We just got back for the best trip to France and I wanted to write every bit of it down!
Backstory: For Christmas we had the intention of surprising our girls on a trip. We decided that we were done with buying a bunch of crap that they didn’t care about 3 days later and instead we would do something different. In June I saw a great flight deal for round trip tickets to Paris for $450 round trip. Did you notice I said intention?…Dylan was reading a group text message on my mom’s phone and read about the trip. DANG IT!
So it wasn’t a surprise, and it made for a little bit of a lackluster Christmas morning, buuuut we are 100% doing this from now on, I’m just going to be way more stealthy about it.
Ok so let’s talk about France!!
We’ve done very little international travel and zero with our kids, so for our first adventure I thought it would be a good idea to do something that we were semi-familiar with. Court and I went to Paris about 7 years ago (OMG we were so young and skinny in those pictures!) so we knew what the language barrier would be like, we knew that we could get around easily, and we felt comfortable taking our girls there. I think our next adventure will be somewhere totally new, but for the first one France seemed like a safe idea!
3 days in Normandy
I think because we had already experienced Paris, I had my heart set on visiting another part of France for part of the time. Oh my heck I am SO GLAD WE DID!! This part of our trip was the best!
I went back and forth trying to decided if we wanted to stay in the country or in a town. Trying to decide on a place to stay is one of my worst qualities. In every other portion of my life I can make quick and decisive decisions with no lamenting. But omg trying to decide on a place to stay is THE WORST. I have combed through every listing on VRBO and AirBNB. The plan was to stay in a cool barn conversion or house in the country. After finally pulling the trigger, the host let me know that the barn wasn’t available. Suck. Then it happened twice more! GAHHHH! So after my first 3 VRBO selections came back with a no, we decided maybe the country wasn’t meant to be, so we booked this fisherman’s house in a city called Honfleur.
We rented a car (from Europcar, pick up was very easy) and it was the best decision that we made the entire trip. We drove all over the western side of France and I don’t think we will ever travel another way again. It was perfect.
The reason we loved having a rental car is because we could go anywhere and explore. There were handfuls of tiny villages that we drove through, each more quaint than the last. A lot of the towns have these big signs off on the side of the road showing something noteworthy, so if we saw something interesting, we would put it into our map and go see it. Favorite part of the whole trip was driving around discovering things off the beaten path.
Here’s a run down of our main stops and a few thoughts about each!
Home of Claude Monet. Incredible gardens, loads of people. Absolutely worth the stop!
Lots of recommendations for Honefleur, it was a very charming seaside town, but we didn’t love it as much as some of the other places. It would’ve been a great place to visit for the day, but I wouldn’t stay there again.
One of the reasons I decided to stay in Honfleur vs in the country was the convenience of having restaurants around. Unfortunately the fam was not a fan of french food, so we didn’t use them anyways. It would’ve been better to head to a grocery store, stay in the country, eat PB&J’s and save a ton of money.
YES x10000. Omaha Beach is one of the beaches that the United States landed on on D-Day. They’ve got a massive cemetery for all of the US soldiers that died in France in WW2, and an incredible memorial. We got there at 5:00 when they were retiring the flag and it was a very emotional and awesome thing to experience.
We also went down onto the beach and into some of the German bunkers. Definite must do!
Chateau de Fontaine-Henry
I was so bummed that this chateau wasn’t open for tours yet (they start after Easter so we missed it by a week!) This was a roadside sign discovery and has been in the same family for 800 years! Can you even imagine?!
Mont Saint Michel
We had some friends recommend Mont Saint Michel and I am SO GLAD we went. Holy cow, it was mind blowing!! There were a ton of people, but even so it was one of the coolest things that we saw. Definite must see!
My favorite stop of the entire trip was Jumieges Abbey. It was built in the 600’s and has seen everything from Viking attacks to the French Revolution. It was even dismantled and sold for building scrap, but in the late 1800’s was rescued and preserved. We were almost completely alone, and it felt like such a secret treasure. I absolutely loved it!!
This was another roadside sign discovery that was worth the stop. The whole chateau has been converted into a museum and it was really cool to see furniture and clothing in their semi natural habitat. The one downside for me (this is going to sound annoying) the electronic guide was great, but the descriptions were so long. Like 30 minutes in each room. My girls were over it really quickly, though they liked walking around and seeing everything.
Staying in Paris a few years ago gave us a point of reference and we knew what we wanted to take the girls to see and what we wanted to skip. We stayed in an awesome VRBO (you can find it here) and were right by the Eiffel tower. The hosts were 5 star, definitely would stay there again!
Of course yes. The girls loved it!
We loved the Catacombs last time and thought that the girls would love them too. We got caught behind a guided tour and I wish so badly that we could’ve joined in, so note to self, get more info on that!!
We were in Normandy when the fire at Notre Dame broke out, so we missed a lot of the excitement, but when we made it into Paris we went to visit. That whole section of the island was blocked off, so we could only see it from the other side of the Seine river and there were SO MANY PEOPLE. Still worth it, and I’m pretty sure I saw Court tearing up, though he’ll never admit to it.
Court and I loved this military museum, the girls not so much. This was a highlight from our last trip.
We didn’t spend as much time as anyone wanted here, if we would’ve had another day we would’ve gone back. This was Ivie’s favorite stop, and I got some insop for the wood floors in Phase 2 of the Merc!
I love to travel, but man alive there is nothing like being home! Have any questions? Leave them in the comments below And have you ever travelled internationally with your kids? What is the best place you’ve been?