Archive for the ‘Paris’ Category

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With Kids: Week Two in Paris

May 11, 2010

With the start of our second week in Paris (click here for Week One) came the realisation that we had just seven days left to do everything we wanted to do. Phone calls were made to book kids’ ateliers (workshops) and battles ensued with various websites – the Eiffel Tower for starters – that insisted on printing out e-tickets (not handy if you’re staying in apartment rather than hotel).

Saturday
It had been the highlight of the kids’ last trip to Paris and three years on the Kapla Centre still enthralled. Several thousands wooden bricks and a couple of hours later, they’d built the Eiffel Tower. Next up was a 2.5km walk from the 11th arrondissement to Parc de Bercy for a picnic in the park and gad around what must be one of the city’s most inventive green spaces – a decade ago warehouses filled with wine marked the spot. Anyone mad about design will love it.

Sunday
Someone had told me that the climbing frames and playgrounds in the Parc Floral de Paris, a flower park in the Bois de Vincennes, were among Paris’ best. So it was with an extra big skip in their step that the boys trekked off that morning. The thrill in Niko’s voice when he told me that evening how he’d got to the top of a spider frame intended for kids 11-plus said it all. He’s eight.

Monday
The day when many Paris museums are shut: This time around they actually made it into the Natural History Museum where, much to the boys amusement, Papa @Luefkens strode unabashedly into the women’s loos to change the baby: the concept of equally equipping both men’s and women’s loos with changing mat has yet to reach France (unlike in Switzerland: just last weekend we were at Lausanne’s Olympic Museum where, yes, @Luefkens sighted a changing-mat in the mens).

Post picnic in Jardin des Plantes, it was a funicular ride up to the street entertainers, buskers and artists of Montmartre. Avoid spending €30 on a portrait unless you’re happy for it to bear zero resemblance to your child (unfortunately our three-month-old daughter was wearing blue that day … she was clealy unimpresed with the result).

Tuesday
Striving for a cheap morning, the gang rode the metro as far as Bastille then spent the morning walking along the banks of Canal St-Martin to the Cité de la Musique (where the boys were enrolled in afternoon music-discovery workshops). The canal walk was superb: within seconds of spotting the first canal boat navigate one of many locks the kids – initially horrified at the idea of ‘a walk’ – were hooked. Dinner at Les Pâtes Vivantes, 22 blvd St-Germain, was a spell-binding affair thanks to the chef behind glass who hand-pulled Chinese noodles while we dined.

Wednesday
They had scaled it twice before already, but the Eiffel Tower is one of those irresistible Parisian icons. With a pram in tow, e-tickets were purchased for the lift. (Smartphones owners note, @luefkens didn’t print out the tickets and yes, the guy at the entrance did successfully scan the bar code on his Blackberry.) From the handsome height of 324m the boys plummeted below-ground level to the city sewers aka Paris’ rather stinky Musée des Agouts. Four million rats live down there but the boys didn’t spot one.

Goûter was another rather stylish affair: the kids’ culinary workshop at Palais de Tokyo’s ArtHome (in French pronounced ‘arôme’ meaning ‘aroma’) climaxed with the boys eating their afternoon’s work – a silky-smooth panna cotta spiced with fresh mint, served in a bowl made of chocolate and decorated with orange-flavoured meringue sticks. Chic.

Thursday
The boys enjoyed the art workshops at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs but what really tickled their fancy was the 16th-century Ecole de Fontainebleau painting their father introduced them to in the Louvre. Being the savvy Dad he is, he knew Mona Lisa just does nothing for six- and eight-year-old boys – unlike the two nipple-pinching ladies the pair of them have been talking about ever since. Do the same if you want your children to actually remember the world’s most famous art museum. Post-Louvre, watch the kids play hide-and-seek in the boxed hedges of Jardin des Tuileries over tea or champagne on the lawn at unforgettable stylish address Le Saut du Loup.

Friday
La Grande Arche in Paris’ spacey La Défense business district was today’s culture box, followed by a frolic in yet another park – Parc André Citroen – and pizza al fresco on the terrace at kid-friendly Restaurant Fiori. Final treat of the week was dinner en famille at L’Entrepot, a edgy cultural centre with restaurant, live bands, film screenings (including monthly parent and baby showings) and a leafy back garden to die for.

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Paris en famille: Goûter for €36 #gulp

April 14, 2010

They’d have been just as happy squatting on the pavement edge, licking a Berthillon ice-cream to the merry beat of street buskers on Pont Louis Philippe. And it would have been cheaper.

Instead we plumped for one of Paris’ most historic cake shops and tea rooms to give the boys that sacrosanct mid-afternoon snack no child in France goes without – goûter.

I sipped Earl Grey poured from an antique silver teapot and watched in amusement as the 6-year-old tucked into a lurid, bubblegum-pink Ispahan built from two raspberry macarons delicately glued together with rose-petal cream. Eggshell-crisp on the outside and soft ‘n chewy inside, it is these sweet treats baked in a rainbow of lurid colours that Ladurée in St-Germain des Près is known for.

Needless to say the sugary-sweet cake, fresh raspberries et al, went down a treat until he hit a lychee. Dramatic grimace followed by ‘Mummy, I don’t like the gluey thing’. So uncultured.

Tomorrow we’ll do the kerb on the bridge.

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Paris en Famille: Jardin du Luxembourg

April 12, 2010

There are certain streets, bistros, parks that madly truly deeply make me feel I’m in Paris: Jardin du Luxembourg is one of them.

Saturday was no exception. Hot of the TGV, overload of luggage dumped at the apartment, we hot-footed it to Jardin du Luxembourg: the boys needed an energy burner and I wanted to unabashedly revel in that delicious feeling of ‘being in Paris’.

When @luefkens suggested renting a old-fashioned sailing boat – good-value entertainment at €3.20 an hour – to float on Palais de Luxembourg’s fish pond I was a tad skeptical. What on earth could be so fascinating about watching the wind puff a toy boat across the water for an hour?

Boy was I wrong. The boys loved it, jumped with joy, screamed in delight as they sprinted madly from one side of the monumental pond to the other in hot pursuit of their yo-yoing boats, nudging them away from the edge with a simple bamboo stick and screaming in excited horror as their vessel veered perilously towards the fountain in the pond’s middle. Pure unabated old-fashioned pleasure enjoyed by Parisian families since 1922.

And what did I do? Run around in circles after the pair of them (as did every parent there) trying frantically to keep them in sight!

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Paris en famille: How to do it

April 11, 2010

Every travel writer has their own way of doing it. Mine invariably ends up en famille, a mode of travel that prompts immediate admiration from almost everyone I meet.

Bizarre really: if anyone seriously thinks I can research a guidebook with two overly-boisterous, attention-greedy boys and a baby who needs breastfeeding every four hours they must be mad. No way.

Except that that is precisely how this research trip has pared out. Fortunately I did bring my secret weapon along in the shape of devoted papa @luefkens who entertains the kids – all three of ’em – while I work.

Secret’s out. That’s how I do it.

So here we are in Paris, smugly snug in a 70-sq-meter apartment, a hop and a skip from Le Bon Marché in the well-heeled 6th arrondissement. Sped here by TGV from Geneva to Gare de Lyon where lugging our luggage (more pieces than people – blame the baby) from platform to taxi rank was a feat of engineering in itself.