Saturday, April 23, 2016

Paris for Kids (aka Sofia's Paris To Do List)

I had an ulterior motive for planning a trip to Paris with Sofia. I want her to fall in love with it as much as I did. The last time Sofia visited Paris, it was only for the weekend, so I don't think it did the place much justice, especially since one of the things she remembers is that I kept feeding her Pain Au Chocolat, and she was hungry for real food (aka McDonald's) when we got back to London. You can read about that weekend here.

This time, I told Sofia to prepare a list of what she wanted to do in Paris, by researching on the internet. This is what she came up with, together with some things we added as we discovered them during our trip.

1. Eat Pain Au Chocolat
She didn't mean for all meals, unlike last time. But even Sofia knows, the best Pain Au Chocolat comes from France, and you can't go home without having one.
Pain Au Chocolat - CHECK! This was our first
meal/snack while walking around Montmartre.

2. Visit the Eiffel Tower - during the night
Eiffel Tower from Trocadero
(currently under construction, so limited access to go closer to the tower)

3. Visit the Eiffel Tower - during the day
Eiffel Tower from Champ de Mars (via Bus 69) We caught the Eiffel Tower
 on our last day. Photos taken at 7:30pm just before sunset.
4. Disneyland Paris
Because the last time we went all we did was stand in
line and ride the train. You can read about that disaster here.

5. Museum National D'Histoire Naturelle at Jardin des Plantes
This one was quite tricky, because based on Sofia's research she knew she wanted to visit the Natural History Museum in Paris which was located in Jardin des Plantes. The tricky thing is there are several museums (which all charge separate entrance fees) located at Jardin des Plantes, and we had to figure out which one she really wanted to visit, which has the one with the dinosaur bones.

Our first time at Jardin des Plantes. The big building at the back seems to
be the main museum, Grande Galerie de L'Evolution.
That's not what we wanted to visit.
Someone was coincidentally dressed for the occasion.

The museum we wanted was the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie, it's the one closest to the entrance if you arrive through Gare d'Austerlitz. Entrance fee is reasonable at 7€ for adults, and free for those under 26 years old.
Sof had blast, even going around to take her own photos. You can download
the app if you wish, but going around is entertaining enough.
Proud of her free ticket, but since she's exactly like me, she couldn't
leave without buying anything from the museum store. Hahaha.

6. Champs Elysees for Kids 
This wasn't really on Sofia's original list, she only had 5, but she had so much fun, it made the final cut.
Kids can do the crab dance.
But the real highlight is visiting the different car showrooms that line the famous Avenue. They surprisingly are very interactive, and have a lot of activities for kids. We only entered two, but I also saw a few more which we can visit next time.

Le Rendez-Vous Toyota at 79, Avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris
You can visit their website here.
They have coloring pages for kids, as well as interactive games to check
your reflexes, in addition to the show room ofcourse!

If you thought that was interesting, we found L'Atelier Renault at 53, Avenue des Champs Élysées
75008 Paris, even more interesting. You can visit their website here
They have an activity where you power Twiggy (the car) through jumping.
You can do it yourself or compete with someone.
They level up coloring as well, because after you decorate your car,
you can scan it and see it run through the virtual tracks.
They also have a big screen, and if you go closer, also a screen down below.
Then they have the usual showroom where you can enter the cars, a shop
where you can buy the miniature ones, a photo booth and
a restaurant/cafe (not in photo).

We were able to do everything on Sofia's original list and more, but as we were waiting to board our flight to Pisa, we saw this really cool Paris for Kids Guidebook in English from the Orly Airport, so we had to buy it to prepare for our last day back.
Best Guidebook for kids, if I may say so myself.
I even learned some new things about Paris.

Our last day of vacation, after the Pisa, CinqueTerre and Florence legs of our trip was a bit stressful.
Our flight from Florence got horribly delayed due to a water leak on the plane, where it took them forever to decide that we were safe to fly, but no one was allowed to use the toilets. All I could think of was it was good this did not happen had we taken the flight the next day because that would have caused us to miss our flight home and bring on a lot more stress.

Sofia had a new Paris To Do List after reading her book, but first, we went for a really late lunch at 4:00pm.

