The immediate Candy family; that is myself, Mr C, Baby H and Mother Candy went for a 4 night break recently to Paris; the city of love. After a traumatic trip to the airport (thank god for pushing in politely) we made it on the plane and flew with Air France (who damaged my suitcase so badly it looked like a bomb went off in it). But we made it! We made it!
Our hotel was located in Opera, in the 9th arrondissement (called the Helios if anyone is interested – it’s a nice hotel very well located (2 minutes from Galeries Lafayette, but I’d recommend getting a deluxe room, the standard room is teeny and very dark!)
Anyway, this is just a post with bits and bobs of we saw and did whilst in Paris, and also what I learned from taking a toddler to the beautiful city, which is not always that child friendly.
How amazing are these tomatoes?!
Of course I wanted to try Crepes and Macarons! We tried various places for crepes, my favourite was this ridiculously salty and lemon-y smoked salmon one, which was nicely warm.
Of course there were lots of cakes and pastries to try – I am not really into pastry per se, more of the filling!
Whilst in Paris there were a few things we wanted to do – go to Disneyland, see the Eiffel Tower and try various foods. Before we went away I did endless plans wondering how we would fill our time; now I know that 4 nights is not really enough time to do everything you want to do when you are travelling in a little family group! There were lots and lots of things we never made it to, like the Love Lock Bridge (Pont de L’Archeveche) and Montparnasse but to be honest, travelling in a little group with someone older (sorry mum) and a toddler means taking it easy somewhat – why put the pressure on yourself to try and do everything?
So we had a very chilled out little break with no pressure, although I did find it hard before hand as I knew planning meant I had to include:
– Plenty of shopping (for me and Mother)
– Sightseeing (Mr C)
– Toddler activities and baby friendly places to eat (For H!).
I didn’t want him just to be pushed around in a buggy the whole time, how dull for him, but at the same time, you can’t really let your child run wild in a foreign country (or any country, really). I did scare myself a bit from reading lots of articles about how unchild friendly Paris can be, but to be honest, it really wasn’t horrible, and quite frankly, far more people in Paris smiled, made eye contact, and played with H than in the UK.
Anyway, for anyone thinking of going to Paris with a toddler under 2, here are my findings, tips and hints.
With the bubble man at the Sacre-Coeur – got some gorgeous photos here and gave the man a few Euros. H tried to steal his bubbly thing which was string on 2 sticks! Clever!
1. Planning ahead
Even thought I read loads of bad reports on how bad Paris is for kids, I am glad I read them because it made me plan ahead – so I knew before going that many places don’t have the space to accommodate buggies, that changing rooms can be hard to come by etc. I looked up the parks and museums – places H could have a run around, and also considered how our day should run to fit in a decent nap in the day. In the end we didn’t visit the museums because H is a little too young to appreciate them, but at least I knew where they were if we had free time.
Just an obvious point but don’t go abroad with a toddler totally blind (although you can probably get away with less planning on a beach holiday).
2. Changing Rooms
We take for granted that most eating places in the UK will have a changing room for babies, or at least something in the main toilets to change a child on. Changing rooms are far and few between in Paris, and for the first time ever we had to change H in public (hello park bench) because there was just nothing, anywhere. On our last day we ate in the shopping centre by the Louvre and even with the overpriced food there, we had to pay 2 Euros just to use a changing room! Think of all the free toilet facilities we have in the UK!
In other words – remember your changing mat, my dears.
3. Eat Flexibly
I don’t know how it is for other parents, but even in the UK, I assess space in a cafe or restaurant before forcing my buggy in there – it’s like an instinct now, and not a big deal. If the place is too small, we don’t eat there. Same thing for Paris – with so many quaint little places to eat, most wouldn’t fit in a buggy, and even then if tables are very close together for example, the last thing you want is to have your toddler kicking off whilst someone else is trying to have their lunch.
We tended to eat (if the weather was nice) in places with outside spaces, because there was room for the buggy, or bought food to eat out and about, or found spacious cafes. High chairs are also hard to come by – we took harness that can be attached to the chair just in case but usually he just sat on our knee or in the buggy.
I did like Exki – it’s a chain restaurant that’s all over Europe that sells super healthy food and has a changing room AND a microwave for customers to use!!!
4. Buggy Choices
The streets can be quite narrow in Paris, so leave your Bugaboo at home and take something light and narrow. We have a Babyzen buggy which is our casual use one, alongside the Bugaboo, which folds up beautifully into an absolutely tiny thing (I believe the smallest on the market). It’s nice and zippy which is nice to wheel around, although bear in mind there are a lot of cobbled streets and not all buggy wheels can handle it.
