Parc de Belleville

The Parc de Belleville used to be just a normal city park, nothing to write home about. But thanks to strict safety laws, the play area in the park had to be closed down and it re-opened last year with a completely new play structure that is worth a visit, especially if you have boys with a surplus of energy!

It is called the “village en bois” — the wooden village — and is built on a side of a hill so you have to climb up a fair few steps (hence the before mentioned energy burning). On the way down the children are rewarded by a massively long slide that goes all the way down again.

The whole play structure is divided into three parts, depending on the age of the children. There is a whole philosophy behind this structure — city children don’t often have the chance to push themselves physically and learn how far they can go. This structure is designed for children to push themselves a little bit further than they would normally do and learn to be more confident. When you are done exploring the play area (it isn’t huge) I highly recommend climbing to the top of the hill, as you will be rewarded with one of the best views all over Paris…

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Les 400 Coups

The Argonaute

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…)

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La Maison des Petits at 104Butte de ChaumontParc de la Villette

Butte de Chaumont

FINALLY we have been having a few days of sunny weather here in Paris.  And as we live in a typical Parisian apartment with no outdoor space, the main thing I have been yearning for is a spot of grass I can plop myself and my 2 girls on to enjoy some rays of sunshine.

Finding that is easier said than done, as most Parisian parks are made out of gravel, and grass is generally off-limits to walk or sit on.

So I decided to get off the beaten track of the centre of Paris and head over to the Butte de Chaumont, a park in the 19th arrondissement.  It is lovely!  It was built about 150 years ago on what used to be the city’s gallows and wasteland.  Today it looks like a Gothic dreamscape — complete with waterfalls, a temple and a grotto. (more…)

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The ArgonauteLa Maison des Petits at 104Parc de la Villette

Neuilly Swimming Pool

Bassin ludique exterieurThe summer is almost over, and we are trying to use every available ray of sunshine before the leaves start falling off the trees and the cool weather starts creeping up on us. Last weekend we headed off to the swimming pool and the aim was to go swimming outside and nothing was going to stop us! Turns out swimming outside in Paris is actually not that difficult. All we had to do is jump on the line 1 metro (the fastest metro in Paris) and jump out in the very chic Parisian suburb of Neuilly. The public pool there has an outdoor area, a sun lawn, a toddler paddling pool and, to everyone’s great excitement: a big waterslide. It is great to go with kids — enough to keep them entertained for a few hours and not too much to bring on a sensory overload. The swimming pool does tend to get a bit crowed so I would recommend going earlier rather than later in the day. (more…)

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Jardin de L’Acclimatation

Honfleur

honfleur.jpgParis in the summer can get too much; it is hot, sticky, polluted and packed with people. The metro is unbearable and the boulevards become huge blazing heat tunnels, as there is nothing to block the sun.

Luckily enough, the sea and the little harbour town of Honfleur is only about 2 hours (and what feels like another world) away.

Though it doesn’t have its own beach, the village is centered on its own picture-perfect harbour and you can while away time wandering around the lovely little cobbled stone streets. If you feel like some beach fun you can find a long, sandy beach only 10 km away in Deauville. (more…)

Paris Plage

paris plageIt is that time of year again here in Paris: the right bank of the Seine has been taken over by lounge chairs, palm trees, sun and sand.

If you happen to be in Paris for the month of August (most Parisians have left for the country and the city is spookily quiet) Paris Plage is the place to be. It has something for everyone: bars, a swimming pool and a great play area.

If you go in the mornings the “beach” is relatively quiet, even on the weekends, and it is a perfect place for kids to get rid of some excess energy. This year the place to be for kids is the area around the Pont de Sully at the eastern edge of the beach.

The other area of Paris Plage around the basin de la Villette is great too, there is even a sailboat you can rent! I loved the idea of sailing around a canal in the middle of Paris, but so apparently do a lot of people so it is completely overbooked. If you have kids from 6 years upwards, there are some fantastic little pedalos that they can peddle around in, in a supervised area of the canal. All of this has been sponsored by the Mairie of Paris so almost all the attractions are free!

