How to visit Paris with kids (not a guide)

Day one.

Plan to meet friends at the playground, an enormous one familiar from last year’s visit. Hope to recreate the fun of the zip line, the train play structure, the bouncing bridge. Know that you’re borrowing trouble; you shouldn’t expect to recreate anything. Eye the clouds as you leave your apartment and wish for an umbrella. Get on the metro.

Exit the train twenty minutes later and stand in the station watching the rain pour down the gutter next to the stairs while your kids say, “Come on! Let’s go to the playground!” Spend twenty minutes trying to come up with Plan B with your husband, texting friends about the change in plans, and managing the kids’ disappointment. Watch them sit on the grimy station floor, rummaging through the backpack and eating a days’ worth of snacks.

Go to a museum instead, the nearby Musee d’Orsay (purchasing a cheap umbrella on the way) and join a long line. Close up the umbrella; the rain has stopped. Leave line-standing to husband and chase kids around the open plaza. Find short posts for them to climb on. Enjoy twenty minutes of happiness.

Rejoin line – and patient husband – at the museum entrance. Enter. Nearly trip over 4 year-old son who has sat directly on the floor and announced, “This doesn’t interest me at ALL.”

Pull him along after enthusiastic seven year-old (whose first grade curriculum included the Impressionists) and enter the galleries. Challenge him to a scavenger hunt: bowls of fruit. Thank heaven for Cezanne, and all his lovely apples and pears. Next, hold son up to look closely at the Degas ballerinas. Ignore his insistence that he doesn’t like ballet and ballerinas. Point out the shadowy figures in the background and challenge him to count them up. Twenty minutes pass. Watch 7 year-old at the opposite end of the gallery, grinning and bouncy at seeing so many familiar paintings.

Leave the museum after an hour, eye the grey sky, notice the Batobus stop across the street. Board the boat, which is partially covered (and not at all crowded). Challenge the boys to be the first to spot the Eiffel Tower. They spot a playground first; exit the boat. Weave your way down a path studded with colorful sculptures.

Begin to wonder if the kids were optimistically hallucinating a playground. They weren’t. It’s little (one slide, two teeter-totters) but it has enough. Play.

Watch the skies clear, the sun come out, and make a dinner plan with friends.

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