Planning for Paris: Lessons From Iceland (Part 3)

Enjoying the fresh air and the views from the seawall in the coastal town of Stokkseyri, Iceland - about 40 miles outside of Reykjavík and home to approximately 450 hardy souls - which sits upon The Great Þjórsá Lava, the largest lava flow in the country.

Enjoying the fresh air and the views from the seawall in the coastal town of Stokkseyri, Iceland – about 40 miles outside of Reykjavík and home to approximately 450 hardy souls – which sits upon The Great Þjórsá Lava, the largest lava flow in the country.

Traveling with Kids, Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are

As parents of three kids, my husband and I sometimes fall into the bad habit of thinking that taking care of just one of our kids (especially the oldest who we often forget is still a young child, even if she is two feet taller than her youngest brother), is A LOT easier than having to juggle all three at the same time. And, more often than not, this misconception is held up by experience and rings true, like at bedtime: trying to convince the 10yo to brush her teeth is waaaaay easier when not also being screamed at to get soap out of the eyes of the 6yo in the bathtub while at the same time trying to wrangle the 2yo into a pair of clean pajamas (and not the yogurt-banana-cereal-smeared dirty pair he plucked out of the laundry basket and is insisting on wearing) while he gleefully taunts his sibling with the soap in his eyes by dangling a toy that said wet (and now screaming) big brother told the still-naked (and now giggling uncontrollably) little brother he couldn’t play with or even touch, but was, for some inexplicable reason, left in the middle of the youngest child’s bedroom floor (and yeah, I only wish I was exaggerating).

And so it was, with this misconception firmly established, that Bill packed up our eldest child (who, theoretically at least, seemed the most independent, self-sufficient, responsible and open to the inherent differences that come with travel: different schedules and bedtimes, different social rules and expectations, different foods and flavors) and flew off to Iceland to learn yet another valuable lesson in traveling with kids: turns out… wherever you go, there they are.

Or rather, wherever your child goes, there your child is…

Meaning: you can take your child outside of the good ol’ U S of A, to explore and inhabit different cultures from her own in attempts to expand her young and therefore limited horizons, but – if your child is anything like mine – she’s still going to fight going to sleep just like she does at home, no matter how tired she is;

After absolutely refusing to sleep on the red-eye flight from Seattle to Reykjavík, the then-9yo finally CRASHED OUT in the rental car... for all of 20 minutes. All I can say? It must be nice to be young.

After adamantly refusing to sleep on the red-eye flight from Seattle to Reykjavík, the then-9yo finally CRASHED OUT in the rental car… for all of 30 minutes. All I can say? It must be nice to be young.

she’s still going to think the world is her playground and try to climb on stuff she shouldn’t;

Checking out - in close up fashion - the amazing Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture by  Jón Gunnar Árnason located on the sea in downtown Reykjavík.

“What do you mean it’s not a jungle gym?!” Checking out – in close-up fashion – the amazing and very picturesque Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason located on the sea in downtown Reykjavík. Please notice the proximity of the two other visitors in the background and the total lack of ropes cordoning off said sculpture from inquisitive youngsters: I’m REALLY hoping that exploring art, in a very hands-on way, is encouraged here!

and she’s still only going to want to eat PIZZA and nothing else. And I mean ABSOLUTELY nothing else.

Pizza and (Donald Duck) comics... living the American dream in Iceland. (Note: the deli-supplied stack of comic books were in Icelandic, but this didn't bother Paisley in the least).

Pizza and Donald Duck comics… living the American dream in Iceland! (Note: The Deli supplied the stack of comic books my daughter is devouring rather than her eating her pizza. The comics were in Icelandic; the fact that Paisley can’t READ Icelandic didn’t faze her AT ALL. She even bought an Icelandic Donald Duck comic book to bring home with her. It’s currently to be found upstairs, next to her bed, and is still regularly perused… and enjoyed).

Okay, maybe she’ll eat a pastry or a cream cheese bagel here and there (minus the cream cheese – nope, not kidding),

One of Bill's (but apparently not Paisley's) favorite stops: the Mosfellsbakarí, where they stopped to eat on the way up to Álafoss, the woolen goods outlet store found in Mosfellsbær (where they also really enjoyed the Lagafellslaug swimming pool - with some really crazy cool slides.

One of Bill’s (but apparently not Paisley’s!) favorite stops: Mosfellsbakarí, where they stopped to eat on the way up to Álafoss, the woolen goods outlet store found in Mosfellsbær (where they also really enjoyed the Lagafellslaug swimming pool, with some crazy cool slides). For the record: that is totally NOT her sandwich… nor her cup of coffee.

but not the thick, delicious Icelandic yogurt-like soft cheese called skyr you (read: Bill) thought she’d love.

