A Paris Cheat Sheet

June 13, 2013

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A Paris Cheat Sheet

We just came back from two weeks in Paris with our four year old son Alex (see my other post on all the design I saw).  This the second time we’ve gone to Paris with Alex.  It is a city we know pretty well from travel prior to having kids (and in fact, we’ve stayed in the apartment we rented before we had kids, so that helped us have courage to try it with Alex). There is something magical about experiencing a city through the eyes of your children.  Especially returning this year, he had memories of our trip last year (he talked about the carousels and the Eiffel tower for a year straight!) Those were the first things we did when we arrived this time!  Our general approach to traveling with Alex is to do all the things we do in NYC, just in a different city.  So we spent most of our time in Paris outside, at the parks and playgrounds and we don’t have high expectations for his or our stamina. A number of people asked about the plane and kids (pack five or so new small toys in a separate pouch for that awkward time waiting to take off and to land – make sure they wear soft waisted/comfortable clothes – bring layers and a soft blanket from home on to the plane –  try to travel with nap time – bring lots of snacks you know they like, more than you think you’ll need – I even pack Amy’s Mac n Cheese in our checked luggage so Alex will have familiar foods a few nights). In terms of jetlag I can RAVE about melatonin.  Our pediatrician recommended it and it really helped us adjust Alex in both directions whenever we travel across time zones.  I’d give him the dose and he’d be asleep in under 5 minutes.  We use it for three nights on both ends of the trip.

Lodging

We rent this apartment.  Cheaper than a hotel, lots more of space, privacy with sometimes screaming children, a refrigerator, a kitchen, multiple rooms so mom and dad can have some vino after kiddos go to bed.  If you can find a rental with a balcony or garden, all the better (and let me know!).  If we go back to Paris again, I’d probably want to stay in Canal St. Martin area — it’s a little cheaper and very kid friendly.  This apartment is pretty kid-safe (although there aren’t any safety bars or screens in the windows, so better for very little kids).

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Necessities

Maps and Apps.  We loved the Trip Advisor Offline City Guides App. This genius app doesn’t use any data from your phone plan.  Instead, it uses the built in GPS to direct you to good restaurants around you and generally help orient you. So you can use this when your data is turned off.  Then, I swear by the Paris Practique Maps, which are detailed maps by arrondissement.  You can find them on Amazon or any bookstore in Paris. Technology seemed to fail me a lot on this trip.  I bought a international data plan, but, often found myself without a cell signal.  So the map was literally a life saver.

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Raingear.  It rained a lot on our trip.  I packed these Aigle boots which I loved. It seems to rain in waves in Paris, so if it rained, we’d just pop into a cafe and wait it out.

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Backpack.  A friend once joked that she officially gave up her pre-baby self when she bought a backpack. But there is no denying the appeal of having both hands free to wrangle kids, so I bought this Brooklyn Industries backpack literally 15 minutes before leaving for the airport and I ended up loving it.  It was roomy, hip and didn’t SCREAM (maybe just winked) “tourist”.

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The insanely good ginger/pistachio short bread at Claus. 

Food

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A dinner at home, with market chicken and potatoes. 

We cooked a lot at home.  Shopping for food is a pleasure in France; the markets, the exoticism of mundane items in the Franprix and Carafor.  Alex and I went grocery shopping everyday and we’d buy all sorts of new things and try them out. Weird cereals and cheese, candies and crackers.  We’d also shop the markets, but that is a slightly more chaotic  farmer’s market-esque experience and a little more challenging with a 4 year old. So Tim, whose french is better than mine, did more of our market shopping.

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We embraced the picnic    Having dinner by the Seine is our favorite thing to do; sometimes I make tuna pasta, or penne arrabiata and take it down to the Seine. The french have a lovely and relaxed approach to picnics.  Nothing fancy or overdone, just being outside.  Most times we just buy sandwiches, a bottle of wine and a bag of potato chips. Hordes of Parisians and tourists from everywhere congregate by the Seine in the cool evenings, playing music, eating and drinking. It feels like one big party. Also, our apartment has no air conditioning, so the Seine was also a dramatically cooler spot to be!

