07/03/2017

Ultimate Guide to Paris with Kids

L’essential est invisible pour les yeux. On ne voit bien qu’ avec le couer.” Translation: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

– The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A present day Parisian chocolate shop, selling every imaginable confection.

It seems appropriate, albeit a bit deliberate, that I read The Little Prince to my seven-year-old son and his cousins during his first visit to Paris. It is the story of a lonely young prince who explores the galaxy and inevitably lands on earth. Along the way he connects with a diverse cast of characters who mainly lead him to the realization that grownups see the world in measured experiences rather than live with their heart.

My guess is he is not calorie counting.

Morning chocolat chaud that goes perfectly with bakery croissants.

Paris is for the nostalgic, romantic, and those who are whole-heartedly connected to the bewilderment and untainted vision seen through a child’s lens. They do not jabber on endlessly about work, will eat an ice cream before lunch and look better than us all, and manage to take in a moment rather than check in with their thrice connected devices on an appropriate time to relax.

It has always been known that Paris is a city for new lovers who linger in cafes over strong coffee. Though, after this trip, I’d have to counter this assumption. The city fosters daydreaming, a sophisticated escape from the everyday, and who better to experience such mental travel than with kids. Seal your young explorers global citizenship by introducing them to a city punctuated with puppet shows in the park, street jugglers, and bakeries on every corner.

Luc taking in the street music at Sacré-Cœur.

Paris is a place where children can easily break from their pixel world into a real, enchanted one with walks across bridges and engaging with children of all nationalities at a park. It has an enchanted feel with a menu of options that will delight children. They experience culture without realizing it’s good for them, like blending kale in a yogurt smoothie.

Outside the Louvre, which is plotted within the Tuillieries Gardens, a constant rotation of prime character observation, carousel and a trampoline park.

We found our rental home in the Marais district from Commendable Rentals. It was a very Parisian, cave like dwelling rich with tapestries, heavy linens and a laundry that took nine hours per small load. Even with our party of eight we managed quite nicely. The en suite bathrooms are a plus as well as the adjoining private garden.

The typically French garden on the grounds of where we stayed in Marais.

Our method in travel is to experience cities as locals, not tourists. There are no maps, guides, and the constant punch into the phone in lieu of a compass. It begins without the rattle of an alarm. We wake at our leisure, have a breakfast of jam, croissants and hot chocolate, while composing a semblance of a plan. Once we pinpoint our geographical placement within the city, I pack the trusted book Paris with Children and dress Luc and I in good walking shoes with a hint of stye. This is Paris.

Day 1: Eiffel Tower/Notre Dame/Sainte-Chapelle

The only tickets we purchased prior to the trip were for the Eiffel Tower, €17 for for adults and €14.5 for children, which is recommended since they do sell fast and helps to avoid lines.

Even cars take a photo opp outside the Eiffel Tower.

What is as fun as exploring the interior of the tower are the grounds below, consisting of parks, carousel and fountains, which on this particular day was especially inviting since the temperatures climbed into the 90s. Children stripped down and splashed about. (This may not be allowed but not enforced.)

Notre Dame on the left bank is closer to our apartment in Marais. We wandered the perimeter, sat in the back garden but avoided the line. A few blocks away we took in our dose of stain glass and spiritual beauty at Sainte-Chapelle in Palais de la Cité, which is less of a destination, thus manageable lines, and has its own sparkle as a supreme vision of gothic architecture.

Day 2: Shopping/L’Arc de triomphe

Window shopping in Marais.

We are in what has become designated spots around the farmhouse table. Adeline, the younger of my nieces, looks like something from a children’s story about Colonial girls with a streak of tomboy. I ask her how she slept. Always in a giggle, she says it was very hot but fine, more giggles. I love this about Addie. Even inconveniences amuse her.

Addie in a successful shopping moment.

Luc is more interested in spending time with his cousins than seeing another mansard roof. The girls are at the age where no emoji can convey how cool it is to shop in Paris. Their mission is to return to the states with some new clothes worthy of inquisitions from their friends on where they scored such pieces. Paris.

Working our way through the cobbled, medieval streets of Marais, where fashionable boutiques hold reign.

While I am more of an online shopper, I work in deadlines, wandering the curvy roads of the Marais district is reminiscent of Manhattan’s Soho. The children look in the windows with the awe of a Christmas display. They are beautifully styled and always with a robust injection of color. We work around the narrow roads, remnants of medieval times, where wearing a harlequin mask would not seem out of place.

They found many stylish workhorse pieces to add to their wardrobe at Karl Marc John, from the fashion powerhouse triumvirate of Lagerfeld, Jacobs and Galliano. Though the Marais shop would not call in needed sizes from another location, our day’s travels extended to the Saint Germain store. The French do know how to create a chase.

An edited selection of colorful pieces at Karl Marc John that has both girl’s and women’s clothes.

We had lunch at a cafe, where our two youngest diners found their hamburger sliders to be inedible due to a smearing of hollandaise sauce. Their order was returned to the waiter, then given back to our table with an explanation that there was no hollandaise sauce. (The grownups sampled, it tasted of hollandaise sauce, which is a subtle reminder that we are not in America and to ask about any added sauces). The day ended at the Arc de Triomphe with the kids making trendy poses that apparently signify something.

Day 3: Musée D’Orsay/Tuileries Gardens/Trampoline Park

A fauvre painting or armless statue does not hold the interest of the Musée D’Orsay to a child, having the distinction of being housed in a former train station. The museum features primarily French works of art from 1848 to 1914.

