Travelling with kids (and babies)
Just back from a wonderful break in Paris with toddlers / kids. A city that I love and used to live in pre kids and got to re-discover now through their eyes – a delight! Temperatures between 28-32 degrees Celsius, one shower of 10 minutes and otherwise uninterrupted blue skies. For the end of May, that has been very lucky and we all loved the break from London grey landscapes.
Best area to stay in Paris with toddlers? I picked my old 16eme arrondissement neighbourhood as a base and my eldest vetoed my Airbnb shortlisted flats based on the toys. We all loved it: rue Belles Feuilles Hausmanian building, the little restaurants and myriad of fashionable shops and boutiques downstairs: patisserie, fruit shop, butcher, rotisserie and even sushi. The flat was perfect for the kids: belonging to a French family with 2 boys relatively similar ages to ours, it had the perfect set up for beds, black out blinds, amazing toys and books, gadgets and tools.
The parents loved their evenings in as well, the balcony is perfect for al fresco dinners overlooking the lively but still residential Rue Belles Feuilles and we did indulge into French savoury delights as well as my favourite soundtracks: Yann Tiersen (Amelie Poulain amidst others), Mylene Farmer, oldies and goldies like Joe Dassin, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf and Dalida (prompted by the exhibition hosted by Palais Galliera and visited earlier in the day). We very much approved our hosts choice of music as well, an evening we just listened to their opera selections and feasted on yum sushi from the Sushiman downstairs. With kids in bed more or less 8pm exhausted from so much sightseeing and French goodies, we had delightful evenings in, feet up and rose down. Somehow I also managed to read a couple of French books belonging to our hosts: La Tour Eiffel – fascinating stories, from concept, design and construction as well as Comment ne pas devenir Parisien – a hillarious guide book, laughed hard at the sections of Pregnancy, style and blooming required in Paris; dating and love affairs; Raising kids in busy, cultural and merciless trendy city. La Tour Eiffel book also proved very popular with our almost 4 years old and prompted us on our last morning to take a trip by stairs – we managed just a bit higher than the first floor as our young Spiderman decided that was high enough for his liking.
The flat was the perfect base for our Paris with toddlers daily trips: 15 minutes by foot to Trocadero, 25 minutes by foot Tour Eiffel, 20 minutes to Jardin d’acclimatation and La fondation Louis Vuiton, 15 minutes by Arc de triumph and the top of Champs Elysees.
So first evening, barely arrived, we’ve done Trocadero – evening picnic, with kids wondering for the first time at la Tour Eiffel and after the initial surprise and delight, just running after pigeons and chasing each other.
The second day, we took the scenic route to Bateaux Mouches base at Pont d’Alma. A little playing break at Palais Galliera for some chasing, hide and seek, admiring and talking. On Saturday there’s a market on Avenue Wilson – felt very nice and non touristy, a great break before the busy boat ride Paris with kids.
Pont d’Alma and Bateaux Mouches logistics were very smooth and efficient, the trip a visual feast with Parisien sights. Great day to be cruising on la Seine, with perfect blue skies and temperatures over 30 degreees C. We tried up and down, inside and outside during the 75 minutes trip – lots of great pics and stories but also quite a bit of mischief and playing from the little monkeys. Little E had also lunched on the boat, certain other small people just snacked and juiced.
Thereafter we picked the leafy streets of 8eme arrondisment for more walking and scooting and once a little person decided it was nap time, we settled for a nice terrace, steak, salad and rose. The other little person happy for French fries and icecream break. Hydrated, refreshed and napped for 1.5 hours, we headed to Place de la Concorde and Jardin de Tuilleries.
The big wheel / ‘Paris eye’ which has been disgracefully assembled last year at Place Concorde was now gone, despite some local reassurance 😉 So our boys had lots of fun instead on the funfairs and playground. 7 hours of walking around we called it a day and caught a taxi from Place Vendome.
Next day, a similarly hot summer day, we headed for the greenery of Bois de Boulogne. For families like us keen on both modern architecture, art as well as kids entertainment, recommending La Fondation Louis Vuiton entrance – where you could get a Euro32 entrance for all the gang for both Jardin d’acclimatation and the museum. The building is the most incredible piece of modern architecture, a playful and bold interlace of wood, glass, water and mirrors huge bird/ ship taking off Bois de Boulogne. We took the elevators upto its 5th floor and soaked in the views, took the stairs to the 4th and 3rd floor and thereafter played for a while in its huge cavernous basement, by the water and mirrors: reflections, hiding, playing. The exhibition was South African themed and the led designs fascinated our almost 4 years old.
The jardin d’acclimatation itself is barely manageable in a full day out, so we tried and balanced modern art (French mothers day afterall!) and little pleasures for our little people. The train to Porte Maillot was a hit, La Riviere Enchantee another one, the playgrounds very nice and not as busy as expected, the trampolines great for energetic boys, the pianos to be played everywhere great to listen to some very talented spontaneous acts and good for our boys practising. The water play and steam was incredibly popular at 30 degrees and have to admit – quite fun. A second change of clothes comes very handy as all kids and some of the parents were completely soaked – we left it as the last activity of the day and caught a taxi straight after 5pm home for a proper bath & shower.
Friends reunion with their little one – delightful to see them after so many years and catch up on their new lives as parents over more rose and pattiserie.
Time flies when you have so much fun, so our last day was dedicated to climbing La tour Eiffel, ‘Spiderman’ playground on the right hand side of Trocadero gardens and a bit more of strolling in the 16eme.
We caught an Ubber to Gare du Nord at 14:30 for the Eurostar at 16:40. Very messy and long check in, passports and luggage disorganised queus, but we completely excused the French authorities once they have given us a private coach at the Standard Premium and I got to dine and wine peacefully, read magazines and looking at an exhausted baby napping for 1 hour and a half.
Standard Premium tickets at Eurostar proved just a great choice, all of us enjoying the food & the drinks, the wider seats, helpful and playful personnel.
La vie en rose (and rose’!) over now, back to our 50 shades of grey aka London.
PS: Many thanks to Bateaux Mouches for the complimentary tickets.