We are taking our boys, aged 9 and 11, to Europe for the first time. We will be there for 3 weeks. Our itinerary includes Paris for 6 days, Avignon 3 days, Toulouse 5 days, and Bairritz 6 days. We will do the normal stuff like Le Louvre, Tour De Eiffel, Roman ruins in Avignon, etc. We have watched hours of Rick’s videos for ideas. I was just wondering if anyone found quaint, cool places boys would like? Our family is relaxed and enjoys meeting people and my wife speaks French fluently. Our choice would be to get away from the “tourists” for part of the trip. We have a rental car from Avignon-Toulouse-Bairritz so ideas along the drive are welcome. We are also very active people who like to explore and hike. Any one have any ideas?
Bob, I don't have any sons, and you don't say what sorts of things your boys are into. But I would think big old stuff might be a draw. Roman arenas in Paris, Arles, and Nimes; the Pont du Gard between Avingon and Nimes' the theater in Orange.
Languedoc has many ruined Cathar fortresses and Carcasonne, and some decorated caves. Couliour--near the Spanish border--makes a nice break. You may not be completely tourist free in the SW of France, but most of the tourists you see wont be Americans, which is sort of interesting of itself.
Apart from that, Paris has a famous science museum and Tolouse has an aerospace museum--neither of which, I hasten to add, I have been to.
They will probably enjoy climbing the hills above normandy beaches and exploring the bunkers. My son really enjoyed this.
The other thing my son really enjoyed, but may have been dangerous is walking around the outside of Mont St. Michel. After he took of I noticed signs about quicksand, and the tide coming in at the speed of a galloping horse. I think as long as you check out when the tide is coming in, and go with him it's probably fun.
How about Nomandy and the WWII battlesites, though they are a bit young to probably grasp the scope and the magnatude it all entails,in a few years as they get older and learn more about the sacrifices of the men and women who served there they will have a unique perspective that their friends and classmates don't have. And the museums have all the things that boys that age covet!
I'm with Barry - take them to Normandy. Honfleur is a storybook town. My 8 year old boy loved it. The D-Day museum in Caen is fantastic; Pointe du Hoc has lots of the gun emplacements still there and bomb craters - he played army man for an hour and a half! Plus the food in Normandy is incredible. Have fun!
Perhaps less dangerous than walking the mud flats around Mont St. Michel is exploring the medieval ramparts themselves. And if your boys want a real challenge (and you have reasonable confidence in their climbing abilities!), they can try to climb the rocks to the lone chapel on the far side of the Mont. Anyone else ever made that climb?
Oh yeah, and I second the recommendation for Pointe du Hoc. I would say it looks like a movie set for some battle- but then again, it was the scene of an actual battle!
In Paris, I would recommend the playground at the Luxembourg Gardens. My son is now 17 but when he was 11 we spent a month in Paris and he loved that playground. They have lots of fun play structures and the bonus was that my son met kids from many other countries. Climbing the 365+ stairs to the top of Notre Dame was also something he loved. Also, many nights, outside Notre Dame, there were roller-bladers doing the most amazing tricks and jumps, they put on a great show. At Versailles, you can rent bikes in the garden behind the palace. We rode all around and through the forest which my son loved. There's a wonderful, old fashioned amusement park in the Bois de Boulogne, Jardin D'Acclimatation, which my son loved also. Here and at the playground you are surrounded by everyday French people enjoying themselves, a nice change from the tourist stuff.
The Paris Sewer tour and the Catacombs. An experience they will never forget.