That being said, here are the Paris restaurants we recommend:

Itineraries
I HIGHLY recommend Itineraries in the 5eme. The meal was as close to perfect as I can imagine.  I ordered two desserts.  That good. This is also half a block from our apartment… (Thanks Joanna for the tip!)

We also loved Claus where again you’ll need a breakfast reservation.  We were really lucky and got to walk in and eat at a tiny table in the front of the kitchen, but, I think that was a fluke.  They make a ginger / pistachio short bread that I am obsessed with. Even if you don’t eat there, I’d suggest stopping off for the short bread.

Ten Belles (iced coffee! all the treats!)

Balthazar (in basement of The Bon Marche)

Paul (this is a chain, and everywhere, but, really dependable if you’re having a melt down)

Pamela Popo (order the steak for two!)

Bread and Roses (mini chain)

Blend (gourmet burgers)

Anna and Joe’s pizza (great atmosphere but  soso pizza by NYC high standards — great pizza by paris standards)

Mems Le Bistrot (really family friendly in Le Canal St. Martin)

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5eme Cru

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 Les Pates Vivantes

Recommended museums:

The Police Museum (A little blood thirsty but Alex was young enough to enjoy all the weapons but not understand some of the more violent aspects might not be great for slightly older kids but would probably be awesome for 8+ and tweens and my dad loved it!)

Musee Delacroix

Musee de L’orangerie

Les Arts Decoratifs

Maison européenne de la photographie

Centre Pompidou - Alex loved riding the escalators and tolerated a fair amount of actual art; amazing views of Paris.

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Alex at the Jardin d’acclimatation 

Stuff to do with kiddos:

Note that many museums have a handicapped entrance where you can skip the line if you have a stroller (!!).  We did this at the Louve and the Pompidou.

The Jardin Luxemberg has a playground where you pay a euro and the kiddos can’t escape (and parents can have a cafe for a euro) while watching the kids. We met up with Ashley and Aron who happened to be in Paris at the same time and had a blast watching our American kiddos dive right into the action.  It’s amazing how much of children’s play transcends language.  We had a very funny cross cultural moment when a little french boy sat in our stroller and would not budge.  Ashely saved me after I’d exhausted my french and the little boy still wouldn’t get out of our stroller and Alex was getting angsty that there was a stranger in his stroller.  With Ashley’s superior French and Aron’s scouting we eventually we solved the mystery of why he was sitting in our Red MacClaren stroller when we found another identical stroller in another part of the park — I pushed him in our stroller to it and he JUMPED out and got into his and we were on our way.

Eiffel tower (buy tickets ahead of time online!)  We did not do this, but watched many families skip the line …

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Carousels everywhere

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The Tulleries has an awesome playground

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Jardin Des Plants Zoo (the red pandas, the flamingos!)

Jardin d’acclimatation (wonderful playgrounds, water play, rides for children –d I’d say rides are for the 2.5 and older set) but the playgrounds are good for all ages.  This is a full day — it takes about 40 minutes to get there and bring a picnic — lots of places to eat and the food there isn’t great.

Shopping:

Bon Marche Food Court

Cos (women’s clothes)

Monoprix (the French equal of Target; I bought lots of clothes for Alex)

HEMA (house wears)

Andre (shoes)

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy S June 13, 2013 at 10:12 am

Best.Post.Evah! I would love to enjoy Paris with my 3 year old. My biggest worry is the flight and time change adjustment for a tot. How did that work for you? Any tips?

joanna goddard June 13, 2013 at 10:23 am

brilliant, abbey!! loved everything about this post. such great tips and as always your funny personality shines through.

Abbey June 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

awwww — thanks ladies! That means so much to me! Amy, I will do a post on traveling with kiddos, just for you. I always hesitate to post those kinds of posts becuase I’m not sure I have it figured out and kids are all so different. BUT, I suppose reading lots of different perspectives is the way we plan for trips now so I’ll add my two cents, for what they are worth!

Abbey June 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Joanna, your comment made me laugh and laugh!!!

alexandra June 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

u should go to the 104:http://www.104.fr/version-anglaise/
enjoy your stay!

