Our Family's Five Favorite Shows at Puy du Fou Theme Park, France

After hearing all of our French friends' incredible reviews about Puy du Fou theme park, we spent two days there late last week, and we were completely awed by the shows, the animals, and the competence that made the experience exceptional. Here are our top five favorite shows that we saw:

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The Best History Theme Park in the World: France's Best-Kept Secret

In Northwest France, one hour from Nantes, there's a history-oriented theme park that puts on the most amazing and original shows you can imagine. Le Puy du Fou has been voted the best theme park in the world several times (Thea Awards, given in the USA), plus it attracts more than 2.3 million visitors per year and has top ratings on TripAdvisor. So why have you never heard of it?

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La Pause à Paris: Hanging Out at the (Updated) Eiffel Tower

When we last visited Paris three years ago, we chose not to go up the Eiffel Tower because our children were content to see it from below and we knew there would be hundreds of tourists in line. But this visit, it was important to our 6- and 9-year-olds to ascend the tower, so we made it a priority on our last day in Paris. Here's what we learned:

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Our Family Stay in Paris: Housing, Activities, & Memories Made

After an overnight flight from the West Coast, USA, our family of six (with children ages 4 months to 9 years) arrived at CDG just over two weeks ago. The last days of July were the hottest of the year here, but this was to our advantage at first: the government declared journées anti-pollution and offered price-reduced tickets for public transport, so our family was able to take the RER train from the airport to our apartment for under 20 Euros. (This was a blessing after an expensive mistake three years ago.)

Our apartment, reserved through Kid & Coe, proved to be fantastic. Spacious for the price (meaning it was not simply a studio with a loft), it was in the 7th arrondissement, within walking distance of the Musée d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower, and Jardin des Tuileries. Normally I prefer to stay in the Marais, but getting to know this relatively quiet quarter (near Les Invalides and the American University of Paris) was a nice change.

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Flying Air France with Young Children

This year I was excited to discover that Air France had the most economical pricing for our family to fly to Paris. When I've flown with Air France in the past, they've had excellent service and very decent meals, unlike other airlines I've flown that seem to cut costs wherever possible.

On this trip, our fourth child is just four months old, so I was curious how the bassinet option would work out for us. With Air France, you can pay upfront to reserve a seat behind a bassinet (currently an additional $29/person), or you can wait until 50 hours before the flight, when anyone flying with an infant will automatically be assigned to a bassinet seat for free (if there are any remaining and assuming you have purchased the infant ticket as required. Currently an infant ticket is typically around $100 for an international flight).

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Preparing for an Extended Family Trip to France

What a monumental weekend it was for France last weekend, with la fête nationale on Saturday followed by the Coupe du Monde win on Sunday! My first visit to France (as a high school student) was just months before their first World Cup win in 1996, so this weekend brought back fond memories.

My husband and I and our four children will have the opportunity to see if France is still celebrating a week from now when we arrive in France for our extended family séjour. Three years ago we took our children to France so they could improve their French language skills and even attend school for several weeks. We had an amazing stay in Paris and Lyon, and the children enjoyed their school attendance even though we had only homeschooled until then.

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Giverny and Monet's Garden: the Beauty of Spring

May has arrived and Mother's Day is around the corner, but I'm still thinking of April . . . as in April one year ago! I was visiting Paris to run my first marathon and I squeezed in a side trip to Giverny, the site of Monet's family home and garden. My French friends were unsure as to whether there would be many blooms there so early in the season, but I made the half-day trip anyhow and I am still dreaming of the timeless beauty I saw there.

(You might also enjoy the garden stamps we've been inspired to use this spring! I share them at the bottom of this post.)

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The Birth of Our Fourth Child: What I Never Thought Would Happen to Us

Nearly a week after our fourth baby's due date, I was concerned--mainly because my midwife had expressed concern. According to her, this baby hadn't dropped down at all; instead, he or she was just "floating around" high above my pelvis and showed no signs of being ready to come. I did what I could to help my body prepare for labor: taking long walks, swimming laps at my gym's pool (oh, the temporary joy of weightlessness!), and visiting my chiropractor to make any necessary adjustments.

The day our baby actually arrived, I underwent a non-stress test to ensure baby was staying healthy, then I did what many American families do before a birth: I stocked up on pantry staples at Costco (ha!). Finally, I made dinner for our au pair's parents, who were visiting from France. I was feeling a little tired and emotional, which was odd. By the time dinner was over, however, I was feeling something more physical than emotional--a little cramping, a bit jittery. I knew labor was close.

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