A few years ago, I decided to take my sons on an educational trip of Paris. Okay, I like Paris – the cafes, the food, the architecture – but I knew it was important to get them out of their comfort zones. After spending 30 minutes on the phone with an extremely helpful Continental agent, I found that the best way to secure all free tickets, using points, was to fly into Paris, through Atlanta, and then fly OUT of London, through Newark. Even better! Two trips for the price of one! More or less.
Although I had been to both cities, my usual tact when traveling is to research the area ahead of time. I called Bernard, who is from the Lyons area. He began listing the art museums in Paris: the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, the Rodin. Uh, no. The boys were 15 and 18, and dragging them through Impressionist paintings for several days was not going to make for a Happy Family Memory.
What teen boys need, I decided, was “guy stuff.” You know, gore, blood, battles, monsters. So I instead prepared a trip that would feature a mix of history and culture.
The trip didn’t start off very well. I spent time looking in a duty free shop during a layover in Atlanta. About 90 minutes before we were to board, I found that one boarding pass was missing. After a few frantic minutes, we ended up going all the way back to the ticket counters, where I talked to an agent. Travis, the youngest, operates on ‘crisis mode’ and was convinced our trip was over. The agent wanted me to re-purchase my ticket (this was before widespread e-ticketing). Since I hadn’t really bought the first ticket, and the new cost was about 50% of our entire trip budget, I had a problem. We eventually settled on a $200 re-print fee, then rushed back to the gate in time to board.
Lesson learned: Don’t panic. There are ways to deal with most any crisis. And make sure you have spare funds to handle emergencies.
We got to Paris, taxied to our hotel in the Latin Quarter, and immediately set out. First stop, for Richard the Aspiring Artist: the Louvre. There was long line, and I was exhausted from the travel, the stress, and the heat. He wanted to see the Mona Lisa. I want my boys to have all the experiences that I can give them, but I knew there was no way I could tramp through long halls to see a tiny painting, surround by dozens of people. I volunteered to wait outside, but he declined. I resolved to make up for the early disappointment.
Lessons learned: Be flexible, don’t make one stop be the end-all. Know that you may pass this way again.
Next on the agenda were the famous Catacombs of Paris. People think that going through tunnels lined with the bones of six million people is morbid, or creepy, but it’s not. The bones were moved into the quarries under respectful procedures, to relieve the overflowing cemeteries. It’s interesting, not sad. We were also going to take a tour of the Paris Sewers, but we ran out of time.
Lesson learned: Look for out-of-the-way things. If your photos match the postcards you can buy, you aren’t seeing everything.
Another good place to take teen boys who are interested in history rather than museums is Les Invalides, which houses the French Army Museum and the veteran’s home and hospital. Here, we visited the site of Napoleon’s tomb. It was HUGE. What an ego. (Question: Why do the French have hundreds of different uniforms, complete with frou-frou hats and even decor for the horses? My dad’s answer: Because they wanted to look good on parade but never actually fought. We all come from a long line of smart-asses). Seriously, there were several hundred feet of mannequins, both human and horse, wearing every kind of braid, wool, silk, gilt, and feather you could imagine. I suspect they made great targets.
Lessons learned: It doesn’t matter as much about what you look like, as it does how well you do the job.
Upcoming Part II: Where two teens learn not to compare their mother’s osso buco to that of French cafe.
- Another side of Paris (abimarvel.com)
- The Metro Tour of Paris, France (prweb.com)
- 10 free things to do in Paris, France (gadling.com)
- Paris, France: Musee D’Orsay (whatjothinks.wordpress.com)
- 12 Most Chic Reasons to Love Paris By Ali Handscomb (12most.com)