Joanne and I just returned from a two-week visit to Paris with three of our grandkids – ages 9, 10 and 14.
And you ask, “What on earth do you do with kids in Paris? Is there a family-friendly version of the Folies Bergère?”
To be honest, I was a little concerned about that, too. But guess what? WE CRACKED THE CODE.
So, Mom and Dad, or Papa and Grandma, if you’re entertaining any thoughts about bringing your little darlings to Paris, I have some great tips.
But forewarned is forearmed: The following has A LOT to do with SUGAR. Deal with it; it’s the kids’ vacation, too.
For starters, you need to take them to ANGELINA, a pastry shop/tea room founded in 1903, today with multiple locations across the city. Chocolate rules here – particularly the HOT CHOCOLATE. Please, please order it. It’s the most outrageous, over-the-top, wretchedly excessive hot chocolate you’ll ever, ever taste. Pair that with the luscious bucket-list pastries like Mont Blanc, Millefeuille and Opera Cake. Then hang on, you’ve never seen a “sugar high” like this. But the kids will be happy…even if you wish you could slip into a diabetic coma to escape them.
It’s been my experience that museums bore kids to death – unless you organize the experience specifically for kids.
So consider the LOUVRE SCAVENGER HUNT. It lasts about two hours and I can guarantee you that the kids will not be bored. For one thing, it’s competitive; our leader pitted the three kids against their parents. Then they’re all off on their own to find particular treasures (think the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory) which they photograph to prove that they were there. Yeah, I know, I thought photos were not allowed in the Louvre, but with iPhones, maybe they just gave up.
I think the scavenger hunt costs a couple hundred bucks, but for two hours and five people at THE LOUVRE, the memories make it worth it.
Continue the culture tour at NOTRE DAME and the ARC DE TRIOMPHE – but don’t just look at them; let the kids climb to the top. The views of Paris are great, and it will tire out the little gremlins.
Since you’re at the Arc de Triomphe, you’re on the Champs-Élysées, and if there’s a car lover in the mix, visit one of the many automobile showrooms along the street. They all have their latest concept cars in the showrooms, and some even have racing cars.
Hungry and still on the Champs? Go to PIZZA PINO for lunch or dinner. They’re been around for decades. They know kids and they’ve always been friendly toward us – none of that snooty French attitude that we’ve all experienced. Pizzas, pasta, desserts and Fanta – lots of Fanta – for another sugar high.
And on the topic of sugar highs, here’s another that’s NOT TO BE MISSED:
It’s the CHOCOLATE AND PASTRY FOOD TOUR – a 2-3 hour guided tour of ten or twelve of Paris’s most significant sweet shops. Our grandkids’ tour started at Maison du Chocolat, one of the city’s premier chocolatiers.
Learn a bit about chocolate (our grandkids now understand the importance of cocoa content; no 30% Hershey’s for them anymore). Try some samples (they’re generous with samples). And then it’s on to another shop, and more samples. Then on to – well, you get the drill. At the tour’s end, the kids will greet you WIRED, WASTED and BUG-EYED.
Here’s another adventure – on a less frivolous note: We took our 10-year-old grandson to the Normandy beaches. He knew something about D-DAY, but actually seeing the Germans’ concrete bunkers hovering over Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery where approximately 10,000 of our soldiers are buried…and the hundreds of pockmarked craters that violate the landscape from the Allies’ bombs…well, that along with the films they ran of D-Day make you wonder: What will be his takeaway?
Try to spend a Sunday at the LUXEMBOURG GARDENS. With so many Parisians living in the city, many in tiny flats, the lure of this large, beautiful park is irresistible. On Sundays it teems with people. Our grandson brought his soccer ball and our granddaughter rode ponies. Best of all, we finished in the late afternoon with chocolate treats and hot chocolate at Angelina’s location in the Park. SUGAR HIGH!!!
Another Sunday well-spent: I wanted the grandkids to see the Frank Gehry-designed LOUIS VUITTON FONDATION MUSEUM in the Bois du Boulogne. So off we went on a Sunday morning, on the Metro (an adventure in itself, and one not to be missed. In fact, challenge the kids to figure out how it works. Let them be your Metro guides. It will be tremendously empowering for them). You’ll take the train to Porte Maillot, then walk about 20 minutes through the woods to the museum.
Even though I didn’t see a “wow!” in their eyes (like I said, most museums are non-starters for kids), I think they were moderately interested. There’s no escaping that the building is stunning, and once inside, after scouring the boring gift shop, the kids were ready to explore the exhibits. They liked them well enough, but it was definitely “art on the run.”
However, here’s the kicker: The museum’s campus includes the JARDIN D’ACCLIMATATION – a park within the park that included a really well-done AMUSEMENT PARK. It’s not for adults or even teens, only for kids. It boasts clean, sometimes scary, always colorful and well-run attractions – everything from a roller coaster to a surprisingly entertaining and somewhat frightening House of Mirrors. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed lunch at one of the many affordable eating options there. And for the kids? The best hamburger I’ve ever tasted in Paris.
My advice, though, would be to tide them over with a snack (maybe something sugary), and then head over to a restaurant that will blow their minds: LA CIGALE RECAMIER, in the 6th Arrondisement. It’s a SOUFFLÉ RESTAURANT.
The place is great – not fancy, not a dive, and a real adventure. Joanne and I and the grandkids ended up going there three times. Soufflés are soooo French. The staff is friendly and informative – but they don’t speak English (so you’ll just have to talk really loud to make sure they understand you). Here’s what you do: Get a soufflé for an appetizer, a soufflé for your main course (the kids ordered the cheese soufflé each time; Joanne had the smoked salmon, and I had the Boeuf Bourguinon). Then get a dessert soufflé – usually chocolate, maybe raspberry, or lemon and blackberry. Trust me on this one.
There you have it. Grandkids in Paris…two weeks…probably the best vacation of my life.
PIZZA PINO – CHAMPS ELYSÉES
31/33 Av des Champs-Elysées
Tel. 01 40 74 01 12
LA CIGALE RECAMIER
4 Rue Récamier, 75007 Paris, France
Phone:+33 1 45 48 86 58
CHOCOLATE AND PASTRY TOUR
Book well in advance HERE
LOUVRE SCAVENGER HUNT
Book in advance at http://thatlou.com
PARIS AMUSEMENT PARK
Le Jardin d’Acclimatation
Bois du Boulogne