Day 1 in Paris: a morning visit to Jardin des Plantes. We really loved the menagerie inside Jardin Des Plantes, one of the oldest zoos in the world; you could really get close to the animals, and it was a really walkable, toddler friendly place. In the afternoon, we visited Notre Dame. We didn't have time to go inside because of an early dinner reservation, but had a lot of fun running around the outside. Notre Dame was one of the major landmarks little k was familiar with from her books that we read before the trip. We also wanted to do Saint Chapelle, but didn't feel like paying the admission fee so early in the day.
Day 2 in Paris: a little shopping in St. Germain Des Pres (celine) and then walked to the Louvre. Note for future visit: the Louvre is closed on Tuesday, but that means that it was pretty empty out front, and the kids had so much fun running around the pyramids. Then we let them run around the Jardin Palais Royale and picnicked around the fountain with some sandwiches from a nearby restaurant on Rue Richelieu.
Day 3 in Paris: visited the Eiffel Tower, which was probably the place little k was most excited about visiting. Note for future visit: book tickets for the elevators to go up as early as possible. Tickets were all sold out for both levels when I checked a few days before. The lines were quite long and we didn't have the time to wait, so just had fun running around the grass in the parks surrounding the Eiffel Tower. Also enjoyed watching a bit of the French Open on a big screen right in front of the Eiffel Tower. In the afternoon, we went for a walk in the beautiful Jardin Luxembourg which was only a half a block from our apartment on Rue de L'Odeon.
Day 5 in Paris: had a family wedding ceremony at the local municipal office in the morning and visited the Louvre in the afternoon. little K was very excited to see the Mona Lisa, which was in pretty much all of her Paris books. For the future I would definitely book advance tickets to avoid the long line, but we wanted to keep a fluid schedule without too many firm commitments.
Day 6: rented a car from Gare du Nord to attend a family wedding at Chateau D'Aveny in Dampsmesnils, about an hour north of Paris
Day 7: Celebrated little k's third birthday in Giverny in Monet's garden, where she loved walking amongst the pathways lined with beautiful flowers as tall as she was, and also along the ponds with water lilies from some of my favorite Monet paintings. Also visited the impressionist museum nearby which was having a special Degas exhibition, featuring little k's favorite ballerinas.
Day 8: explored Amboise, which was our home base for our three days in the valley. Stayed in le Cardinale, an apartment in the heart of the little town. The chateau in Amboise had a large outdoor courtyard gardens on the top with views over the town and river. Plenty of space to run around in, and we also explored the indoor spaces including the chapel where Leonardo Da Vinci was buried and some of the living quarters. We also visited Clos Luce, Da Vinci's home and where he died. Little k enjoyed running around his gardens, but also looking at his various inventions inside his home.
Day 9: visited Chenonceau chateau, which is a stunning castle built on a bridge over the river. We enjoyed walking around the large beautifully manicured gardens outside with lovely views of the castle, as well as the interior of the castle as well. If I were to live in a castle, I would love for it to look like Chenonceau.
Day 10: travel day 2 London. Our longest and most exhausting travel day, with a three hour drive back to Gare du Nord in Paris, followed by the 2.5 hr Eurostar train ride to London. Note for future: definitely arrive at train station at least an hour ahead of the train as there is security and customs to clear before boarding the train. We literally made the train as it was pulling away from the station.
Day 11: explore London, visited Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament Building, Buckingham Palace, Green Park in the morning. We didn't go inside anywhere as we had limited time in London but enjoyed seeing the major landmarks which were in our books. In the afternoon, visited the Princess Diana playground in Hyde Park, which is a wonderful park with a lots of different play areas, plus an old carousel right outside.
Day 12: visited the Natural History Museum. Little k really enjoyed the bug exhibit. The dinosaur exhibit was cool, but really packed and stuffy. Walked through the Victoria and Albert Museum and bought tickets for a later visit to the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibit. We were lucky to be staying in a flat a block away from all the museums and it's so nice that all the museums were free admission so you could come and go as it suited. While little K was napping, my mom and I returned to view the Savage Beauty exhibit which was stunning. Alexander McQueen was such an incredible talent and there were so many exquisite and striking pieces. The exhibit was so well laid out and just a marvel to see.
Day 13: return home, tired but full of happy memories.