Want to spend two weeks in Paris? Who wouldn’t, right? Well add to the mix a two year old, five year old, and a guy that needs a wheelchair and you might have second thoughts. But this was the situation my family and I undertook in March. We had a great time and got to see much of the City of Lights. We didn’t get to see everything, but we knew that going in and it was more than we would’ve seen staying at home.
There were seven of us in all. Me, my mom, two little girls, my sister Liz, her husband Kevin, and the girl’s nanny, Lindsay. We had two strollers, a wheelchair, seven checked pieces of luggage and probably ten or so carry on items. Catherine, my two-year-old niece, is constantly in motion. She has two speeds, run and dance. Even if she’s in the stroller and regardless of whether or not music is playing she is bobbing her head or moving her shoulders. When on the ground, she walks nowhere. It is always a full on sprint.
The time change was, of course, difficult for everybody to adjust to, but especially difficult for Catherine. The first two days were not much fun for her parents and nanny. Let’s just say I was happy to be sleeping two blocks away. The apartment I stayed in with my mom was in the Marais district, as was the apartment where my sister’s family stayed. Ours was actually in a building of historical significance. Jim Morrison of The Doors died on the fourth floor years ago.
After a couple days for recovery and familiarizing ourselves with our neighborhood and immediate surroundings, we had a guided tour of the Louvre. My mom and I decided Lindsay needed a small reprieve from the little girls so we invited her to come along while Kevin and Liz took the girls to the park. Our guide, Polina, was phenomenal. She had studied art all over the world and provided engaging and informative commentary on everything we saw. Plus it’s always helpful to have a guide when navigating with a chair. Afterwards, we met Liz and Kevin for drinks while the girls ate dinner. Then we found a French café and had dinner ourselves. It made for one of my favorite days on the whole trip.
My mom and I went to Musee d’Orsay and Notre Dame Cathedral on our own over the next few days. Both were vey accessible, more so even than the Louvre. I was especially impressed with Notre Dame, which had collapsible marble stairs to form a lift.
Our next outing as a big group was to Versailles. We reserved a van with a guide who doubled as a driver for the seven of us to drive the 20-30 minutes to the town of Versailles. After a brief tour around the town and the grounds of the palace we were dropped off at the nearest possible point. The push was entirely over cobblestones and not particularly easy. We were disappointed to learn that strollers are not permitted inside the palace. Our guide was again very knowledgeable and the tour was interesting and informative.
Another one of my favorite days came near the end of the trip, when we spent the afternoon at Montemartre. The Sacre Coeur is a church built on top of a hill in the middle of Paris. It has an incredible panoramic view of the city. But the real reason for going is the square just off the church plaza. It is filled with local artists displaying and selling their work. Local art is one of my favorite purchases in a foreign city, especially one as culturally diverse as Paris. I bought two small paintings and the girls had charcoal portraits done, which turned out to be adorable. That evening Liz and Kevin met up with Liz’s friend Emily and her husband. Emily was an exchange student with our family probably twenty years ago and through the miracle of Facebook they reconnected.
Overall I would give Paris’ accessibility a C+. The metro, as far as I could tell, was completely inaccessible. Taxi drivers varied from very helpful to ridiculously unhelpful. We had better luck with Uber than taxi stands as far as helpfulness goes, but at times the stands were just more convenient. Sidewalks were marginally maintained, especially on side roads, and there were areas of cobblestones. But that is to be expected.