Metrotwin

I was recently approached by Metrotwin to do a guest-list for them of my favourite places in London with kids.  I said “hey! I can do one better than that — I can ask our fabulous Babyccino NY contributor (Dina to you and me) to do a NY list too”. They were very excited.

You see Metrotwin is a site powered by British Airways to offer reviews of all the best things to do in the London and NYC.  It is a fabulous resource if you happen to be travelling to or even if you live in either of the cities.

You can check out the Babyccino Kids London Address Book here and the NY address book here.

Enjoy! Mo.x

Merci

merci.jpg It’s been the talk of town. Merci, Paris’ newest concept store opened its doors last week. When I visited it was so new, they were still finishing off the paintwork.

Even if you are just in Paris for an afternoon, it is worth checking it out. A huge loft style space houses a florist, an eclectic bookstore, a wonderful vintage collection, designer clothes at a discount, homeware and a great kid’s clothing and accessories area. It is the kind of place you can pick up a delicate Isabel Marant necklace for 20 euros or spend several thousand euros on a sofa. (more…)

Cumin cheese

kaaswinkelThe Dutch are pretty famous for their cheeses. The ‘normal’ Gouda cheese is well known internationally, and also the plain Edam cheese is pretty much available in better cheese shops all over the world.
A cheese I have never found abroad though is ‘komijnekaas’ (‘cumin cheese’) — basically a Gouda or Edam cheese with cumin seeds in it, and a cheese we love in the Netherlands (at least I do)!
The cumin seeds give the cheese a mild, nutty flavour and it is very good on a slice of fresh bread or just as is on a cheese platter.

If in Amsterdam, make sure to step in to one of the many cheese shops (don’t worry — although they are certainly ‘cheesy’, they are not at all ‘just for tourists’)! They will gladly let you taste cumin cheese – and any other cheese you would like to try (and there are many)!

xxx Esther

Duchy!

Duchy Highland ShortbreadNearly 20 years ago, long before the huge wave of organic foods began to arrive at our local foodshops, HRH The Prince of Wales believed we needed to think about the long-term future of our environment and our rural communities. It was this thought that launched the idea of Duchy Originals, and in 1992 the company began with its first product, the oaten biscuit.
Duchy Originals is now a rather booming company with more than 200 quintessentially British food products. It also has made and given over £6 million to The Prince’s Charity Foundation in support of local farmers and with the intention of tackling climate change.

Aside from the interesting history (and the fact that its founded by a Prince!!), Duchy Originals food products are delicious and unique. In fact, I’ve never bought a Duchy product that didn’t impress! (more…)

Panettone, not just for Christmas!

panettone4.jpgAlthough it is now the symbol of Christmas lunch and dinners all over Italy, Panettone is the ultimate Milanese Christmas dessert. Its origin is the subject of many legends, but what is certain is that it dates back to the XV century. It is shaped like a cylinder with a rounded top, it can be high (30cm) or low (15cm), and in its original recipe the dough contains eggs, butter, raisins and candied oranges.  These days you can find it without candied fruit or raisins, or with chocolate chips and custard cream. But, as any true panettone lover would say, those may taste good…but they are not the real thing!
Italians normally have it at the end of a special meal (lunch or dinner) together with coffee or a sweet wine. When one feels really indulgent you can have some fresh mascarpone cream on the side. panettone2.jpg
Panettone should not be heated before serving, but does, especially in the winter, benefit from a few minutes in a warm place, like in front of an open oven or on top of a radiator. Left-over panettone makes for a very delicious breakfast. You can find loads of industrially produced ones, and some of them are quite good but nothing beats the panettone which comes from one of the traditional patisseries in Milan. (more…)

Ladurée Macarons

laduree2.jpgI really could not decide what to recommend as my Parisian try and buy’. It was such a tough choice but in the end I reckon the macarons from Ladurée win!

They are a must try, not only because they are so delicious; but also because they are delicate, beautiful, retro and soo Parisian. You can get imitation macarons in patisseries all over Paris but none of them compare to their Ladurée competitor.

