The train to Paris

‘It’s only a matter of time when the kids grow up and we can plan this trip to Paris’. A conversation late at night and into the morning. I dismissed the thought of it immediately. I mean, how can we ever travel when we are not even halfway a parent. Let alone have two young children fully dependent on food and transportation. How are we even to begin to pack our things? The crying baby in the airplane? The long hours of travel? The stigma was- They won’t remember anyway.

But as you well know the conversation did not end there. I found myself in disbelief holding my one way train ticket to Paris., one lugguage on each hand tagging along the rest of my family- In a busy train station with incredibly multiple different languages spoken in one platform.

St. Pancras. Awonderful welcome- a portal. A hub for the globetrotters and pilgrims alike. Remember the part where Jafar and the sultan was trying to open the towering doorway into the sand dunes? This was it. Right in front of me. The traveling nomads- diverse people rich in their travel stories and experiences crowd the station. Culture of different region flock in random places all grace the platform mingling in their native tongue looking up to the schedule board highlighting the towering clock above. Calm, I can hear them sip a cup of coffee listening intently to one’s company.

google map | Eurostar London to Paris train | Eurostar route trip

Where the station is situated at the present was used to be called the town of Agar. It was once a slum area of London now boast Victorian Gothic architecture. Its brick walls complimenting modern engineering marvel with aesthetic design of rich historical background. The station’s iron arched beam elaborates the solid glass inviting a grey sky in. The conversation collective in the early morning commute. One train and another of red and blue blur my periphery as it swiftly make its way down the railway. I was awe struck by this modern marvel of tunneled railway and train at a high speed with very minimal engine whispers. I remembered reading an article that quoted “gipsies are believed to have originate in the south eastern part of Asia.” I recollected and chuckled as I literally was holding on to two luggages, a duffle bag and looking back behind me- Joycee with the two kids while she confidently maneuvered her way around.

a duffle bag filled with children’s snacks and day clothes make for an easy train ride

As we took our seats in the train a generous gentleman approached my family and asked me if we wanted to trade places with them. They were a couple early in their 60’s with a bigger table and an actual seat for four. I willingly gave up our seats (for three) and immediately positioned the kids by the window. There was even a space for the duffle bag between Joel and me. I tried to catch a glance again their way to thanked them the second time but they were far into a lovely conversation with content in their faces.

I was incredibly grateful for the couple’s generous gesture towards my family. I quickly found out that the people of Europe are very friendly with children to a point of offering them candy without asking the parents. A gesture I quite honestly miss and admire from how life used to be when I was growing up as a young boy.

We arrived in Paris France two hours and 20 minutes later on a cloudy afternoon. We were met by our taxi driver at the Gare Du Nord station. The stacked train on the railway piled up next to each other obstructing the digital monitor and competing with the sea of people. This was an incredible gateway to what was once a dream now staged before my very own eyes.

hyatt paris etoile

On the streets of Paris the smell of baguette litter the alleyway and a sniff of coffee entices you to dine and converse- not an intent to rush the day. This reminded me of Vietnam. The crowded streets and the muffled dining silverware clinking in the background orchestrated a wonderful ballet of servants in the restaurant serving a sublime meal as they spun around gracefully in a uniform of white and a uniformed bow.

Cobble stone pathways and dining table meet where the lantern street light illuminate a rejuvinated twighlight hour. City sidewalk stores open a generous display of vegetable and fruit stand.

A market stand just outside the hotel had fresh produce. I learned from talking to the owner how they don’t throw out any food but instead donate them to charity in an effort to reduce or eliminate poverty around the world. I loved the idea. It gave me a different perspective on the already well established rich french culture and approach to life. You see, a little bit of talking and walking around can open a different verse of the place. It certainly echoed throughout this journey and onward for us as a family.

Paris can be tricky and overwhelming with children though. My wife and I made sure we didn’t set too high of a goal to see Paris except to focus on each other in a way we incorporate fun with the kids. We did book a two day bus tour around to see the main landmarks and touristy spots in Paris that the kids also enjoyed.

We made sure we took our time engaging in activities like going to the park and walking around the hotel- Hyatt Paris Etoile. There are plenty of area attractions around. The Arc de Triomphe was a comfortable walking distance (0.9 miles) away from the hotel. The Jardin d’Acclimatation was a few minutes walk as well. We did not get to explore this amusement park but the kids would have definitely enjoyed.

