Café Gourmand

There is a new fashion in restaurants in Paris that I cannot get enough of: it’s called a café gourmand. We all know that having a dessert after a big steak could be viewed as slightly indulgent, so to get around any guilt that a huge slice of cake might entail, the Parisians have come up with the idea of a “café gourmand” (literally a greedy coffee).

A café gourmand normally consists of an ordinary “café express” plus 2 or 3 tiny little pots of different sweets — often a macaroon, a little crème brulée and maybe something with chocolate in it. Perfect to share with friends or with a “gourmand” little one. Ask your waiter what the café gourmand of the day is — in a lot of cafés the little pots of goodness change on a daily basis, alternatively you can just let yourself be surprised.

Getting around in Paris

I am often asked about transportation around Paris. The city is actually relatively small compared to LA or London (relative is an important part of this sentence), so my favourite way of getting around is on foot. It is the perfect way to discover the city… if you have the time.

If not, here are some pointers for the other modes of transportation:

Buses: The buses in Paris are getting better and better and it is really easy to used them if you are travelling with a buggy. You can access the bus routes online or even download an application onto an Iphone.

Velib‘: The Velib’ scheme was only started a couple of years ago, but it is now difficult to imagine the city without these bicycles. Most Parisians have an annual pass, but it is easy to rent a bike for a day or a even just a few hours with a credit card. The instructions for the credit card rental are a bit tricky, but don’t despair, it is worth trying to figure it out. There are some great applications for iphones which will direct you to the nearest Velib’ station and let you know if if there are any spare bikes. Read more here.

Metro: The metro system in Paris is easy to use and takes you everywhere. There is only one type of ticket for journeys within Paris, so you don’t have to worry about traveling outside a zone. Do be warned, the metro is absolutely not buggy friendly. There are stairs everywhere and small entrance gates that are difficult to navigate with a buggy.

Taxi: Paris does not have the best taxi system in the world. It is hard to flag one down on the street and the easiest way to get one is by finding a taxi queue which can be found along most bigger boulevards. Taxis don’t have car seats available. The thing to note is that you are allowed to jump to the front of the queue if you have a small child with you.

Eating out in France

cafe-lindustrieMichela and I are often asked about family-friendly restaurants in our respective cities. Try as we might, we are hard pressed to come up with good suggestions. There is a huge North/South divide in Europe regarding the obvious signs of child friendliness in restaurants.

In Northern Europe you will more often than not be offered a highchair when you enter a restaurant with your kids. Often you find changing tables in the bathrooms and kids menus, and many places even have special toys they bring out. In Southern Europe it is rare to find this kind of service, BUT this does not mean that children are not welcome. In fact, they are almost always welcome, but are expected to fit around the adults. (more…)

Velib’

velib.jpgThough this is not strictly something you can do in Paris with small kids, I do have to sing the praises of something that has very quickly become a Parisian institution: The Velib‘.

You see, all over this wonderful town you can find bicycles belonging to the city council. With a swipe of a card that costs me all of 25 euros a year, I can jump onto an elegant grey bike and cycle (in my case kamikaze style) to my destination. There I find the nearest point and drop off the bike. Nothing could be easier.

The Velib is now as much a mode of transport as the metro and the bus. It is really interesting to see how every Parisian from every walk of life has taken too it. (more…)

A flower to celebrate spring

lily.jpgToday is the first of May! All over the world people celebrate Labour Day and here in France it is a bank holiday accompanied by demonstrations by all the labour unions. But in typical French fashion, politics are mixed with romantic gestures…

It is customary here to give ladies a small bouquet of Lily of the Valley (known over here as le muguet) on the first of May. It dates back to the court of Charles de IX who decided to present every lady at his court with a bouquet of Lily of the Valley to celebrate the end of winter. The tradition stuck and, being a republic now, the custom is not reserved to the fine ladies of the court but to the fine French ladies everywhere! It is so lovely to walk around Paris on the first of May and see Lily of the Valley being sold on every street corner. You suddenly realise that spring is here and summer is just around the corner….

- Emilie

An Old Institution

bibli1.jpgMy 3-year-old is a lover of books and her personal book collection is threatening to drawf mine. A week ago I decided it was time to take action so I took her to the local library. I have been kicking myself ever since that I had not thought of this before!

I had completely forgotten about public libraries. I vaguely remember going with my mom when I was a kid, but the thing I remember most is the musty smell of old, humid books in a scary Victorian building. My more recent memory of a library was a place to whisper sweet nothings and flirt at university; not much book reading was done.

