ABC Guide to Parenting in Paris

Europe is a strange little place. All the countries are so close and small and yet they are so different in so many ways. The language, the houses, the systems and food; everything changes once you drive over a (nowadays) almost invisible border.

I spoke fluent French when I first moved to Paris, but even with that advantage, I was lost trying to figure out the different health system, school system, tax system, bank and so on. This is were I came across Message, an organisation run by Anglo mothers and parents in Paris. Every couple of years they bring out a book called the ABC of Parenting in Paris with all the information about parenting in Paris. It is an invaluable source of knowledge if you are new to France and trying to navigate the system. If you are thinking of moving the Paris, also check out the Message website, it is a great way of gathering information and getting to know other English-speaking families in Paris.

– Emilie

P.S. I am also a bit biased towards this particular edition of the ABC of Parenting in Paris, as a photo of little Vivi, taken by the talented Sarah Gardan, was chosen for the front cover.

Marie Puce

I wanted to tell you a little bit about one of my favourite boutiques in Paris, Marie Puce. It is nestled in a beautiful Parisian street, la rue du Cherche Midi, which is packed with lovely shops. The boutique is a joy to visit: It has a great selection of clothes and accessorizes, mostly by the boutique’s own label. The designs are so French, fresh and lovely. My favourites are the cute shoes, the orange skirt (it is the perfect orange, not too bright and not too pastel) and for boys the cool little shirts.

If you do not happen to be coming to Paris in the forseeable future, don’t worry, a lot of the Marie Puce label is also available on-line. I guess it is a bit like a virtual shopping trip to Paris!

– Emilie

Weekend Away: Paris

We have had so many great contributors tell us about their cities, and each of them has made me want to pack my bag and go explore the city, so I wanted to do a post about Paris. I still sometimes step out of my flat and get a little bit excited. Why? Because I do live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Sometimes I forget and then I look up and think: “Seriously… I am one lucky girl!”

So here is my list of what to do in Paris with your family for a weekend (or more!) in Paris:


The Pompidou Centre – great for the whole family. The permanent collection is world-class and well laid out, not too big and not too small. The ground floor has a little exhibition center just for kids that normally runs parallel to the temporary exhibitions and helps kids understand the exhibition. If nothing else, taking the rolling staircases, which are on the outside of the building in the plastic tubes, is an activity in itself.

The Galerie de l’Evolution – Paris’s natural history museum, which has recently been renovated and is worth a visit, especially if it is rainy outside. It is a beautiful space and is set in the Jardin des Plantes, the Botantical Gardens. It is a lovely to have a walk around in.

The Menagerie in the Jardin des Plantes – Also in the Jardin des Plantes is the Menagerie, a little zoo that has been around since the mid-19th century and has not changed a lot since then. It is a great size for smaller children and very charming.

The Sacrée Coeur and Montmartre – Montmartre and the Sacrée Coeur is a fun place to explore – unfortunately a lot of tourists agree with this, so the main streets are often packed with tourists. It is quite easy to avoid them though, as the groups normally stick to a few road and squares.

I recommend taking the funicular (easily my favourite public transportation vehicle) up to the top of the hill (you pay with a metro ticket). The view of Paris from the Sacrée Coeur is one of the best. If you walk back down the steps you will find a beautiful old merry-go-round – you might recognize it from the movie Amelie Poulain.

Musée D’Orsay – The Musée d’Orsay is a really accessible museum for kids from about 5 years and up. It houses a lot of the famous impressionists, so it is a great introduction to art and famous artwork that your kids might already know. It is right in the heart of Paris on the right bank of the Seine, beside the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, the perfect place to go and have a run about in after a museum visit. Do note that one of the crazy things about parks in France is one is often not allowed on the grass and there are fierce looking officers with whistles paroling the parks to make sure it stays that way!

Cité des Enfants – The cité des Enfants is based in the Science Museum a little bit outside the centre of Paris at La Villette. It is definitely worth the treck out if you are staying for a few days. All the exhibitions are interactive, educational and fun. I have been there with my kids and it is quite interesting how different kids gravitate towards different part of the exhibition. The exhibitions are divided between a section for 2-7 year olds and a section for 5-12 year olds. I would advise booking tickets in advance from the museum’s website.


Luxembourg Gardens – The Luxembourg Gardens is possibly my favourite park in Paris – it is beautiful and very, very Parisian. Again you will stumble over the problem that it is hard to find a piece of grass to sit on, but you can sit on the famous chairs, go on the merry-go-round, rent little boats to push around the little pond with a stick, visit the play area (you will notice all the French parents sitting on the benches outside the area while the foreign parents are running around the area trying to keep an eye on their children). (more…)

Paper City Paris

I love living in Paris — it is beautiful, full of life and love and so much fun to explore. If you don’t happen to live in Paris, have a look at the downloadable Paris Paper City, from one of my top favorite children’s craft blogs Made By Joel. Just download the PDFs and you too can start exploring Paris, even if you live on the other side of the world. Have an explore around the Eifel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and a local boulagerie. There is even the sweetest little downloadable Citroën to drive around your city.

