Paris, oh how it amuses us.

We left Dinan bright and early as we had to drive to Orley Airport to return the car by noon.  Originally, we thought it was three o’clock that we had to return the car to Hertz.  Good thing we checked our spreadsheet the day before!  If you remember (or if you read) our stop in Austria, we returned the car 30 minutes after the check in time that we had agreed to and they charged us for a whole extra day.  Brutal!  So, with that sour taste in our mouth, we didn’t want to go back and do that again!

We realized that it was going to be a 4 hour drive from Dinan to Paris, so it was going to be tight to get up, get packed, get the kids mobilized (anyone with children knows that you need a cattle prod to get kids going in the morning), and get to the airport in time.  And we were right, not to mention that it was raining which meant that we needed to follow the lower speed limit of 110kph as opposed to the dry speed limit of 130kph.  Damn.  Aaaand, then there was the rush hour traffic that every morning brings.  It was going to be tight.

We pulled into the parking lot at 12:17pm, with 13 minutes left on the grace period and basically run the car keys to the attendant and affirm that we are checked in and we didn’t get an extra day charged.  To top things off with my crazy driving, I was having a wee bit of abdominal distress for some reason, and it was creating another level of stress on top of the already stressful situation.

We get to the airport and find the bathroom, and then we try using Uber for the first time.  Not sure how it works as we are Uber-virgins, but we give it a go.  We lock in on a driver and he tells us where to go to meet him, and we head off to the rendez vous point.  We get to the spot which is like the airport hotel transfer bus stop, or the Park n Fly bus stop.  No cars allowed there.  Oooookay.  Thank God we are able to text the driver through the app, as we finally found him after he started jumping up and down while waving his hands.

We, well he, navigates through the crazy Paris traffic where motorcycles do not obey any laws of logic, and we then get to our apartment.

Our host shows us in and gives us the key and we start to look around at what is available to cook in the kitchen before we head out to the grocery store.  Well, it looks like there is a fully stocked pantry, and the fridge has some jam and butter in it.  Then we find the half eaten bag of chips, and the medicine cupboard and the drawers in the bathroom had combs, q-tips, and a lot of personal hygiene products in the cabinet and bathroom drawers.

Both Deb and I agreed that this was a bit weird.  Did the person who owned the apartment actually know that someone was renting it out?  Maybe the family or couple would return while we were out, while we were showering, or worse yet, while we were asleep.  That would have been interesting as our suitcases had exploded everywhere, and we had a clothesline strung up inside the apartment!  Memories of Greece from the last time Deb and I went on an around the world trip.  We almost got kicked out of an empty hotel for hanging our laundry up inside our hotel room and off of the balcony!

After we figured out that we didn’t need any food other than milk, wine, beer ,and some meat to make a meat sauce for our pasta, we were pretty good.  We headed out to the grocery store and the bakery and came home for dinner and went to bed.

The next morning we got up and our plan was to see the Arc du Triumphe, the Eiffel Tower and Lulu wanted to do a little shopping for some high class fashion in Paris.  That was it.  Plain and simple.  We decided that we would walk up the tower during the daytime,  head out for a little lfe a la Parisienne, and then return for the big light show which ran every hour on the hour for five minutes after the sun went down.

We Ubered (is that a verb?) it into town and got to the Arc de Triumphe.  We made it over to the square and took a look around and saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier there.  The kids asked appropriate question like “Why is there a big arch in the middle of the street and cars have to drive around it?”, and “If the soldier is unknown, then why does he need a tomb?”.  Good questions, but we had all of the answers semi-prepared.

I am not a big watcher of the Tour de France, but love cycling, so I can only imagine what it would be like to have the Tour cyclists pedalling up this Champs de Elysee while drinking champagne.  Must be pretty neat.  We walked down the Champs looking through the windows of Yves St Laurent, Givenchy, The Kooples (shout out to Mike and Kirsti!), and all the other big names…  We went in one store that was directed at kids and I got my first taste of “Dad and Daughter Go Shopping”.  “Daaad, stop it!  You’re embarrasing me!”, says my little angel.  I was just picking out a couple of things that she would look good in!  Not even anything remotely embarrasing!  She doesn’t know how I can embarras her het!  Hahaha!  So, Wilson and I head out onto the street where we find a sweet Lamborghini just parked on the street.

We finish up there and head down to the Eiffel Tower and we get past security, which wasn’t there the last time we were in Paris (in 2015).

En route to the Eiffel Tower, we came across a memorial to Lady Diana, where she was last photographed before she died from the car accident in the tunnel in Paris with her boyfriend.  Lots of handwritten memoirs all around the place and a beautiful statue that was the replica of the flame on the Statue of Liberty.

