Paris can get pretty wet and cold in the winter and sometimes it is nice to be able to seek refuge inside. One of our favourite city adventures in the winter time is a visit to the Jardin des Plantes. It is one of Paris’ largest parks (which does not mean a lot ;)) and also one of its oldest, as it has been around for more than 400 years. It houses the botanical gardens and green houses, a little zoo (la Menagerie), the Palaeontology Museum and the Natural History Museum (Galerie de l’Evolution). I have been told it also has one of the best merry-go-rounds in Paris as you get to ride on the back of a Dodo, an Ostrich and a Gorilla. It means that there is always something to do and visit, no matter the weather.
The buildings themselves are steeped in history and I always feel like I am on a film set when we wander around the large galleries full of exotic objects, plants and bones.
We often grab a pen and a pad and try to sketch some of the animals, which we are not particularly good at but it is kind of fun. ; )
Now try as I might, I have not found an English version of the Jardin des Plantes website (with is quite astonishing in 2016) so do feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions!
Oh and one more thing — in the winter the park and the museums close at 5pm so the last entry is around 4pm. Good to know when planning your outing.
Today I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Lara Brehm, who is sharing a wonderful place in Paris with you (together with beautiful, inspiring photos and gorgeous bookplates/gift-tags that she especially designed for us!) xxx Esther
Hello friends, I’m Lara, a German graphic designer based in Paris, France. I met Esther by pure coincidence, walking into her at a groceries store in Le Marais here in Paris. While exchanging a few e-mails afterwards she suggested I could contribute to Babyccino Kids Blog with an article of my choice, I felt very honored and today I’m happy to be writing a few lines for this blog I love.
I would like to share a little part of my city with you: the greenhouses located in the South of the 16th arrondissement and their park. Called “Les Serres d’Auteuil” in French (the greenhouses of Auteuil), it is a truly special place for me, very dear to my heart.
I grew up in the district of Auteuil so since I was little I have walked many times through the alleys of the greenhouses and their gardens making it a childhood memory but also a place I still love to get lost in.
No matter from which entrance you arrive from, as soon as you set foot in the gardens you will spot the biggest greenhouse in the middle of the park and you will be probably be quite impressed by it’s huge turquoise cast iron construction.
Once you enter it, you will immediately feel like you’re on a tropical island: the heat, the humidity, the huge variety of tropical plants and the twittering and singing of all kind of birds take you far far away from Paris… If you are passionate about botanicals, you will find the name of each and every plant written on small labels beside them. They are impossible to remember for me though as they are quite complex! But wether being a connoisseur or not, it really is an amazing place for everyone.
My husband and I often take a walk there on our weekends and each time it brings me endless inspiration for my illustration projects. In this greenhouse you will find a few white iron tables and chairs dispatched along the way where you can sit down to read, write, draw or just rest and it is delightful to take in the environment and feel like being part of this dreamy magic.
You will also find a beautiful big white birdhouse and a river-like fishpond in it, adding a little interest to the place for your little ones.
As we usually arrive to the gardens from the back entrance we start our visit with the big greenhouse and continue with the gardens but if you arrive through the main entrance you will walk through the gardens first, enjoying the beautifully arranged flowers, lawns and trees. There are also a lot of benches around where you can stop for a while or enjoy a good book on a sunny day.
On each side of the main lawn there are several alleys with quite a few other smaller greenhouses – not all of which are open to the public but some of them are real highlights like the cacti greenhouse for example. Be sure to look out for it!
If you plan a visit to Paris soon you should definitely stop by Les Serres d’Auteuil, even if it is located a bit far away from the center of the city and the main attractions, it is truly worth a visit. Another positive point if you come with your children is the rather reasonable size of the gardens, making the walk shorter and leaving you more time to enjoy the inside of the greenhouses. Your kids will be kept entertained and won’t get tired too quickly.
Right now there are intense discussions going on here in Paris because the city agreed on giving a part of the place away to extend the Rolland Garros tennis courts. Nobody really knows how exactly this issue will be handled but I truly hope that even if they have to take away a part of it — which would be sad enough already — they keep the wide airy lawns and their flowers and all the beautiful constructions, statues and greenhouses.
My pictures reflect my personal inspiration during my last walk through the Serres d’Auteuil but I left a lot of amazing details out of my selection so you still have some beautiful surprises when you go! Have a wonderful visit and maybe we’ll walk into each other over there!