7. Bouillon Chartier the oldest Brasserie in Paris, open since 1896 which has been popular ever since because they are known for providing decent food at a reasonable price. We actually read about this place in Sofia's book, but what clinched the decision for us to visit was it's location. It was less than 10 minutes away from our hotel in the Opera area, and we thought it was a good time to visit since they are known to have really long lines because they cater to both tourists who are curious about the place, and locals who are looking for a good value meal in Paris (which isn't that easy to find).  Bouillon Chartier is at 7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris, France, you can visit their website here.
Yes, they are busy even at 4:00pm, and we couldn't resist including a photo
of their toilet which is a replica of a Metro Station. Did you know that all
the Metro Stations have white tiles to provide more light for people reading
their newspapers? Thanks to Sofia's book for that tidbit as well.
More on the food on a separate post.

After lunch, Ady decided she was done sightseeing and opted to maximize our posh hotel instead, while Sofia insisted that we continue with her Paris To Do List even if it was already nearing 6:00pm.

To fully enjoy Paris, I convinced Sofia to walk down from Opera all the way to the Louvre (which should have taken us less than 20 minutes), except we kept on getting distracted along the way, which is half the fun.

Did you know that a lot of Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese Restaurants line the street that connects Boulevard Haussman to Rue de Rivoli? That's new to me as well, though I knew that I had to go to the 13th Arrondisement whenever I was homesick for Chinese food.

We passed our street on the way...

6. Pyramid du Louvre
In the book, Sofia read about the Louvre, and how it used to be a real palace where the King of France lived. We only had time to take photos by the pyramid, but next time we will be back to visit Mona Lisa. (Ideally on the first Sunday of the month so we can enter for free). 
With the Louvre reflected on Sofia's shades...
while waiting for Bus 69.

7. Take Bus 69 to most of the major sights in Paris (and if you bought a Carnet ticket - your ticket is valid for 90mins since it was first validated - just show it to the driver and you can ride again, so it's like your very own Hop On Hop Off bus all for the price of €1,41 per ticket if you buy a carnet)

We took Bus 69 from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, just in time to catch it before sunset, as pictured above (Number 3). Then from the Eiffel Tower we headed back to Notre Dame, using the same bus ticket, on Bus 69 getting off at Hotel De Ville.

8. Gargoyles at Notre Dame
We read from the book that the Gargoyles at Notre Dame were created to protect the walls of the cathedral from rainwater. Not something I would immediately think off.
Sof was a bit disappointed though that it was hard to see the Gargoyles
with the naked eye, unless you climb up. Good thing there were replicas
in the souvenir stores near the Seine.

9. Enjoy Paris at Night by the Seine
Not on the original list, but too beautiful not to add

10. Visit the Bouquinists or second-hand booksellers by the Seine. 
Sofia was looking forward to browsing to see if they had anything for kids, but they were already closing and packing up when we arrived. We will definitely do this when we come back.

Other bonus things we added to the list include...
11. Order a Beurre et Sucre Crepe (Butter and Sugar) from a street-side Creperie
This one is from the Creperie in Saint Michel. I also like the one beside
Centre Georges Pompidou.

12. Visit one of the old covered Shopping Passages in Paris, where ladies used to shop so they wouldn't get wet in the rain. Yes, this was also from the book, which we accidentally passed because it was close to our hotel (and next door to Musee Grevin or Wax Museum).
Passage Jouffroy runs between the Boulevard Montmartre to the
south and the rue de la Grange-Batelière to the north.

and I am sure, for next time, Sofia will say...
13. Eat at Leon de Bruxelles 
Multiple branches in Paris, visit their website here.
Sofia's favorite restaurant in Paris, she made us eat here twice!
Some tips, if you're a child, you can ask for a toy if they forget to give you one.
You can also order from the Kid's Menu. It comes with a drink and dessert.

I hope this post gave you ideas on what to do in Paris, when you visit with your kids. I found that the best way to do it, is to show them the options, in an easy to understand and interesting manner and let them decide. With a few more trips like this one, I am sure Sofia will soon love Paris as much as I do, if she doesn't already. just saying.

You can read the first post on our Paris Trip 2016 here to see the other things we did (more of shopping and eating actually.

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