4 & 5 April 2018- Paris passages, patisserie, Ladurée and off to London……. [France, England]

4 & 5 April 2018- Paris passages, patisserie, Ladurée and off to London……. [France, England]

Our final 2 days in Paris in this trip were full of Paris specialities – patisserie, parks, a wander through the iconic Parisian passages, a visit to Ladurée for a decadent breakfast, a trip down the  Champs-Élysée and a wander past the Eiffel Tower. A fitting end to a lovely 11 days in Paris.

4 April

After a long day in Disneyland and a late night, the kids slept til 7.30am and we had a hot breakfast in the apartment.  We had a day of wandering and eating planned, being our last full day in Paris. It was a relatively nice Spring morning so we headed out with our coats on for a wander, with a plan to explore some of the more interesting passages in Paris and eat our way through our delicious French food!

First on the agenda was finding some stamps and sending off some postcards to grandparents and pen-pals. With that taken care of it was off to find some passages.

We then wandered through various passages in the area.  Paris is full of covered passages. Built for the most part in the 19th century, these arcades covered with glass roofs, created by piercing through other buildings. Most of them now house shops, tearooms and restaurants. There are around 20 of them in Paris in the vicinity of the Grands Boulevards, but also a number near the area of our apartment in the 2nd arrondissement.  Today we’d headed up towards the Grands Boulevards to check out a few passages we hadn’t visited since our 2012 Paris trip.

Each passage is different, and many have a similar collection of shops.  We went through some that were full of Indian shops and another was a stamp collectors paradise.  Many were filled with cafes and restaurants. In one of the passages, we fondly remembered from a previous visit, we found a delicious biscuit and caramel shop. Of course they were offering a taste test of some of the products and after tasting some yummy biscuits and caramels we figured we’d better stock up for those long cold days in the motor home in Iceland.

Next up we found the amazing toy store that we loved 5 years ago. The kids could easily had purchased half the store but we didn’t have the space, and a few of the really awesome things would have been broken in transit.  Somehow we escaped without adding to our ever-expanding luggage!

By now we were getting a little hungry.  We happened to be in the same passage as a really nice cafe we remembered fondly from years ago.  The array of cakes and pastries is dazzling and many were different from ones in our apartment area.  Anto and I both remembered the lovely cake we had from here 5 years ago so decided we’d better make it our morning tea stop.  The decision on what to order was difficult as the pastry menu was 3 pages long and they all looked delicious.  We ended up with  house-made hot chocolate, coffees and the most amazing patisserie – a cake that was salted caramel mousse, praline and various other bits, plus an apple tart tatin that was amazing.

With full bellies it was off wandering through a few other passages, including more filled with toy stores!  Again we escaped without purchases but it was tough.

After our morning out exploring we headed back towards the Seine.  The sun was now shining and the kids had requested a final play in their favourite park, Jardin Nelson Mandela. For the last few years Astrid has been desperate to get into the ‘big kids park’ but the gates are always locked and we could never figure out how to get in despite there generally being kids in there. Today we weren’t the only tourists trying to solve the problem with our limited French.

Eventually we figured out that they opened the gates on the hour, for an hour, and parents had to be there to pick you up, but couldn’t go in.  All this was doable, but you had to be 7, so Astrid couldn’t go in and she was rather distraught as she’d been trying to get in there for years!  Maybe next visit, when she is actually 7, now that we know the protocol.

Instead the kids had a play in the 6 and under park under Granny supervision while Anto and I went to the  nearby kitchen shops and purchased more copper pots for Anto’s collection and to add to Di’s carry home luggage.

With kitchen items purchased it was back to drag the kids away from the park.  They were keen on eating out one last time so we decided we’d do lunch out and visited one of our favourite places ‘Le Pain Quotidien’. It’s a Belgian chain of organic cafes, and we are frequent visitors to the one on Rue Montorgueil.  We hadn’t been at all on this trip and as usual there were plenty of yummy things to pick from. The kids shared a platter of meat and cheeses with Granny and Anto had a falafel bowl and I had a quinoa salad.   I was obviously Paris photo weary as I hadn’t taken many all day, including of lunch!

Feeling more full it was one last trip to the supermarket to get a few supplies for our last French dinner, and to fill up a bag with food items for the Motorhome in Iceland.   Food is rather pricey in Iceland so we decided to use take as much with us as we were both allowed under customs laws, and could carry without being irritating.

Back to the apartment the kids enjoyed a couple of hours of playing, while Anto and I did some packing up. We weren’t leaving until the following afternoon but planned to spend the following morning eating and sightseeing before our departure to London.

The kids had dinner in the apartment, with of course some patiesserie – todays picks were a chocolate eclair, tart citron and an Easter tart they’d been eyeing off, which definitely tasted better than it looked!

Once the kids were in bed and under Granny supervision Anto and I went out for a wander around Paris by night, in search of a kid-free dinner.  After eating continuously for days we weren’t that hungry but figured we should take advantage of the opportunity to go out in Paris at night.

