Sunday, 10 June 2018

Eating and Sightseeing in Paris with a Toddler in Tow

Going to Paris with a little girl who is not yet even 3 sounds like hassle, but having ditched the pram, our lives were far easier especially on the metro. Also the butterfly lunchbox (empty but adored) that she carried with her the entire time, meant she was occupied and had fewer sticky hands available for uninvited touching in shops, which is not well-received in France generally. 

We stayed in an Ibis, which are usually good value, in Northern Paris, and had driven from the UK, so we parked the car at the hotel, using our 3-day metro passes to get about. We started off in Montmartre and made our way up to the magnificent Sacre Coeur standing high over Montmartre. Its grassy South-facing slopes are a great place for a picnic in the sun. After stopping for some photos, little Klowski loved the big steps down to the streets below, then we enjoyed some unique little gift shops before heading into Paris city centre for lunch. 

I could remember from before that the plush department store 'Printemps' had a sweet little café called Delicieux (translates as 'Delicious' as well as 'Deli-skies' - clever, no?) at the top floor with great views and modest prices. We arrived at the top to find it had transformed into a rather more sophisticated and high-profile restaurant, with prices and popularity to match. However, it was worth the wait. The panoramic views include the Eiffel tower (our little girl's favourite) and it was an absolutely beautifully cloudless sky. The kind of hot day that a moment indoors feels like a complete mugging. It was busy and the service wasn't perfect, but the food was great. It was just a shame to see it more commercialised than before. 

Later in the afternoon it was time to scour the streets of the Eiffel tower district for a shop that doesn't actually exist, to find a purse I wanted. Ah well, I enjoyed the Beaugrenelle shopping centre anyway, particularly bullying Richard into buying some new clothes in Monoprix and browsing (buying) the endless choices of fragrances and facemasks.
It was time to get back outside and look for a yummy place for dinner. We found ourselves in an Arabic neighbourhood - at least 5 Iranian restaurants in one street. Richard seemed set on French food, but I pointed out that in the UK you might choose a country pub for a traditional roast beef rather than Southall. Richard agreed to enjoy the diversity Paris has to offer. After some delicious buttery saffron rice and spiced chicken and lamb kebabs, we were glad we did. Restaurant Cheminee was the friendliest, most tasty and authentic little place I could have imagined. 

The next day was just as beautiful. Naturally we had to take in some 'Mr Bean' sights while in Paris. What exactly are those, I hear you wonder. The film? The one where Mr Bean wins a holiday to Cannes in the South of France and gets lost in Paris? Well, it's Richard's favourite, and Klowski is also a fan, so we set off for a peek at the 5 star restaurant at Gare de Lyon where Mr Bean eats langoustines with the shells on, (our little one's favourite scene) and then headed to La Defense to see the Grande Arche. Klowski loved this huge square structure - the many steps and wide open spaces serving as a playground for climbing and running, and learning about shapes of course. I don't know how many times I had to hear 'I am... a shape!' (a catchphrase from Cbeebies's 'Mr Maker')... The next stop was also shape-related; La Louvre and its famous glass pyramids. Saving the museum for cloudier, rainier visits, we looked around the courtyard (sang 'I am a shape' again) and made our way to a café bar for a drink and Klowski nap. 

We expected the rowdy local guys next to us to show little concern for our presence, and when one of them stumbled over to us I was pleasantly surprised to be having a conversation about parenthood and seeing photos of his little boy on his phone! Then I remembered I was on the continent, where this kind of warmth about children is far more common from men and women alike - a part of the culture that I adore. The nap continued into the afternoon so I got comfy and ordered a Caesar salad, then we eventually headed off for an evening boat trip on the river Seine. This was especially lovely because it seemed the whole of Paris was out on the river banks enjoying wine in the sun, which also meant lots of waving opportunities for someone tiny whilst Richard and I listened to some (admittedly not all) facts about the various landmarks.


By sunset, we were on the metro back to end our trip in the wonderful place it started - Montmartre. The bust streets were lined with lights and al fresco diners, and we settled at the elegant and tasty 'Le Vrai Paris' restaurant, where Richard got his traditional French cuisine after all.