For the most part I prefer my flights direct. Even on a flight as wonderful as our Air France Jumbo Jet… Just get me there. One and done is how I like to fly.
Layovers in Europe are the exception. I have to touch down in Amsterdam at no additional fee? Awww… bummer. Stuck in London for a day? Too bad…
I call this bonus travel. The longer the layover the better. To me, booking a flight with a 12 hour layover in Paris is like winning the biggest stuffed dog at the fair. It’s going to be a bitch to carry, I’m going to get tired and hot and ache all over and question my own sanity for wanting that dog so much, even as others look on with that wistful air and mouth the word “LUCKY!” in my direction.
En route to Israel we had a choice of a 4 or a 12 hour layover. The 4 hour layover meant we’d be lucky to get a decent airport baguette. The 12 hour one meant we could actually leave the airport and “see stuff”.
I chose the 12 hour one. My kids were game.
I should mention that this layover was in between two red eyes, but when life lands you in Paris, you don’t whine about red eyes. You carry that dog. You carry that dog proudly. LUCKY!
With four kids in tow, I aimed low. Super low. We would use public transportation. We would see the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t even suggest we go up. The lines might be long. The crowds might be thick. We’d just see it from the ground.
My five year old said he would like to get a baguette. A real French baguette at a real French bakery.
My 16 and 13 year old daughters went Kardashian* on me and decided the one thing they must, MUST do in Paris was visit the Bridge of Locks. They had to see it for themselves and they had to leave their own locks behind.
Thus we ventured forth, with little more than a metro map, to see Paris in one day.
We carried our carry on bags with us all over the city. They were only slightly less cumbersome than a large stuffed dog and drew almost as much attention. Madpax, who supplied us with the bags, warned us about the “packarazzi”. They weren’t kidding. The French equivalent of the TSA detained us at the x-rays then had a good laugh while the inspectors wrote down the brand name to shop for their own kids.
First we left our locks on the Pont Des Arts. We took a moment to enjoy some street performers on the bridge. Not mimes with the butt cheeks cut out of their dungarees… that would have been a little too “one perfect day in Paris”. But close.
After much walking we found a bakery and ate a delicious lunch. My young son’s baguette dream was realized. I gazed through the window and made le puppy eyes at the Fromagerie across the street. This love affair was not meant to be however. Fromagerie’s close early, and I snoozed, and losed.
Then we headed toward the Eiffel Tower.
The thing about the Eiffel Tower is that it is so big you can see it from everywhere. And you see it… right up there. It’s just over there! And you think, “It’s not far. Let’s just walk!”
It is far.
We walked. And walked and walked. We walked till we got tired and kept walking. Past impressive buildings, past street signs that looked important. Past statues and fountains and police cars with woo wa woo wa woo wa sirens that somehow change to wa woo wa woo wa woo the minute they fly by you. I was hot and tired and achey all over but I was so happy. Snapping photos of anything and everything as I schlepped myself through this stolen time in a foreign city. It’s liberating to not “have” to do things. When you don’t have too much to do you can walk for hours and marvel at buildings covered with colorful plants like this one.
We made it to the Eiffel Tower after all.
Did we see Paris in a day? You bet.
Just not all of it. Just enough to want to go back.
We all slept great on that second red eye. As well as on the metro.
* Going Kardashian was a recurring theme during our travels. My 16 year old daughter found great meaning in visiting the same places as her beloved reality TV heroes. I lacked the will power to fight. Good thing the Kardashians have been to some cool places.