Thanks for the previous suggestions. We will be visiting 3 castles/palaces while in Paris this June and want to know if we should also spend time in the Loire Valley and southern France or take in the sights of Venice, Florence and Rome instead. We will have 3-4 weeks. We have rented an apartment in Paris for 8 days. Thanks, Dorsey and Esther
We recently took our 10yo daughter on a trip to Italy that included Venice, Florence and Rome, as well as about a week in the rural areas of the region of Le Marche. She's interested in history and art - in fact, she turned out to love the art even more than we expected, so we visited LOTS of museums.
I would agree that if you're already visiting 3 castles, then you should skip the Loire Valley. Southern France is beautiful, and great for grownups, but I think other areas are more interesting for kids. In fact, several years ago, when taking our son to Europe (he was 12yo then), we chose the Dordogne region of France, instead of Provence, because we felt there was more to interest him. The Dordogne has a multitude of medieval castles and prehistoric sites, and is a gorgeous part of France (and less touristy, which we liked).
Is your granddaughter especially interested in any particular period of history? Our daughter enjoyed learning about the Republic of Venice (politics), the Renaissance in Florence, and in Rome, she was struck and amused by the vast amount of ancient Roman ruins just everywhere. And the art she loved every place we went.
Given the amount of time you have, you could easily fit in Paris, plus Venice, Florence and Rome. Consider, also, some time in a more rural area, to provide a different perspective. (Though in terms of 8 days in Paris, I would also suggeset that you take not so many day trips - there's plenty to see in Paris!)
Personally, I like to mix and match my sightseeing, IE, not concentrating on too many of one type of sight. If you are seeing 3 castles/ palaces in Paris area, I would skip the Loire.
Provence is magical, and easy to get to from Paris. If you have 3-4 weeks, then I would recommend spending 4 days in Avignon, doing a day trip to Arles, and maybe renting a car to drive around the countryside for another day. Then, continue on to Venice (take a night train). Stop in Florence for two days, and end in Rome for a wider choice of flights than Venice has.
Take this opportunity to teach her how to travel. Make her carry all her own stuff. None of this "Grandma has a snack/bandaids/jacket for you in her daybag for you." She'll be old enough with some guidance and coaching to handle small amounts of spending money, and to deal with shopkeepers when she buys souvenirs. She should wear a moneybelt even if it only holds emergency info. Teach her this now and you'll feel better when she's 16 and heads off for a summer to France.
OK, 8 days in Paris followed by another 2-3 weeks, heading south....
I would do a week rental in Provence in a small town (in the Luberon or Cote de Rhone), with a car. Day trips to Avignon, Arles, the Pont du Gard and other villages. Go to small town markets and shop for food, then come home to your cottage and cook it.
Then I would do 2-4 days in B&Bs in each of these locations in Italy: The Cinqua Terra, Florence, Rome, Venice.
We travel on long trips with our children age 6, 11, and 13. We use backpacks, travel light, and each child carries most of their own things. We see things that have kid appeal like castles and parks, but we do NOT choose sights specifically geared to children. An 11-year-old can grasp the concept that trips to other countries are about culture and history, and not zoos, amusement parks and ice cream. We see a lot of museums and cathedrals and we try to soak up life a little, and not just do the tourist bunny hop; hotel-shop-restaurant-shop-ice cream-shop-hotel.
We do get ice cream once or twice a week, though :)
One concession to children that we all have grown to enjoy is to try as much as possible to mix urban and rural/village experiences. I definitely would not follow 8 days in Paris with another city of any size. You will need air, and children, especially, get beaten down by urban bussle. That's why I suggested the village, cottage "home-like" experience of a week rental in Provence.
If you do decide to go to the Loire river valley I would be sure to go to Amboise. The Leonardo DaVinci House is great for a child to visit. There's an interesting tunnel and some of his contraptions to see. I also liked Chinon as it is a ruin and you clamber around all sorts of walls, towers and dungeons. Pam