It was about 7.30pm when we ventured out and it was busy everywhere.  Several places we looked at had no tables, and after Anto decided on a very French looking bistro, which actually had at least a couple of things I could eat, we couldn’t get a table until 9pm so decided to look elsewhere.

We eventually decided on a bistro ‘Loup’ that we had walked past several times over the years, not far from our favourite kitchen shops.  We shared a started of burrata mozarella, pesto, tomato and pine nuts. Which was amazing and would have probably been enough with the crusty bread without ordering more.  For mains Anto had steak tartare with chips and I had a lentil salad with poached egg. They were all really good, and we really wanted dessert but were feeling stuffed.  We figured after a few days in the motorhome we’d be regretting the decision not to get dessert one last time, and we were right!

As we left the restaurant it was almost 9.30pm and still light but now raining lightly.  The streets of Paris were particularly pretty.  We did manage to stuff in a bit of chocolate eclair and tart citron the kids had left us, so it wasn’t entirely a dessert-less night!

5 April

Our final day in Paris started as usual around 7am. We had breakfast booked at Ladurée on des ChampsÉlysées as a final day in Paris treat.  First order of the morning was a little more packing and trying to dry the last of our clothes on the heated towel rails before embarking a long stretch without easy access to washing.

We left the apartment around 8.30am for the short walk and 2 metros to des ChampsÉlysées. Being peak hour, we were squished in like sardines on the metro, but the kids did well and after almost a week my mum has even stopped falling over every time the metro takes off!

It was a mild morning and we even saw some blue sky before we went into Ladurée.  We’d booked a table before we left Australia and it had been hard to get a table most days during our stay, but it actually seemed not too busy, so we may have just been able to show up.  Still, that tactic has not worked well for us in the past so this time we were glad we’d booked ahead.  It also meant it was the first time we were seated upstairs.

The kids were impressed with the grandeur of Ladurée and Soren sat up in his beautiful chair like a prince.  The kids ordered a rose and raspberry French toast to share.  Anto had the mousseline brioche hollandaise with smoked salmon, and my mum decided to order the same but with bacon instead of smoked salmon. I splashed out with the petit déjeuner  ChampsÉlysées, which is a course of fruit, a juice, a hot chocolate, scrambled eggs, breads and pastries. We also decided to order an additional selection of pastries to share and an extra hot chocolate for the kids.   Once all the food came out, we definitely looked like pigs but it was a fitting last meal in Paris!

Breakfast was wonderful, you can’t beat the Ladurée hot chocolate, and the kids French toast was divine. The adults all thoroughly enjoyed our meals and we did manage to get through all the food, despite it being entirely  over the top for one sitting.

The Canadian couple sitting near us thought the kids were adorable with their non-stop chatter even if they had interrupted their breakfast repeatedly, and they had a good chat with us before we left.  On the way out we cruised past the patisserie section for a final macaron purchase (for later of course, the thought of food right then was nauseating) and then it was outside to the ChampsÉlysées, where we discovered it had been raining and was now freezing and windy, so much for the mild morning!

Not deterred we walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe. Master Soren was feeling a little tired and emotional so decided to have a bit of a grump in a scenic location!

Having been up the Arc de Triomphe before (us twice, including less than a year earlier) and also Di, we settled for taking photos from across the street.  It is certainly worth the trip up if you’ve never been, one of my favourite places to view Paris (better than the Eiffel Tower in my opinion).

Rounding out our day of Paris sight-seeing we decided to embark on one of our favourite walks, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower.  Much to Soren’s disappointment we’d denied another trip up the tower (he had been up less than a year earlier) but we hadn’t actually visited during this trip so a walk over there was in order.  The kids were excited by their first glimpse of the tower up close.

It had briefly warmed up during our walk but the wind was a little icy.  We followed the river down past the tower and checked out the views across the Seine towards La Defense.

Like the previous year, access to the area underneath the tower is now blocked without lining up to go through security. As we had no intention of going up the tower and the line just to get through security was long, the kids had to make do with checking out the Tower from afar.  It appears that they are now trying install permanent fencing, so the area was looking rather unattractive.    Soren was just stoked to see his favourite Paris icon yet again.

Since we couldn’t get close to the actual tower, we made sure there were some selfies from nearby Champ de Mars. The kids are always happy to have their picture taken in front of the Eiffel Tower, and this time they got some with Granny too!

Now almost 12.30pm we metro’d and RER’d back to the apartment and had an hour to pack the final million things and eat a couple of delicious macarons before dragging the bags out to the airport. We had 2 additional  bags, compared with our arrival from Belgium – 1 with car seats and another full of food for Iceland.  Getting bags to, and onto, the metro is always the tricky bit in Paris…….. especially when managing kids in the busy streets and metro! Luckily with my Mum around, she could keep the kids under control while Anto and I loaded up with luggage.

