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All aboard!

6 Apr

It’s Easter weekend and I’ve decided to take my little one to the south of France for a few days.

We were taking the 9 o’clock train and quite unexpectedly arrived at the Gare de Lyon 45 minutes early… a first for the books!!

We decided to have a hot drink at the famous Train Bleu Restaurant.

Built for the World Fair in the 1900’s it was listed in the Inventory of Historical Monuments in 1972. Its ornate decoration with celebrated paintings on the walls and ceilings, polished wooden floors, floor to ceiling windows and old leather benches have received esteemed diners such as Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau, Dali and Jean Gabin.

The Big Ben Bar, where we settled ourselves, resembles a Gentleman’s club, with brown leather armchairs and heavy wooden furniture (and is, indeed, full of business men in the middle of very important sounding meetings).

I made our order and almost chocked on my delectably fruity Earl Grey when the bill came. It was, as the French would say, hors du prix!

It must be noted, however, that one is not only paying for the splendour of the surroundings but also the incredible quality of the food and drinks on offer. Le Train Bleu is a gourmet restaurant and so one should be prepared to pay gourmet prices.

The upshot is that I know this will not be a regular occurrence considering the Gare de Lyon isn’t my usual hang out, but it did start our journey on a very classy (if not pricey) note!

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A perfect Sunday

2 Apr

On Sunday we went to discover the Jardin des Plantes. Although I’ve been living in Paris for years, this was the first time I set foot in the beautiful botanical gardens. The prune, almond and cherry trees were in full bloom and there were explosions of white and pink everywhere you turned!

We walked the length of the park then veered left to visit the ménagerie.

It is one of the oldest zoos in the world, which boasts over 2000 species. The smell of the zoo hits you before the entrance fee (10€/person, children under the age of 3 go for free). We were expecting to see elephants, giraffes, lions and bears (as stipulated in the brochure) but they were nowhere to be found! We followed the map provided at the entrance and happened upon munching yaks, playful orangutans and feline panthers.  The wind started picking up and our little one was getting cold so after visiting the main areas of the zoo we decided to cross the road to the café of the Mosquée de Paris for a hot glass of mint tea and delicious sweets!

Heat wave

31 Mar

Paris has been experiencing a véritable heat wave the last couple of weeks and my little one and I have literally spent the majority of our time park hopping. We spent the best part of last week at our local park making friends with the neighbourhood kids but then we began to venture outwards to bigger & brighter places.

On Wednesday we met up with a lovely friend and her 4-year-old son at the Jardin de Luxembourg. We had a picnic on the designated grassy stretch of lawn then went for a wonder and ended up at the Poussin Vert playground. Although the entrance fee may be off-putting (2.50€/child and 1.50€/adult) one feels incredibly safe and secure as it’s completely enclosed. The huge play area is divided into two zones, one for 3-7 year olds (including a bac à sable, slides, see-saws, wooden trains, monkey bars and climbing structures) and one for 7-12 year olds with larger and more adventurous looking jeux.

Our little ones had a go on all the toys but decided to spend the majority of their time sifting sand…kids!

The following day we met up with the lovely ladies (and gents) from the English Speaking Mums of Paris at the glorious gardens of the Musée Rodin.

A calm, beautiful haven in the heart of the Invalides, this is an ideal coffee stop for any parent who happens to be in the area. The café offers delicious sandwiches, salads and snacks and a pretty good Café Crème too!

The kids ran around in the garden surrounded by Rodin’s masterpieces (including The Thinker). The only thing we had to make sure of was that they didn’t decide to dive into the large pond, but other than that we were comforted to know they were safe & sound within the garden walls.

After enjoying a coffee and catch up, we left the café to the parade of lunch-goers and headed towards the back of the garden where wooden loungers were scattered around inviting us to relax while the kids enjoyed the beautiful surroundings (and, believe it or not, sand boxes!!).

Burton Mania!

31 Mar

A few weeks ago I found myself going to the 13th, an area I don’t get the opportunity to visit much as it’s on the opposite side to where I live, but obligations had to be met & off I set on the RER to this new part of town. When my meetings were over, I crossed the bridge to Bercy Village for a quick dose of window-shopping then headed towards the Parc de Bercy where my husband and little one were to join me.

Although it was a glorious day and the park inviting, I went, instead, to the Cinémathèque Française for the much talked about Tim Burton retrospective.

We were a little dubious at first, worried that his genius yet dark universe would be too scary for our little one but as Mr. Burton said so himself, (according to a very friendly museum staff) children are encouraged to see his work and if they don’t like it, they should just turn away. So off we went. We were the only couple there with a kid but we didn’t feel out of place, as there was a very child friendly atmosphere. We took the lift to the 5th floor and there we were met with the unmistakeable world of masterpieces like Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks!, Beetlejuice, Sweeney Todd and The Nightmare before Christmas.

Although best known for his highly original and quirky films, this retrospective also shows Tim Burton’s other hidden talents. He is, first and foremost, an artist. Over 700 of his works including paintings, sculptures, illustrations, photographs and poems are exhibited for all to see.

A fantastic glow in the dark merry-go-round invited us in and led us to the main room in which his numerous illustrations were divided into four categories: Children, men, women and couples.

Then came the movies with sketches of the main characters, costumes, sculptures, script plans and projections. The exhibition closed on more illustrations done on napkins and there must have been hundreds of them!

Needless to say there were a few things on show that my daughter wasn’t too sure about but the majority of the exhibition was well received with loud cries of PRETTY when she spotted a red sequined dress from Sleepy Hollow, giant baby statues and a huge blow up character at the exit of the museum.

We then headed out into the park where there was a beautiful wooden carousel that our little one HAD to go on and where we enjoyed a lovely picnic under the fabulous warmth of the sun.