In fact the overall police presence was significantly more all over Europe, with soldiers and full on machine guns everywhere.  We were told to be prepared for a long wait to get into the Eiffel Tower, especially for the elevators that went from the bottom to the top.  The option that we could do was walk to the second level and then take an elevator the rest of the way. We got in line and to our surprise we were on our way up the tower within 15 minutes!  Perfect.

The views from all of the levels were pretty outstanding, and the kids were happy to be on top of such a great landmark.  The wifi was really good and so we FaceTimed some family and friends that hadn’t left for work yet.  While Deb FaceTimed her parents, I was a sneaky devil and got a free tour of the Tower from a nearby group of people…just blend in!

The climb up was definitely the way to go as the lineups for the elevators were ridiculous.  At the top, the views of Paris were spectacular and we were lucky that it was a super clear day.  Here are some photos from the tower:

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We climbed down and we were determined to get to Rue de Rivoli for some more high fashion for Lulu.  We plugged it in the HereWeGo app and it said we were about 2.3km, and it was going to be an hours walk to get there.  It was a solid hour walk, with no stopping and us doing our usual fast walk, not the saunter that the app supposes that we would be taking.  Deb had found a shopping mall that would have had French designers at normal prices.  With a bit of complaining from our dear son, we finally made it.  It required a  i of “We are doing this for Lulu” encouragement.  I taught Wilson about the token “Man Chair” in womens clothing stores, and eventually we left to ride the escalators up and down.

We headed down into the shopping mall and went into the first store and she found what she was looking for.  Bonus!  Wilson and I only had to sit in the token “man chair” in one store.  And off we went with bags in hand!

We ascended the escalator to the Jardin Nelson Mandela, which had one of the few playgrounds in Paris.  There were two playgrounds there, one for younger kids that didn’t have a gate on it, and one for 7-12 year olds that had a gate on it.  The younger kids park was nice and jovial but had a lot of little kids in it (I ugess that is what you get when you only have a handful of parks in a big city).  The big kids one didn’t have many kids in it, and there weren’t any adults there either.  Strange.  We asked a kid who was in there and he told us that the park was closed.  And there was a sign that I missed that said that.  So, we made plans to come back the next day to have a good play before we head off to Morocco where we knew there would not be any playgrounds.

Wilson and I found a good burger joint for supper, and then we Ubered it over to the Eiffel Tower for the big light show.

One thing that you have to realize is that there are men of many different ethnic origins who during the day sell water if it is hot or umbrellas and ponchos when it is raining.  Miraculously, if it is sunny and then starts to rain, they come out with umbrellas by the armful and they put the water buckets away.  I don’t know where they stash this stuff, but it is kind of like magic.  It has been in every city that we have been in.  At night, you know when it is sunset because they come out with stupid lit up slingshot whirlygigs that they shoot up into the air until the last person has gone to bed.  France was no exception, but for all of the lovers who were sitting on the grass waiting for the light show, they were selling bottles of champagne, wine, and beer.  Oh well, when in France….  We decided against it as we didn’t want to be like many other people there who were imbibing while their kids were running amock.

Deb and the kids were freezing, so we told them that it was going to be only a couple of minutes more.  And then a couple of minutes more, and then a couple of minutes more.  We had a family from the States poised and ready to do reciprocal family photos during the twinkle light show.  It isn’t like we didn’t get any light show, as they shine coloured flood lights up on the tower and they change colours and dance slowly around the tower like a man caressing a womans body (like that analogy?  Hahaha).  But there was no dazzling lights.  Supposedly they blew the budget the night before for some Japanese celebration.  Arrrgg!  Oh well, we headed back with two tired and cold kids.

We wake up the next morning and get everything packed up as we are leaving for Morocco the next day.  We find the post office and send the gladiator helmet back along with all kinds of other stuff that we have picked up along the way.  Oh ya, and the heart shaped rocks that I like to collect from around the world.

We head back to the apartment for a quick bite and grab the Uber down to the Jardin Nelson Mandela to go have a play in the park that was closed the night before.

We arrived and the place was alive with families lounging around and young kids playing in the younger kid playground.  We made our way over to the older kids park and it was closed.  In the middle of the day.  With kids in it.  And padlocks on the entrance, and on the two exits.  Inside, there were only three adults visible and probably 30 kids.  What is wrong with this picture.

Again, there was no way that I could see about how to get into the park for the kids, so I say “Lets hop the fence.  What bad can come of this”.  Well, apparently a lot.