I told you every visit gets my creative energies flowing and this time was no different from my other walks in the park: I have designed a few bookplates inspired by the greenhouses for you to download, print out and paste into your favorite books. I hope you like them and that they make you dream of your next visit to Paris and to the Serres d’Auteuil!
This weekend, there were a lot more smiles in Paris than usual – spring has finally arrived! The trees are starting to look just a little bit greener and the thermometer is slowly reaching 21 degrees – the magic number when it is possibly to sit outside in a T-shirt.
The terraces of all the cafés in Paris were packed this weekend, so we decided to venture a little bit further afield and jumped on the train for a day trip to one of the lesser known chateaux close to Paris, Vaux-le-Vicomte.
True, it is not the easiest chateau to get to. If you are taking the train, you need to jump on a commuter train to Melun (about 50 minutes outside of Paris) and then either take a shuttle bus or a taxi. But the trip is absolutely worth it.
Vaux-le-Vicomte was build slightly before Versailles and the gardens were landscaped by the same landscape architect, Le Notre. Rumour has it that, when Louis XIV visited Vaux-le-Vicomte, he was so jealous of the beautiful chateau, he promptly threw the owner, his finance minister Le Fouquet, into jail (arrested by no other than D’Artagnan, head of the Musketeers). Le Fouquet was then kept in prison for the rest of his life together with the Man with the Iron Mask. All pretty exciting stuff, don’t you think?
The grounds are very easy to explore and the highlight of the trip is the visit to the chateau, where you can rent period costumes for children. We just went up to the reception desk and rented the costumes for 4 euros each. There is truly nothing better than dressing up as a Musketeer or a Renaissance Lady whilst exploring a chateau.
It is a much more accessible chateau for families than Versailles is; it is so much smaller and there aren’t really any crowds. I really do recommend it, especially if you need to get away from the bustle of Paris!
PS. Apologies for the blurry photos, I just snapped these photos on my phone!
ALSO IN THE AREA:
|A day trip from Paris – Versailles||Neuilly Swimming Pool||Jardin de L’Acclimatation|
This weekend we went for a little adventure around Paris — the sun was out and it was the perfect day to discover Montmartre. It is ironic how, when you live in a city, you sometimes know less about it than all the tourists who visit!
We were delighted when Context Travel invited us for a tour around Montmartre, one of my favourite parts of Paris. The tour was tailormade for children, full of entertaining scary stories and legends. Our personal tour guide, Anais, was lovely, bi-lingual and could answer every single question that we asked her and, believe me, she was asked a LOT of questions!
We followed the path that St Denis (patron saint of Paris) walked after he, unfortunately, had his head cut off by the Romans. The legend says he walked from the bottom of the hill right to the very top, holding his severed head in his hands. The Sacrée Coeur was built on top of his final resting place (I do hope I have remembered this correctly!).
Following the path of St Denis we discovered the houses that Picasso and Van Gogh lived in and and got a glimpse of what Montmartre was like in the late 1800s (there were a LOT of cafés, cabarets and drinking establishments as Coco noticed). We saw the vineyards, the cobbled streets that are so different from the rest of Paris, and the hidden gardens and artist lofts. We walked up and down hill for 2.5 hours and could have easily continued!
At the end of the trip we sat on the steps of the Sacrée Coeur and drew pictures of all the things we had seen on our walk. On the steps we also had an amazing view of Paris and of a street artist dribbling a football whilst hanging off a lamp post (nothing unusual in that).
We did finish off the journey with a little ride in the Funicular which is part of the Paris metro. It is such a cute, random little train, that it is well worth the metro ticket it costs to use it.
Such a fun way to discover Paris, I highly recommend it!
ALSO IN THE AREA:
|Geraldine Valluet||From rags to riches|
Living in this lovely city of Paris is great… but it is easy to forget all the great things to do and visit just outside the city. A couple of weekends ago we jumped with some friends on a commuter train (the RER B) and within 40 minutes we had arrived in front of the stunning chateau of Versailles, known for its beauty and also the over the top extravagance of the Kings and Queens of France who lived there.
The children were amazed by the opulence of their surroundings and how crazy it was that this whole chateau was built just for one man and his entourage to live in! Good old Louis the 14th sure knew how to live it up!
The main palace is amazing to visit, but with a whole gaggle of children in tow, we opted for a visit of the gardens surrounding the palace and a visit to the smaller Trianon Palace together with Marie-Antoinette’s domaine, which has been restored very recently.
