Astride an electric bicycle for the first time, feeling agile as she navigated around the reflecting pools and sculpture gardens at the Palace of Versailles, Heather Gandy had a revelation.
“I realized that unicorns are real!” she says with a laugh. “I used to think that the ideal family vacation was a total unicorn, some sort of fantasy land where our 7- to 77-year-olds would smile all day. Where I would sip champagne and take high tea and never have to referee or play social director. Where we would explore the world’s great cities and share experiences that we’d reminisce about over Thanksgiving turkeys for years to come. Our family trip to London and Paris with Classic Journeys made me a believer in unicorns!”
This epic handcrafted adventure to two of the world’s most famous and beautiful cities has everything going for it. For the younger travelers in your clan, London and Paris are awesome – but also easy to grasp, especially when you’re in the company of expert local guides who become your instant friends and revel in making their hometowns exciting, accessible and fun to explore.
“I think this one week turned my granddaughter into a lifelong traveler,” one recent guest raved. “It was just a wonderful introduction to overseas travel, and she already wants to know where we’re going next.” For those in your family who’ve already been to Paris and London, get ready to see the cities through new eyes thanks to activities like nothing you’ve done on past visits.
In London, your local guide leads visits that are something completely different than the typical slog from monument to monument.
Whether you’re floating sky-high on the London Eye or standing under St. Paul’s huge dome or learning about the ravens and crown jewels at the Tower of London, you get the story of the city, paced and presented in a personal style that speaks to the experiences and attention spans of your whole family.
To mix up the tempo and keep things engaging, the itinerary includes events like an elaborate afternoon tea, served Harry Potter-style with drinkable potions. (As one dad admitted to us, “I pretended like it was for my kids. But I’ve read the Harry Potter books. I saw the movies. I loved it.”)
At the opposite end of the magical/mystery spectrum, you also get a private visit to Stonehenge when the site is closed to the public. Think about it. If you’ve ever been to see the legendary circle of standing monoliths, you know what a crowd scene it can be. You and your family, though, will have the site to yourselves – all the better to appreciate the power and let your imaginations run wild. Deep history and over-the-top fun in a single experience is the kind of chemistry that’s not easy to achieve on your own.
That kind of exclusivity and line-skipping ease continues in Paris where your guide whisks you past the crowds for instant access to the Louvre. Too many visitors are already worn out before they get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo. But not you.
Likewise, at Versailles, you’ll get a personally guided visit of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette’s palace. Whereas most visitors only look out from the Hall of Mirrors to see the sculpted gardens stretching to near infinity, you all will spend time out in the gardens, too, on the all-time best bicycle ride. The bikes are included, and there are E-bikes for anyone who prefers less manual pedaling. The cool part is that you get to explore the 2,000-acre estate like most tourists never do…and enjoy each others’ company in the process. Just see if you don’t have the kind of I-believe-in-unicorns moment that Heather did.
You can also expect your family to develop a real appetite for Paris that goes beyond warm croissants for breakfast and the tasting you’ll have at one of the city’s chocolatiers. Your days will be filled with guided strolls on the Left Bank and a nighttime cruise on the Seine to see the skyline twinkle.
And here’s a secret you’ll want to pass on: the best way to experience the Eiffel Tower is from the top of Montparnasse Tower where you get never-ending views of the city without an endless wait to ascend to the Eiffel Tower’s over-crowded observation platforms. And as Heather learned firsthand, “I liked our time on Montparnasse Tower better than when we were on the Eiffel Tower, because on Montparnasse we had amazing views of Eiffel!”
When you travel with your family, it’s no time to skimp on hotels. Location matters so that you can step right out the door and be in the thick of things without wasting time or energy to get to the sights.
When it’s time to rest and recuperate from busy days, comfort matters just as much. Both luxury hotels on this trip exceed what you hoped for. In London, the Ampersand Hotel is a 5-star boutique property near Hyde Park, Chelsea and Harrod’s. In the City of Light, you’ll be ensconced at Au Manoir Saint Germain, in the heart of the Left Bank.
Heather Gandy’s family included 22 people with a 70-year age spread. When she polled them to ask what they liked best, she reports: “Everybody had different favorites. There is NOTHING I would’ve taken out. We all loved it all.” If you’re planning a family getaway – whether there are two of you or 20 – could you hope for better reviews than that?
Are you ready to plan your own family adventure with Classic Journeys?