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Paris with a Teenage Grandson

We get the honor of taking our eldest grandson to Europe for his high school graduation present in August. We are looking forward to it so much! We are spending one week in London and one week in Paris. We gave him a Rick Steves book for each and told him to mark his top 10 places to go. I need a few suggestions from you guys. Here is a little bit about him...He has never been out of the country, has not been on an airplane since he was 4 and never travelled without his parents. He has been sheltered pretty much. We want him to experience new things but don't want to overwhelm him. We will be day tripping to Normandy and have a tour already booked. We know it will be a long day but he was ok with it. The only other thing we have planned was Versailles on the weekend. We want to see the fountains and he was excited about these two adventures. What would be your top 5-10 that you would take a 17 year old guy?

Thanks for your input.

Posted by
85 posts

Sounds like a fun trip! We were in Paris last July w/our kids: 21 yr old daughter & 15 yr old son. A favorite of both was a visit to the Catacombs. We booked a tour with City Wonders. My husband and I enjoyed it as well. My son also enjoyed climbing the towers at Notre Dame. Enjoy!

Posted by
7890 posts

How fun. I hope by the time my eldest grandchild gets there I will be able to do that. May have to bring her when she is 10 or so -- don't know if we will be travelers when she is 18.

When we took our daughter at 12, her big choice was to climb the Tower of Notre Dame and to see the Cluny. She loved the towers -- get there at least half an hour before it opens as they only let 20 up at a time slot and the lines get crazy.

Our son like Arts et Metiers and both our kids in their teens loved the Louvre; all of you should tour the Louvre on line and identify what you want to see as it is enormous. We have always loved the original Hammurabi code, the replica Assyrian lion gates, the sculptures by Houdon (they include some of the US founders). There is a fine Egyptian collection; the wonderful Rubens room (an acquired taste) and of course the classic enormous French paintings like the Wreck of the Hesperus and Napoleon crowning himself. We once spent 3 full days in the place during the heat wave of 2003, when it was 105F for several days. It is full of interesting things.

The Orsay has the largest collection of French Impressionists but there is also the Orangerie with its Waterlillies (I am not sure they qualify as 'art' but they are enormous and memorable) and the Marmottan with a large collection of Monets including Impression Sunrise after which the movement was named.

One place I would absolutely go is Basilica St. Denis. You can see snapshots in my travel photo journal; it is the most under visited amazing site in Paris. It is reached on the #13 metro and will be a memorable afternoon. It houses the tombs of the kings of France; the kings were trashed in the revolution and may or may not now be in a mass grave on the site, but there stunning tombs were saved by a revolutionary with taste as works of art. Lucky for us all.
You are already on the right track by giving him the guidebooks and turning it over to him. My son took us to the John Soanes Museum in London and my daughter to the British LIbrary -- neither of which we would have seen otherwise and both of which were wonderful.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
681 posts

I love it. Keep the ideas rolling as I hadn't thought of several that you put down. I think I will write them all down (both London and Paris) and keep it quiet until he comes up with a list and then spring these on him. Should be interesting to see what he comes up with. I will definitely report back to y'all.

Posted by
2697 posts

I would visit Les Invalides. Napoleons tomb is quite a site. The army museum is worth it as well. The Pantheon is interesting. In the Latin Quarter. The burial site of many famous Frenchmen-Voltaire, Rousseau, Louis Braille, many others.

Posted by
216 posts

Such a lucky grandson!

I highly recommend taking the stairs to Level 2 of the Eiffel Tower. You can get tickets to the top before you start or a ticket booth or machine on Level 2. If you want to splurge, the restaurant on Level 1 is a treat for lunch. Reserve ahead for a window. I know that the Eiffel Tower is overdone but it will be a wonderful memory for him! I've taken my daughter every trip to Paris and in her mind, it is a requirement.

If you intend to go to the Notre Dame bell towers, get in line for the towers on the north side of the building at least an hour before it opens. It's the minimum you will wait. The door is at the north west corner. The last time we went, there was 1/2 x 1/2 inch mesh at the balconies so cell phone photos of the gargoyles were the only clear ones. Bah.

Is he into history, art, architecture, science, literature, sports, the macabre, religion, dinosaurs?
Cluny, Arc de Triomphe and Holocaust memorial, various art museums, architecture museum at Trocodéro and various "house" museums, Arts et Métiers, Victor Hugo's house in Place des Vosges, catacombs, churches - Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame but many others, Museum of Natural History.

Is he into food? Markets and a treat restaurant.

Once, we got two day passes for the Batobus. It was enjoyable just cruising along the river and taking in the sites from a different perspective. The added bonus is that the stops are convenient for many sights. We timed with last boats to see the Eiffel Tower lit up.

Posted by
8889 posts

Day trip from London: Windsor (compare and contrast with Versailles).
Possibly Canterbury (city walls, cathedral).
I take it this is an open-jaw flight with the Eurostar from London to Paris, that would also be something new, 185 MPH at ground level.

A slightly evil suggestion, somewhere grandparents could take him but bot parents: Moulin Rouge

Posted by
796 posts

There is a Renault Museum on the Champs-Ellysses that is interesting, there are a number of older race cars. I thought it was cool and I am not a car person. There is a huge Adidas store near there too.

