Read about our first two days of our Paris family adventures, here: 5-Day Family Paris Begins.
We had a good time at a brief apfelstrudel demonstration class in Vienna, and figured a food tour in Paris might be super cool. Apparently, so did the rest of the world, and almost everything was sold out for the Easter weekend. The only food thing I could find available was a “macaron tour.”
Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
Our macaron tour was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. so we tried to squeeze in breakfast at Claus (highly recommended) and a quick trip to Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. The original English bookshop, which closed during Nazi occupation, was both bookstore and lending library where Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, TS Elliot, James Joyce and Ezra Pound frequented. The store’s founder, Sylvia Beach, was the first to publish Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922. Today’s Paris store, inspired by the original, is so crowded during the day, and I just wanted to sit, enjoy, and smell (OK, I’m know it’s super weird) the books. But it’s hard to do. My son, who is a total bookworm, did manage to find a comfy chair to sit and read some fantasy books. Living in Germany our options for English bookstores are very limited, and even with Amazon, it’s still fun to browse.
I do feel like the enormous queue of tourists ruins the charm. On the first floor, there are floor-to-ceiling shelves with new English language books. The upstairs has used books, comfy seating, and an old piano. As with everything in Paris, if books are your bag, go early to avoid the crowds. And don’t get caught taking photos. They do not like that. (I was very sneaky.)
Related: 5-Day Paris Family Adventure Begins
St. Germain Macaron Tour
The Le Bon Paris macaron tour started in St. Germain, and we hurried over to the meeting point to meet our tour guide. The concept was visiting five local macaron bakeries, learning a little about business, and the history of the macaron, and then trying one from each shop. Essentially, we got that. However, after a few weeks to reflect on the tour, I am going to have to say it was a disappointment for me. You can read my review here.
I loved the idea of what this could be, and we did get to sample macarons from various bakeries. However, the per-person (€48) price tag was a far too much for what the tour was. We had hoped to meet some of the owners or chefs of the bakeries for a little information on what sets one patisserie apart from another, but that wasn’t part of this tour.
Related: The Sweetness of Paris: Macaron Tour
Panthéon: From Church to Mausoleum
After our macaron taste testing in the Luxembourg Gardens, my oldest teen wasn’t content to just sit and take in the sun like the rest of us. With a few hours before our Louvre tour, I turned to TripAdvisor for nearby, less stressful activity. “We’re in Paris, and I don’t want to just sit around,” he says.
The Panthéon was just a short walk away, and kids under 18 get in free! While the inside of this building was spectacular and the pendulum in the middle was mesmerizing, it was the crypt that was the most interesting part. There underground are the graves of Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Louis Braille (who I didn’t know was French), and Marie Curie. Navigating through the crypt, we stopped to read about the lives of the many men and women buried here. At the end of each room of tombs, gives a detailed account of who they were and their contribution to the world.
Since my kids are all into the French Revolution now, this was just another notable stop that rounded out the history.
The Beast of the Louvre
On to the Louvre! As we approached the museum for our 3:30 pm entry, there was a small crowd, which seemed unbelievable. We intended to try out one of the alternate, less crowded entrances near Le Carrousel, but the main entrance queue was very short. I provided a full of list of tips for navigating the world’s largest museum with teens.
In general, my recommendation is 1) plan ahead and 2) get the audio tour. Even with a list of a things we wanted to see, we didn’t plan out where they were so we spent a great deal of time looking them up on our phone and trying to figure out where the room was location. We did not get the audio tour, and I am kicking myself now for not. We could have even shared a device between the four of us.
Feeling bad for the overlooked works of art, we did pause now and then at random paints to discuss and point hoping to draw some attention to them. You feel a little like the animals that are overlooked at the zoo because everyone just wants to see the elephants and the lions.
The crowds at the Louvre rival that of Versailles with tons of people taking pictures of art they aren’t really looking at or taking a ton of selfies. And it’s just not at the Mona Lisa, it’s everywhere. Again, go early. You’re getting the idea. I had to include this photo of this particular Instagramer. She provided me a few minutes of entertainment trying to get just the right selfie shot.
When this day was done, we were exhausted. After a long rest at a café with wine for us and fruity drinks for the kids, we picked up Chipotle and headed back to the apartment. (Yes, we ate Chipotle in Paris. No, you may not judge me. We only have one Chipotle in Frankfurt, it’s far away, it doesn’t taste quite right, so there.)
All other photos ©Linda Kerr, TravelTeening