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Thursday, February 13, 2014

5 Cool Things Do with Kids in Paris During Winter Break


Activity #6: Chase giant bubbles outside the Centre Pompidou while Salvador Dali looks on

Six weeks on. Two weeks off. 

Six weeks on. Two weeks off.

For those who don’t know, this is the rhythm of a school child’s – and a parent's – life in France.  After every six weeks of school, the kids get two weeks of vacation.  As an American, this seems like an awful lot of vacation to me.  As a parent, it seems like a hideous amount of vacation. 

I think it must be easier for people who work with French people who understand this rhythm and know when les vacances have started.  Many Parisians simply use one of their many weeks of mandated vacation time to go on holiday with their kids! But if you are an American working with American clients, it’s a struggle (or expensive) to deal with this upheaval to your schedule every six weeks!

Happily, I have a period of relative calm at the moment and am looking forward to doing some fun stuff with the kiddos during the upcoming winter break.  If you’re not one of the thousands going skiing over the holiday and racking your brains about how to pass the time with the kids in Paris, check out all this cool stuff you can do!

1.  Go Ice-Skating.

Like every year, the Hôtel de Ville ice-skating rink is up and in full force. It’s a great place to skate with kids because it has a separate area for little ones, as well as cute ice-skating supports for them to hold on to as they shuffle around the rink. Entrance to the rink is free but skate rentals cost €5. Note that hats and gloves are required for all skaters.  Check out my post here for more details.

2.  Hit the cinema.

If you've got a burgeoning movie-buff in your household, this is the year for them! For all of 2014, the price of all cinema tickets is only €4 for kids younger than age 14, for “all theaters, all times, and all films,” according the the Federation of National French Cinemas. Happy news!

And there are lots of kid-friendly movies out at the moment. Miniscule (an animated film about a lost ladybug) has gotten great reviews, and you can’t step on the metro without seeing huge posters for Sherman & Mr. Peabody: Les Voyages dans le Temps. These ubiquitous colorful advertisements have duly entranced my sons and we will be going next week.  There’s also La Belle et Le Bête (Beauty and the Beast), but I have a hard time believing than anything with the yummy Vincent Cassel in it is appropriate for children....but maybe that’s just my problem. 

3. Expose them to Surrealism.

The “Surrealism and Object” exhibit (featuring the sculptural works of Dali, Giacometti, Bréton, Miró and more) at the Centre Pompidou could be fascinating for kids from 5 and up. The show is basically about what happens when surrealism encounters a functional object.  What will your child say when he or she sees a pair of high heels arranged on a roasting platter like turkey?  Or taxidermic fox built into a table that appears to be walking?  Frankly, I’m curious. For more information and museum hours, look here.


4.  Learn about World Music

The Musée du Quai Branly is a relatively new museum in Paris that’s dedicated exclusively to arts and artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.  Starting from February 22 through March 2nd, the museum is using music a common thread to tie together its multi-cultural exhibitions. There will be short concerts of music from various cultures around the world; a variety of instrument-playing workshops for kids ages 6-12; Dancing lessons to tribal drums, and much more!  For additional details and times, click here

5.  Catch a show

As always, Paris offers dozens of plays, concerts and other  for children.  The ones that caught my eye during this vacation period are Hansel et Gretel at les Palais des Glaces, The Bossu de Notre Dame (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) at Théâtre Antoine, Pinocchio at Theatre Akteon, and for the smallest theater-goers (this is appropriate for age 1 and up), you've got Roule, Roule Gallette, also at Theatre Akteon.  The Broadway musical, La Belle et Le Bête is also running at Théâtre Mogador. 

For magic lovers ages 4 and up, there is the highly-praised Magicien Maglré Lui, starring Magician Sebastien Mossière at Théâtre des Béliers Parisiens. There's also Double Fond, a café-theater in the Marais that offers some 15 different types of magic shows.  I've walked by it for years, and I’m excited that my oldest son is finally in the right age bracket to enjoy it: age 6 and up is supposed to be about right.

So, how's that for a start?  If you hear of any other cool activities during winter vacay, feel free to mention them in the comments section below. I know there's plenty more to do.  Bonnes vacances!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Where to Find Chinese New Year Dragon Dances in Paris




Update!  There will be another Chinese New Year Parade on Sunday, February 9th in Paris's Chinatown (the 13th arrondissement).  It starts at 1pm at 44 avenue d'Ivry and travels through avenue de Choissy, Place d'Italie, avenue d'Italie, Rue de Tolbiac, back to avenue de Choissy, boulevard Massena, then back to avenue d'Ivry.  Pictures of parades in previous years look fantastic - check it out!


 Welcome Year of the Horse!  I’m sorry I’m late with this post, as Paris’s biggest Chinese New Year event – the fantastical CNY parade throughout the city – took place this past weekend.  But if you and your kids still want to celebrate the Year of the Horse celebrations, there are still other opportunities.  Most especially, the Dragon Dance!



Last Friday night, the first night of Chinese New Year, my boys and I joined friends at the Carrousel du Louvre, underneath the inverted pyramid to watch a traditional Dragon Dance.





The kids LOVED it.  What’s not to love?  A colorful, ferocious-looking dragon swirling through the air...firecrackers....drums....blood-red and dandelion-yellow lions dancing and shimmering and blinking their huge eyes...it’s awesome (if not a bit terrifying for the small ones)!



Want to check something like this out?  There are at least two other Dragon Dances taking place in Paris this week. Maybe they'll be even more atmsophere without the big "PRINTEMPS" sign behind it! 

--- The Mairie of the 11th arrondissement is hosting a Lion and Dragon Dance on Wednesday, February 5th at 5:30pm.  (Address: 12, Place Léon Blum, 75011.)  We went to this one for a couple of years – it’s fun, though it can be a bit hard to see.  You can go early to get a good spot, but then you have to wait through a rather long mayoral speech paying tribute to the Chinese community, which can be hard on the kids. Still, it may be worth it.  When we saw this event a few years ago, the kids loved it so much, I had to play the videos of it for a good year or two afterwards. 

--- The Mairie of the 3rd arrondissement is also hosting a Dragon Dance on Thursday, February 6th at 6:30pm.  You can find it at 2 Eugene Spuller, 75003, just off of rue Bretange. I’ve never been to this one, but there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t be great.  And if it isn’t, there’s a very cute park/playground across the street from the mairie, so you can just slip away and go there if you’re bored.

There are also several CNY celebrations, parades and dances taking place in the coming weeks just outside of Paris, such as in Courbevoie, Noisy-le-Grand, Aubervilliers and other towns. For more information, check out this link

Enjoy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Le Poussette Café: A Great Place for Babies and Toddlers in Paris



A Happy Mom & Baby at Le Poussette Café

Back in the days when I was chained to our stroller my boys were babies and napped best in a stroller, I spent a lot of time at Starbucks.  I would wander around the city, waiting to see their little heads begin to droop, then I would dash into the nearest Starbucks as quickly I could...order a chai tea latte...flop in a comfy chair and read a book until somebody woke up. 

Many people in Paris are vehemently opposed to the presence of Starbucks, and I understand why.  With all these charming little Parisian cafés around, why would you want to sit in a big impersonal chain like Starbucks? 

Well, the answer is in the phrase “charming LITTLE Parisian cafes.”  These cafés definitely have oodles of charm, but space? Not so much. 

It’s always awkward negotiating those narrow lanes with your stroller, bumping into chairs, tables and people, suffering the rolling of eyes and huffy sighs as less encumbered diners scrape their chairs forward. (Well, that’s how it was before Bugaboo made their slimline version).

And let’s not even talk about the reaction you get if your baby starts to...do the things that babies do.  The less cute things.  People don’t like that.

Little did I know that you can get a baby-friendly version of the Parisian café experience, right in the 9th arrondissement.  The place is called Le Poussette Café (“The Stroller/Push-chair Cafe”) and it is just the thing for parents who want to have a relaxing cup of tea while your baby or toddler is free to be themselves.




The cafe has about 5-6 tables, which isn’t so many, but it’s purposely designed that way so that there’s ample room for your stroller.  Hallelujah! And if you want to take your baby out of the stroller, you don’t have to hold him or her on your lap – there are high-chairs or bouncy seats available too! 



For toddlers/pre-schoolers, there’s an adorable play area that has an assortment of toys  and books, and includes a wall of colorings done by previous little clients.  (Just ask the manager/hostess for crayons and paper, and she’ll immediately supply them.)




The Poussette Café is also a children’s boutique, offering a range of nice-quality dolls, toys, bibs and baby equipment.  They take particular care to offer items that are organic or otherwise not harmful to the environment, made by companies that are respectful of human rights.





The reason why I became familiar with the Poussette café even though my kids no longer need strollers is because they have a large playroom downstairs that can be rented out for birthday parties!  It’s a really nice thing because while the kids are downstairs having fun with the animator (in France, parents don’t necessary participate in their kids’ birthday parties), you can sit upstairs and have a cup of coffee or tea and some quiet conversation with the other parents.  Can you imagine?!

But the primary purpose of the room downstairs isn’t for birthday parties, but to provide various classes for babies and/or their parents.  Several times a month, they offer baby-sing-alongs, pre-and post-natal yoga classes, lectures from lactation specialists, and even plays and shows, appropriate for kids ages 2 and up.  Parents of older kids should note that during the first week of school break in February they offer a LEGO workshop for kids from 4-7 and 8-12!  For more details on all the activities offer, take a look at their calendar.

On the whole, it’s a great space that I highly recommend for the baby, toddler and preschool crowd visiting or living in Paris.  Too bad I discovered it so late in the game.  Don't let that happen to you!


Practical Info

Address:  6, rue Pierre Sémard, 9th arrondissement. Just across the street from Square Montholon (which has a nice playground, by the way!)

Metro:  Cadet or Poissonière (line 7)

Hours:  Tuesday - Saturday, 10:30am - 6:30pm

Websitewww.lepousettecafe.com




Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Paris Playground Review: Parc Floral




Bonne Année!  Happy New Year!





I can’t believe it’s been almost an entire year since I’ve last updated this blog. That's just sad.

Trust me, it wasn’t for lack of interest or lack of things to say about things to do in Paris with kids...last year was about the most intense of my life!  My husband started a new job, my own work exploded, we searched for and bought a new apartment, endured many months of temporary housing and renovations,  then, finally, at the end of the year, moved into our new place.

Of course, through out it all, we had to keep our kids merry and entertained. 

When you’re busy like that, you mostly stick to tried-and-true favorites when it comes to playtime.  So, last year, we spent A LOT of time going to the trampolines and playground at the Tuileries.  (The boys never seem to get bored of that.)  Nonetheless, we did manage to make some interesting new discoveries too, which I’ll be writing about over the next few months.

But first – let's kick of the resurrection of this blog with a good 'ol Paris playground review of the Parc Floral de Paris. This park, just at the edge of the Bois de Vincennes, is one of my boys' favorite playgrounds, though we only  make it there a couple of times a year.  

I don’t blame my boys for loving this immense playground as it is exactly the kind of place I’d have gone nuts for as a kid.  (Though it's misleading to call it "a" playground because it's really 7 or so playgrounds in one.)  It has everything a kid could want including:

Long, curvy slides...





The coolest, most comprehensive climbing/sliding structures...






 


Awesome old pirate ships, complete with rickety gangplanks...







Big piles of stones to clamber over!




A terrifying rope Eiffel Tower-eque...






... and, thankfully, a smaller one for smaller kids...










..best of all, Parc Floral has that most rare thing in Paris... swings!! 






And so, so much more!  I love that the different play areas have structures of kids of all ages, from toddling tots to gotta-get-my-energy-out 12-year olds.   It even has an extensive zip line course (called "accrobranche" in French) that I have yet to try because my kids are too young.  (Though I did find another accrobranche place appropriate for kids age 5+; I'll write about that later). Really, it's a great place to spend an afternoon.

Parc Floral is prettiest in the spring and summer when the flowers are in bloom and it's fun to partake in avalanche of other activities the park offers. (Worth yet another blog post.) Still, I've noticed we have a tendency to go in wintertime.  I’m not sure why....perhaps the grey days drive us to seek out of the ordinary things to do.  Or maybe it’s just because it’s so much less crowded in winter.  But as long as it's not frigid out, I encourage you to check it out. 

Practical Info:

Address:  Route de la Pyramide 75012 Paris

Hours:  9:30am - 5pm (during winter); until 8pm or so during summer. 

Metro:  Chateau de Vincennes (Line 1).  Note that it's a bit of a hike from the metro to the playground...maybe a 15-20 minute walk.  Our kids usually take their scooters, which makes the walk more fun.  Also, at the entrance of the park there's a little train (on wheels, not tracks) that will take you into the heart of the park. 

Cost: Most of the time, entry is free.  And for kids under age 7 it's always free.  But during summer and fall months when the park is hosting events like jazz or dance concerts, there's a fee to enter even if you're not attending the event.  (Because once you're in, you can go to the event anyway.)  The price during these period is €2.75 for kids over 7; €5.50 for adults. 






Where to Eat: There's a fast-food type restaurant on the park premises but it's crazy expensive. If you go in the summer, take a picnic lunch. There's lot of green spaces to flop down and eat and unless I'm dreaming, there are a few picnic benches.  If you want a really nice meal, go to Petit Bofinger, a brasserie just across from the Chateau de Vincennes metro.  Not only is the food excellent, but they're so nice with the children...they even have children's menus, colored pencils and high chairs! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A visit to Musée Grevin, Paris's wax museum



Here’s the trouble with Paris and children and wintertime.

1. It’s dark.
2. It’s cold.
3. It’s usually raining. 
4. By the time kids get out of school, it’s late. and dark. and cold. and usually raining.

So, both parents and children are completely unmotivated to go anywhere.  Well, at least, that’s what happens in my house. 

But since my kids’ school happens to be just next to the Musée Grevin, Paris's wax museum, I took them there to mill around before cocooning in our apartment. 

On the whole, young kids won’t find it the most entertaining on earth but it’s worth a visit if you’re wanting some indoor activity. For kids 8 and up, I’d bet the museum is probably pretty cool.  And I found the 19th century museum's gilded baroque architecture  and red-walled interior, both elegant and slightly tarty.  

For kids, the fun of the museum begins while standing in line for the tickets. Some smart person, probably a tired parent, designed the entrance with several ‘fun house” mirrors scattered about, so that kids can amuse themselves by laughing their squat or elongated appearance during the wait.


But beware: once you enter the museum, if you have very young kids, the fun may stop briefly.  Unbeknownst to me, the ticket price includes a lights-and-illusions show, which scared the bejesus out of my then-4-year old.  

See, at the very start of your visit, before you’ve seen a waxen anything, you’re shepherded into a large room with ornate mirrored walls.  Then the doors are shut, the lights go out and you’re treated to various optical illusions and light displays.  

Fake butterflies descend from the ceiling...green vines suddenly grow around columns.... all kinds of things happen.  It’s supposed to be awesome and magical but Lil’Dawg found it weird and terrifying. I had to talk him in a bright, cheerful tone throughout the whole thing to keep him from slipping into outright panic. 

Anyway.  Just a word to the wise. 

Things improved after the light show, but the boys seemed interested without being wowed.   

The problem isn’t that the wax works aren’t good – they are startlingly life-like and often arranged in poses so realistic sometimes you’re not sure who is part of the exhibit and who isn’t – but that younger kids have no idea who most of these people are.

Like, I was very excited to check out Brad Pitt and George Clooney.  But the kids were bored and rushed by them (which is why the picture is so blurry, sorry.)  


Boris Karloff as Frankenstein was a great hit, however.



As was, surprisingly, young Mozart.


And any person that happened to be holding a gun.



So, if you’ve got a rainy day on your hands, I say check it out. Why not? But with young kids you may want to do some prep work first.  Show them a few pictures of Brad Pitt and George Clooney.



Practical info. 

AddressMusee Grevin (Wax Museum of Paris)

Metro:  Richelieu-Drouot (Lines 8, 9); Buses 39, 48, 67, 74, 85. 

Hours: 10am - 6:30pm (Mon- Fri.) 10am - 7pm (Sat.)  During summer, opening hours are longer, from 9am - 7pm.  Check here to be sure.

Price: Kids under 6: free. Kids 6-14: €15; Adults: €22.  

(Yikes, right? Crazy. But the museum is currently having a "winter special" where if you order online at least 5 days in advance you get 25% off the price.  And there are discounted prices for senior citizens, students, etc. as well)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teens in Paris: Revisit History with Time Traveler Tours


Yes, this is supposed to be a blog about what to do in Paris with kids 12 and under, but I can't resist talking about a really cool way for teens to experience Paris.  American expat Sarah Towle has created a fascinating travel app that brings French history to life in the form of self-guided, interactive, story-based tour.

Half-tour, half-treasure hunt, the app literally walks you through an exciting murder mystery that took place in Paris more than 200 years ago. You’ll visit well-known Parisian sites connected to this infamous murder while simultaneously learning tons about Parisian history.

The app has gotten rave reviews from teens and educators alike, and was named a Top 10 2011 School Library and Journal App  and Top 10 2012 Educational Travel App.  To read about how Sarah came up with this excellent idea, visit her website: Time Traveler Tours.  

 And now - here’s Sarah with more details about the app... and for those of you who aren't (yet) in Paris, take a look at her exciting news at the end!

A New Generation of Tour Guide for a New Generation of Traveler: 
Time Traveler Tours interactive StoryApp itineraries


On your next trip to Paris, put the past in the palm of your hand – time-travel on your iPhone or iPod Touch to 1793 and the heart of the French Revolution with this unforgettable travel app by Time Traveler Tours.

Find out why Charlotte Corday, a 24-year-old convent-school girl of noble birth, stabbed a revolutionary leader to death as he soaked in the bath. What happened to her? Her king? Her queen? Her country?

Time Traveler Tours interactive iTineraries combine the traditional power of storytelling with the latest in mobile technology and games to bring history to life.

This first app in the coming series is truly epic: perfect for families, student travel groups, anyone really who loves a good yarn.  It’s also fully bilingual, in English and French. So learn a second language while you’re at it!

Beware Madame la Guillotine, A Revolutionary Tour of Paris is a daylong historical treasure hunt through central Paris, starting at the often-overlooked Palais Royal and ending at the Conciergerie Prison, the antechamber of the guillotine.

Follow in Charlotte’s footsteps as she traverses Paris in pursuit of her victim while passing through the following famous Paris points of interest:

· Louvre Courtyards
· Seine River
· Pont des Arts
· Café Procope
· Place St. Michel
· Palais de Justice

 * Discover the birthplace of the French Revolution and locate where Charlotte bought the knife she used to kill Jean-Paul Marat.

 * Dine where propagandist, Jean-Paul Marat, and his Revolutionary cronies once dined at the Café Procope. Recharge your batteries where they discussed such then-novel ideas as individual human rights. And get a 10% discount when you play the in-app game!

 * Visit Charlotte in her prison on the day of her death. Witness the conditions of her incarceration as well as those of Queen Marie-Antoinette.

 In addition to her just plain great story, Charlotte’s tour also features:

• Travel Tips
• Text-read Options
• Dedicated Maps
• Orientation Games
• Trivia Challenges
• “More Info” Historical Explanations
• And more than Two Dozen Treasure Hunts!

Beware Madame la Guillotine, A Revolutionary Tour of Paris offers residents and visitors, from 12-120, a fun and engaging way to explore the museums, monuments, parks, boulevards, and cafés that played a part in the French Revolution. Trips to the Ancien Régime and the Napoleonic Era are soon to come, followed by additional story tours to Paris as well as London, Boston, Florence, Amsterdam, and New Orleans.

Discover history with those who made it with Time Traveler Tours. And for all you armchair travelers out there, we’re delighted to be the first to announce that Beware Madame la Guillotine will launch as an iBook for iPad in January 2013 from Time Traveler Tales: History through story and games, at the tips of your fingers!

Bio:

Sarah Towle is a former linguistics professor and intercultural communications trainer who has lived in Paris since 2004.  She founded Time Traveler Tours in 2010; her storyapp, Beware Madame la Guillotine was released in 2011 to critical acclaim. Sarah's second title, also with a death theme, Day of the Dead is due for release in early 2013. Like, connect with, and Follow Sarah's progress at www.timetravelertours.com.

***

Thank you Sarah!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where to visit Santa with kids in Paris

Doing "the wave" with Santa at Trocadèro


My last post about about that cool toy-themed passage where Santa Claus will be enthroned until early January got me wondering where else the children of Paris can sit on Père Noël's  lap and whisper their Christmas wishes.

I wasn't expecting to find much – the familiar tradition of photographing a crying baby on Santa's lap doesn't strike me as French at all.  And it's not really.  But like Halloween, it's an an Anglo-Saxon tradition that's slowly seeping into this culture. 

I’ve never taken my kids to sit Santa's lap. I found the man in the red suit rather terrifying as a child, and I certainly didn't like the idea of sitting on a bearded stranger's lap. But when I presented my kids with the idea, they were excited.  Lil’Dawg’s eyes lit up and he said, “The real one?” 

Ummm...

Anyway.  If you happen to be in Paris during December, here’s where you and the kiddos can get your picture snapped with the Jolly Old Elf himself.

1. Galeries Lafayette

Santa will be holding court in his “studio” on the 5th floor of this mammoth, elegant department store from now until December 24 during normal store hours. For more information, look here.  (And let’s hope that the Santa they have in the store is a little more plump than the one in this photo. Who wants to sit on the lap of a bony Santa?)

2. Printemps Haussmann

Starting on December 1, you can visit Santa in his workshop at the Printemps department store from 10am - 8pm.  Cost:  €5.  Look here for more info...and note that their Santa looks much better.  


3. Disneyland

As you might expect, there’s plenty of opportunity to see Santa at Disneyland Paris.  He’ll be featured in a daily Christmas parade on Main Street U.S.A. (which actually sounds quite nice, with dancing dolls and tin soldiers and, of course, favorite Disney characters)

Kids can also visit him in his workshop – well, not just his workshop – Disneyland has apparently created an entire village for Santa and his elves.  Kids can also write and mail letters to him there and they are guaranteed a response! (Anglophones parents...better find some way to explain why Santa will respond in French).

For more info look here

4. L’Hotel Meurice

One of Paris’s most sumptous hotels will feature Santa every Wednesday in December at their restaurant, from 3:30 - 5:30pm.  For just €45 per person, kids can get their photo taken with Santa,  give him their wish list, and receive surprises, hot drinks and gourmet treats.  Those better be some good treats!  

Look on L'Hotel Meurice’s Facebook page for more details.

Village JouéClub

As I mentioned earlier, for a more down-to-earth Santa experience, you can visit Santa at Village JouéClub, my new favorite place to buy toys in Paris. You can learn more about it right here on petit paris!