5. Parks and the outdoors
There are so many fab parks in Paris, we didn’t even have time to visit all we wanted too like the Trampolines at Jardin des Tulleries. Definitely visit some parks if you have a toddler and let them burn off some energy. I noticed that even smaller little parks always have kids play areas too.
Speaking of the outdoors, the French seem to like a fag, something I am not really used too since smoking is banned in so many places in the UK now. It was quite noticeable to be honest, we always seemed to behind someone with a fag in their hand and even in Disneyland in the eating areas, there were people lighting up and in one area, a man with a bloody pipe!
I personally dislike smoking and am very sensitive to cigarette smoke due to asthma and little H also has mild asthma so having smoke puffed on to me is not my idea of fun. Bear this in mind when you are outdoors, where you sit etc. and be prepared to move around (which we did a few times like when Mr Pipe was happily breathing all over us).
7. The Metro or Bus?
In truth, Paris is a great city to walk around, but with a child, pregnant woman and older lady, there’s only so much of that everyone could take. Therefore public transport was useful when we were getting tired. Citymapper App, Paris, was invaluable – it finds your current location and where you want to go, then tells you the time it will take walking, busing, taxi-ing etc.
We did the Metro and RER once, and it was enough. The RER we went to had lifts, albeit not that easy to navigate and was slow. The Metro is very buggy unfriendly and you will need to fold up your buggy or be strong enough to carry it down the stairs and over barriers (thankfully Mr C is strong enough!).
The Bus is much better and there is a buggy area and just a better way to get around anyway – you get to see Paris! Also it doesn’t smell of wee, but look out for those groggy bus drivers!
8. C’est Trop Cher!
There’s one phrase I remember from GCSE French – It’s too expensive!
Paris is an expensive city, as most big capital cities are! In terms of preparing for H, we loaded our suitcases up with drinks, snacks and food he likes which made our cases very heavy but I am glad we did. Mother Candy kept saying we should just buy it all there, but thank god I didn’t listen because everything was so pricey, plus I didn’t know if it would suit H’s tastes. Last thing you want is a starving baby on Holiday.
The top at the Sacre-Coeur – It was extremely busy on the top but pretty and lots of little shops and things to see. We took the tram up – as if you can carry a child and buggy up all those steps!!
We of course did a day in Disneyland which was easy to get to.
To be honest, at just under 2, H is still very young for a theme park – he can’t go on many rides so it’s just more of a little experience for him really.
I went to Eurodisney as a teen and loved it. These days the park is looking quite tired and worn and beyond the entrance and the Princess castle. There wasn’t much with some of our favourite characters, like Frozen, or Wall-e or Nemo.
The queues for rides were crazy, at least an hour a pop and we only made it on one ride – the teacups – because you just cannot wait that long with a toddler.
There are TONS of shops. We totally spent far too much on keepsakes – I specifically sought out things with 2014 and Paris on them to make them a bit more special.
There are tons of places to eat – I didn’t think they were that expensive with it being a Disney theme park, and most places display clearly what you get outside (usually a meal deal with a drink etc) for about 8 Euros upwards. What is rubbish is the souvenir cup you can get which is like a travel cup with Ratatouille design – used it at home and it leaks so much! Absolute pants!
Ignore my huge pregnancy boobs – here’s a pic of me in my minnie ears (so upset I couldn’t find the Maleficent Horns) and bump!
At the end of the day we waited for the parade which was a lot of hanging around and lasted about 10 minutes only (thank god). H watched stupefied, I don’t think he really comprehended what was going on but he did cheer at The Lion King.
Winnie the Pooh!
H watched with great curiosity, and of course, some ginger biscuits to hand:
Finally, we made it over to the Walt Disney studios next door after the parade. By then it was raining, we were tired, but we managed to see a Monsters University display with a scream machine. I wish they made more of Monsters Inc/University, it’s such a popular franchise and it was a very half-assed feature to be honest.
Everything else was just ok at the studios – there’s less to see and do than next door and once again the queues for the rides were huge. We were waiting to go on the Aladdin magic carpet ride and had reached the front, but had to turn around because a potato had fallen asleep…
Anyway after Disney we returned to Paris with lighter wallets and to enjoy the last few days with some casual sightseeing and shopping. By the end of it we were all as sleepy as H!
In my next post I’ll talk about some bits and pieces I hauled whilst away! I visited Sephora, Yves Rocher, and various Pharmacies.