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.

Clowning around

30 Oct

After having been asked to watch Nemo for the 100th time, I decided it was high time to take my daughter to see the real clown fish up close and personal, so off to the Paris Aquarium we went! Accompanied by other yummy mummies from the English Speaking Mums of Paris group, we wondered through the different bodies of water that make up this fabulous planet of ours, starting with the Seine (of course!) We went from the Atlantic, across to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Caledonian, the Guyana River and the biodiversity sphere. The little ones were very interested, some even vocally ecstatic at the sight of the magnificent colours and specimens swimming in front and above them. My daughter, however, was quiet and seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to keep moving. Just when I thought this was a failed excursion, her excitement got the better of her when we crossed the threshold of the Pacific Coral Reef section and there was Nemo (and the rest of his hysterical family) in all his orange and white striped glory! Squeals of delight and much kissing of the glass partition put my mind at ease and it was all gung-ho from there. The Shark tank had all the children (and adults) gaping with excitement and trepidation and the “touch pool” was the grand finale for much splashing fun.

Although the aquarium is moderate in size and the entrance fee is on the steep end (19.50€/adult) they do organize shows, exhibitions and arts and crafts workshops. There are two cinemas on the premises, one showing National Geographic WILD documentaries (for the older kids) and the other showing family friendly cartoons like Madagascar and The Ice Age so in the end it’s well worth a day’s entertainment!

Chic Flick

27 Oct

I took my daughter to the cinema for the first time yesterday! As part of a children’s film festival, we went to see Laban and Labolina at Le Nouveau Latina on rue du Temple. A Swedish cartoon aimed at an audience of two years of age and over, it was divided into 6 short stories about a family of ghosts that lasted 40 minutes in total. I was a little apprehensive at first because I wasn’t sure how long she’d stay concentrated, but she did pretty well and only started fidgeting the last ten minutes. The cinema was heaving with parents, grandparents and excited children and in general a good time was had by all.

The festival is on until the 1st of November and movies are being played in cinemas all over Paris. This is a great way to entertain the kids during the school holidays (even if it’s only for a short while!)

Farm life

26 Oct

Whilst the rest of France was watching the rugby final against New Zealand, we jumped in our car and drove to La Ferme de Gally, a half hour ride outside of Paris in the direction of Versailles.

It was our first time but will definitely not be our last. We loved it! Again we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day, which only made it more exceptional. We got our wheelbarrows ready which were promptly taken over by the little ones and off we went in search of fruit, veg and flowers to be picked fresh from the ground (this is only possible from April to the end of November so be quick!).

We started off with carrots and raspberries which were incredibly sweet and juicy and then headed to the apple orchard where we could choose from Granny Smith, Braeburn and Gala to name but a few. Apparently, they have 19 varieties of apples on offer but I must admit I didn’t tour the orchard the make sure! Back at the entrance, we bought baby pumpkins to carve out and decorate the house for Halloween.

We then drove 5 minutes up the road to the farm (where they have free parking!) to have our picnic in the beautiful grounds and lo and behold there was a “fête du goût”. Workshops were organised throughout the day ranging from preparing jams and apple juice to caramel and honey tasting. You could even learn to make your own lollipops! Inside the shop, there were food stands selling all sorts of goodies sold directly by the producers. In the picnic area, people were queuing at the BBQ stand for “jambon à la broche”, “saucisses campagnardes” and “pommes de terre braises”. For dessert there were crêpes and cakes to choose from as well as “fromage blanc” with jam or caramel. We had already prepared a picnic but we bought freshly squeezed apple juice, which was utterly refreshing and quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

After lunch we had a quick look around the shop, which is full of everything you’ll ever need for the house and things you thought you never needed. There’s a fantastic range of flowers, food, kitchen supplies and furniture and if the price is too steep you can always just enjoy the free tastings!

Le Ferme de Gally also organises workshops for children of all ages throughout the year. At the moment there’s a “fête de la citrouille” with kids being taught how to carve their own freshly picked pumpkins! You have to be quick though it ends on the 31st!

What trip to a farm wouldn’t be complete without animals? There is, of course, a “bergerie” where the little ones can pet the farm animals before heading home after a great day out in the country!

FIAC and pumpkins

26 Oct

After a 2-week hiatus, we hit the ground running. We attended the opening of our friend Phédia Mazuc’s art show at the Galerie du Génie, which is still on and highly recommended.

