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Italy and Paris with teenage granddaughters

This trip started to develop right around Christmas time and the request of a pasta maker as a gift. The girls love to cook and they’d read the book Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat and seen the PBS (correction Netflix) episodes of the same name. They knew we were always ready for a European trip and they’d never been to Italy.

As soon as they’d committed to the trip we booked airfares and made a list of potential places they might like to see and activities to do in each city. We put an asterisk beside the things we needed to book ahead of time and gave them the list to look over and add to.

We gave them lots of choices and involved them in much of the decision making. We sent them links to 3 apartments in each of the Italian cities and said they could choose the apartment where they’d like to stay. We sent them links to cooking classes in each city and let them decide which classes they’d like to take. It was difficult finding a class in Paris that would take a 14 year old by herself, the most accomplished of the two. But with more recommendations from forum members and more emails to Paris we found a perfect fit, Cook’n With Class.

For birthdays in the spring we gave them 3 coupons each for 1. Clothes shopping 2. More adventures beyond our list 3. Cooking tools or other souvenirs. This way they had money available for extra things as they needed and became their own bankers by turning in coupons for Euros as we traveled.

Two weeks before we left our oldest granddaughter asked if we could send her a checkable packing list. She had already told us that they were going to take their carry-on bags and a small backpack. These girls had it down. They’ve traveled with us and their parents twice to Europe and once with just their mom.

Florence:
We left in July for Italy and spent 4 nights in Florence. The girls were super excited to be there. We’d booked an apartment right by the left transept of the Duomo. Once they saw that landmark they were always able to navigate around Florence easily and find their way home. They took 2 cooking classes at MaMa Florence and loved the chef and experience. One of the classes involved a 1h bike ride followed by the cooking class. We went to the Bargello and Galileo museums and Santa Croce. Even though it was 100° when we were in Florence they coped really well. They were also invaluable in searching for good restaurants and making reservations. I had a short list, our rental host had suggestions and the girls found more online. We had some amazing meals not to mention carefully vetted gelato. We traveled completely by train between cities in Italy with tickets purchased ahead of time.

Venice:
In Venice the weather was cooler (high 80s-90s) but very humid. We were glad to have air conditioning in all of our accommodation. We stayed for 5 nights right on the Cannaregio canal. On our second day it rained during the day but we decided to go to St. Mark Square in the evening when the rain stopped. We experienced our first ever acqua alta and there were no elevated walkways. The water was just below my knees in the lowest point right in front of the basilica. Since only one of us had waterproof shoes we wandered back to our apartment and had a do over the next evening. The girls took their rescheduled (storm related) rowing lesson from Row Venice that morning and loved it. Normally we visit Murano and Burano on the same day but the girls wanted to see everything and we had to spread these outings out over 2 days. We’d bought the Rolling Venice cards (kid fares) for the girls which gave them unlimited vaporetto rides. Venice was the only city where navigating around by foot was tricky but usually fun. We found some great restaurants and bakeries in our Cannaregio neighborhood.
Cont’d

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2883 posts

Cont’d

Rome:
In Rome we booked an apartment for 5 nights in the lively, foodie, Trastevere neighborhood. The girls took 2 cooking classes from two different companies in Rome and liked them a lot. As a family we took a walking food tour of Trastevere. We had tickets to the Borghese Gallery as one granddaughter has been a mythology and art lover for several years. We also had general admission tickets to the Coliseum and Forum. We did a self guided walking tour of fountains, monuments and churches another day. On a rainy Sunday we spent much of the day in Eataly, a train station that has been converted into 4 floors of specialty food, restaurants, brewery, wine shop and a top floor cooking school that we didn’t know about. Again we found some fantastic restaurants and made some good food memories.

Paris:
After two weeks in Italy we flew to Paris, a city the girls have been to twice. We stayed seven nights in adjoining hotel rooms on the Bassin de la Villette. We managed to do a lot of things that were new to all of us as well as some very familiar things. New to us was the Van Gogh light show at Atelier des Lumières, the walk on the old elevated train tracks near Bastille, Promenade Plantée and lunch at Angelina. New to the girls were the Rodin museum, Paris Plage activities at the Bassin, self guided chocolate tour (no commercial ones were operating in August), hours spent in Paris bookstores, hours in the cookware stores E. Dehillerin and Grande Epicerie. They also spent a day with their Parisian cousin and rented scooters. An activity they’ve repeated in Paris was to spend an hour here and there shopping for clothes. Again we looked for restaurant recommendations and found some lovely ones during our week.

Since people on the forum often ask I paid more attention to food cost. Overall we were spending about 60-80€ for dinners in Italy and 80-100€ for dinners in Paris for the four of us. We bought breakfast food items when we stayed in Italian apartments and breakfast was included when we were in our Paris hotel. The girls loved grocery shopping and bought things for healthy snacks. Gelato was very consistent in price 3-4€ and a staple in our diet.