Alexandra

Kathryn June 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Next time you MUST go to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature. It is a hunting/nature museum that sounds like something i would not like AT ALL (I’m a vegan and distinctly indoorsy) but it is incredibly fun and would be great for kids (there’s lots of things you can touch and cabinets to open). It’s small and in the former home of a major conservationist. Filled with locals and family and in the Marais/Canal St. Martin area, and you’ll be close to Rose Bakery to drop by for delicious treats when you’re done.

Sarah Buttenwieser June 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Please travel to more places and write comprehensive tips and pointers like this. It’s a service to your readers (write the trips off).

Abbey June 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Sarah,
you are so nice! I always am not sure if this kind of post is valuable — some of it seems obvious and everyone is so different I’m not sure other people would enjoy the same things … I really appreciate your comment more than I can say! And, LOL to the write offs!

Abbey June 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Kathryn, I read about that museum and so wanted to go, but we ran out of time! Next time for sure! It sounds amazing. Friends have raved about Rose Bakery, too. Thanks for your comment!

little t June 15, 2013 at 5:12 am

This is brilliant – bookmarking for my next trip.

I’ve been to Paris countless times and there’s still loads of your list I have yet to discover.

Thanks xo

Suzanne June 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

Abbey -
Just wanted to say thanks for this great post. We are in the middle of a month’s stay here in Paris with our two girls (ages 5 and 2) in a fantastic two-bedroom apartment with bathtub (key with kids) in the 18th (Montmartre neighborhood) and your suggested itinerary pretty much mirrors what we’ve been up to. I would also add the parc monceau (8th arr.) – a fabulous park for children, and Champ du Mars (around Eiffel Tower) for picnicking, and of course gelato, the best can be found on Ile de St. Louis. Also, you didn’t mention public transport but the bus system is completely the way to go with kids, it is easy to learn, you see the whole city, and passengers always give up their seats to passengers with small children, unlike the metro – a fend for yourself mentality, with a million stairs to navigate with a stroller and not always working escalators. All in all, Paris is fabulous for kids, especially in the summer months.

abigail June 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I wonder if melatonin is ok for babies. We’re going to visit my in laws in the south of France next month when our baby with be 11 months old and I am panicked about the jetlag. I must ask our pediatrician!
But jetlag or no, this post has me thinking we should tack a few days in Paris on to the end of the trip! Thanks!

PARIS BEE kids blog June 16, 2013 at 6:51 pm

So glad you enjoyed your time in Paris. Isn’t it the best city for kids!? We love living in this city!!!

xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

alexandra June 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

Hi!

Abbey, could you give my email to Suzanne please?
if she wants we could meet, I live in the 18th arrondissement as well and have a 4year old daughter!
that could be fun to meet new people plus it could be fun for our kids to meet and play in “frenglish”:)
I ‘m french and always so happy to discover Paris thru foreign eyes!

Sunshine+Design June 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I’m actually heading to Paris with my 1.5 year old at the end of the summer. Thanks for the kid friendly tips and parks. I love the idea of the impromptu picnic!

Luisa June 23, 2013 at 3:29 am

So inspiring, Abbey!! I loved hearing the tips of how to travel with a child.

larcenette June 26, 2013 at 1:59 am

Happy to see you enjoy Paris : it’s the best city in the world (i’m not saying that because i’m living there :p)
by the way, it’s not carafor but Carrefour :)

The next time, you have to try “Le Cambodge” a small restaurant close to the Canal St Martin, one the bobun I’ve ever eat in Paris!
(And I hope the next time you will have a better weather, we have an awful spring :’( )

ecs July 2, 2013 at 4:15 am

Is the French you learned at TGS with Maggie resurfaced? I also wanted to mention that as a dec arts lover, you might enjoy Musée Nissim de Camondo, right on the edge of Parc Monceau, if you haven’t already been there.

Elizabeth July 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Abbey, I have read this post about 10 times now. I would love to be in Paris and this is as close at it seems I’m getting for the summer. So much fun and such gorgeous images. Your blog is an inspiration to live a more beautiful and pleasurable life. AND… I would love to see you before the summer days are long gone. :)

Sheila@Chinaberry July 29, 2013 at 7:49 am

Wow, I would have never thought that traveling with kids to Europe could be done so gracefully! Love that you did many things that your son enjoyed ~ a must for any trip, as I’ve learned. Now I want to go to Paris!

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