As our full house started to empty out, Caleb and I went on a little side-trip with my parents to Paris. They had made plans to do a World War II tour through Normandy and Belgium, but didn’t feel touring Paris was something they could do, even though they’d drive right by it. It didn’t take much twisting of our arms, but Caleb and I decided we would accompany them to Paris and show them the city – the perfect homeschooling field trip! You can’t go to France and NOT see Paris!
Leaving St. Pancras Station
We left London on the Eurostar after dinner and were in Paris a couple hours later, via the Chunnel.
Boarding the Eurostar
We got to our hotel late, but were up first thing the next morning to fill our one day with as much of Paris as we could.
First things first – the Eiffel Tower . . .
We knew this was a must, but the hard decision was when to go up in it. We opted for first thing in the morning, and even though we were in a long queue before opening, it was the right choice. As soon as the gates opened, we just kept moving and bought our tickets in no time, cleared security, and were up at the top before we knew it.
Gustav Eiffel – Engineer/Architect
Paris – City of Love
Caleb Looks Down
City-view from the Eiffel Tower
Some of us assumed my mom wouldn’t go up the Eiffel Tower as she is severely afraid of heights. But, she surprised us all by, not only going up, but going up all the way to the top level!
Proof that Mom was up the Eiffel Tower!
More Paris Skyline
It does help that there are cages all around so there is no danger of falling off. Mom actually started to look happy to be up there!
Caleb with Grandpop & Grandmom
. . . And More Skyline
It seemed we had already worn Caleb out with the Eiffel Tower climb.
Caleb on Public Transport
Truth be told, because Caleb falls asleep so quickly, his body hasn’t had a chance to relax so as he sleeps his muscles twitch. It’s actually quite funny to watch but during one of his twitches, he woke himself up and startled a girl sitting next to him on the bus! I had the perfect vantage point and just had to laugh with them both.
We got off the bus at Notre Dame and stood in the queue to go inside. For the few times I have been in Paris and seen Notre Dame, this is the first time I had been inside.
Outside Notre Dame
We actually ended up inside during mass and caught the tail end of it.
End of Mass
Joan of Arc
After we came out, we walked around to the back of the cathedral for a respite in the garden.
Behind Notre Dame
We had hoped to go to the Deportation Memorial behind the Cathedral, but the guard decided to go to lunch just as we were arriving. It’s definitely on my list for next visit!
Lovelocks on Pont Des Arts Bridge
Notre Dame Cathedral
We took our cue from the Deportation guard and went wandering the streets of Paris to find the perfect lunch spot. We settled on a cute little cafe with sidewalk seating. I think the reality of being in Paris started to hit Mom at that point as she said, “Who would have thought that I’d ever be eating in a sidewalk cafe in Paris?!”
We were a bit bummed that we happened to be in Paris on the only day of the week that the Louvre is closed. But, as the French say, “C’est la vie.”
Mom & Dad at the Louvre
New Addition to ‘Handstands Around the World’
We did take the long walk from the Louvre all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. Once you cross over the street from the Louvre, the Arc seems in plain site, but it is very misleading. We walked through the entire Tuileries Garden and kept going up . . . the walk was about 2 miles and took about 45 minutes.
At the Arc de Triomphe
Underneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its memorial flame.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We then decided to walk all the way back to our hotel, stopping along the way for dinner.
Retro Metro Sign
As we were walking back to our hotel after dinner, we took a rest on the Champ de Mars (the park area beside the Tower) and waited for the lights on the Eiffel Tower to be turned on. Mom again commented about the surrealism of this day as she said, “Everything was just like I remember from the pictures in my high school French book.”
Eiffel Tower at Night
Then, just like that, our day in Paris was done – beginning and ending with the Eiffel Tower. The next morning, we took a taxi back to the train station for Caleb & I to head back to London and for Mom & Dad to pick up their rental car and head to Belgium.
Gare du Nord Station
It was an amazing day to spend with my parents, and I’m so glad they didn’t skip it. They would have felt bad afterward, if they had. I’m so glad that Caleb and I could be a part of it!
Back in London
Mom and Dad returned to London a few days later, after having toured Belgium and Normandy World War II sites. They had an amazing time and it was great to hear how they had found where two of Dad’s cousins had been buried. The Normandy tour was the icing on the cake and fulfilled one of Dad’s bucket list items. They were able to return on the night ferry to Portsmouth and take the train up to London. They are truly seasoned travelers now!
The day after their return was actually US Mother’s Day. It was such a treat to have Mom here for that. As the UK had already celebrated their Mother’s Day, it was a little quiet on the national front but we were still able to celebrate with a British Sunday meal (roast, Yorkshire puddings, potatoes, etc.). We topped it off with a very American fruit pizza!
Mother’s Day Dessert
We had two more days with Mom and Dad, so we tried to fill it with new sites. The first day we went to the Royal Air Force Museum in London. Before they arrived, I didn’t even know this existed, but Mom and Dad saw an advert in the tube and looked it up.
It’s actually a large complex with a number of different buildings and hangars to walk through.
Map of Complex
We tried to maximize our time, but there was just so much to drink in!
History of Flight Hangar
My favorite section was definitely the part on World War II and how the experience was in London. These were the sites my grandmother would have seen!
Recreation of a Tube Wall
My grandmother was part of the Royal Air Force during World War II as part of the Barrage Balloon Battalion. This is actually how she came to know my grandfather, who was in the US Army. They later married and my grandmother became one of the many ‘war brides’ of that time period.
We even found an old V2 bomb that had been disarmed and kept. It was eye-opening to me to see how big it was! One of the first V2 bombs landed a few hundred feet from our home here. I can now visualize a little better how traumatic that whole experience must have been, and understand why our home now has a bomb shelter.
Heading Home on the Tube – Asleep Again
Caleb and I had to head back to meet the girls after school, but Mom and Dad stayed for a couple more hours to try to see a bit more.
The following day, I suggested we go see Hampton Court Palace. Neither Mom nor Dad knew anything about it so they were quite interested to find it was the home of Henry VIII.
Hampton Court Palace
Caleb had a lot of school work to keep up with, since we’d had so many visitors, so he opted to stay home and get caught up. I, however, enjoyed having a day-out with my parents.
Arriving at the Palace
We had a great time walking through the palace and gardens. The day actually cleared up a bit while we were there and it was beautiful.
Perhaps it’s note-worthy to mention that from Mom & Dad’s visit to Hampton Court, as well as Chris taking his family there, the favorite part of the trip was seeing the kitchen! Truly impressive!
With all the time that Caleb and I had with grandparents and family, the girls always found time to get their fill as well. Grandpop’s favorite game is definitely backgammon, so it is always pulled out whenever we’re all together. It takes the kids a few tutored sessions to get back up to par, but it doesn’t take long.
Cami’s Tutoring Session
Then pretty soon, they are giving Grandpop a run for his money! He never was able to rank very high in the tournaments they held. He must be a great teacher!
Cami Winning AGAIN!
It was an amazing few weeks with family! We’ve learned that these moments are ones to cherish and we’re so grateful for the sacrifice everyone took to come while we celebrated Cami’s baptism! It will be a time we remember always!