We hoped to pack a fun and food focused trip into three weeks but not make it too grueling. There was a lot of down time for reading, cafe sitting and visiting. The girls both embraced the cafe culture.

Things that got left off the list completely were the day trip ideas I’d come up with for each city. While I was a bit surprised we didn’t get outside of any of these cities, the girls seemed happy and engaged to be exactly where they were. I know there will be other trips in their future so I can only hope they see more as they return to Europe.

At the end of the trip I popped open the extra duffel bag I’d brought with me for getting the extra books, cosmetics and clothing home. The cooking tools and supplies had to go in a checked bag as some objects were sharp.

All four of us thought it was the best trip ever. Thanks to many of you on the forum for your invaluable ideas along the way.

Posted by
12504 posts

Thanks so much for the promised trip report, Mona! My goodness, you four did a LOT, and those granddaughters sound like utterly delightful young travelers. Lucky you, eh? I'm very glad you all had such a good time, and I've a feeling you're already planning that next big adventure?

Posted by
767 posts

Loved this! I travel with my 9 and 11yo grandsons, and they'll be getting COUPONS for Christmas! What a great idea. Now we just have to decide where we're going next.

Posted by
16860 posts

Great tips for planning and traveling with kids!

Posted by
1939 posts

I think you have posted some terrific ideas and lots of encouragement for grandparents to get out there and travel with their grandchildren. I just returned from 10 days in Paris with my two oldest Grandgirls (cousins) and what an amazing trip. I certainly got to know them in a whole different way without their parents along! The oldest (18) had been to Paris with me before but it was the first time for the younger (17.5). They had the most wonderful time as did I just sitting back and enjoying them enjoying Paris. I think it's awesome to be able to travel with grandchildren, most especially when they are old enough to provide input to the travel plans. One of the girls just started college so there were probably more 'Parisian Shopping Excursions' than your girls wanted. They learned early on how to keep themselves and their 'stuff' safe and competently maneuver the Metro so were comfortably on their own a few times. Everyone having a cell phone certainly eased the mind of this Grandma! I love your coupon=Euros/excursions idea. Mine chose to receive Euros for Christmas and birthday gifts rather than cash of gifts and both had jobs during the year with some dedicated earnings from those going right into their Paris trip accounts. Thank you again for posting this wonderful and informative report. I am so happy to hear you all had so much fun and that you have created wonderful memories that will be with them forever.

Posted by
302 posts

Mona,
Thank you for posting your wonderful trip report! I really enjoyed reading about your adventures with your granddaughters. You were able to do so many interesting things together!

Laurie

Posted by
2883 posts

Here’s my suggested packing list for them for the 3 week trip:
Packing list Italy/Paris

We will have a washing machine in our Italian apartments and will use a laundromat in Paris so you should bring clothes for about 4 days (not counting what you wear on the plane that could be your “bulkiest” stuff).

We will check a 10 day weather forecast a few days before we leave but expect very warm days and evenings.

We can always buy things as needed so don’t stress about quantity of things too much although brands will be different.

Clothes to Pack:
Mesh bag with 4 underpants and 3 bras
2 pair summer socks?
2 tee shirts
2 camisoles
2-3 pair of shorts
1 skirt or sundress
Summer pjs
Swimsuit
1 thin long sleeved shirt as sun shirt and to wear on the plane
1 pair of long pants to wear on the plane
Small laundry bag or pillowcase

1 pair sandals
1 pair of flip flops
Wear sneakers/walking shoes on the plane

Toiletries:
Tooth brush
Floss
Toothpaste—travel-size
Shampoo in 3-1-1 clear bag
Conditioner in 3-1-1
Small soap
Sanitary supplies
Brush
Hair bands

I’ll take a little medical kit but if you have anything you need out of the ordinary (specific medicine or cosmetics) please pack it, if liquid <3oz.
In our medical kit I have a few bandaids, triple cream antibiotic, Advil, Benadryl, loperamide, sunscreen, nail file, clippers, razor and a thermometer.

Electronics:
Phone
Earbuds
Charger

Money and documents:
A small cross body purse
Any € you have
Gift coupons
Passports
Copy of passport
2 small school sized pictures
Oyster cards(?)
School ID cards
BART cards

Small Backpack for plane and room for souvenirs on way home
Sketchpad and pencils (optional)
Book to leave behind
Empty water bottle
Snack (I have Kind bars)
Sun hat
Sunglasses
Sm pkg tissues

Allison:
1 Bike or running clothes?
Notify bank/cc of your vacation notification England, Italy, France

Mom and Dad:
Notarized Permission letter

Posted by
12504 posts

We will have a washing machine in our Italian apartments

Mona, if you used the machine, can you review that experience? I've seen a number of discussions about residential washing machines go by, and common comments are that loads take a long time to do, and that residential tumble dryers are rare so you have to hang-dry wet/damp items. We've only used commercial coin laundries on our trips - no issues with lengthy washes or lack of tumble dryers at those - so I've no firsthand experience with foreign residential washers.