Blob world

20 Feb

Recently I joined two yummy mummies and their lovely offspring at the Pompidou Centre. It was snowing outside and what better way to entertain kiddies but with indoor activities and a splash of culture to boot? We paid our 13,00€ entrance fee and decided to start our visit with Matali Crasset’sBlobterre” installation in the Children’s Gallery.

A new world concept dedicated to encouraging exploration, creation and imagination, the Blobterre follows it’s own logic as to how a new world could be created using its own systems, vegetation, inhabitants, smells, and sounds.

A map of the Blobterre was provided at the entrance and we started our journey through this other world, learning about how it functioned as we did.

First off, we were directed to a space where we were to make our Blobterrian outfits from dangling cloth and gather food before we headed to more surreal quarters like “recycling nightmares to make compost”, “produce energy to create optimism” and “prepare magic potions” (transparent tubes and flashing lights abound!)

Fantastic for stimulating curiosity and imagination, the kids were encouraged to observe, touch, spin, pull, smell, listen, and jump on the different sections of the installation (not common practice in a museum!) I have to admit I loved every minute and the girls were having a whale of a time freely running around this original space.

We continued the running around theme with Le Silence des Bêtes exhibition on the lower ground floor. The pièce de résistance being Peter Kogler’s “Untitled, 2012” video installation of an invisible labyrinth for giant white rats, projected onto the floor. Although meant to be a study of communication controlled by media, we had more fun simply chasing the rats around their artificial maze!

We then continued upstairs to the permanent exhibitions, which probably wasn’t such a good idea on our part. Having experienced a morning of un-prohibited interactive art, the girls found themselves confined to the classic silence and no touch policy that reigns in all museums and galleries worldwide.

However, the silence was quickly broken when one of the little ones clearly critiqued  Zilvinas Kempinas’ “flux” as “a load of rubbish”. General hysteria all around was not highly appreciated, nor was the fact that another one of our girls mistook a piece of art for a chaise longue (which it was!) Needless to say we got told off but hey, at least our girls were demonstrating authentic interest in today’s masters of contemporary art!

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

19 Feb

On this gloriously sunny but freezing cold Sunday morning, we decided to take our little one to her first marionette show at the Luxembourg Gardens, home of the first ever marionette theatre in France. Built in 1933 under the supervision of and funded entirely by Robert Desarthis, its founder, it is to this day, the only theatre in Paris solely dedicated to marionette shows. Its star attraction, the “Guignol” is as old as the theatre itself and has been handed down from father to son, Francis-Claude, who runs the theatre today.

With a capacity to accommodate 275 people, the theatre boasts state of the art machinery, an orchestra pit, screening room, sophisticated sound system, 150 projectors and innumerable puppets, sets and props. Shows are programmed on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and during ‘jour fériés” and school holidays.  There is one show in the morning and two in the afternoon. The shows are suitable for children from a year and a half to 99 years old! Click here for current programme.

We went to the 11 o’clock showing of the Three Little Pigs. We arrived 20 minutes early and bought our tickets at the ticket office at the entrance of the theatre (4.70€/person). Our little one was a little bemused and not quite sure about the whole thing until the lights went down and the curtains drawn. The set was wonderfully colourful, the puppets delightfully authentic and the music jovial. She was tantalised from the first note and joined in the clapping and singing with utter abandonment. It was wonderful to see the children (and adults) interact so openly which only made the experience that much more fun. Half way through the show (about 20 minutes in) there was a little break and kids and parents alike took the opportunity to replenish themselves (either with home made treats or bought from the vending machine at the back of the theatre) before the show continued with the big bad wolf huffing and puffing away.  After a grand total of 45 minutes the show was over and we headed out into the gardens. We strolled over to the carousel next door where our cherub enjoyed a quick ride before heading off for a well deserved lunch!

Better late than never!

13 Feb

I had written this post just after the Christmas holidays but for some strange reason had forgotten to post it! There go the post pregnancy brains again! Oh well, better late than never…

Happy 2012 one and all! I apologise for my prolonged absence but it’s been incredibly hard to pry myself away from all the delicious holiday treats on offer lately  (mince pies, buche de noël and galette de roi to name but a few) and sit in front of my computer and be constructive!

Christmas in Paris was a treat; especially since it was the first time I spent the holidays in the City of Lights. Last minute work obligations meant that we had to scrap our original plans of spending Christmas day with numerous family members and improvise fun and games sur place. As the 25th is a jour férié most of Paris is closed but luckily for us there were a few things we could enjoy en famille. To kick start our day out, we went to the Eiffel Tower in the morning and queued a grand total of 15 minutes before we were on the first floor with skates on ready to let loose on the purpose built ice-skating ring. Our little one was a little bewildered but enthralled by the decorations and lights and had a whale of a time being led on the ice by her more than capable daddy.

We then feasted on hot dogs, fries and mulled wine (a first for the books as a traditional“Christmas lunch”) before heading down towards the “Village de Noël” at the  Trocadero where Christmas stalls were selling all sorts of paraphernalia ranging from Christmas decorations, jewelry, gauffres and Chinese noodles to holidays in the Alps. A full belly and numerous carousel rides later we managed to return home pooped and content after a full fun-filled day out.

The following day we decided to stick to the carousel theme and headed to the Grand Palais where a theme park was erected under the legendary glass dome. A pricey entrance fee (15 euros per adult and 10 euros per child over 3 years) is forgiven once inside the magnificent premises with rides including a giant Ferris Wheel, carousels, slides and entertainment for all ages. Patience is imperative as rides can only be enjoyed once before queuing up for the next one but in the end it was well worth the wait as the kids (and parents) truly had a blast.