It was only for a long weekend, but I was slightly apprenhensive about taking the girls to Paris. We’d already ruled out Di$neyland due to a) the high cost of entry, b) miss small’s propensity to freak out when faced with people in costume and c) my total disdain for all the place stands for
“We’re not going to Paris to see Di$ney” I declared loftily, when our trip was all still in the planning stages, “We’re going to expose the girls to Proper French Culture”
Everyone I said this to was very kind and didn’t laugh right in my face.
But the weekend went rather well, actually. Of course, that’s partly due to the fact we were visiting my wee sister, who’s in residence there, and her guidance was much appreciated, as was her company. But if you’re reading this for hints about taking your kids to Paris, you’ll not really be able to call up my sis and get her to help you, so here’s what I recommend…
1. Manners. It was going to be the Eiffel Tower, but actually, manners are the first thing you’d better get right in order to have a lovely time. We’d heard all the horror stories about the snooty Parisians and their refusal to countenance anything but the most pristine spoken French. I can muddle through, but it’s largely down to enthusiasm rather than the saving graces of grammar. However, a key phrase uttered loudly and cheerfully at every opportunity, by adults and children alike, actually bought us an enormous amount of goodwill. Are you ready? Here goes…
Bonjour Madame! (or Monsieur)
Seriously. These two words are magic – on entering a shop, restaurant, gallery… say Bonjour and you prove you’re civilised and polite. Get your kids to say Bonjour and you all look good.
Any french you can muster will stand you in good stead. Also, euros. I was in a tourist shop beside Notre Dame while Miss Small waited to buy an eiffel tower keyring, and was amazed at the American man in front who didn’t try any french at all – not even bonjour or merci – and then asked “Do you take American money?” WHAT???? Seriously, dude, you must have known you were coming here, it’s not like you got lost on the interstate, surely you could find some Euros? That incident goes some way to explaining the reported sniffy French attitude.
Okay, back to the list
2) Jardin Du Luxembourg – has little boats in a big pond that you can hire a stick to prod. Nice. Also a good place for a picnic, although there’s a lot of gravel where you would ideally like grass – why, oh French park planners? The best bit for kids, though, is the play area. So you have to pay to go in, supervising adults as well as kids, but it’s truly worth it. You could probably buy yourself an hour of goodwill in the musee d’orsay if you brought the kids here first. And there’s plenty to do for big and little ones.
3) Tour Montparnasse – great views, and much smaller queues than Tour Eiffel. I like the Eiffel Tower, but its best fun is running around underneath, and looking up. Kids, or my kids at least, do get a bit bored of ‘look at that amazing view!’, plus when you’re in the eiffel tower, well, obviously, you don’t see the eiffel tower but being up, and therefore not seeing, the Tour Montparnasse is a bit of a bonus!
4) Isle St Louis – not especially great for kids (although there’s a little park near the bridge at the back of notre Dame, and the bridge with all the padlocks on it is also pretty cool) but it is home to the BEST ice cream and sorbet in Paris, Berthault. Yum. Pretty much all the icecream sellers will have this brand, so if one place is all queued out, keep looking.
Things that didn’t have as much interest as I’d maybe hoped:
Pompidou Centre – the girls looked at it for about 30 seconds before boredom set in. I could probably have looked at it for a few more minutes, but not many. Also, the square beside Pompidou is unrelenting concrete (again, what’s with the lack of grass?) and also jakey central. (*jakey = someone who would be comfortable with drinking alcohol in the morning, keeping a dog on a string, and eschewing personal hygiene)