This isn't even skyr - it's ICE CREAM (Bragðarefur to be exact) - and she STILL wasn't interested. But hey! At least she tried it! And then, of course, went right back to playing Crazy 8s...

This isn’t even skyr – it’s Icelandic ICE CREAM (Emmessis Bragðarefur to be exact) – and she STILL wasn’t interested (look at that FACE!!). But hey… at least she tried it, right?!

Clearly not the fish and chips she excitedly proclaimed to you (read: Bill) that she’d eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day while she was in Iceland.

Fish and chips... pretty sure the expression says it all.

Bill was hoping to eat at the well-reviewed Icelandic Fish & Chips in Reykjavík, but, very disappointingly, it was closed when they tried. The best fish and chips they managed to find on their trip was at a gas station near their cabin in Kirkjubæjarklaustur… Pretty sure Paisley’s expression says it all.

Definitely not the hot dogs, lamb stew, reindeer steak, or smoked puffin served in many restaurants in Reykjavík.

Bill finally found some Icelandic food - lobster chowder - but Paisley opted this time for a grilled cheese sandwich... which she obviously liked so much she had to chase it down with juice consumed with THREE STRAWS.

Bill finally said “NO” to any more pizza and found some authentic Icelandic food – lobster chowder. Paisley, of course, opted for a grilled cheese sandwich… which she clearly liked so much she chased it down with juice (using three straws… because three straws, obviously, makes everything better).

And absolutely NOT the  poisonous local shark called hákarl (this local delicacy apparently smells and tastes like ammonia, and can only be eaten after it’s been buried and left underground for several weeks, then cut into strips and dried for several months – apparently Gordon Ramsay, the “I’ll eat anything” adventure foodie, actually threw up – threw up!! – after eating hákarl, it’s that, uh, shall we say… potent?) which the (okay, maybe only some) Icelandic people enjoy. And truth be told, I can’t really fault her for this last one, but what’s up with not eating the yogurt?! Or at least the chips part of the fish and chips?! They’re FRENCH FRIES for crying out loud!! Who doesn’t love French fries?!

"Lamb? No. Reindeer? No. Puffin?! NO! Shark? No. Fish and Chips? Where's the pizza?! Guess I'll just fill up on this glass of water here... That's all I need."

“Lamb? No. Reindeer? No. Puffin?! NO! Shark? No. Fish and Chips? No. Huh. Where’s the pizza?! Guess I’ll just fill up on this glass of water here… Really, that’s all my growing body needs. And I definitely won’t have a sugar-crash induced tantrum in T minus 2 hours…”

All of which leaves me more than a little nervous about our impending trip to Paris (in only 4 ½ weeks!!). Specifically… I worry that Paisley won’t find any cheese, stinky or otherwise, to her liking at the fromagerie nearest our rental apartment (which I’ve even shown her, in hopes that familiarity breeds not contempt but comfort, by doing a virtual walk-by on Google Maps, which, can I just say?, is honestly the coolest resource available when planning a trip: just type in the address or place you want to “see” – like the Louvre, Paris, France – zoom in on the location, then click on the little yellow person icon and drag it to the spot you want to check out; it’ll pull up Google’s photos of that street, and you can use the arrows to “walk” by the store or café or even through the entire neighborhood!). I worry that not one of the very few (turns out this foodie capital of the world caters mostly to the carnivores and omnivores amongst us) vegetarian-friendly restaurants (yes, I’m vegetarian, so for the most part the foie gras, paté and langoustine ravioli is out, to the 10yo’s great relief) – of which I’ve spent several hours researching various delightful and helpful Paris-specific blogs (I find myself pulling up Lost In Cheeseland more than any other blog, but HiP Paris is another solid site, and I also really like Paris in Four Months) and several Paris guide books (if you only buy one guide book, make sure it’s Rick Steves’ Paris – I actually had an anxiety dream the other night that I’d forgotten to pack this book and was almost willing to miss my flight in order to go back home and get it!) and several more hours bookmarking the most promising finds on my Yelp Paris account (which has a helpful GPS-enabled map that can quickly lead me to any nearby restaurant of my choosing, if I decide to pony up for the international data plan for my iPhone) and on my TripAdvisor Paris City Guide app (which has a map feature that can be used offline and therefore can be accessed without racking up data roaming charges, but which doesn’t have as thorough of a list as Yelp Paris) so that when we’re walking around the quaint streets of Paris after a morning spent in this greatest museum in the world or that fantastically picturesque park and suddenly find ourselves ravenous without a boulangerie or pâtisserie in sight, I can instantly pinpoint the nearest well-reviewed coffee shop or place to eat and, voilà!, we have food in our bellies and enough energy for another round of sightseeing – will possibly tempt Paisley into eating something other than the bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (or the nearest French equivalent, which I will make my number one priority to obtain as soon as we arrive on foreign soil, at the closest supermarché to our rental, which I’ve also already located via the very fantastic Google Maps) she had for breakfast. I worry that Paisley won’t like the crêperies that abound on the streets of Paris (yes, the French have crêpe stands like we Americans have hot dog stands, and how insanely brilliant is that?!), and will be the only child in the history of civilization to turn down a Nutella and banana crêpe for lunch. I even worry that Paisley won’t eat the long, thin baguettes that (like the Icelandic fish and chips of last summer) she’s proclaimed she can’t wait to eat for every single meal every single day, but will, instead, use them as Jedi swords against her unsuspecting mother (though, rest assured, I will fight back, in spite of my desire to avoid, at all costs, being considered an uncivilized American with bad manners and ugly shoes; however, I will most definitely smear my baguette-sword with rich and creamy French-made butter afterwards and devour it with utter delight).