The view from the top of the Arc du Triomphe is really marvellous. I must admit that I did not walk up the stairs; I learned the words for I hurt my knee and used them at the elevator. Just to see the crazy traffic is something. Rick's book has directions to get to the entranceway which you must access underground.

Watching the sunset over the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero (other side of the Seine) and seeing the first Twinkling lights of the evening of the Tower on the hour to 5 past the hour. Lots of people hang around waiting for this. One of my favourites.

A boat tour of the Seine at night. And maybe during the day too.

Have a picnic in a park or along the Seine, outdoor markets have premade food as do many shops. Grab a baguette with ham and cheese and find a bench along the Seine. Heaven.

Not sure about a 17 year old boy liking open air food markets but they are great. Chickens with heads and feet on, maybe a whole pig, octopus, whole fish, I love it. You can buy your cheese and bread there for your picnic.

The huge clocks in the Musee d'Orsay are fabulous. My favourite museum. Not to big, cannot really get lost there.

The Pantheon has Foucault's pendulum and tombs underground. I have only visited once and was quite taken by the place. A beautiful building.

Eat dessert all the time, you will walk it off. Have flaming crepes Suzette, ice cream ( my fave is Grom) & Amorino. At Cafe Constant have a dessert of cream puffs where they pour chocolate sauce over them! It is near the Eiffel Tower and in Rick's book; I love that place.

One of my favourite market streets is rue Mouffetard; many bakeries and food shops. Near there is the Jardin Des Plantes which is lovely.

Notre Dame Cathedral, the park at the back is very pretty. Look at the gargoyles, even from the ground they are great. Viewing the cathedral from the back from the opposite side of the river is wonderful; I cannot remember the name of the bridge to view from. On weekends there might be musicians around. Be careful if pick pockets there. Both the islands are lovely to walk through. Bertillon ice cream shop is on one of the islands.

Watch the first Bourne movie before departing then visit the Pont Neuf or view it from either side of the Seine.

Walk right along the river to look in the houseboats.

Is that 10 things?!? Paris is my favourite place, I will return this fall. Have a great trip.

Posted by
10868 posts

At 17 he is still a minor so do not forget to get all the necessary documents to take a minor on an international trip.

Posted by
1825 posts

He'll probably be more interested in all the pretty girls than lists of museums. I am grateful I took a trip with my grandfather when I was young but didn't fully appreciate it at the time. Encourage him to interact with others since those tend to be the most memorable ecperiences.

Posted by
11507 posts

Nancy .. when my nephew turned 18.. the very week after he graduated high school..he went off to europe on his own to join a tour.. however he screwed up and booked himself arriving in London a full week before the tour started. Alone..

He lived in a very rural area.. had never been out of the country ever.. and lived in an area with no bus hed never even been on public transport. His parents took him no more than 200 hundred miles from home ever.. car trips only.. so hed never flown ever..

We were all shocked and sort of freaked out for him.. he was ( and is) a quiet only child.

He did fine.. he planned sites to visit and managed to get to them.. (thank goodness this was london so he had no language issues)

My point is.. your grandson is capable of planning your itinerary if he wants to .. all the information is out there.. i made my 13 yr old son and my 11 yr old daughter pick lists of things to do when they got their one on one trips to europe with me.. they discovered stuff even I hadnt thought of..

Son loved the Catacombs in Paris.. and oddly.. the Louvre( he was not scholarly or arty in the least ) and daughter loved the Orsay Museum and the Victoria and Albert museum in London .

They both loved climbing stairs apparently.. yuck.. but we climbed the towers of Notre Dame..we climbed the ARc de Triomphe, we climbed up St Pauls and Sacre Coeur.. we climbed the Eiffel Tower..

Both kids liked the Invalides Museum and Napoleons Tomb.

Lucky for me .. both kids.. like me, hate shopping..

The Tower of London was a big hit with both kids.

My daughter loved the Shoah Musuem in Paris.. my son chose not to go.

Be sure to send nephew off on a bike tour on his own.. hell love it .. look at Fat Tire Bike tours.. they are easy and safe.. you could easily join him.. but I think it would be nice to let him do something alone too.

Posted by
7890 posts

a fat bike tour alone is definitely a great idea. At some point in the trip being with chaperones all the time will begin to wear and yet of course you feel responsible. (I was wandering Europe at 16 but I'd still have been nervous about my own kid doing it LOL; my daughter did wander about alone at 19 though) The fat bike tour is fun and he would be in a group and you could do something more sedate and everyone would have a break. He would feel 'on his own.'

Posted by
681 posts

Great ideas. I had not thought of the Fat Tire Tour but will look into it. Joe, already have the documents handled since he is a minor. Pretty girls abound in both cities and he has no vision difficulties so it should be very fun to watch...

Posted by
288 posts

I went with my boys 13 and 15 in November. Normandy was their favorite day of the trip hands down and they handled the day train trip with no issues. They loved the catacombs, going up the Eiffel tower at sunset, the Alligre Market, Army Museum/Napoleon's tomb, Climbing Notre Dame/gargoyles, the archeological crypt at Notre Dame, Seine river cruise, eating at Chartier Bouillon, eating pain au chocolate or crepes anywhere, tasting cheese in cheese shops, kicking a soccer ball with kids in a park. They liked the ancient stuff in the Louvre, but too many art museums and churches they get antsy and annoyed/annoying lol..Walking in parks and neighborhood and the Pierre Lachaisse Cemetary was good too.