Such a fun way to introduce the city of lights to your kids. I love the fact that Joel has, very thoughtfully, included a brief description of all the buildings onto his PDFs, so this game can be educational too.

– Emilie

Please, do call me Mademoiselle

When I was younger and a bit more feisty, I was vehemently against being called Mademoiselle. Why should men only have one description while women are categorised by being married or not? But now, though I still agree with this sentiment in principle, I secretly love it when a shopkeeper adresses me as Mademoiselle, mostly accompanied by a wink. Makes me feel young and sexy!

You see, in France we still address each other with Madame, Monsieur and Mademoiselle — the equivalent of Sir, Madam and Miss. These terms, as far as I can tell, have completely dissapeared out of the English/American vocabulary. I really like this politeness. When I walk into a bakery I greet everyone in there with a general “Bonjour Monsieur/Dames” and when it is my turn I get told “A vous, Madame”.

There is a campaign in France to get rid of the Mademoiselle,  which makes total sense. My grandmother’s two best friends, 90 and 92 respectively, are still known as Mademoiselle as they never got married. I address them as Mademoiselle, whilst they call me Madame, and there is not a lot of logic in that. I do hope the shopkeepers will continue to call me Mademoiselle though (and not forget the wink)!

What about in your country, are women still being addressed as Senorita, Senorina or Fräulein?

– Emilie x

The illustration is of Coco Chanel, one of France’s most famous Mademoiselles, by Adrian Tomine for the New Yorker.

Autolib’ – An urban revolution

There has been an exciting development over here in Paris. Our mayor, Bertand Delanoë (who might possibly be my favourite politician at the moment), has introduced a new scheme that could revolutionise the way we live in this city. After the Velib’, we now have the Autolib’, an electrical car which, just like a Velib, you pick up on the street and drop off when you arrive at your destination.

I love using the Velib’, but cycling around a city with kids in tow is just not possible. The arrival of the Autolib’ was announced months ago and I have been peeking down my road, to see if there were going to be any cars parked close to me. And suddenly there were 4 neatly lined up electrical cars right across the road!

I now just walk a few meters, swipe my card, unplug the car from its power socket and off I go. It’s brilliant and has already taken me all around Paris. There are not yet that many parking stations, but new ones are opening every day. For the kids, I just bring along booster seats, which are easy enough to carry.


P.S. Have you ever driven an electrical car? It is soo quiet!

Veja Trainers

This weekend we were at at fab party at one of my favourite shops here in Paris, Lilli Bulle. It was the launch party for the new collection of Veja tennis shoes. My girls had the best time colouring in the massive art illustration, so I got to snoop around the lovely shop and find out more about Veja, a brand with a great environmental and ethical vision. The shoes are made out of organic cotton and eco-tanned leather in factories that respect their workers.

One thing with ethically made goods is that they are always a bit pricer than high street brands, but the Veja tennis shoes are super well made and will last. I am really trying to buy quality over quantity (not always successfully….). You can find a list of stockist on the Veja website.

Below is a photo of the fab mural outside the Lilli Bulle shop we got to colour in!

Marché de St Ouen

Courtney and her lovely sister were over in Paris a while ago and they persuaded me to expand my horizon a little bit and make the journey with them to Porte de Clignancourt and the famed Marché de St Ouen, otherwise known as les Puces (the Fleas or Flea Market).

I don’t think I had visited this market in 10 years but I have totally fallen back in love with this place. Yes, it is not what it used to be. Yes, things are not dirt cheap and it is hard to find a real bargain. BUT, I love the mazes of little streets full of fabulous things and the sellers who often have a story to tell about each of their wares. I headed back there today and discovered yet another part of the market that I had no idea existed!

Note: This is not a great day out with a hoard of small kids… It is perfect if your child is small enough to sit in a stroller or big enough to enjoy looking at things, but not touching everything. If you are in Paris though and have some time on your own for a bit of a stroll, the “Puces” is a lot of fun. Check out the description of how to get there which Jordan at Oh Happy Day put together — it’s super helpful.

City Walks with Kids

I just found out about the City Walks with Kids Guides and wonder how I ever managed to travel without them. It is such an ingenious concept! Instead of a book, it is a pack of cards you can take along for the walk you want to go on. The walks are cleverly laid out so that they are easily done with kids and take you to famous and not so famous places that the whole family can enjoy. I love the way the texts are written — they are packed full of little anecdotes and stories that will get everyone’s attention.

