The second guided tour I planned for this trip was a family experience for the Louvre. Because the thing is, I was pretty close to skipping the Louvre on this trip entirely. Cal would have been in the bag for it (to a degree), and Mack may have been interested to see the Mona Lisa and a few other pieces of art that he recognized, though not that much beyond that. But Nina, I thought, was not the right age at all for a classic art museum. Too big, not interactive enough, too many people in the way, too many queues, too much walking--it would all have translated into: "When are we going to do something I want to do?" in about ten minutes. (Maybe seven. Five and a half. Thirty seconds.) So...probably skip the Louvre this time around, right? At least until all my kids were older.
The thing is, Cal just read The DaVinci Code (yes, I know there is some weird pagan sex scene in it, but don't be scandalized and email me; I've read it myself and I think it's tame and not gratuitous and also, I don't care) so he was actually pretty interested in the Louvre. He was interested in the art, but also, he was interested in the building itself, and the layout, and the logistics of the museum--how vast it is, the number of exhibits inside, the different styles of art in each gallery. When we were planning this trip to Paris, he specifically asked me if we were going to the Louvre. So after that point...we were.
However, in an effort to make it just a little more palatable for the little kids, I booked this family tour through Paris Muse called "Louvre Clues," which would turn an informative art history tour of the major points of interest into a bit of an interactive scavenger hunt. The tour was a private tour with just our family and one guide, and included was the price of a "skip the line" ticket for admission, two hours with a guide, educational materials and a game for the kids, as well as a "treasure" at the end of the scavenger hunt that the children would have to find using clues gathered throughout the excursion. Was it more expensive than just going to the Louvre and seeing it ourselves? Yes, of course it was. But look, the Louvre is huge, we don't know where anything is nor the best ways to navigate the galleries, and of course, Joe and I know jack fucking shit about art history. So given the chance to be taught, and to have someone teach our kids in a highly palatable way--I was sold.
(Oh, it occurred to me this morning that I should say that I am not affiliated at all with any of the services I'm recommending. I don't even do Amazon affiliate codes in my links anymore, because...I don't know. I mean, I have a job. This is just me talking about stuff I liked. I don't get anything for doing any of it, except that I read plenty of other people's reviews before taking this trip, so it feels good to give something back in the form of my own recommendations. Need a penny, take a penny; have a penny, leave a penny.)
How the tour worked was this. After meeting our guide and getting into the building, she handed our kids these activity books, with eight "clues," each of which corresponded to a different gallery at the Louvre. We moved from Ancient Mesopotamia through the art of the Renaissance, and at each gallery she would pick one point of interest and teach our kids something about a particular piece of art, or a particular style of art from that time period. After that, she would give them a task. For example, "In this gallery, find another piece of art that shows the same symbols as the ones we saw here, and tell me in what city it was made." And off they would go, striding through the gallery to find the next "clue" to write down in their notebooks. At the end, all the clues fit together to spell out two specific words, which gave them the hidden location of the "treasure" which had been hidden for them earlier in the day. And throughout, of course, we got to see many of the main points of interest at the Louvre, including a stone inscribed with Hammurabi's code, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace...and, bien sur, the Mona Lisa. It really was pretty fun, and I personally learned a ton. (Disclosure: I didn't know anything to start with, so the bar was low.)
The tour ended in a most satisfying way (treasure was unearthed, and Nina even got to PUSH SOME BUTTONS in order to get the treasure out, OMG BUTTONS), and I would wholeheartedly endorse this tour as a little bit of a vacation splurge if you want to take somewhat younger kids to the Louvre and actually want the experience to be special and fun, rather than a recreation of Dante's Inferno. I think the "puzzles" were somewhat too easy for a kid Cal's age, but whatever, he would have gone to the museum happily anyway--the elaborate construct was less to sell him on the museum excursion than to sell the other two. (And anyway, scavenger hunt aside, he learned a lot from our guide, so he was happy to play along.) The educational details of the tour may also have been pitched just slightly too high for Nina, who maybe has less of a...nuanced...appreciation for art history and technique than the rest of us. That said, the guide was really good at pointing out concrete details in pieces of art that Nina could easily identify, and Nina definitely liked the activity book and filling in the words once the boys fed her the clues. And of course, at the end of the scavenger hunt, Nina was more than happy to accept the "treasure" for all of us.
The thing with having a spread of kids is that no one thing is really going to be absolutely ideal for everyone (unless it's, you know, a trip to the candy store) but the one thing that really pleased me is that for once, it was the activity pitched just perfectly to our middle kid, who--let's be honest--can tend to get overlooked sometimes. So finding the one activity that was right up his alley, while being fun and agreeable for the rest, was exactly the right thing for us this morning.
The tour lasted just about two hours, after which point we were happy but pretty hungry, so we got some lunch at the restaurant in the Louvre lobby (it was fine) and then headed out through the courtyard back to the Jardin des Tuileries, where we had been our second day in Paris. I thought the little kids might want to run off some of their energy at the playground there, or at the pay-to-play trampoline park (swear to God) next to the playground, but no. They just literally wanted to run, period. So they did some timed foot races for a while, and then they remembered that there was a carousel with ice cream nearby, so we did that for a bit too.
The thing we really wanted to do after the Jardin des Tuilieries was this thing:
which is essentially a giant ferris wheel located at Place de la Concorde. (I believe it is called Le Grand Roue de Paris, because...accurate.) But since we were already in Jardin des Tuileries and we were already in art mode with museum passes in our pockets, we decided to make a really quick stop (to the kids: we swear! really quick! you gotta see this though! it'll be good for you!) to visit Monet's water lilies at the Musée de l'Orangerie. I'm not going to say the kids were really gung ho about MORE ART, but I think they did enjoy the gallery itself when we got in there. Monet's pieces are displayed in these two perfectly serene white oval rooms with ambient light and four curved canvases each, and even though Joe and I didn't do as good a job as our guide at the Louvre, we tried to explain a little bit about Impressionism and the significance of these pieces of art. I also noted that Claude Monet PROBABLY had glaucoma, which seems like it would be more Joe's purview, but whatever, I got there first.
All that crappy LEARNING dispensed with, we were now free to enjoy Le Grand Roue de Paris. Some logistical things to know. It is much smaller than the London Eye, so all "pods" are single party, and our family of five all fit into one. The ticket prices were as you would expect--$12 for adults, $6 for kids aged 3-10. The ride does not go fast (translation: if you're a weenie about heights, you don't feel a dropping sensation as you're moving down), and you go around the wheel exactly twice, which gives you a chance to snap the pictures that you missed the first time around. Go on a nice clear day, bring your camera, and it's worth it.
We Uber-ed back home after that point to do some preliminary packing (other practical notation: Uber service in Paris is very robust), and headed back out to Les Cocotte for dinner, because it was our last night and we wanted to eat somewhere nice. Our flight back to Atlanta leaves tomorrow at 10:35am, and though not one of us is quite ready to go home, I like to think that we just have ample reason to plan a return trip in the future. If and when I can, I will try to do a recap when we get back of our Paris apartment itself, with a pictorial walk-through and a review of our rental experience. Until then, wish us safe travels in the morning, and that all our deep venous structures may stay free of thrombosis. À bientôt!