The delicate pastries are made out of 2 crispy macarons sandwiched together with a ganache filling. In other words they are made out of a concoction of eggs, sugar and almonds and a couple of secret ingredients which are only known to the Ladurée pastry chef. The flavours range from the simple vanilla, chocolate and pistachio ones to the unusual Lily of the Valley and Java Pepper flavours. Every season Ladurée invents a new flavour. If you are in Paris in the next couple of months I strongly suggest you try this season’s creation: Mango Jasmin!

There are several Ladurée locations  in which these little treats are sold. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do…

– Emilie

Baby Disco

babydisco.jpgThe Palais de Tokyo is one of my favourite museums in Paris — a fantastic avantgarde modern art museum which, by the way, is open from mid-day to midnight (in case you are ever in Paris without your charges).

Not only is it a great museum, but at the moment it also hosts a Baby Disco. By this I mean a full-on, proper disco, complete with poles for dancing, disco balls, live DJs and a revolving dance stage: it’s like a mini studio 54.

The door policy is stricter than in most exclusive private member clubs! Only kids from 4-7 get to go to the disco for an hour and dance around at their heart’s content. No one else is allowed, except to look through a discreet little window. (more…)

A real submarine

totiblog.jpgThe Science Museum in Milan hosts, in its backyard, a real war submarine. The “Enrico Toti” was built in 1967 and was used during the cold war to spy, and possibly destroy, the big missile ships of the Soviet army. In 2000, after 30 years of service, it was decided it would gloriously end its career and reside in the Museum named after Leonardo da Vinci. Children, but not only they, could not be happier.
Visits are organised in groups of six, helmets must be worn, and children below 3 are not allowed. Once you are in, the first thing you realize is how cramped it is inside. (I couldn’t imagine actually living in one of those!) Then you are shown the periscope (and get to see the nearby roofs!), the sonar and the big slots to launch torpedoes. Admittedly the explanations may be a bit complicated for 3-year-old kids, unless they are already acquainted with the terminology, but I would think that a 5-year-old would really have a blast here. (more…)

Bugs, Frogs and Fish at the London Zoo…

London Zoo collageThe ZSL London Zoo is not the largest zoo I’ve ever seen, nor does it have a very impressive range of large animals (no elephants or rhinos, etc.).  But, for a zoo in the middle of such a dense city like London, the zoo does exactly as it should: it places emphasis on the smaller creatures in this world, like bugs of all sorts, butterflies, fish, reptiles and amphibians, and birds of the jungle.  All of these different exhibits, each in their own separate building, are located indoors, which means even on a rainy day you can still enjoy a long day at the zoo!

In fact, I have to say that I think my kids actually prefer these indoor exhibits.  My son, with a particular fondness of sea creatures, could spend hours inside the small but extensive aquarium.  He also really loves the reptiles and amphibians, with loads of large snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs.  And if you arrive in the later part of the afternoon, as we usually do, you may even get to see these animals at feeding time, which is great fun!  (We once spent a good 20 minutes watching a lizard chase around all the crickets in his cage!)  (more…)

Het Huis van Aristoteles

PettefletAmsterdam has a new attraction for kids and it is so great we immediately added it to our ‘top five things to do in Amsterdam’.
Het Huis van Aristoteles (‘The House of Aristotle’ – named after the famous philosopher and inventor of the senses), is a children’s museum which offers activities ‘that challenge the senses and stimulate creativity, fantasy and curiosity’.

The first exposition in the museum is called Heldenstad (‘HeroTown’) and is inspired by the famous Dutch children’s book, ‘Pluk van de Petteflet’. There’s a 6-meter-high building envisioning the ‘Petteflet’ (see picture), with all sorts of great things to be explored: various little bedrooms furnished by children from different cultures and backgrounds, dress up clothes, dolls, trains, etc.
There is even a kitchen with ‘Mrs. Helderder’ (‘Mrs. Clearer’ – a character of the book), who vigorously tells all the children to help her clean, because ‘it is all so filthy’. My daughter was polishing shoes and mopping floors for nearly one hour; she had rosy cheeks and a big smile on her face!

