This is part two of the review of our holiday to Paris. In holiday part 1 (ferry to France and Eurocamp Paris) I have already provided details of getting to the site and about the Eurocamp Paris International campsite. One of the main advantages of this particular site is it's proximity to Maisons Laffitte RER train station with a direct train into both Paris and Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallée — Chessy train station. The train station is about 15 minutes walk from the camp site (a little longer with kids, quicker when running). This is on the RER A line.
I have already done a lot of travelling within Paris before and had done some research on the train tickets before the holiday, so I thought I knew what tickets I was going to buy. I was planning to get the Paris Visite Pass, which did not need any kind of photo, but at the station the man at the ticket office suggested another ticket which I was not aware of that was cheaper. I didn't know until after buying the ticket that the tickets needed to have a photo attached. I had taken some passport photos with me as I've needed them at previous Eurocamp and Keycamp holidays, but I'd left them at the caravan. Rather than paying an additional 10€ for photos at the station I ran back to the caravan for the photos.
Some of the common ticket types for trains in Paris
Paris Visite Pass (Visit Paris pass) - This is generally considered as a tourist train ticket that is usually more expensive than the ones that the locals would use. It is however a great choice for children as it's the only ticket I know of that gives a discount for children. It's also the only pass ticket that can be used from to or from the Airports (although not required for my particular holiday). It's available in different time periods, and can work out good value in some other circumstances. These have to be purchased at a ticket office.
Mobilis - Mobilis tickets are valid for unlimited travel in one day based on the number of zones purchased. It is a good ticket when travelling around the metro within Paris. Children pay the same price as adults. These can be purchased from the automated machines or a ticket office.
Navi Week Pass - This is the ticket that we purchased for the adults. It's valid for 7 days and takes the form of a photo ID card and an electronic pass. This needs to be purchased from a ticket office and a photo needs attached to the card. This uses the quick pass turnstiles as well as working in the normal turnstiles and so is convenient to use.
Individual tickets - You can also buy individual tickets. In the case of train tickets these are purchased between two specific stations, for the metro then you can pre-purchase several tickets each of which is valid for one journey. These can be purchased from automated machines or a ticket office.
The Paris Visite is the cheapest option for children as it's the only one that offers a discount. I'm not sure how much the individual tickets would have cost to compare. When we visited Disneyland Paris we only took a single train, so it may have been cheaper to have bought a return ticket on those days and the Mobilis on the days we went on the metro, but it was more convenient to not have to buy tickets each day anyway.
Sightseeing in Paris
I have visited Paris a lot and we have taken the children to Disneyland Paris a few times in the past, but only once taken our children (or rather child as it was at the time) into Paris itself, which was over 5 years ago. We had planned to visit some Paris sites and the Paris Christmas Market on our previous trip, but due to the large amount of snow at Disneyland Paris we were unable to. Therefore we were determined to show our children some of the sites of Paris on this holiday.
We spent about one and a half days site-seeing in Paris. We were planning to spend two days but due to Cafe Mickey being fully booked (more in part 3) we cut the second a little short. This however was long enough for what we wanted to show the children and enough for them to enjoy Paris without them getting bored.
One of the things about Paris, which is also the same about many other capitol cities is that they are not particularly child friendly. In particular few restaurants have children's menus. There are some that are suitable, but rather than trying to plan our day around finding a particular restaurant we instead took sandwiches which we ate whilst queuing for the Eiffel Tower and later had a Crepe near Notre Dame. We had other opportunities during our holiday for nice restaurants. We didn't particularly go for French cuisine in the restaurants instead choosing child friendly restaurants, mainly at Disney Village.
Day One - The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral
The Eiffel Tower
The main thing place wanted to visit, common with most visitors to Paris was the Eiffel Tower. We visited mid-week outside of the French school public holidays (although it was half-term for the UK) so we didn't expect it to be exceptionally busy. We had not taken a particularly early train travelling after the main rush hour to avoid the congestion on the train.
When we arrived at the Eiffel Tower there was the longest queue I have ever seen. It turns out that this was due to malfunction in the lifts, leaving only one visitor lift open. We spent nearly two hours queueing in the rain before we finally got to enter the lifts. We did not go to the top floor, but did spend some time exploring the first and second floors, although part of the first floor was closed for refurbishment.
Due to the bad weather we needed to change our son into some dry clothes. There is a baby changing room at one of the toilets, but it was not accessible as it was being used for storing bags of rubbish. The staff at the toilets were quite rude, so not a very family friendly experience.
Notre Dame Cathedral
After visiting the Eiffel Tower we took the train to Notre Dame. We visited some of the souvenir shops (one of the cheaper areas for souvenirs) and then visited the inside of the Cathedral. I would have liked to have visited the bell tower (as I've only visited on one occasion previously), but was not prepared to queue again after the experience of the Eiffel Tower. We then returned to the caravan as although we only visited two sites it had been a long day for our children.
Day Two - Other sites in Paris
Our second day in Paris was only a short visit. We had booked into a restaurant at Disney Village in the afternoon and so spent some time exploring Paris in the morning before getting onto the train to Disneyland. We wanted to visit a few different sites, so the visits were quite short.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe was first on our list for the second day sightseeing. We took the tunnel to the centre of the roundabout so that we could walk around outside of the Arc de Triomphe. We did not however visit inside the Arc de Trimophe.
Place de la Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries
We then visited the Place de la Concorde, although just as far as the entrance to the Jardin des Tuileries. The Ferris wheel (La Grande Roue) has now gone, but there are still some food stalls where we had a snack to keep us going until our late lunch.
We had nice weather so spent some time enjoying the sun taking a stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries. There are some toilets near the entrance to the garden which are reasonably priced (compared to some others), and which didn't charge for our 4 year old son, but did our older daughter.
Musée du Louvre
We did not have chance to go into the Musee de Louvre. I have visited before and it is well worth a visit, but needs a good half a day or so to enjoy (free for children and for all on certain days).
We did go through the shopping centre underneath the Louvre, and our son needed the toilet. These toilets were very expensive at 1 euro per person, with no discount for even very young children. These are best avoided if possible, although with young children that needed a toilet we didn't have a choice.
Travelling onwards to Disneyland Paris
We then got back onto the RER (A) to Disneyland Paris (Marne-la-Vallée — Chessy) to continue the rest of the day. Due to maintenance work the return train to the caravan site was suspended at Sartrouville. Fortunately it was still possible to switch to another train for our station, which was the next stop at Maisons Laffitte, but any further would have been replacement trains.
I think it's important to show children some of Paris itself rather than just visiting Disneyland Paris and we were able to achieve that. There is a lot of things to see and do in Paris, but we intentionally kept our visit to only a few major sites so that we could fit this into a short period of time without the children getting bored.
Hopefully by the time you read this the lift for the Eiffel Tower will be fixed as whilst I have queued for the tower in the past, this was the worst queue I'd ever stood in for a tourist attraction.