Just after Son’s third birthday we took a 4 day trip to Paris. I had visited the French capital several times before – as a backpacking student, visiting friends who lived there and even on honeymoon. This was my first trip with a toddler in tow. I fell a little bit in love with Paris the first time, this feeling grew with every subsequent trip. It is one of the great cities of the world, overflowing with culture and history and it definitely has a certain “je ne sais quoi.” What would it be like with a young child though? Would Paris and me fall out of love…
The answer was a resounding “no”. I loved this trip just as much and maybe a bit more than all the others. We spent lots of time sightseeing and revisited all the main places, but with Son we realised the real magic of this city is to take it slowly, look outside the tourist itinerary and be open to Paris through the eyes of a child.
Contrary to what some people believe, I think it is a completely child-friendly city. All the main sights are in a fairly small area, everything is more or less walkable and for every monument, museum or main sight you want to take in, there is always a park somewhere close by.
The sights and attractions are seemingly inexhaustible. From the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame, from the Louvre to the Sacre Coeur, we managed to see them all on this trip. All are wonderful, all are worth a visit but actually for us, the best bits of Paris were something different.
Away from the masses, we wandered around the little, winding back streets of Montmartre. We found a dodgy looking stand selling crepes and feasted on these, smothered in Nutella. We stood for ages and watched the artists at work in the Place du Tertre, taking in the bright colours and cheerful activity. In fact strolling in Paris was one of our real pleasures on this trip. The city is divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, each has a very distinct personality. We walked from one to another and loved seeing the ambiance change as we crossed from arrondissement to arrondissement.
We strolled leisurely for the first time from one end of the Champs Elyssees to the other, not rushing to get to the next sight but really taking our time. We played in the leaves, enjoyed the sunshine and laughed a lot.
We took a trip on a bateau mouche – a first as prior to this trip they were dismissed by us as being too corny and too crowded. Son wanted a boat ride though, so off we went and how wrong we were. It was fun, relaxing and we discovered monumental backdrops to the landmarks from the river – a whole new side to the city.
While Son snoozed each afternoon in his stroller, we sat on a cafe terrace with a drink and watched the world go by. Previous trips saw us cram in as much as possible with not a moment to spare, here while he napped, we rested too.
We took time to peek in “tatty” shop windows. The shops on the St Louis en Ile were a particular hit – Son loved the quirky gifts and souvenirs and we found the Maison Berthillion where we got the best vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.
We also spent hours in the Jardin du Luxembourg, letting off steam in the playground, watching the boules games, riding the carousel and just feeling very Parisian.
I always thought Paris was amongst the most stimulating cities in the world. With a 3 year old in tow, our activities and schedule were more relaxed but it was no less stimulating. If you come to Paris expecting all you have heard to be true, you will not be disappointed. This was my fifth visit, each time I have come, it has rewarded me with a varied and unforgettable experience. This time was no different.