(more…)

Luukie/Xsmall

Luukie xsmallOne of my favourite kiddie shoe shops here in Amsterdam has always been, without a doubt, the super cool shop Luukie.

At Luukie, they always have shoes in their collection that I love. (And I am picky!) I like kids’ shoes to be quite traditional, but with a modern twist, which is why I love Italian brands like PéPé and Rondinella, who do this brilliantly. (I know these shoes are not the cheapest, but my mother raised me to believe it is essential for the health of children’s feet to wear good shoes with sturdy, leather soles.)

One of my favourite kid’s clothes shops here in Amsterdam is the extra stylish shop, Xsmall.  Here, they sell my absolute favourite (Dutch and Belgian) brands, like Imps&Elfs, Quincy, Simple Kids, KidsCase, Maan, and more! I guess I will just have to say that these clothes are cute, extremely stylish and of very good quality with extreme attention to detail…

Imagine my surprise (and extreme satisfaction), when I discovered that these two shops had actually joined forces! The combination of two of my favourite kid’s shops, both to be found under one roof! Brilliant! (more…)

Fungo Matto

fungomatto1.jpg Fungo Matto means ‘crazy mushroom’ and such a funny name is perfect for one of my favourite clothing shops in Milan. It is a tiny one-window shop in the Navigli area that has been carefully decorated with red mushrooms with white dots, vintage wooden toys, antique but simple furniture and a sweet collection of antique children’s chairs.
Anna Barbavara realised there was a gap in what Milan had to offer in terms of children clothing: shops were either selling very expensive traditional outfits which made children look like miniature versions of very stuffy parents, or offered scruffy-looking clothes full of big loud prints and stitched teddy bears.
She set the style of her shop when she discovered the Imps & Elfs collection.  But she didn’t stop there; she continued to look for cool, good quality brands, designed with children in mind. (more…)

Elias and Grace

Elias and GraceI know I’ve already written about Elias and Grace — the kid’s clothing shop in Primrose Hill, but it’s definitely one of my favorite kids’ shops in London, and certainly worth mentioning again.

Elias and Grace stocks a variety of great brands, including Belgian designers like Maan, Quincy, Max & Lola, and Simple Kids, and French brands like Petite Bateau and Bonton.  There’s also a good selection of Italian and Dutch brands, which is what makes this shop so great — it really represents the best of European children’s clothes.

They don’t have an enormous selection of shoes, but the ones they sell are always beautiful.  And, being in rainy London, they are naturally well stocked with a wide range of Aigle wellies in a variety of colors! (more…)

Lilli Bulle

lillibulle.jpgSeveral of our Babyccino readers have already requested I write a post about this shop and I was waiting for the right moment to give it the attention it deserves.  Lilli Bulle is worthy of being the kids’ clothes shop featured in our theme week!
It is actually one of these places I have to stop myself from going, as I always come out having spent a fortune. Not because my kids needed anything but because I am the one who really, really can’t resist!

Lilli Bulle stocks a great mixture of beautiful basics, funky one-offs and wonderful accessorizes.  The shop is tiny and crammed full of lovely stuff, from Petit Demons rattles, Miniseri’s satchels, beautiful Pepe kids’ shoes, hair clips, hats, little toys, and the list goes on and on.

For everyone who does not make it down to its shop off the rue du Faubourg St Antoine, there is also an online shop and a great blog, which keeps fans up to date with new arrivals!

– Emilie

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead HeathWe lived in London for nearly two years before we discovered the Hampstead Heath, which is a huge shame as it is one of London’s finest gems, and is, in my opinion, the most liberating outdoor activity in London. The fact that you can feel so far removed from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of London and yet be smack in the middle of it is a treat which is unusual for such a big city.

Hampstead Heath is London’s largest historic parkland, and arguably the most beautiful. Unlike the more manicured and planned Royal Parks of London, the Heath is wild in nature, offering 3.2 sq km of roaming meadows, fishing and swimming ponds, dark and lush woodlands, hiking and biking trails, and some of London’s best playgrounds. (more…)

Luxembourg Gardens

It might be the best-known park in Paris, but it is one of our favourite places to go. You cannot get a more Parisian park than the Luxembourg Gardens.