Anyway, a review of your own recent experience might be helpful for potential apartment renters. :O)

Posted by
1785 posts

Loved your food focused trip Mona! What a wonderful idea! This is not the first TR I’ve read of grandparents taking grandkids to Europe.....always makes me feel like I got jypped in that department! Lol

Posted by
2883 posts

Kathy we’ve used a lot of residential washing machines in our almost annual trips to Europe because we usually do house exchanges. We are very used to washing machines taking awhile and holding less clothes. We could usually find a “short” cycle that took about 1.5 hours. There were certainly longer cycles. We got checked in by the wonderful owner in Florence and she had a nice manual that explained the different cycles in English.

We have only encountered a combo washer dryer once in all of our residences and it didn’t work very well. Every home has had a nice drying rack that we put in the warmest room in the house or on a covered balcony. Washing machines have no agitator and spin very efficiently so the clothes are half dry when the come out of the washer and in our summer travels, the clothes are always dry by the next morning.

When we traveled for months at a time through the fall and winter staying in hotels, we used all of the heaters and towel warmers to dry our sink washed clothes. In the summer you don’t need heaters 😉, nature provides.

It’s only when we sink wash things that we have trouble removing enough water to get things to dry over night. We never wash clothes the evening before we leave an apartment or hotel.

Posted by
2883 posts

Diveloonie we have noticed other grandparents traveling with their grandkids in Europe. It’s usually a great experience although there was always a little bit of drama between this older grandfather and his older teenaged granddaughter in our Paris breakfast room each day... Grandma just sat there and rolled her eyes at the younger granddaughter when these little eruptions (crabby sessions) would happen. The conversations were in French but the teen attitude and grandpa huffiness seemed universal.

We met up with some friends of our granddaughters who were traveling with their parents in Florence. They were very interested in pursuing grandparent—granddaughter travel in the future too.

We love planning trips for ourselves and this themed trip was really easy to do given the granddaughters motivation, their age and our limited number of future trips with the two of them. The oldest will start college next year and she and the friend are already planning their own trips. I think they have good travel skills and sense.

Posted by
256 posts

Love this trip report! I especially appreciate that it sounds like you really involve your granddaughters in the planning process; this will serve them so well as they mature into independent travelers. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by
1062 posts

Hi Mona --
What a great trip report! And what a great trip!
Thanks for sharing the details and all the joy.
See you and Dave soon, I hope.
SharYn

Posted by
2883 posts

SharYn enjoy your upcoming trip and thanks for your help with the Paris part of our trip. We’ll be traveling soon too so see you at a future fall meeting!

Posted by
8249 posts

Oh Mona...what a wonderful time you all had. The memories you four created will last forever.

Thanks for sharing with us!

Posted by
7922 posts

Mona and Dave, what a wonderful trip!!
Loved reading your delightful report.
One question though...
Can i be your granddaughter in my next life??... : )

Posted by
8236 posts

I loved reading your trip report! I hope I'll see you in September to hear more about your trip, and the next one coming up.

Posted by
2883 posts

Susan, Pam, Andrea thanks for the trip report feedback. We are enjoying being home but starting to get serious about our upcoming September trip to Germany—scheduled and tickets bought 2 months before the trip with the girls was proposed.

Posted by
290 posts

Mona
Your trip sounds wonderful. I have three grand-daughters and have thought about taking them to Europe. Right now they are 10, 7 and 5. So I will be waiting a while. My oldest granddaughter is fascinated by Paris. (When she comes to my house she wants to watch Rick Steves videos). I hope I remember all of your good ideas when I start thinking about taking them to Europe. I'm hoping my health and my husband's holds up!

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2883 posts

Janet you could consider taking each of your grandchildren individually on a fun and focused trip when they reach a certain age and then take them all when all three are a little older. I’ve seen several posters on this forum who have done this, friends of ours do this and we took our now 17 year old granddaughter by herself to England when she was 8 and her 5 year old sister was too young to travel. It’s fun to travel with each grandchild getting to know them better and focusing on their curiosities about the world.

Posted by
681 posts

What a great trip and for such a length of time. Congrats. We traveled with our grandson when he was 17 and spent a week in Paris and London. He had never been away from home and it was amazing to watch his eyes light up.