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Le Loir dans la ThéièreNiouPetit Pan

L’Isle-Adam

affiche-publicitaire-l-isle-adam I have always wanted to live by the beach but have actually never succeeded. I think I am destined to beach holiday destinations as opposed to being able to live close to it.

My kids seem to love the beach as much as I do, so we were all very, very excited to discover a beach about one hour away from Paris in the middle of the country!

The river beach in the picturesque little town of Ville d’Adam actually doubles up as the local community pool and is a perfect escape from a hot and sticky day in Paris. You can jump on a direct train from the gare du Nord and be in the water approx. 50 mins later, as the beach is about a 5 minute walk from the station.

The girls had a ball — there is a pretty big sandy area, and we put our towels down by a massive kid’s paddling pool. There is a huge Olympic sized swimming pool built in the ’20s for more ambitious parents, but, for my part, I was very happy building sand castles and splashing around in the shallow pool. If your kids do get bored of playing in the sand, there is a huge bouncy castle area for all ages and two big water slides. (more…)

Parc de la Villette

villette.jpgIt is finally warm here in Paris and we are all loving getting out there amongst the action and not being cooped up inside. This is the first year that I have two mobile children who both want to explore the world, so I am getting to know the parks in Paris better and better.

I have just discovered the great outside play park at La Villette. La Villette is the place you can find the fantastic Science Museum for kids (I still have not been, but I need to go, so I can let you guys know my verdict on it). There are more than 10 different themed gardens at La Villette — the one my kids loved is called “Jardin des Dunes et des Vents”. (more…)

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Butte de ChaumontLa Maison des Petits at 104The Argonaute

Jardin de L’Acclimatation

petit-train.jpgImagine a tiny Disneyland on the outskirts of Paris, but run by the city and founded a good one hundred years ago. So, actually not like Disneyland at all!

The Jardin de l’Acclimatation in the Bois de Bologne is Paris’ own kiddie fun park, and it is great. My eldest daughter is finally old enough to enjoy it, so this past weekend we headed off for a day of fun-filled activities. I really recommend a visit if you ever happen to be in Paris with kids.

I will say it has the most random mix of attractions I have ever seen, but who I am to complain? The kids loved it.

These are my top tips to visiting the park: (more…)

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Neuilly Swimming Pool

Rue Vavin

vavin.jpgJust south of the Luxembourg Gardens you can find the Rue Vavin, a mom’s dream of a shopping street. Along the rue Vavin and its side street, the rue Brea, you will find some of the best Parisian children’s shops. From the affordable — a great DPAM baby shop– to the more expensive — Jacadi and Catimini both have a branch on this street– there is everything you could wish to get for your kid. Paris’ first children’s hairdresser Simon is based in the rue Vavin (16 rue Vavin. Tél. : 01 53 10 08 12). There are also toy shops, chain shops, shoe shops and other cute, little individual boutiques.

I personally recommend dragging the family for a quick shopping mission around the rue and then heading off to the playground in the Luxembourg Gardens — a great day out for the whole family.

- Emilie

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Luxembourg GardensCoqueliquot et PaprikaSoeur

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)

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Paris Plage

paris-plage.jpgThere is no way the Parisians are going to be outdone by the Dutch. Amsterdam might have Strand Zuid, but we have Paris Plage — at least 2km of golden sand and palm trees all along the right bank of the Seine with scantly clad Parisians and Parisiennes sunning themselves. There are bars, there’s music, an exercise area and lots of other entertainment. It is great fun, but really hectic and so packed that it is difficult to relax there with kids in case they might mistake the Seine for the Ocean and decide to go take a dip….

This year the city council here in Paris has cleverly put up an outpost of Paris Plage off the beaten track on the basin de la Villette in the 19th (metro Jaures) which is hugely kid-friendly and a huge amount of fun. The ubiquitous manege, big trampolines, a waterplay area and a little beachy sand area all geared toward kids. You can even rent pedalos! It is incredibly clean (even the toilets), relatively empty and what impressed me the most are the organizers (or animateurs as they are called over here), who are incredibly good with kids and make sure that the kids know how to use the facilities and are properly supervised.

So why go to the beach if the beach comes to Paris?

- Emilie

P.S.: all of the facilities are free and the beach is around until the 21st of August

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Le Pain QuotidienTags for SchoolParis Plage

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)