5 years, 7 months ago
This post exclusively for HouseTrip by CiaoBambino family blogger Anna Tobin as part of our #housetripping series.
To make a city break just as fun with your children as it would be without them, you need to approach it very differently to how you would a fortnight’s family holiday by the beach. When it’s sunny, children are happy to play in the sand, sea and pool all day, every day, for days on end.
When you’re in a city you need to plan for all of you to relax. You can’t cram too much into every day as you might if you were visiting with just adults and you need to build in time for children to do what children most like to do: play.
This is why, when it came to planning Ella and Lily’s first trip with us to Paris, we chose a spacious house in the Paris suburbs over two tiny hotel rooms in the centre. For half the price we got a high spec, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a large kitchen and living area, which was only twenty minutes by Metro into the centre of Paris.
And it was lovely to stay a little outside of the centre as we got more of a feel for French family life. There was a fantastic park and a playground minutes from our house, as well as a boulangerie, fromagerie and a market. Kids might hate the supermarket run at home, but when everything is displayed beautifully and smells great, they’re much keener to help with the choosing and more receptive to trying new things.
Our host had also recommended some great family-friendly restaurants nearby, so once we were home after a long day in the city we only had to go to the top of the street to feast French style.
If you want something more central and baby-friendly I really like this modern apartment right by the Luxembourg Gardens, with its impressive playground and boating lake. This place is also bang in the middle of the biggest concentration of children’s boutiques in Paris and there are some great bistros nearby too.
Or just a few minutes walk away from here, in the heart of Montparnasse, is this cute apartment. Surrounded by speciality food shops, it feels like it’s in its own little village, despite being in the centre of Paris. This place should work with children of any age, but you’d be hard pushed to get a buggy in the tiny elevator.
The must sees
As my children are still young, I prefer to immerse them in the culture of a foreign city – taking in the food, the restaurants, the transport, the local parks and play areas – rather than traipse from one tourist attraction to another with them. I find we all get to enjoy the city more this way. But I have my ‘must sees’ for every city and this is what I felt they had to experience in Paris:
The Eiffel Tower
We got to the Eiffel Tower and discovered a three-hour line to get in. Should have booked in advance here. I discovered a way around it though. We went up to the restaurant-booking booth and got a table at the bar half way up the tower, allowing us to bypass the line. This went some way to impressing the kids and they hadn’t even left the ground. They enjoyed the challenge of walking some of the way up, and delighted in watching the earth get further and further away. Once at the summit they spotted the same football match they saw going on at ground level and they were enthralled by the bird’s eye view of it. Which was good as the crowds were on the other side of the viewing gallery spotting Paris’s more famous landmarks.
A boat trip along the Seine
Bateaux Mouches are the iconic Parisian floating sightseeing tours, but there are loads of boat trips running along the Seine all the time and they are all much of a likeness. We boarded one of Les Vedettes Du Pont-Neuf. The kids had an ice-cream each and a bag of bonbons and they enjoyed waving to other boats and people on the banks and bridges from the top deck for the hour round trip. The Batobus, which allows you to hop on and off at the major sites, is a good alternative for those who don’t like sitting still for too long.
The sculptures and flowers that decorate this park made no impact on my girls, but they had a great time playing hide and seek amongst the hedges at the start of the Jardin des Tuileries and patting the dogs that are taken there for a run around. Giving the kids time to escape back into their make-believe world is what makes a holiday for them.
When we got to The Louvre we discovered another long line. You guessed it, should have booked in advance here. Fortuitously, however, one of the girls needed the toilet and I managed to talk the line manager into allowing us straight in. I’d given the Mona Lisa a bit of a build up in the weeks up to our arrival in the city, but the little ones really didn’t get what all the fuss was about. They weren’t too keen on any of the other masterpieces on display either, but there was lots of giggling induced by the number of bottoms and boobs on display. Unless you can coincide your visit with the first Sunday of the month, when many of Paris’s museums and art galleries waive their entrance fees, I’d skip the Louvre and other galleries until your kids start to show an interest in art history.
You can’t come to Paris without visiting the shops and even little children will wander around a few, especially if there is the prospect of them being bought something. The main area for children’s clothes, toys and shoes in Paris is Rue Vavin and the streets off it. Once you’ve kitted everyone out you can spend the rest of the day in the Luxembourg Gardens at the bottom of the Rue Vavin, it has a lovely playground. From here we took a short taxi ride to Chez Bogato, a patisserie that is aimed at kids. The hamburger made out of a meringue bun, with a chocolate patty, mint leaf salad and berry ketchup est tres fantastique!
Featured image by ChrisGoldNY