We then headed off to the Casino de Paris (sans little one) to see the Veronic Dicaire show which was excellent. She had me in giggles from the minute go. Plus she does a great Tina Turner impersonation. If she’s ever in Paris again I’m definitely going!

Paris was bursting with contemporary art for the FIAC art festival and everywhere you looked there was a show on. We started off gently with a lovely stroll around the Jardin des Tuileries where the “hors des murs” was located. It was fun to spot the different works of art scattered around the garden and it was such a beautiful day we really couldn’t have asked for more. But there was more, much more! The following day we went to the Slick show, which was held in Trocadero between the Palais de Tokyo and the Modern Art Museum. There were lots of colourful pieces my daughter ooh’d and aah’d at but her favourite piece by far was the installation by Belgian artist Christopher Coppers, aptly named “Made in Belgium”. The Belgian flag was ripped to shreds and each colour placed in a box and blown around by individual fans with the national anthem playing in the background. A flurry of colour & noise that she just couldn’t get enough of!

It is also Halloween season and it started with a bang at the annual Halloween party organised by the AAWE at the American church on the Quai d’Orsay. It was fantastic! There was trick or treating, an arts and crafts table, colouring and stickers, cupcakes and snacks and, of course, pumpkins. To top it all off there was a clown and magic show! Although I felt my little one may have been too young to appreciate all the games on offer, she still had a great time admiring the older kids dressed up in their costumes and the activities best suited for her age group. I must admit we were all pooped by the time we got home but we still went ahead and decorated her pumpkin with funny face stickers at least 10 times before bed!

Yeti’s and race horses

3 Oct

We had a very eventful weekend, kicking off with the Nuit Blanche (see my earlier post) on Saturday. We braced the crowds and headed into the Marais where there were a number of installations we wanted to see. Top on my list was Pierre Ardouvin’s “Purple rain” at the Hôtel d’Albret, however, it seemed to be on top of everyone else’s as well and the queue to get in was a mile long (not something we were prepared to do with our little one) so we decided to sneak a peek at the entrance instead!

We zigzagged up rue des Francs-Bourgeois, stopping in front of the projection of photographs by Yann Gross at the Centre Culturelle Suisse and then headed to what would be the highlight of my daughter’s evening. Entering the Espace d’Animation des Blancs-Manteaux, we heard a sudden squeal of delight when she spotted Fred Sapey-Triomphe’s “Yeti”. A five-meter high sculpture made out of synthetic orange fur and 6000 flashing red bulbs! She absolutely loved it and waved goodbye and blew kisses when we finally managed to get her out the door.

The following day we packed ourselves a picnic and headed to the Hippodrome de Longchamps where the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was taking place.

Traffic was a nightmare but we eventually got to the car park and walked towards the picnic area. Communal wooden tables, ice-cream stalls and snack bars were provided (as well as public loos!) Kids can even go on a pony ride but they have to be over 5 years old (much to my little one’s disappointment).

To our great surprise and amusement, we realised that we didn’t, in fact, have to enter the hippodrome to watch the horse races. We could stay exactly where we were and enjoy the show from the other side of the tracks!

However, being curious by nature, I thought it would be a shame not to go inside considering we were already here and so we braced the crowds (again!)

First up, there’s a kids play-area (always good to know!). Also on the grounds were champagne bars, ice-cream vendors, shops, restaurants, and of course, betting desks to name but a few. Members have access to the top floors of the public tribunes and there’s even a private club member’s tribune (which was half empty!) We walked towards the entrance of the racecourse where we watched the jockeys come in and out much to our daughter’s delight and there was even a dolled-up horse on display for the much appreciated wow-effect.

We also enjoyed the numerous fashion statements being made and the lengths some people had gone to look utterly outlandish. All the women were wearing hats (apparently you got in for free if you did) and a lot of swanky men were strutting their stuff. The public tribunes, however, were a mission to get to as a lot of stairs were involved and they were crowded. Not exactly ideal for poussette pushing! It was impossible for us to get a seat and so we decided the best thing would be to return to our original spot near the picnic area and watch the races from there.

All in all it was a fun day out, albeit a little on the hot side (30° in the shade!) but definitely to be repeated on a less scorching day!