Paris in the winter-time

“Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies
Whether loud be her cheers or whether soft be her tears
More and more do I realize

That I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles”

Cole Porter 1953

To be truthful, I don’t like Paris much at all! This sounds almost sacrilegious and I keep convincing myself that if I go back again it will redeem itself and I will fall in love with it too. This doesn’t sound like the introduction  to a best holiday post, does it?

About a week before we were due to go to Paris with the children in January 1996, France was hit by a massive cold snap. The upside of this was that, despite still being bitterly cold, Paris sparkled with ice and snowy remnants.

We had decided that with the kids so young (6 & 9) we would do a ‘speed dating’ type approach to Paris and only visit places they had heard of – in just one day.

At that time Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame movie was all the rage, so we went there.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

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Interior of Notre Dame

They knew the Mona Lisa, so we went to The Louvre and only saw her.

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Outside the Louvre, Paris

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Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Louvre, Paris

They knew the Eiffel Tower, so we climbed that and admired the wintry views.

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View over Paris from the Eiffel Tower

We walked along the Seine and bought my son some Asterix and Obelix characters as he loved those books. But the most fun of all was the fountain in the Jardins du Trocadero. The fountains were not working as they would have been ice statues, frozen in time. The pond section of the fountain was frozen solid and other children were even riding their bicycles on it! So, we clambered down onto the pond and “skated” around on our boots.

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Jardins du Trocadero with Eiffel Tower behind, Paris

The plan had been to do a day trip to Disneyland Paris the following day. We had originally decided that staying at Disneyland was too expensive as the packages on offer in Australia had been astronomically priced. But we were really unhappy with the Youth Hostel where we were staying in Paris – unsavoury neighbourhood, noisy and not particularly comfortable – so we decided to ring Disneyland directly. Aah, pre-internet days, so much more complicated. They offered us a 2 night, 1 day package including accommodation, breakfast and Park entry for little more than the Hostel. We were off in a shot!

Just an aside before we get to Disneyland: this was the only hostel we had problems with. We stayed in  Youth Hostels with the children all over Scotland and in several others on the Continent. In fact, in London, where we had thought we would treat ourselves to a central hotel, we decamped to the hostel at Golders Green because the hotel was so awful!

Disneyland was always going to be fabulous when you have two young, impressionable children in tow. The cold snap, though, had made the place look like a fairy-tale. Some rides and eating venues were closed, but, on the whole everything was fully functioning. There were so few people there that instead of queuing for hours, we could opt to just stay on some of the rides and go around again and again. Great fun. If the children spotted a Disney character they could generally run straight over and welcome them, no jostling for attention. The street parade was, of course, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and was made all the more exciting because we had just seen the Cathedral. It was so much better staying on site and not having to get ourselves back to Paris with two exhausted children at the end of the day. It also allowed us to go to a dinner with the characters which was just magical.

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All iced in – Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster

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More ice!

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Dinner with Minnie Mouse – every young girl’s dream!

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