I am definitely picking up City Walks with Kids in Paris. Though I live in this city, I have never used a travel guide to explore it with my kids, and it will be a fun thing to do this summer! City Walks with Kids in Paris and City Walks with Kids in London are available from Smallable. The other Cirty Walks with Kids (Washington, San Francisco and New York) are available from the Chronicle Books website.

Things to do in Paris

The summer holidays are coming up, trips are being booked and some of you might be visiting this lovely city of mine. I thought it would be fun to do a write-up of my favourite things to do in Paris with kids this summer.

  • The Pompidou Centre has a relatively new area dedicated to kids — a great way to introduce children to modern art.
  • Do look out for the merry-go-rounds that are spread all round the city; you will find anything from flamboyant 2-story constructions looking like a rococco folie to retro seventies space capsules held together with tape.
  • Check out the Anish Kapoor exhibit at the Grand Palais. A) because it is a cool building, built for the universal exhibition in 1900 and never taken down. B) because the exhibit is fascinating for children and parents alike.
  • The Jardin des Plantes is a sure hit with all children. If it is raining the Galerie de l’Evolution is a great natural history museum. It is not as big as in other cities but it is very well laid out and entertaining. If the sun is shining the Menagerie is a lovely, old-fashioned city zoo.
  • If you are looking for some nature, Paris has two woods accessible by metro, otherwise known as the lungs of Paris. The bois de Vincennes is on the eastern side of the city and the bois de Boulogne on the western side of Paris. The Bois de Boulogne plays host to the Jardin d’Acclimatation, a place I drag every single one of my visitors to.
  • A bit off the beaten track, but worth visiting, is the huge metal merry-go-round in the 104, an arts centre in the north-east of Paris (Paris is, by the way, relatively small, so do not compare the distances to London or New York). It is a massive welded structure and looks amazing. It is also really fun for kids to have a ride on.
  • Buses are frequent and easy to get on with pushchairs (there is a dedicated push chair area in the centre of the bus). It is possibly the easiest way to get around, if you are travelling with small kids.
  • Do try the crazy syrups that French kids drink in cafés. One favourite is Grenadine (pomegranate) which makes the drink blood red and the other is Menthe (mint) which makes it taste like sweet toothpaste — kids love it over here.

Voila, just a couple of ideas. Hope you enjoy your visit if you are planning to come…

La Parisienne

If you have ever wondered how Parisian women manage to dress so well and make it look totally effortless, you need to get the book, Parisian Chic . Written by Ines de la Fressange, the former model, muse and designer. It is the ultimate insider guide to shopping, eating and sleeping in Paris. It is also a great source to discover what to wear and especially what not to wear in this fair city.

Maybe for most Parisiennes these tips are self evident. As a non-Parisienne, this type of vital information was not handed down to me from generation to generation, so I need the rules written down in hardcopy! I have not yet achieved the dizzying heights of effortless Parisian chic (especially not on the school run) but I am hoping with a bit more study one day, I might be able to make a pass for a local. The book is available from Amazon (UK and US ).


Playtime Paris

This weekend, from the 29th to the 31st of January, Playtime will be in Paris.  Playtime is now the children’s events in Paris — it’s always at lot of fun and really inspiring. A number of great brands will be represented, such a Bobo Choses, Lily and the Funky Boys, Mundo Melicoton, April Showers by Polder, Ada Ada… and lots of other Babyccino Kids favourites .

Such a fun chance to meet up with people, see how brands have developed and discover new and exciting labels. And there is always a great space to take your children to play, and a place to meet up for coffee. Let me know if you are going to be there!


Babyccino kids on Ohdeedoh

Ohdeedoh featured our newly designed city-guides — check out what they say for some insider information on Paris, New York, London and Amsterdam!!

Playtime Paris

I am so excited, this weekend I’ll be heading to one of my favourite children’s events in Paris. Playtime Paris is a bi-yearly children’s trade fair in the lovely Bois de Vincennes on the outskirts of Paris.  A lot of my favourite children’s companies come together to display their new collections… There’s Lili and the Funky Boys, Antik Batik, Moon Kids, Petite by Sophie Schnoor, Soeur and many, many more.

While moms can browse the stands, there will be lots kids entertainment. Check out the So Chic Kids disco on Saturday night — I went with my children to one of their last events and it was a huge success. During the day there will be ateliers and entertainment. And for you “gourmand” out there you can discover my new favourite Parisian cupcakes made by Cakes by Cloe.  I reckon this is going to be a fun day out!

– Emilie

Things to do with BOYS in Paris

I have been discovering lots of BOY friendly activities here in Paris — a far cry away from the usual shopping and coffee-drinking that you normally associate with this city. I reckon our Babyccino Boys Theme week is the perfect opportunity to share them with you…

The Argonaute at the Parc de la Villette: The Argonaute is a 1950’s submarine that was taken out of commission in the ’80s and is now moored in the Parc de la Villette, right beside the Cité des Sciences, Paris’ science museum. It is fascinating. The submarine has been kept exactly the way it was and you get a real feeling of what it was like to live and work in such a confined space. The motors are completely exposed and the audio tour (available in several different languages), describes the life on a submarine really well.

