Jun 8, 2011

Take the Kids to Paris

Going to Paris? You don’t have to leave the kids behind. Bring them along and discover some of Paris’ greatest landmarks, museums and parks together.
Miss P and Miss V at the Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower - You can’t go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower. Take advantage of the late hours and go up the tower to get a panaromic view of the city of light all lit up at night. Or skip the lines and enjoy the Eiffel Tower from the below.  My girls like to run around the Champ de Mars or watch the street performers that populate the place du Trocadéro

Tip - the place du Trocadéro is where you can get a great photo of the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Louvre -The Louvre can be big and daunting, especially for a kid.  Make it doable by following thematic trails available on the Louvre website.  Some that might be fun for kids are “Outsize”, where you search for giant works of art in the museum or “At Table”, which focuses on eating and food themed pieces. For older kids, the Da Vinci Code tour, with its mystery and intrigue, is a fun one to try.
After your art history lesson, head to the Jardin des Tuileries. My children love this garden where you can rent toy sailboats, ride a pony, jump on the trampolines, or during the summer, go to the carnival set up in the garden.
Tip - The Louvre has a plaza in the complex with shopping and a food court and is a great rainy day option.
Champs-Élysées - Yes, there are tourists everywhere, but the Champs-Élysées is still one of the grandest boulevards in Europe and not to be missed. Take a leisurely stroll up the grand avenue, window-shopping and people watching the entire time, and of course, stopping at Ladurée for world-famous macaroons.
At the top of the Champs-Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe.  Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, the Arc de Triomphe is a monument for those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.  Take the stairs - or for those less interested in climbing the 234 stairs, the elevator - to the museum inside the arc that presents the history of the monument on giant screens.  The top of the arc offers breathtaking views of Paris and the etoile (star) of 12 major avenues that lead to it.
Tip Annually on Bastille Day (July 14), a military parade starts at the Arc de Triomphe and makes its way down the Champs Élysées
Notre Dame – Built between 1163 and 1363, Paris’ famous Gothic cathedral is great for exploring.  Admire the Gothic nave and doorways covered with sculptures of angels and saints before going outside to the entrance of the church towers.  Take the first 255 stairs to the Galerie des Chimeres for an up-close and personal view of the gargoyles.  Another measly 147 stairs gets you to Le Bourdon (Great Bell) and to the roof, home to Victor Hugo’s hunchback Quasimodo.
Tip - Go to Point Zero at the entrance of the cathedral. This bronze star is the point from which distances from Paris to every other town in France is measured.
Jardin d’ Acclimation - Opened in 1860, this amusement park, just on the edge of the city, maintains a sense of old-fashioned charm with pony rides, puppet shows, kid-sized rollercoasters and a carousel. Take a ride on le Petit Train, which starts from the Porte Maillot and takes you into the park, find your way through a labyrinth of mirrored walls and giggle your way through the hall of mirrors when you see yourself stretched extra long and thin or squashed short and fat.
Miss P and I ride the rollercoaster at Jardin d' Acclimation
Tip – Visit the interactive science museum Explor@dome, located on the grounds of Jardin d’ Acclimation. Its exhibitions are in French but docents kindly offer English explanations.
Pompidou Centre – With an escalator that climbs the building through a plexi-glass tube, pipes on the outside of the building and a whimsical fountain in the plaza where tourists and locals gather to watch the street performers, the Pompidou Centre is colorful and chaotic.  And that’s just the outside.  Inside an excellent collection of modern art by Picasso, Matisse and Kandinsky and the museum gift shop stocked with an eclectic selection of merchandise, will keep children mesmerized and entertained.  The Galerie des Enfants offers programs especially for children, as does the cinema, which screens kids movies (in French) every Wednesday afternoon.  
Tip - At the top of the hour, a figure armed with a sword and shield combats and conquers the three animals surrounding it: a dragon, a bird and a crab, which symbolize earth, air and sea.