I try to be a realist when it comes to envisioning our family's travels. I know things aren't going to always be pleasant, and certainly rarely relaxing. I prepare myself for that mentally. But every once in a while, the romantic gets the better of me and I get some crazy idea in my head.
In the case of our trip to Paris, I had my heart set on a perfect photo of all four of us, smiling happily in front of the Eiffel Tower. In fact, I was so wrapped up in this fantasy that on the second day of our trip, we went back to our apartment while the rest of our multi-generational group went to the Eiffel Tower. Both boys were starting to fade from a day of sightseeing and I feared I wouldn't get THE photo that I had unrealistically imagined for weeks prior.
So on our last morning, when my kids were up early, the four of us headed out, Destination: Eiffel Tower. However, aspirations of perfect photos and mesmerized kids were quickly dashed the moment we stepped out of the Metro station. I realized I had made two crucial errors.
1) It was New Year's Day. Um, oops. Go figure that the morning after the New Year's Eve festivities would mean that the Eiffel Tower was looking a little worse for wear. Not only was there shattered glass everywhere we stepped, but it was also hard to avoid some of the night's revelers who hadn't yet made their way home. It was like choosing to visit Times Square in New York City on New Year's Day. What were we thinking?
We purchased a crepe from a stand as we started to approach the Eiffel Tower and sat on a bench to eat it. Within a few seconds, a gentleman started throwing up 2 feet from us. I was so disgusted and my mood was quickly turning very sour.
2) My father-in-law had generously lent me his new fancy zoom lens. I thought it would be a fun place to try it out and get some interesting up-close-shots of the Eiffel Tower that you could only get with this lens. But I forgot to bring my regular lens, too. Meaning I got my zoom shots, but I also couldn't fit the entire Eiffel Tower in one photo, either. There went my dreams of a perfect family photo. I had to settle for fuzzy cell phone shots if I wanted any of us in the picture too.
As we walked toward the Eiffel Tower, my grumpy mood was in full swing. In addition to being disgusted, now I was frustrated with my camera and in my mind, the whole morning was ruined. I was going to leave Paris without that picture. My husband, on the other hand, found the whole scene absolutely hysterical. The boys were completely fascinated by the aftermath of the New Year's celebrations and they were in a great mood, too. I realized I was the only one bringing us down.
Did this one photo matter more to me? Or was it that we actually all had a good time and enjoyed being in the shadow of one of the world's most scenic spots that mattered the most?
It was at that point that I noticed a man who had fallen asleep in the median, traffic whizzing by, bottle of champagne still clutched in his hand. And I started laughing so hard I couldn't stop. The whole scene was just so outrageous. There was no point holding on to some absurd disappointment. This was my moment at the Eiffel Tower, too. True, there would be no photo. But you know what? My kids are still talking about the Eiffel Tower. It's the one thing I'm certain they'll both remember from our trip to Paris for years to come.
And boys, if you ever get the chance to celebrate New Year's Eve at the Eiffel Tower, don't be that guy who falls asleep in the median.
This post probably isn't particularly helpful if you're planning a trip to Paris with your kids. Instead, check out the family guide to Paris' 8 central arrondissements that I wrote for Ciao Bambino. It'll give you some fun, yet manageable, daily itineraries.