Dinosaur exhibition at the Grand Palais: All the boys I know are going wild about the Dinosaur exhibition at the Grand Palais. The exhibition is not too big to be overwhelming but it is a great way to get to know this species that fascinates so many boys. The animated models are VERY realistic, so small children might be slightly scared. Children discover how dinosaurs lived and ate and there is even a replica of a dinosaur poo (somehow poo never fails to get a rise out of the under-18 crowd).

Play area at the Parc de Belleville: This play area is our favourite place to go at the moment. It has been built specifically for city kids to get them to use their imagination and get to know their physical capabilities better. It is such an unsual structure that every kid interprets differently: for some it is a boat, for some a village, for some a jungle and for some just a great place to let go of some steam.

– Emilie

Bonbons au Palais

bonbon-du-palaisI am one of those rare people who doesn’t like sweets and chocolate (unlike Courtney, who has a chocolate box full of fabulous looking chocolates which comes out after every dinner).  It has never occurred to me to wander down the sweet aisle in a supermarket… but my daughters are very, very different from me!

Nowadays when I am in a supermarket I am actively circumventing the bonbon aisle, because if I I don’t I will be stuck there for hours explaining that I really don’t think it is a great idea to buy a cartload of sweets every time we shop.

But, there is a place that I do like to take them to every once in a while. It is a little sweet shop called “Bonbon au Palais” in the 5th arrondissement. The owner has travelled the whole of France to find the best bonbons from every region. The collection is pretty impressive. (more…)

New Bonton Store

bonton1It is hard to believe but Merci, one of Paris’ most fashionable concept stores has been out-trumped by a kid’s store.  Just a stone’s throw away from Merci on the corner where the boulevard Beaumarchais turns into the boulevard Filles du Calvaire, Bonton has opened up a 800 M² new flagship shop. It is absolutely fabulous! On over 3 floors you can find clothes, clothes and even more clothes, a book shop (with a GREAT selection of books), a bakery, a sweets bar, a hair dresser, a deco area and I don’t even remember what else.

Rebecca (who used to write for us from Washington and who has, luckily for me, moved back to Paris) and I went to the opening and had a blast. The Prosecco was flowing, there was a huge counter full of hams and cheeses and little sandwiches. It was a great way of discovering the shop and the new Bonton summer collection. (more…)

Balzac Cinema

doggoneTiredTitleMy kids love going to the cinema. The crowd, the sounds, the visual experience — a  promise to go to the cinema makes them get so excited they have difficulty sleeping the night before!

Luckily enough, here in Paris, the children’s cinema scene is huge, between the Forum des Images and several yearly children’s film festivals. Cinema is so much a part of the culture over here that the city organises screenings for school classes at least once a semester.

A great cinema event here on a Sunday is the monthly ‘Pochette Surprise’ event at the Balzac, an art house cinema off the Champs Elysees.  On show are a series of short classic films, some of them over 100 years old, mixed in with some classic Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and some old-school Tex Avery animation shorts. Every short is silent and the whole programme is  accompanied by a musician, so even if you are completely anglophone, you will not miss out on anything… and to make it even better everyone gets a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!

– Emilie

So Chic Kidz

46521528_pMy children hit the Parisian nightclub scene for the first time yesterday — and had a blast. I took them to a kids party at a nightclub, organised by the Kids event organisers So Chic Kidz. It was called “Every Child is a Superhero”.

About 100 Superheros all got together to party the afternoon away, have their face painted, eat loads of bonbons and play games. It looked a little bit like a small people’s comic book convention considering 80% of the children were dressed up as Spiderman (or Speederman as he is known as over here) but it was a lot of fun, and there are many worse things to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon than teach my kids some moves on the dance floor…

Check out the website for updates on upcoming events!

– Emilie

Antoine et Lili

quai-de-valmy_3The Antoine and Lili flagship stores must be some of the cutest rows of shops I have ever seen. I was walking past them today and they were so bright and cheerful on a grey winter’s day!

They can be found along the canal St Martin, an area which, for a long time now, has been attracting lots of little shops and restaurants.  If the rumours are to be believed the Antoine et Lili shops were actually the first independent shops to open up in this area,  turning the area into a trendy little spot.

Anyway, if you are in Paris and like kitsch and bright colours, Antoine et Lili is a must. The kid’s store especially is a bright, bright space with great toys, presents and clothes from the world over. It is definitely not minimalist, but colourful and loud! I also love the homewares shop were you can find great Mexican waxcloths and fabulous melamine plates for the whole family. (more…)

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