Indeed, it's no secret that having kids in tow adds a fun -- and, of course, occasionally frustrating -- new perspective to repeat destinations.
Would I have visited the surreal Deyrolle taxidermy shop if it wasn't so highly touted by Kim Horton Levesque's Paris with Children guide book? Would I have discovered the Hôtel de Cluny's lovely medieval gardens if my four-year-old hadn't spotted its playground climbing wall as we strolled by? Would I have noticed the freaky stone bunny atop a tomb in the Pere Lachaise cemetery if my daughter hadn't started petting it? In short, exploring Paris with my daughters is like having a pair of pint-sized fun detectors on hand that run on ice cream and chocolate crepes.
On that note, I have to give a lot of the credit to downtown Paris itself. There are gorgeous playground-equipped parks and carousels everywhere, including mere steps from Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower (pictured below), as well as just around the corner from the spacious Montparnasse apartment my genius parents scored by swapping their Ottawa abode and cottage on Geenee.com (more on this budgetary and logistical godsend to come). Restaurant service may not be speedy, but wait staff bring the kids' food first, and usually in surprisingly short order. (If they can't finish their Nutella crepes or quiche Lorraine in under 30 seconds, well, it shouldn't go to waste, right?) And if my four-year-old brings home any memory of Paris, it will be of the self-cleaning public toilets that nearly devoured Mommy. Her new skills, meanwhile, include proper wine-glass etiquette (pictured below) and high-speed cobblestone navigation.
Before the trip, I had a day trip to Disneyland Paris in my back pocket, just in case. Now -- knock emphatically on wood -- it looks like I won't have to reach for it. Having just passed the halfway point, we still have yet to hit acclaimed family favourites like the Luxembourg Gardens and the Palace of Versailles. And there are still another 1,546 automatic toilets to see...