2 + 2: Two Weeks in France with Two Children

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2 + 2:  Two Weeks in France with Two Children
Traveling in France for two weeks is my idea of a dream but what about my seven and nine year old children? Typically all they need is a pool and a few snacks to be happy. Throw in some sort of electronic game and we’re all set! It could be anywhere—New Jersey or, yes, even Disney World. So is it really necessary to drag them all the way across the Atlantic to France? Being a bona fide Francophile I selfishly say yes. The trip can be a fun, educational and memorable family adventure, can’t it? Let’s hope that our two-week holiday won’t be more stressful than two weeks in the office. Enthusiasm from our kids has been coming in waves. One moment they are discussing what to pack and bickering over which suitcase to bring; the next my son is concerned he may miss a pool party while we’re away. We’ve been able to generate interest in a myriad of ways including educating them about the sites (Eiffel Tower, Napoleon’s tomb, prehistoric caves). We discussed swimming, canoeing and seeing friends in Grenoble. We’ve been reading about Paris and France itself. And, they’ve been put in “charge” of helping convert the currency, learning some French words and phrases. OK, the dealmaker (or the bribe) is a side trip to Disneyland! My daughter is excited. Armed with her tattered French word book, her journal and making decisions on what to pack in her carry-on, she’s more than ready. If she weren’t preoccupied with the final weeks of school I’m sure she’d be packed and waiting by the door now. Our son’s a different story. While seemingly interested at times, he will most likely be happiest with his Nintendo DSi and the trip to Disneyland. I have faith he’ll enjoy the trip one we’ve landed and acclimated to the time difference. What else should parents to do to help prepare children for such a trip? How about the flight itself? While stressful, tiresome and more time-consuming than ever for adults, it can be somewhat magical for kids. Deciding what to bring on the plane, no real bedtime and, typically, an endless choice of games, movies and TV shows…what could be so bad? Or so I keep telling myself. What about French food? You’ll get no argument about the pain au chocolats, ice cream and other delectable desserts from any of us. However, organ meats and other unfamiliar dishes may put some kids over the edge. Let’s face it, many adults won’t sample the exotic either. We’re encouraging our kids to try at least some typical French dishes before we opt out and order pasta with butter or, not much better, find an American-type restaurant with food just like home. Another part of our plan is to skip huge, crowded museums which may seem unthinkable, especially when in Paris (what, no Louvre?!) but kids have their limits. We’ll stick to smaller, more manageable ones and limit them at that. Being flexible and not having a strict itinerary will leave room for new discoveries as well as some downtime. All of this sounds fine and dandy right now. But is it sustainable through the reality of a two-week holiday in France? Sightseeing, walking until our feet ache, shopping, long hours in the car getting from point A to B, getting lost when getting from point A to B, finding child-friendly restaurants with child-friendly menus, I could go on. But the ultimate question is whether or not it will be worth it? We’re counting on flexibility, simplicity and a sense of humor to help us keep our sanity. Stay tuned and read about our trip to see how we fare…   There’s nothing like traveling with younger travelers and we’ve had a role in creating a few Francophiles. Here are two books we like for budding Parisphiles: Everybody Bonjours! and Fodor’s Around Paris with Kids, 4th Edition   If you’re coming to France (or for that matter anywhere) you can reserve your hotel here. To rent a car, Bonjour Paris recommends Auto Europe.
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