PARIS WITH KIDS Part IBy Angelique Villaraza Dominici
Paris is usually a honeymoon destination, associated with serious couple-time. Often however the result of this very love and romance is … a bouncing, wailing baby. Or maybe even a whole brood of them.
Do you aim to visit Paris with a boisterous group of five, all under the age of 10? Do you have an intimite Paris rendezvous except that it’s with a restless toddler? (Which is often the case with me).
Many couples leave their children behind, when they plan a special trip to Paris. However, not everyone has the choice (or desire) to part with their children at an early age. I could not abandon my son. I’ve been breastfeeding him for over two years and prefer to sleep close by each night. Being based in the southern French city of Marseille, I’ve made several trips with my son, from the age of two-months to over two years … and gathered insights on how to enjoy the City of Lights even with exuberant kid-in-tow.
PARIS WITH KIDS PART 1
Where To Stay
Kids’ Rooms With Class
If you will be in Paris for over a week, it’s cost-efficient to rent an apartment or book a bed-and-breakfast. The city is full of historic buildings and it’s easy to find a charming, cozy property that suits every budget. Log on to the website Good Morning Paris (www.goodmorningparis.fr) where bed-and-breakfast rates vary according to room size and location. Choose one facing south for maximum sunlight, ideally beside a park … so kids have space to run when cabin fever strikes. Some of the listed properties have small courtyards and gardens. If you book near the Jardin de Luxembourg, just south of it is Rue Vanvin, a street full of superb Parisian children’s shops.
There’s the website VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owners) with property rentals that range from studios to luxury apartments. This is a good way to experience authentic Parisian life. Most neighborhoods have regular market days, so you can shop for local fresh produce and cook healthy meals for the family. You are put in contact directly with the property owner, and therefore avoid agency fees.
Good hotels in France can arrange baby-sitting. If you already have a regular nanny, there’s no need to buy an expensive plane ticket or book another pricey hotel room, just to accommodate her. You’ll also avoid the hassle of acquiring French visas for the entourage.
Let’s face it, creating ‘me time’ sometimes entails finding a solution for childcare, even for an hour or two. The reality is, no matter how adorable children are, adult conversation can be impossible when they’re around. Can you relax into a lengthy discussion about Simone de Beauvoir while the kids throw precious Limoges across the room?
The Hotel Ritz has a programme for children. They have age-appropriate beds (fabric cribs for babies or high-sided beds for toddlers), soft toys, child-sized slippers, their own mini bathrobes and multi-lingual baby-sitters in case you need to step out at night. We invited friends to a striptease at The Crazy Horse and instead of missing out, I too was able to enjoy adult entertainment with the privilege of returning to a sleeping boy, expertly tucked in bed by the Ritz’ babysitter.
Baby-sitting also applies if you aim for a well-deserved five-course Michelin-star dinner with your husband. You can savor every bite without worrying about the cacophony and destruction that usually comes with a small child. In any case, your child will prefer a whole night of jumping on the hotel bed, rather than trying to keep still in formal surroundings.
The Ritz also offers young guests swimming lessons, cooking classes and keeps a list of activities in Paris aimed at children, such as the schedule of kids’ workshops at The Louvre and the address of the nearest zoo. The hotel has a kids’ menu, offering high-quality cuisine with various options, served round-the-clock with a loot of art materials to keep them busy.
Rates range from €850 to a whopping €13,000 a night, depending on the room.
A more affordable option is the Hotel Bel-Ami in Saint-Germain-des-Près. I stumbled upon this hotel through a magazine editor, who was in Paris for a few days and wanted a design hotel in a good location.
It turns out the Bel-Ami also has baby-sitting services and a programme for children. For a recent business trip, this was my hotel of choice. I traveled alone with my two-year-old and needed someone to care for him for a couple of hours while I met clients.
The Bel-Ami’s transfer agent meets you right at the airplane door or train carriage, to help with massive luggage, strollers, and speed you through travel documentation, bypassing long queues and aiding though all the paperwork that a large international airport would require. If you tend to lose passports and wallets when overloaded (with screaming child, diaper bag, bulky suitcase), then make life easier and book this service.
Ask for a child’s room adjacent to yours, so the kids have their own play space and you have some level of privacy. Kids receive art materials, various games, plush toys, mini-sized bathrobes, slippers and bath products formulated for young skin.
Their rooms are equipped with iPhone and iPod readers. There’s a spa … crucial for jetlag and stress from long-distance air travel with kids. I’d book one treatment for arrival day, to wipe the fatigue off my face. Then another before departure – for sore leg muscles. The hotel’s nanny watched over my son during these massage sessions. For evening entertainment, ask for the hotel’s schedule of live jazz performances.
Their Concierge has a black book of great Paris addresses for kids, all at a convenient walking distance. This will save you from taxi fees and give the whole family a chance to stroll together through beautiful Parisian boulevards.
€20 reservation fee for baby-sitter
€15 rate per hour of baby-sitter
€5 baby-sitter’s meal
€10 charge for taxi after 10pm
Room rates : From €250 a night
Airport transfer : From €135
Train station transfer : From €75
Spa treatments : From €30 to €240
September 1, 2011 by Guest Writer