The children start their tour of the Musée D’Orsay in the main hall.

Young art enthusiasts can view important masterpieces by Renoir, Manet, Tissot and Van Gogh. It also helps to keep them enlightened with a headset guide.

Posing for Degas.

Across the river to the Right Bank is the Tuileries Gardens, which is between the Louvre, Place de Carrousel and Place de la Concorde. We have lunch within the grounds at La Terrasee de Pomone, a creperie and ice cream bistro with a varied menu.

The carousel near the trampolines–if asking for directions, this is not to be mistaken with the Carrousel du Louvre, a private shopping mall beneath the Louvre.

Lunch at La Terrase du Pmone.

The children get out their kicks, or more specifically jumps, at the trampolines (€2.50 for five minutes). This ends a day composed of a formidable blend of culture and amusement.

Day 4: Monmartre/Sacré-Cœur

This was the morning when Luc discovered a wiggly tooth and that the French do not have a tooth fairy but La Petit Sourie (the little mouse). He rationalizes that it is natural for a food obsessed city to have a mouse collect baby teeth the way they would delicious crumbs.

Considering art for sale at Monmartre.

Our day’s plan is to to venture up to Monmartre and Sacré-Cœur for a very French, heavily touristed destination. While we have either walked or taken the bus so we can see the city, for this attraction we ride the metro due to the distance and efficiency. At our stop we wander up, essentially going up will take you there, until the cobble stones narrow and become more colorful with street artists and vendors. We begin with lunch, negotiate with artists, buy some souvenirs and have a glacé (ice cream) before taking the Funiculaire tram for the same cost as a metro ticket. What feels and looks like a large ski gondola, the Funiculaier tugs up and down the steep section of the hill to save tired legs from buckling.

Day 5: Batobus/Basque Festival

Today we go with the whimsy of the river Batobus, purchasing the day passes (€8 for child/ €17 for an adult), which circles around Paris and allows you to pop on and off stops at your leisure. While the boat moves at a site seeing pace, it is a good option for day five when we are in a slower mode.

A view of Notre Dame from the Batobus.

My sister spotted posters for a “Basque Festival” that evening, which we enjoyed from experiencing a local event. The children competed in games of tug and war, admired wares of handmade jewelry and souvenirs peddled by Basque vendors, before we ventured out for more glacé.

Day 6: Centre Pompidou/The Latin Quarter

Today is our catch all day, the plan is to have no plans. After walking past the Centre Pompidou each day, Luc would like to ride up its escalators with the intrigue of exploring the inside of a machine. A late start and desire for lunch prevents us from going in the museum, where I find myself promising a return trip to Paris so he can view the modern art and activities for kids.

The colorful trademark pipes on the exterior of Centre Pompidou.

Along the Seine in the Latin Quarter are many cafes. We choose one a few blocks from the bustle and sample everyone’s meals of croque monsieur, frites, sausage, salads and cheese plates.

We walk, ogle at the shops, and the ones with a sweet scent prod us inside.

Getting inspiration from a boulangerie window.

It always ends with glacé.

Mango sorbet goes over well.

Day 7: Le Jardin du Luxembourg

On our last day we choose Le Jardin du Luxembourg for its combination of history, local amusement and classic childhood experience.

Luc stepping into another era at Le Garden du Luxembourg.

The gardens were designed for Marie de Medici in 1612, who was Queen of France through her marriage to King Henry IV. Less inclined to live in the Louvre, she created a more Italianate version of royal life with Le Jardin du Luxembourg. Ah, the life of a French royal.

Cheering on Team U.S.

The gardens fill a day with the charms of childhood from vintage boating and private playgrounds accessible with a small entry fee.

French and Parisian children mix together in the universal language of play.

Sweet options are always close by.

Zipline at the park.

Children play freely, while grownups view from the side as the park requires a small entrance fee.

Exploring the grounds.

A girl with Parisian style.

Luc lost his tooth while playing on the zip line. (The likely reason why he fell as you cannot tug a tooth and clinch onto a line simultaneously). On his last night he will be paid a visit from La Petit Sourie for a surprise of French candy and euros.

On Luc’s last morning he finds candy and coins left by La Petit Sourie in exchange for his tooth.

We are now back to the customs of our American life. Days spent driving to lessons, beaches and cookouts with platters of catered food eaten from disposable plates and plastic forks made to look like silver. I asked Luc what his favorite memory was in Paris. Walks, art, carousels… Without hesitation he said the ice cream they made to look like a flower. Grownups. We have a tendency to over complicate things but Paris is the remedy for reacquainting to the wonderment of youth. “All grown-ups were once children . . . but only few of them remember it.” – The Little Prince.

A cone of gelato from Amarino. (Not shown: the macaron on top that was swiftly eaten).

Resources:

Chocolatier: http://www.lecomptoirdemathilde.com/fr/

Berthillon Ice Cream: http://www.berthillon.fr

Gelato: http://www.amorino.com/fr/boutique/paris-l-ile-saint-louis.1.html

Paris with Children: littlebookroom.com

Violet candy: https://www.saveurdujour.com/old-fashion-candy-violet-p-2801.html

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Comments

  1. 86Yasmin says:

    You’ve got hi quality content.

  2. Helen Nelson says:

    This is so cute! I love that kids can have a vacation other than a theme park or beach.

  3. Rory Baxter says:

    Wow! What an amazing travel story and angle. Appreciate the fine piece of reporting.

  4. It is a city for all ages. Excellent guide, merci.

  5. Astrid says:

    Fantastique! An accurate description of traveling with little ones. Merci. – Astrid

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