It is so much fun, even as an adult, to rent one of the little sailboats in the main fountain of the garden and push it around with a stick.  Most of the time it capsizes or collides with another boat, but that is part of the fun! (You can rent the sailboats on Wednesdays and on weekends.)

I reckon the playground is the best in Paris and is actually relatively empty as it is the only playground I know of in the centre of the city that charges an entrance fee. There are also pony rides (Wednesdays and on weekends) and swings. The ubiquitous Manege is a beautiful older style wooden affair, run by a lovely lady who does not mind kids taking their time to decide on which wooden animal to ride.

Last but not least, and though I hate being so practical, the Luxembourg Gardens is one of the only places in Paris I have found in which the toilets have a changing table and cute, clean, kid-sized toilets with little hand-washing basins.

– Emilie

(Image found here)

Macrobiotic goat farm Ridammerhoeve

goat farm1On the southern outskirts of Amsterdam is a huge park/woodland called the ‘Amsterdamse Bos’ (Amsterdam Forest). It offers great activities for kids, like swimming pools, playgrounds, a theater, a pancakes restaurant, and one of our family’s absolute favourite outdoor activities in Amsterdam: the macrobiotic goat farm ‘Ridammerhoeve‘.

The beauty of this goat farm is that it is really, in all reality, a goat farm! So besides it being a city farm, with the mere purpose of giving city kids the opportunity to get closer to animals and to teach them ‘where the milk is coming from’, the main purpose of this farm is to produce (organic) goat’s milk and make it into cheeses, yogurt, ice cream etc., all for sale at the little café, where you can also get a nice goats’ cappuccino! (more…)

Park and aperitivo

parco-castello.jpgMilan is not a city full of spaces for great outdoor activities; people just make the best of what is available! The biggest park in the center of town is Parco Sempione, bordered by the Sforzesco Castle, the Triennale, the Arco della Pace and the Aquarium. It’s no wonder it has been central to Milanese leisure time activities since its creation in 1888.
So even if it’s not comparable to the beautiful (and unique) London parks, it constitutes a very good and effective outlet for kid’s energy. They can run, ride bicycles and play football, and on the side nearer Arco della Pace there is a nice playground with big climbing structures that will appeal even to the most experienced kid. Nearby there are kids’ electrical motorbikes and cars — the dream of every preschooler, and a cute (and old) electrical train that will be the joy of the younger ones. (more…)

Keet in Huis

KeetKNSM island used to be quite a rough and industrial part of the Amsterdam harbor before it was transformed into a very cool residential island, and nowadays, this is where you can find one of the finest kid’s lifestyle shops of Amsterdam: Keet in Huis.
Keet in Huis (‘Mess in the House’), sells everything from furniture, bed linen, interior accessories, baby buggies, toys and books, which, you might think, by itself is not so extra-ordinary at all, but if you consider the amazing taste levels of the owners, you would be sold like every other mother who has ever set foot in this shop. Wonderful!

I can spend hours in ‘Keet in Huis’, and have an especially hard time pulling myself away of the downstairs bedding area. My kids don’t mind, because there is a lovely little play area where they can meet little friends whose mums are in a similar situation (stuck with the choice: which duvet cover to pick?).
Courtney, who has been a few times (it’s always on her list of things to do in Amsterdam), finds the bedding to be extremely Dutch. This means, according to her, that there are loads of very bright colours, and tons of gingham. This is probably true, as there are loads of bright colours in my kids’ bedroom – and loads of gingham! (more…)

Città del Sole

cittasole.jpgThis chain of toy shops is really a ray of light in a town where (nice) toy shops are difficult to find! The Città del Sole was founded over 30 years ago by Carlo Basso who still today carefully chooses the selections of toys that will be part of the catalogue.
Since my childhood Città del Sole has been a synonym of good quality educational toys. They sell funny, imaginative toys from big and small brands with a particular predilection for traditional toys. For example, you can find Schleich  animals, Sigikid stuffed animals, Plan Toys pull-alongs, Galt toys and a big selection of arts and crafts material. (more…)

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