I jump over first as Lulu didn’t want to be the first one over.  Then I was in the midst of lifting her over the 5′ fence when one of the adults comes striding quickly in his tight jeans, polo shirt, and loafers wagging his finger at me yelling “Non, monsieur, tu ne peu pas entrez come ca.  C’est illegale….”  and so on.  I have been trying to figure out what this guy looked like and how he was behaving, other than royally pissed off that I had superceded his overpriced and overdressed babysitter role.  He was the guy who played the maitre d’ at the french restaurant in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (link here to a video clip).

I could spell out the whole story, which I will append at the end for my own memory down the road (and you can read too if you want), or you can go to this link and read it yourself.  I got kicked out of a kids playground as supposedly, according to one of the nice little girls in the park that was there, parents drop their 7-11 year olds off in this park and they go off shopping in the nearby ritzy district.  So this guy was a babysitter.  I was a dad that just wanted to let my kids run around.

In the end, both of the kids were crying, which set off a crying spree with other kids outside of the kids jail, I mean playground.  We walked off looking for silver linings.  Well, we came across a group of young men doing street dancing, which was really good.  We got McFlurries since there is no Kawartha Dairy here in France.  We passed by a dance troop that were doing some great hip hop dancing as well.

Then we went off and found a great little playground tucked in the middle of a neighbourhood that was in memory of Anne Frank.  This spurred a little bit of energy and education with the kids, so it was good overall.  Silver linings to an otherwise dark cloud.

We headed home and ate out the fridge and packed our bags. We are off to the airport bright and early to head off to Morocco and the start of our African adventure…

My TripAdvisor Review:

If I could give it a zero I would. Sorry Mr. Mandela, but you would be ashamed of this place, and to have his name attached to it. He stood for the people, unity, and freedom.

We went there on two separate occasions, both times with our kids who are 9 and 11 to go play in the “awesome playground” that we had heard about. Playgrounds in Paris seem to be few and far between and those that exist aren’t really more than structures that you would find in a preschool yard.

From the outside looking in, the playground looked great with lots of stuff for bigger kids to play on, and separated away from the younger playground. So there was no worry about the big kids running into the little kids. However this is a form of segregation that Nelson stood against.

The first time we went we finally walked around the perimeter fence of the playground, through a heavily littered area (garbage bins were ransacked and garbage and human/animal waste was everywhere) to find the entrance. We got there and it was past the closing time. Yet, there were kids playing in there still. I called a kid over and asked how we got in. He told me in French that the it was closed and his parents were coming to pick him up.

So, the kids were disappointed but understood. So we made plans to come back the next day (a 41euro Uber ride!).

We arrived the next day and it was bustling with kids. There were a few adults in there but not enough to account for all of the kids in there. We went to the entry and there was a padlock on there. I checked the opening and closing times and it was still “open”. We waited there and read the rules (yes I am bilingual so I can read it). No indication about how to get in or why it was padlocked. So, I walked around to the two exits and they were padlocked as well. I said to my kids that I would jump the fence and then lift them in. And so I proceeded to do so. My kids wanted to play like kids do. Free.

Then over cane running a man, who I saw before jumping in and thought he was a parent, and he started to scream at me telling me to get out. That coming in the playground was not permitted. I remained calm, but he and his female coworker continued to yell at me, while my kids and other small children were starting to cry. They didn’t understand how they couldn’t get in and why they were yelling at me. Honestly, I didn’t yell back nor did I get aggressive in defence. I told him that I just didn’t understand, nor did my kids, why they weren’t allowed in. I asked them both in French and English. They both replied in English and French. Then the woman proceeded to say “I do not speak English”. I tried to engage in a conversation with the man to understand the procedure of how to get into the playground. He told me that he didn’t understand how I could not understand. “Every playground in the world is like this.”

Our family has travelled the world, literally, and this was the first playground that was padlocked and attended by over qualified babysitters. And to have Nelson Mandela’s name tied to it. Shameful.

Eventually I asked two girls there what I did wrong. They told me that they only let kids in at certain times and they are allowed in when their parents drop them off so that they can go shop or hang out at cafes.

Honestly? This is a daycare for older kids? With a high perimeter fence? Looked like a kid jail to me. Parents can put their kids there while they go off to live the free life of Parisians.

The surrounding area outside the playground was littered with garbage as well and there were people everywhere, drinking and smoking various inhaled products. Just the place I want my kids to hang out and play.

All in all, we walked to the Jardin Anne Frank that had a small playground but it was bustling with kids and parents having fun together. Free. Like kids and families should be.