HOW TO SPEND UNE APRÈS-MIDI IN PARIS
Leave the sights for another year. Instead, find the open air food market a neighborhood away, perusing the stalls and ultimately getting in the longest, most impressive line (Le Traiteur Marocain at Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais). Enjoy the warmth of the owner who comes over to chat and share his stories of Morocco and food and moving to France. Melt as your 5 year old savors the flavors and spices and asks why food doesn't taste this good in the US.
After your bellies are full stop by the Italian stall. Order an espresso at the bar, savoring the bitterness for a moment as the kids check out fish eyeballs and fresh seafood next door.
Go to the local bookstore a couple doors down, letting the children pick out a book in French to bring home (Au 10, Rue des Jardins). Meander on, stumbling upon a playground for them, a bench for you, allowing the day to pass by without ever pondering if you should be doing or seeing more.
Continue along the Seine, grabbing a glance at Notre Dame from afar, and instead focus in on peoplewatching as you lope along at a snail's pace, observing artists and hobbyists and lovers along the river's banks.
Catch a view of the Eiffel tower in the distance, then turn left into the 6th Arrondissement, walking those familiar streets until you finally stumble back upon the tiny gem of a gourmet market you found years ago on your first trip to the city.
Inside, politely greet the owner with a "Bonjour" and grab a hunk of cheese he says is extremely delicious but a tad expensive (a truffle brie), a fresh baguette, two beers from the only beer tap in the market, two juices for the kids from the only juice tap in the market, then sit outside at the tiny tables on the narrow sidewalk, eating, laughing and savoring the flavors, sounds, and people of Paris as cars whiz by a couple feet away.
When the shadows have danced across the street and the baguette and beer are reduced to crumbs and dribble, begin to wander back in the general direction of your arrondisement, popping into local vintage and thrift shops along the way in order to find the perfect scarf for yourself and one for each of your girls, imagining they may very well wear them as adults one day as they walk the streets of Paris on their own.
Shuffle towards home noting to one another how warm the Parisians are just as you are stopped by a French woman asking for directions, the woman assuming you're from here. Realize it's easy to be mistaken for a local when you're doing local things, and perhaps that is the secret to not just getting by, but feeling as if you are home in Paris, if only for an afternoon.