Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte near Paris

Like kids all over the world, my boys opened up a brand new tub of Legos on Christmas morning. I  read the age description on the box: suitable for 4-99, and thought, how rare to find something that can be enjoyed by such a wide range of ages.

And that's the task I had ahead of me when trying to find a day trip destination from Paris suitable for a multigenerational group of nine during our Christmas trip. I knew a break from the city during a week-long trip would be both pleasant and necessary. We all crave an escape from the crowds and the fast pace after a while. So I read up on a lot of the usual suspects. Versailles sounded way too big and unmanageable for our crew of nine to navigate in a few hours. Given the typical weather in December and January, Giverny and Normandy didn't sound like good options with young children either.

I somehow stumbled upon Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte's website. And I just had a hunch it was a good fit for us. It was probably my favorite day of the trip, as it was so peaceful and beautiful, and yet still decidedly French from beginning to end. We barely had to share the place with anyone else. The Christmas d├ęcor was unlike anything I'd seen before. Gorgeous, but not gaudy. The kids were pretty mesmerized by the whole experience, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Peaceful Parisian Moments

One of the reasons that Paris is my favorite European city is that in addition to its spectacular popular attractions, it's never hard to find a quiet spot or a corner where you feel like you're the only people there. I'm not quite sure how the city pulls it off, but having now been there three times, I find it always does. And certainly, after visiting with young children, my appreciation for that quality is higher than ever.

I had several of those moments on our trip over the holidays. Paris is an incredibly popular place to travel to between Christmas and New Year's. Lines at just about every museum and attraction we passed stretched for what looked to be hours. But just as you begin to feel a bit claustrophobic by it all, you walk a block or two, and you find yourself on your own and yet your surroundings are just as gorgeous.

A few examples:

Picture Perfect Paris. As we strolled the Champs Elysees, enjoying a crowded Christmas Market along the way, we eventually detoured over to the Pont Alexandre III. A beautiful ornate bridge, with the Eiffel Tower in the distant background, made for perfect photo opportunities. And without the many vendors found at the Eiffel Tower itself to bother us.