London to Paris with City Wonders
We were guests of City Wonders in London and Paris, as always, opinions are all ours.
The London to Paris combination is a popular route taken by many first-time travelers. When being put together, few duos present the same magnitude when it comes to culture. As a travel blogger, I am often asked for advice on tours I recommend for families. It’s hard to narrow down the top choices, but when taking into consideration such items as the type of offerings made available in these two specific towns, family travel, and attainable prices; I recommend a company named, City Wonders.
The British Museum
The tours themselves aren’t ever too large, and their docents are all highly regarded in their industry. For example, on a tour we had taken of the British Museum in London, our docent held the high distinction of wearing a blue badge. Which means, that she had passed a series of exams that test her knowledge on all things, British. Let’s just say it’s not an easy achievement.
She introduced herself to us as, Trudie. We all met in front of the British Museum on sunny winter’s day. Her mannerism was warm, and yet, she imparted a sense of authority. I couldn’t help but feel that if she were ever portrayed by an actor, it would have to be Julie Andrews (you know the kind of warmth and authority I speak of).
Her approach to the tour was nothing short of great storytelling. Along with our 12-year old daughter, my wife and I were quickly entranced by her command of the language, almost as if she were on stage. Her knowledge of everything that surrounded us was like nothing we had experienced before.
She introduced us to the Rosetta Stone as if we had discovered it ourselves. She imparted stories of Ramses II and how life was like in Ancient Egypt. My wife and I have been to Athens and have experienced first hand the Parthenon, but when she took us through the section on Ancient Greece, through her stories, we felt more in touch with that world than when we were at the actual site.
The whole group was equally captured, almost as if we were taken on a ride in a time machine. Trudie wasn’t just checking off highlights and facts, which is de rigueur for most guides; instead, she was there to make us feel like we were part of history. In short, it was an entertaining and educational day had by all.
Across the English Channel into Paris
Across the English Channel is Paris. Though we have been with our daughter in the past, we never took a tour, because as a self-proclaimed cognoscente, I figured I knew enough about the town. This time, I smartened up, and as a family, we decided on a combination tour of Musee d’Orsay in the morning and Notre Dame de Paris in the afternoon.
We felt it was the perfect combination, as Musee D’Orsay concentrates on art’s movement toward the contemporary and the industrial. Transversely, Notre Dame de Paris is the quintessential embodiment of just about everything traditional, classic, and religious. We thought that the dichotomy would bring to light the diversity of the city.
Musee D’Orsay is a magnificent structure. Upon entering, my daughter was doing that thing that you see in those travel commercials when people slowly whirl around to capture it all.
Our docent had that wonderful French inflection in her English which made everything she said sound romantic. Our small group was given audio devices by which to facilitate listening to her tour. With earphones on, the outside world was gone and we were one with her voice and the art.
We moved from the front where we learned of Academic Art which was embodied by a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. We had a bit of fun learning about Paris’ famous cabaret scene and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec. We then moved onto the great impressionists, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, and not to be left out, as he was in life, Vincent Van Gogh. The transition was done so fluidly that we never felt rushed or moved along.
The morning culminated with a view of Paris from the building’s famous clock. It is this view that made us realize just how much of what we know of Paris is influenced by the artists whose works are housed inside this old and beautiful re-purposed train station.
With the essence of a Victor Hugo novel, the afternoon started with a torrential rainfall. We were, appropriately, on our way to Notre Dame de Paris. The gargoyles put their mouths to use, by spouting out the waters that came from the gutters of the Gothic structure. Though soaked, we couldn’t help but find beauty in the drama.
Notre Dame de Paris has stood at the center of Paris for centuries and has endured the passage of time. It has also come close to ruin during the days of the Revolution, only to be once again saved by a novel of the same name and written by the author I previously mentioned. The book is better known as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.
It’s information such as this about the great cathedral, I did not know, even though I have been many times. There were numerous stories and facts told to us throughout the tour, and I certainly don’t want to divulge them all; other than to say, that they were all equally intriguing and educational.
In closing, if there is something I am to impart, when it comes to visiting London and/or Paris as a family, choose quality over quantity when it comes to sites. Like me, accept the fact that there is still much to be learned, and facilitate this process by putting yourselves in the hands of a good guide. I promise they make for a great experience, and your family will thank you for it.
The Highlights of the British Museum Tour is ￡23 (approximately $35) for adults and ￡18 (approximately $27) for children ages 4 -14. The tour lasts for 2 hours but Trudie was gracious enough to keep us longer so she can answer all our questions.
The Skip the Line: Full Day Highlights of Paris: Notre Dame and Musée d’Orsay Combo Saver Tour is £52.91 per adult (approximately $80) and £49.02 (approximately $74) per child ages 4 – 14. The tour is about 3 hours each with a lunch break in between.
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Books we read about Paris and London:
If you have kids, this is the version that Bailey read while we were in Paris: