Thought you couldn't do city breaks with little ones? Think again, this is a destination for all the family. SL's Sub Editor Georgina Blaskey has long held a love for Paris. Here she talks us through what it's like to see the French city with husband and two kids under ten in tow.
In my LBC (Life Before Children) I was a big fan of the city break. But overnight the overwhelming baggage and strict bedtime routines of little ones didn’t allow for last-minute jaunts. Yet now my children are older, metropolises await for us once more and what better city to start with than Paris? Small enough to navigate easily, France’s capital is jam-packed with iconic sights and brimming with culture – a stroll through the streets is like walking through one of the best museums in Europe and, despite the devastating attacks last year, everything is as accessible and inviting as before (just with more security checks).
What They'll Love
From the well-loved adventures of fearless school girl Madeline to the culinary antics of Ratatouille, there are countless references in popular culture known to children of all ages, so we launched our tour with a boat trip on the Bateau Mouche to make these images reality. Embarking near Pont de l’Alma, during this 75-minute trip along the Seine, with running commentary providing essential facts on all sights from the Musée D’Orsay to Notre Dame, everyone grasped geographical reference points of the city and saw their favourite sights up close.
Once docked, we strolled to the Eiffel Tower, 15 minutes away. Booking in advance is highly recommended if you want to go up via the elevator but we were feeling adventurous – and a little bit James Bond in our approach – so we took the stairs. Hundreds of steps later we reached the first floor and located the Seine, following it to find the attractions we had sailed passed earlier. With Paris at our feet and a healthy dose of fresh air in our lungs, the sun glistening off the river and the thrill of being inside the actual real-life Eiffel Tower, this was the undoubtably the highlight of the trip.
Uber is in Paris, it’s cheaper than in London and it’s quick; I highly recommended it to get around if you don’t want to take the Metro and, better still, you don’t need to worry about having euros on you.
For lunch we loved Café Marly under the arches of the Louvre – looking out on to the striking glass pyramid, the croque monsieurs went down a treat while we enjoyed champagne and salads. Book ahead for fast-track gallery entrance to see the famous Mona Lisa smile.
With only two nights to play with, we decided to go fully French on both. The first night we stumbled across the cosy Café des Abattoirs, a real find in the first. With a bargain set menu offering mouthwatering meat mains, a good selection of wines by the glass and surprise starters to share, the children were as excited by the food as we were (plus they loved the napkins disguised as mini aprons). For our second night we fancied a big buzzy bistrot and went to Chez Francis which overlooks the Eiffel Tower. As dusk fell and we tucked in to our veal escalope and steamed cod, we were treated to our own Eiffel Tower light show, which captivated us all.
Hotel 34B - Astotel Paris by J.-B. Clevenot and G. Grasset
Where To Stay
In Paris hotels can often be a compromise on standard, location or room size, but Hotel 34B near Gare du Nord (handy for the Eurostar) and the Grand Boulevards metro station (offering easy access to all the sights) is a real gem in the 9th arrondissement. Drawing interior inspiration from the Tricolore flag in myriad ways, from bold striped upstairs corridors to a stunning painted internal courtyard with glass atrium, the latest offering from the style-conscious, purse-friendly Astostel group is quirky, detailed, innovative and original. Beneath the atrium is a breakfast area and lounge, where guests can help themselves to free soft drinks, tea, coffee and snacks all day; perfect after a long day sightseeing (there’s also a complimentary in-room minibar).
Café des Abattoirs - Astotel Paris by J.-B. Clevenot and G. Grasset
When you need downtime from the sights, the parks and playgrounds of the city are a delight. During the summer holidays the Jardin des Tuileries hosts an old-fashioned funfair but offers trampolines and a carousel all-year round whilst the Jardins du Luxembourg boasts traditional guignols (marionette shows), pony rides and a bandstand.
Where To Shop
French fashion doesn’t compromise where children are concerned. We spent an hour at the Smallable concept store, checking out their trendy labels and edgy room accessories, vowing to redesign our home and closets on our return. The Bonpoint atelier is not to be missed – a stunning townhouse showcasing the heritage and design of this iconic children’s brand. The Louvre museum shop is simply brilliant for multi-lingual books about art and the city.
by Georgina Blaskey