We metro’d down to Les Halles and then one last drag of the bags through the huge station before setting off on the long RER out to the airport.  My mum got us, the bags, and the kids on the RER but didn’t quite escape before the doors shut, so had an extra ride for a stop to Gare du Nord before we bid a quick farewell and she managed to get off.  She was then released into the wilds of Paris, and made it back to the apartment on her own for a couple days of peace and quiet in Paris before her river cruise through France.

We had made it on the express RER to the airport, which is always more pleasant than the all stops version. Astrid talked non-stop for the entire trip, and Soren tried to nap, which didn’t bode well for a long afternoon.  Once we arrived and finally got the bags to the right spot, and checked in, it was a relatively straight forward immigration and security process. As usual at Charles De Gaulle airport there was plenty of  walking, it’s a rather large and spread out airport.  We did make it to the British Airways lounge with half an hour to spare before boarding.

We were now finally feeling slighty hungry after our monster breakfast, so used our lounge time to eat some yummy noodles, quiche, cheeses and breads. Our flight was boarding at 4pm and a ‘devastated to be leaving Paris’ Astrid, shovelled her last baguette in her mouth and was negotiating trying to get some on the plane with her to smuggle into the UK.  We pretty much had to tear her away from the food kicking and screaming once our flight was called for boarding!

We were in business class for the short hop over the pond to London as we had booked the flights to Iceland on frequent flyer points and it was actually less points flying business with the connection, than doing the short leg in economy.  This is the third time we have flown Business on this route (always due to points efficiency with connecting flights) and it’s total overkill for the short flight time, but very much appreciated luxury with the lounge access, extra space and a meal (which you no longer get in economy).

The finger sandwiches, cake and meat and cheese platters were pretty decent and kept us amused as there were no TVs.  The flight, as usual for this route, spent more time taxiing at both ends than in the air……..

We touched down in London at Heathrow Terminal 5 on time, and with just an overnight stay before our early morning flight to Iceland, our bags had been checked all the way through so there was no need to collect them.

We still needed to go through immigration due to being in transit in the UK for a whole 14 hours. Despite being in the fast-track line we had the chattiest immigration guy ever and it took forever.   The tired kids were trying to be patient, but were getting restless as it was approaching bed time in France.

We had somehow forgotten to bring our Oyster Cards  (yes, we randomly own public transport cards for a huge number of countries) so we unfortunately couldn’t easily tube to the other terminal, closest to our hotel, for the night.  This meant locating the Heathrow Express and a bus. All were free, but there was lots of walking around, and we still had plenty of hand luggage and tired kids we had to lug. Luckily once we were on the bus it was a short ride to the nearby Heathrow Novotel, but it seemed to take forever. Again, longer than the actual flight!

As we were literally just in London for the night and had the early flight out we wanted to stay at the airport.  Previously we’d stayed in the Sofitel in Terminal 5, which is one of my favourite hotels ever.  Needing 2 rooms this time we couldn’t justify the cost so we had settled on the very newly opened Novotel London Heathrow, which is close to the airport but not walkable due to major roads and the runways.

The hotel hadn’t even opened when we’d booked it, and we noticed as we approached the outside still wasn’t quite finished.  However, the inside is lovely and it was a good-sized room, with a huge TV and posh shower (you could watch TV from the shower and bathroom) and plenty of space for the 4 of us. The beds were very comfy and the shower was amazing, something we were keen on before our 9 days in the motor home.  Oh how a few days later we were reminiscing about those beds and the shower!

We did have to laugh at the new elevators having entirely the wrong floors labelled on them.  The kids were not impressed!

The hotel did win them over by giving them a voucher for some free cookies and milk at the bar.  It was now well and truly past kid bed-time and we’d eaten enough in the Paris airport lounge and during the flight that we’d decided that dinner was unnecessary.  The kids happily claimed their biscuits and glasses of milk and the adults had a drink to keep us sane – a beer and an espresso martini.  The bar tender made sure the kids got constant refills of milk and biscuits so it ended up being a pretty good deal!

Pretty soon we convinced them that they had eaten enough, and it was time for some sleep in a comfy bed before an early start to the day for our journey North to Iceland.  With the kids asleep the adults enjoyed the very nice shower and some bad British TV before attempting a few hours sleep. We were all beyond excited about Iceland but little did we know exactly how much adventure we were getting ourselves into!

Daily statistics for 4 April, 2018 in Paris, France – the temperature range for the day was 7 to 14 degrees, with an average of 10 degrees and 1mm of rain  Our total walking for the day was 12.7km.

Daily statistics for 5 April, 2018 in Paris, France and London, England – the temperature range for the day in Paris was 5 to 11 degrees, with an average of 8 degrees and some light rain.  When we reached London in the late afternoon it was a cold 5 degrees!  The total walking for the day was 11.1km (unfortunately some of that with bags!).

Up next, an early morning flight out of London as we embarked on a wonderful adventure in Iceland. The first day of our motor-home certainly proved to be spectacular, if somewhat hair-raising!

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