I forgot to say we were staying with friends of my parents-in-law who live in Alfortville, Paris. They were wonderful hosts with a gorgeous flat and beautiful cat and unimpeded view of the Seine. The 'main' reason we went was because my daughter wanted to go to Paris for her 10th birthday (which is next week but close enough). Our hosts, Mike and Michele, gave her a present when we arrived that included a map of the Metro and instructions for getting around. My nine year old mastered the Metro and RER after one go and kept us going in the right direction for the entire trip. We only had one hitch the whole time and that was when my son decided to stick his foot between the Metro doors and my husband literally dragged him free. Quick heart-attack for me.
Our daughter also got us around the Louvre with the museum map and I know I am biased but I really think she is a genius :) The layout is hideous and map may as well be bloody encrypted.
So after we battled our way through the throngs of knick-knack-selling street-hawkers at the Eiffel Tower we walked up (via the Arc de Triomphe) to the Champs Elysees to feed the children a much-promised MacDonalds. I know it isn't very French but it is only their second since arriving in France so not too bad. Then we got the Metro to Pont-Neuf so we could explore the Ile de la Cite.
Pont Neuf, despite the name, is Paris’s oldest surviving bridge, built by Henry IV four hundred years ago. From here we walked down to Ste Chapelle but discovered it is closed for renovation! So we dragged our flagging children to the magnificent Cathedrale de Notre-Dame (past all the policemen who call the island home).
Once inside, we lit candles and said little prayers and then wandered through the huge dark Gothic structure
Pretty packed with people and gloomy inside and we were grateful the children didn't decide to play hide-and-seek around the alter. Beautiful atmosphere though, amazing stained glass windows (obviously). After we'd exhausted the inside we took advantage of a gorgeous(but frigid) day and wandered around the back of the catherdral to the famous buttresses.
and then around the north of the building which clearly had not felt the warmth of the sun. Can you see one of the gargoyles drooling ice?
Then it was back on the Metro for DD to lead us home for food and wine. A brilliant first day.