We were incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful view of the Eiffel tower (2.2 miles) from our hotel room window. We enjoyed it glow and glitter as it culminated to a grand light show in the evening hours.

from top to botom: Locals basking the sun by the Sine river | the Mona Lisa in the Luvre | India and Joycee making their way down the museum hall |

The next few bus stops gave us a chance to fully embrace Paris and its world famous and revered artwork and designs. The paintings in the Louvre created a sense of time. The wide center hallway created an open floor for India to explore and enjoy. Her few milestone steps were imprinted here leaving a nostalgia and joy as I recollect these events. I soaked in the moment more than the incredible paintings or even the Mona Lisa hanging on the walls.

I know my kids are not going to remember this trip but I will live to tell of the journey and the many important milestones we as a family created together in this quite magnificent space in time and the memory to last a lifetime.

making our way down the Colonnade de Perrault entrance | the 17th-century entrance to the iconic Louvre

Probably the most beautiful view of the Eiffel tower in the heart of the city was at the Trocadéro Gardens. A definition of romance and courtship can be summarized here as you are set apart from the marvelous tower design beaming over you lavishly bringing a garden of roses and of different flowers around its perimetry. The epitome of romance, friendship, lovers as well as solace for the poets.

“..a garden of roses and of different flowers around its perimetry. The epitome of romance, friendship, lovers as well as solace for the poets.

India’s milestone steps at the Jardins du Trocadero

We decided to end the afternoon tour at the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is one of the most incredible gothic cathedral I have see. It triumphs over the City as a reminder of the end of the world wars. Ironic to Its phenomenal architectural feat. Its intricate and bold sculpture representation is a remnant of how Paris continues to be the culmination of ones aspiration for artistic design. Victory was celebrated here in the cathedral during the liberation of Paris. Today abundant people flock this monumental achievement of grandeur historical significance.

After an extensive hours of touring the City we got off on one of the bus station near the hotel and found our way into a tiny but quaint open atmosphere style restaurant. At this hour any restaurant seemed like a nice retreat. Luckily we landed in one.

As we let loose of the children we quickly found the restaurants were packed and incredibly tight spaced around. Not suitable for a one year old who demands independence to walk every passing minute. The tables were just the right size for a party of four and not for an enormous serving of a meal either. It’s tiny space in between was just enough for the waitress to pass through. It was difficult to handle a baby and a toddler together in those tight space table adorned with french silverware. This nice meal became a balancing act of retreat and keeping the tables intact.

First look at the menu was mouth watering. We were seated in an open air overhearing soft conversation as passerby swiftly made their way around the streets popping in and out of alleyway and lantern lights. The kids were hungry and I wasn’t sure if the menu were fit for them to enjoy so I pulled out what remained in the McDonal’s brown bag. This was a big mistake. The waitress quickly dismissed the idea with a vindicated tone of voice. ‘You cannot carry that in here sir. The smell will spoil the atmosphere. You will either order or eat that outside’- all in a very loose and monotone French accent. I was appalled at the though but quickly regained my posture and replied politely, ‘Pardon, monsieur!’

The evening unfolded with an elegant and lovely serving of Boeuf Bourguignon, Soupe à L’oignon (French onion soup), and of course the Escargot that quickly dismissed the distaste of prior encountered conversation. The delicate and purposeful smell of delicious food surfaced as the evening turned night. What an incredible meal! The children enjoyed what was a generous serving of the french onion soup and with a side of baguette.

There were no upside down Baguettes that night I assure you that and I certainly enjoyed the meal with a glass of wine.

Early wake up call the next day at four in the morning to organize what was our closet for the following two weeks journey. It was quite a tetris game as I sorted out what fit in the last tinies available space in those bags. Two luggage on each hand, a duffle backpack on my back and India in my front chest baby carrier. Joycee unfolds the stroller, sits Joel in it and carries her own backpack. We looked at each other intensely but without a hint of surrender- in her eyes written all over, adventure! She was excited I was still in disbelief. But we were on our way. Europe welcomed us with a morning glow.

Next week we embark on our journey to seven different cities in Europe. Thank you for the coffee!

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