But here’s the thing… really, what are we expecting? It’s not like Paisley’s an adventurous eater here at home. I’m not sure she eats anything that isn’t white or beige, other than pizza sauce (and only then, if it’s smothered in white cheese) and the occasional slice of bacon (she likes saying she’s a vegetarian except she eats bacon – again, nope, not kidding). Just because we WANT her to try new and different things (like local cuisines) while we’re out exploring the world doesn’t mean she’s going to (and I’m the first to admit, as a vegetarian with a purposefully-restricted diet, it’s not like I set the best of examples). And even if she DOES try something new, she might not like it (like the Icelandic skyr). The point is, she’s still a child, she’s still who she is, she’s still my sleep-fighting, sculpture-climbing, picky-eating daughter, and we need to not expect that she’s going to change overnight just because she woke up in a different country. And that’s really okay. Because the fact is, she’s still IN a different country. She’s still SURROUNDED by people speaking a foreign language. She’s still OUTSIDE of her comfort zone, and learning to navigate in a world that is, each trip she takes, way larger than the 10-block radius that makes up her everyday life.

So… if a couple slices of pizza make her feel more comfortable in this new, great-big world?

Then pizza it will be.

(And you know what? Though it’s not Venice or Chicago or NYC, I’m pretty sure that finding a slice or two of good pizza in Paris will still be easier than putting all three of my ornery, dramatic, loud, and possibly tired, cranky and wet, but also adorably cute, little urchins to bed at night!)


This blog post is the third in a series:
Planning For Paris, Lessons From Paris (Part 1)
Lesson One: Context is Criticial Everything (Part 2)

And still to come (if I could ever stop researching vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Paris long enough to write):
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime

8 thoughts on “Planning for Paris: Lessons From Iceland (Part 3)

  1. wow she’s so lucky, you’ll have a great time! We went to France all the time when we were kids, and ALL we wanted to eat was McDonalds… Mum put her foor down but I refused to be more adventurous than ham and bread. And now I’ve moved to France and try a new cheese every week!

    • A new cheese every week?! HEAVEN! I’m honestly worried that I’m going to go to Paris, fall in love with the cheese and wine and just everything, and I’m not going to want to come back… even if my daughter *doesn’t* eat while we’re there! 🙂

  2. I’m interested to know how old your first child was when you first traveled abroad with her. I have 3 1/2 year old and 21 month old daughters, and while I look forward to traveling the world with them someday, I just feel it would be lost on them now. When does the travel become enjoyable for all??

    • This was a big decision! I actually blogged about it last year, a few months before Bill and Paisley took off for Iceland – all the details are here: – but she was 9yo when we first took her abroad. Her brother, Liam, will get to start traveling next year, so he’ll be a bit younger than when she started, probably 8yo (unless Bill, as it’s his turn next, decides to go in the spring, when Liam will still be 7yo); but we think he’ll be ready by then for the longer flights and he’ll actually be able to remember the experience! On the flip side, my brother and sister-in-law just traveled with their not-quite-3yo daughter to Spain and Morocco, and they had a GREAT time! So there’s that monkey wrench… 😉

    • I loved hearing about it when they came back! And trying to piece all their stories and adventures together for these posts has been even more wonderful, because I’ve had to pour over maps and read the guide books to figure it all out; now I really want to go to Iceland, because it seems like SUCH a phenomenal country. 🙂

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