Are we crazy? My husband, driven by his thirst for adventure, when booking our airline tickets to Denmark noticed there was a short (i.e. decent-length) Paris layover, and a 6-hour one. Of course he suggested the latter so we could grab a train into the city and see what we could see with a few hours in one of the world’s most beloved cities.
I hesitated. Hear me out! I’m not crazy, right? We’d have to have the energy for such an adventure after having spent the night on a plane, and understanding we still had more travel time ahead of us! Then there’s the stress of leaving the airport and opening ourselves up for all kinds of things-gone-wrong leading to missing our connecting flight to Copenhagen, or a stressful rush back to the airport. We’d also have to find somewhere to leave carry-on luggage or pack light enough to lug it all around Paris, which happens to be infamous for pickpockets…
Well, we thought it through, he listened to my concerns, and then we booked those tickets. Ultimately, I gave the okay because he agreed to form a plan, handle the details, and build in plenty of margin.
I will say, as the long, sleepless flight to Paris unfolded, there were many times I considered pulling the plug on our plans to go into the city, but when it came down to it, yes, we were exhausted, but the thought of enduring long, uncomfortable hours in the airport seemed even worse than mustering up the energy for an excursion.
Even though Charles de Gaulle is almost an hour by train to the city center, we were amazed how much sight-seeing we fit into a few hours!
We got off at Notre Dame, walked through and stood in awe of the magnificent architecture!
A few blocks later, as we strolled along admiring the uniquely Parisian streets (weighted down with a few backpacks, pushing a stroller with an exhausted little boy, and the equally sleepy baby strapped to me in the carrier), we stopped for a baguette sandwich. We munched and meandered along the Seine.
The Eiffel Tower soared above the buildings in the distance. The air was warm, the fall sunshine brilliant. We pinched ourselves: we’re in Paris! The Lourve compound with the iconic glass pyramids signaled the end of our walk; time to head back to the train station.
Along the way, on a quiet side street, we discovered a picture-perfect sidewalk cafe offering espresso and crepes. Eddie was asleep, but the rest of us enjoyed the particularly Paris moment: the cobblestones, the looming stone buildings, the colorful cafe, the nutella crepe and steaming cups of espresso.
The ride back to the airport was uneventful; we arrived in plenty of time to make our way to our connection.
And that’s where the pleasant memories end.
At risk of an I-told-you-so, I’ll disclose how miserable the hungry/tired 3-year-old was when we reached our gate, wailing and sobbing. The depth of weariness as our bodies finally arrived in Copenhagen a few hours later and we suffered through the ordeal of wrangling luggage and tired children through the airport, onto the train, then a several-block walk to our rental apartment. But, you know, that probably would have been pretty unbearable anyway. From the extra effort, we gained lovely memories of Paris. While of course it only whet our appetite–there’s a reason that city is a jewel in the eyes of many around the world–we have a sense of the place, a taste, enough to hold and handle and treasure. It was very much a highlight of our whole trip! I guess I’m saying, while I balked at the idea at first, the pursuit of adventure was worth the risk and discomfort.
As we left the cafe, we had, what I’ll always remember as a distinctly French experience. The waitress who’d served us, reached out and took Xander’s hand. Looking adoringly into his baby eyes she cooed in her French-accented English, “You feel this between us? Don’t ever forget this moment!” I’m sure he has, but I haven’t. And deep down I think it’s worth traveling even with these young ones because it pushes them (and me!) to learn the art of exploring, and life is the richer for it!