It was a lovely day: we picnicked, played hide and seek between the manicured hedges, strolled through the different gardens, and had a good look around Marie-Antoinette’s retreat.
We finished the trip with a boat ride on the Grand Canal, just like Marie Antoinette would have done, I am sure.
ALSO IN THE AREA:
|Jardin de L’Acclimatation||Chateau Vaux le Vicomte||Neuilly Swimming Pool|
It is so nice receiving mails from readers with questions about Paris, as it gets me to discover new things about my city. It is soo easy to fall in a rut! I was recently contacted by a reader who is a German school teacher travelling to Paris with teenagers. Not at all my area of expertise! But it was fun trying to figure out what might interest teenagers in Paris, so here is the list I came up with. (I might be totally off the mark by the way, so do feel free to tell me if I am!):
The Batobus is run by the city of Paris and goes down the Seine and stops at all the important places. I like it as it is not as expensive as the rest of the tourist boats and you can get off at the major sites, walk a bit and jump on again at the next stop.
The Science Museum and the Music Museum are both in the Parc de la Villette. The Music Museum has a great exhibition on at the moment about black music and it’s history. The Parc de la Villette also has this great old 50’s submarine in it, which is fun to explore.
I love Monet’s water lily’s in the Orangerie; it is not too overwhelming and busy, like some of the Museums in Paris are. Alternatively there are also the Army Museum and the Catacombes. A walk around Montmartre is beautiful and shows a different side of Paris than the centre. The Pompidou is an amazing building and museum for any age group.
Just on the outskirts of Paris there is the chateau de Vincennes, a medieval fortress.
The above picture I found on a blog called Style Is Born. It made me laugh as this is exactly how I imagined a Parisian teenager would look like.
We have just come back from a fun weekend together in Paris! We went for Playtime Paris, but also managed to squeeze in some meetings, visit some museums, walk from one end of Paris to the other, and laugh so hard our bellies are still sore. We’ll be sharing our re-cap of Playtime soon, but in the meantime wanted to share some photos from the rest of our weekend…
Esther and I stumbled upon the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature and it was incredible! We weren’t going to go in but then a lady passed us on the street and told us we really must not walk past without seeing inside. It’s a museum of hunting and animals and nature, but done in the most beautiful way. The lady said to us ‘I’m a vegetarian, been one my whole life, and I’m against hunting… and even still I think it’s a beautiful museum.” What a recommendation! I’m so happy she persuaded us because we were so impressed with it and are hoping to go back with the kids soon.
Emilie having a meeting with the wonderfully talented Lalé. We’re working on an exciting project with her and can’t wait to tell you about it!
We decided to be tourists on Saturday, so Esther and I walked the whole of Paris from one end to the next. We walked through beautiful gardens, along the river, to the Louvre, over the bridge and all the way to the Eiffel Tower and back. Here we are outside the Louvre.
Here’s a photo of the three of us on the metro after a long day at Playtime. Exhausted but still laughing to tears!
I often am asked what it is like to bring children up in Paris and what I like and don’t like about it, so I thought it could be fun to write down some of my experiences! These are just random things that I have personally observed..
Playgrounds and Parks: There are not many and there is especially not a lot of green grass for the kids to play on. Most neighbourhood parks are small and consist of flowerbeds, a play structure with benches around it and no swings! Kids go play and the parents sit on the sidelines reading books. The Parisians are definitely not helicopter parents – children entertain themselves or play with their friends. It’s nice as the kids are really independent, but it is not so nice when they start throwing sand at each other’s faces and there are no grown-ups to intervene.
Schools: I do find the the school system of a country defines the country a lot. Like most French school children, my children go to the local French school around the corner. The standard of education is high, and the children are challenged and marked at a very young age (the word evaluation is used a lot). Interestingly this is not only something that the teachers impose on the children, but something that is actually being asked for by a lot of the parents. For example, teachers are not really supposed to give the children homework, but it is apparently often the parents who insist they do! Schools are also not a place for the whole family to socialise, but only the children. Parents drop their children off in the morning and rush of to work. At the end of the day, we pick up the children at the school gate, but there is not a lot of chatting going on… (My personal theory is that there is a belief in France that the education of children is responsibility of the state, not of the parents, so schools are not a place for parents to get involved). I might be wrong, but I do have the feeling that there are a lot more full-time working mothers in Paris than in other big European cities I know. This might also be the reason why there is less involvement from the family in school life.
