Traveling with Teens in Paris


Seeing Paris with my teenage son. 

When I decided to take my teen to Paris for a vacation, I thought, I hope I’m not making a huge mistake. Generally speaking, the average teen boy would rather spend his first two weeks of summer vacation watching sports, playing X-Box, hiding in his room or hanging out with friends. Not on a two-week vacation with mom—even if it is in Paris.
I forged ahead and tried to plan a trip we would both be happy with. Setting the pace high on the first day, I booked a four-hour bike trip of the city with Fat Tire Bike Trips. I’d hoped it would be a great way to cover a lot of ground, keep my croissant calories from building up too much and give the boy a chance to be active. I had no idea how much my son knew about France’s history, particularly the French Revolution. My biracial mom self (half Jewish, half African-American) kvelled and bragged as he answered every one of the guide’s questions to our group.

On the Fat Tire bike trip. 

I had been to Paris before and fallen in love with the St. Germain neighborhood—especially L’Eglise St. Germain des Prés. I wanted to see it again, and I was surprised that my son thought all the candlelight, stained glass, baby Jesus faces and general old, scary gothicness would be soooo cool. I lucked out. It was a first: we shared a love for a church. (In the summer, there’s usually some kind of music in the church—rock, symphony, gospel—an added bonus.)
One night we had dinner at Relais de l’Entrecôte—a very well known (and a little tripisty) all-you-can-eat steak frites restaurant. I had told him about the restaurant’s famous steak sauce, but I will never forget the look on his face and mine when we took our first bites. I’ve never had crack cocaine, but from what I’ve read, the first hit is amazing, and so is the sauce at this restaurant.
For dessert we had fresh waffles and ice cream from the renowned stand in front of the the St.-Germain church.
I was surprised when my son asked to go to the Louvre the next day. Of course I said yes. We had learned about a secret entrance across the street from the doors under the Pyramide, which would cut out a 45-minute wait in line, and in we went.
Since the museum is so huge and my goal was for my son to enjoy the experience, I asked him what he wanted to see. He said the Mona Lisa and the Egyptian antiquities, and so we did just that—done and done.
For lunch we ventured across the street to the Tuileries Gardens. He told me he had learned the day before from the trip guide that the baguettes were cheap and good (4 euros) and that the “people watching” (code for girl watching) was some of the best in Paris. Which I learned would go a long way to making him very content—especially when I needed to do a little retail therapy. He was happy to sit outside with his camera and capture passing Parisian women.
Since we were all the way across the pond already, we decided to take a train south and see the Côte d’Azur. We headed to Nice. Since we live in San Diego, we weren’t thrilled about the beaches filled not with sand but golf-ball-size rocks. On the other hand—though I wouldn’t recommend going to Nice with your teen son for this reason—the topless beaches were an attraction. When he got out his camera, attaching what could only be described as a paparazzi-length lens, I steered us toward a long bike ride along the coast and some pizza, and back to Paris we went.
All in all, the trip was a total success. I thought at the very least he would enjoy the food, and at the most we would bond. As it turned out, the trip was more wonderful than we could have imagined. We had a million laughs. Enjoyed many great meals. And both loved the fashion, the art, the architecture and the sheer beauty of the city everyone romanticizes about.
Related link:
Relais de l’Entrecôte