Our local library here in Paris is a very distant and very modern cousin of the libraries of my childhood. Clean, bright and organised, there is a huge children’s section with little tables to sit at. All the books are kept at ground level so kids can browse through them all by themselves. I didn’t realise how much my daughter would love it — she was in heaven, discovering old favourites and new treasures. There is even a small international book section with English children’s books. Membership is free for anyone, so my daughter is now the proud owner of her first library card. (more…)

Forum des Images

forum.jpgAfter being completely refurbished, the Forum des Images finally reopened its doors a couple of months ago. Founded about 20 years ago, the Forum is Paris’ premier film library and cultural cinema venue.

The new Forum is fantastic, and a stark contrast to the ugly Forum des Halles shopping centre that houses it. (The Forum des Halles is now also up for a major refurbishment, so hopefully what is known as the eyesore of Paris, will finally disappear). It does mean that the Forum des Images is right in the centre of Paris and very easily accessible.

One of the major attractions are the children’s film screenings. There are screenings every weekend and on Wednesdays. At the moment, during mid-term holidays, there is a very popular children’s film festival on. Films start from 18 months onwards. The choice varies from classic art school films to old classic Disney films. (more…)

ALSO IN THE AREA:

fourmisparis-plageparis-plage-193x300
Les Fourmis RougesParis PlageParis Plage

A little museum just for little ones

musee.jpgI am really enjoying the fact that my oldest daughter is morphing into a little person with whom I can actually start having interesting conversations with. Don’t get me wrong, we are not spending hours discussing the details of the theory of relativity, nor does she have a particular view on who should be the next US president, but she has started asking interesting questions and describing what she is feeling and seeing, which is really rewarding after 2½ years….

The flip side of this is that she is not content anymore to play for hours with a tupperware container filled with a couple of pasta tubes, but now needs to be stimulated and entertained. This is not always an easy thing to do especially now that the summer is over. (more…)

ALSO IN THE AREA:

gallerynuxe1
L’Apriori tea roomNuxe Spa

French Pharmacies

cross.jpgI LOVE my local pharmacy. Whatever problem I have, they always seem to have the right cream, lotion or potion for it. I think that part of my love affair for pharmacies is because roughly 80% of my French family are pharmacists. Then again when you look at the amount of pharmacies in France, 80% of the population must be pharmacists… but I think there is more to it than that. In France we are medication mad; maybe due to the socialized health care system, but here in France more people visit doctors than in any other part of the world. For every ailment, no matter how small, there is a cure you can pick up at your local pharmacy.

But it does not stop there – pharmacists are not only at your beck and call when you have a medical problem, but also when you want to indulge yourself. I buy most my creams, shampoos and the kids’ creams and shampoos at the pharmacy. Most pharmacists, even in tiny villages, stock La Roche Posay, Nuxe, Caudalie etc. and if they don’t they can almost always order the product you need within 24 hours. (more…)

Chic Shopping Paris

chic.jpgHere is a must-have for any self respecting shopper coming to Paris. Our friend, Rebecca Magniant, has put together her hard-earned knowledge about shopping in Paris and has published a shopping guide “Chic Shopping Paris” named after her blog and shopping service. The book reveals a lot of her secret spots in this city!

It is lovely! It is a great read just on its own and makes you want to visit every boutique. The advice is priceless if you are fed up with the big department shops and want to venture out beyond the obvious. It has beautiful photos and I love the way it is small enough to fit into any handbag!

Available through Amazon UK or US

- Emilie

Vive le café

noisette.jpgEvery country has its own coffee etiquette. The US has given us the coffee chains with the ubiquitous paper cups in different sizes. The Italians have given us the no frills espresso and the cappuccino. But what about the French? What is the difference between a noisette, a crème and a café au lait? What is the difference between ordering at the bar, in the sitting area or on the terrace?

After having innumerable visitors come to stay with us and witnessing the confusion when ordering a coffee, I have decided that it is time to shed some light on the situation. (more…)

Merry go round

Isn’t it funny how you often don’t realize something exists, even though you have passed it a million times?
For years I have been roaming the streets of Paris, as a tourist and as a local, and have completely missed the merry-go-rounds, which you seem to be able to find on most major squares and parks. Many of them are a bit tacky but some are beautiful, turn of the last century originals! (Some of my favorites are the one in the Jardin des Plantes, the Tuilleries Garden, the Luxembourg Gardens and the one in the picture –at the foot of the Sacree Coeur.)
Now that I have a 2-year-old, I can promise you I have noticed them, noted mentally where they are and know the alternative route around them so that I don’t hear the cry: “Mummy, I want to go on the Manege!”
The Manege has become my best blackmailing tool ever. A promise to the Manege gets the little one to take cough medicine, gets her to bed and a million other things… and it isn’t even bad for her teeth!
Oh and I almost forgot to add, as a special treat to parents’ pockets… around Christmas and New Year the Parisian Maneges are free.

-Emilie

(Picture from here)