Restaurants: Though it has improved a lot, Parisian restaurants do not cater toward children. Children are welcome though, as long as they tow the line and sit down and eat. Maybe I am mistaken, but not that many of my French friends take their kids out to eat. People cook a lot and have people over for dinner, even in the tiniest apartments.
Apéro: One of the favourite things to do over here is to have people over for apero (short for aperitif) which are pre-dinner drinks. My children have even been invited over by their friends over for an apero instead of a playdate! Usually there will be champagne or wine, beer, sparkling water and Champony (a sparkling apple juice in a champagne bottle) for the kids. Foodwise often you serve paté, foie gras and some good saucisson. It’s the perfect event to have with kids and parents, it starts relatively early and you are not required to serve real food for everyone.
Food Shopping: Parisians still go to the market on a Saturday or Sunday and buy their meat at the butchers, their bread at the bakers, their cheese at the cheese shop and their vegetables at the green grocers – it is one of the things I love about this city!
These are are just some personal observations. Other people might have had completely different experiences, which would be lovely to hear by the way!
Above, a photo of Place des Vosges, which is a typical Parisian park, which is beautifully landscaped, but definitely not full of rambling nature…
For once I am giving the urban planners of Paris a cautious thumbs up: this summer not one, but two new public, urban spaces opened! And, to boot, they are great for the whole family.
On the right bank, after being a massive building site for a long while, the new Place de La Republique is finally ready. It is hated by all taxi drivers, who get stuck at the red lights, but it is loved in the neighbourhood. Some of the top attractions are the toy library, where you can borrow for free anything from chess to stilts to baby toys. There is also a great little water park for children right beside a lovely café/restaurant. The new trees are still small and their could be more play areas, but in general this space has some great potential.
Over on the left bank a much bigger project is slowly coming together: a long stretch of the banks of the Seine (from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont d’Alma) has been closed down to traffic and now is solely pedestrian. It is not quite finished yet, but there are already amazing play areas and great restaurants on barges and along the banks. It is such a treat to have access to the river, something that was really lacking in Paris.
It is so nice to see an old city like Paris still constantly evolving and adapting to its population!
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…)
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…
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.
If you have any spare time between the 3rd and 5th of June and happen to be in Paris, do check out the children’s fair “Kids in the City” on rue Francs Bourgeois in the 3rd. The fair was put together by the lovely Estelle who also runs Nordinary — one of my favourite webshops here in France.
She has managed to group together some of the best and innovative brands in France and all will have a little stand at the fair, some with collections designed exclusively for the event. You will also be able to pick up some yummy cupcakes and some bonbons from my favourite sweet shop Le Bonbon au Palais.
I am really looking forward to discovering lots of new companies, many of whom I have never heard of.
See you there!
ALSO IN THE AREA:
|Pink Flamingo||New Bonton store||Merci|
A girlfriend of mine came to visit us in Paris with her 2 boys who were 8 and 10. I was at a complete loss on how to entertain them. Playing with my girls entertained them mildly, but when their mother and I suggested hitting the shops we had a bit of a mutiny on our hands…and who could blame them?
So I did a bit of research and it turns out there is a ton of fun things for boys to do in Paris, that I had never, ever heard about… one of them was the Argonaute, a 1950s submarine that was decommissioned in the ’80s and is now a museum. I had never been inside a submarine before and to see how a crew lived underwater for weeks on end and how a submarine works was fascinating. (more…)
ALSO IN THE AREA:
|Butte de Chaumont||Parc de la Villette||La Maison des Petits at 104|
In an arrondissement far, far away from my usual stomping ground, I stumbled upon a great little place: Le Petit Bazar.
It’s a shop, a tea room, a space for ateliers and courses — a concept dreamed up by two friends… These girls decided to change careers and dedicate themselves to something both were passionate about: an organic, healthy lifestyle and all things kid related. Together they started le Petit Bazar about 18 months ago and it has been a great success story so far. Most of the clothes on sale are organic and/or fair trade and also very lovely. There is a great selection of toys on offer and also some vintage kids furniture. To top it all off, you can sit down for a cup of tea and let your little one roam the premises.
It is such a fab idea to unite a kids concept shop with a tea room and a space from which you can run ateliers. I do hope they open some more Petit Bazars all over Paris! (more…)