December 8, 2015
I don’t come from a family of explorers, travelers, or adventurers. My wanderlust has definitely been a learned trait, something that I’ve discovered after spending countless hours Google searching destinations I wished to visit. Needless to say, my parents were a bit shocked when I told them that I had bought tickets for my daughter Kailin and me to move to Paris the winter of 2011. My mother’s concern was that I “didn’t know a soul in all of France,” my dad’s was that I wouldn’t survive without knowing the language.
Armed with their endless words of advice and a handful of helpful phrases, such as “s’il vous plait, aidez-moi trouver les toilettes”(thanks dad !), my then four year-old and I boarded our very first trans-Atlantic flight to the City of Light. I wasn’t prepared for the anxiety attack I would have midway through our redeye, or how much I would fall head over heels once I’d arrived. In a penthouse apartment situated right across from Sacré-Cœur, how could I not fall in love with all that Paris had to offer me?
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April 14, 2014
My teenager is a junior in an international high school in Paris. Which means she has lots of exams for programs in the US, UK, Canada and France. Letters fly through the air in our home these days; SAT, DELE, BAC, and IGCSE all mean something in some country. Sound overwhelming?
It kind of is… But this is the official stuff, with rules and deadlines and plenty of assistance from guidance counselors. Unlike the challenges of raising a teen in a foreign country, for which there is no guidebook or standard testing procedure.
Some of the differences I’ve experienced raising a teen in a foreign country can be wonderful, like all the international travel these kids get to do. Recently my teen announced that she’d be in three countries in less than a week. Continue Reading »
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October 24, 2013
When we first arrived in Paris, I couldn’t wait to enroll my kids in French public school. They were still very young — just three and five — so starting them in our local maternelle seemed like a no brainer.
Language immersion was guaranteed, the school was just a stone’s throw from our apartment and, best of all, it was free! Plus, who knew what kind of students they would prove to be? Only time would tell. Within a week of our arrival, my two little Americans began their French education.
Turns out, it was an education for me, too. One that led us to make some very different choices and enroll our petits Parisiens in private schools this Fall. Here are a few lessons from my family’s journey in French schooling. Continue Reading »
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May 7, 2013
We’re very excited to be giving away a copy of Kim Horton Levesque’s latest book, Paris with Children, on HiP Paris today. Chock-full of great recommendations for kid-friendly things to do in Paris, we can hardly imagine making a trip with the kids without it now! Not to mention, the book itself is completely adorable. To win, see instructions at the end of this post. Please note: winner must be located in the continental U.S or Canada. -Genevieve
“Children have as much to teach us as we do them when traveling — their curiosity and imagination make even familiar destinations seem new.” -Barrie Kerper, The Collected Traveler
Paris is an overwhelmingly child-friendly city. Thankfully it’s organized in such a way that makes traveling with kids enjoyable. Many of Paris’s principal sights are concentrated geographically so it’s quite walkable with young ones.
Here’s a typical day for my family when we’re visiting Paris:
I have three daughters, a 3-, 5- and 8-year old. We head out of the apartment I’ve rented, usually in the Saint-Germain district, around mid-morning, and walk towards Jardin du Luxembourg. This elegant garden is a paradise for children––an elaborate playground (it even has a small but thrilling zip line), an indoor marionette theater, Charles Garnier’s vintage carousel, pony rides and model sailboats in the grand bassin, all make it easy to idealize life in the capital.
Before entering the park, however, we stop into Boulangerie Marc Rollot, a neighborhood bakery just off of rue de Vaugirard (48, rue Madame, 6th arr.). My father (who doesn’t speak French) serendipitously stumbled upon this shop several trips ago and it’s become our family favorite for viennoiseries––especially the apricot pastry (oranais) and the pain aux raisins. Treats tucked neatly into my purse, we head into the park, find an empty bench and dig in.
My daughters’ first request is always Luxembourg’s vast playground, Le Poussin Vert. Continue Reading »
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December 20, 2012
Ahh, Christmas in Paris. The twinkling lights, fabulous holiday shopping, vin chaud and cozy nights by the fire. Isn’t it romantic? Sure, unless you have kids, in which case, copious lists for Santa, too many unscheduled hours and sugar overload can lead to a merry meltdown, turning even the cheeriest maman into the Grinch. That’s why I’m filling our family calendar with lots of happy holiday diversions. Here’s what we’ll be up to this most wonderful time of the year.
Festive holiday windows. Parisians are accustomed to lust-worthy window shopping; faire du lèche-vitrine (literally “window licking”) is a time-honored activity here. Continue Reading »
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December 10, 2012
“Mommy, I want to go to Paris again!” This is not a typical wish you’d hear from a three year old. But for my daughter, it’s a constant desire. After spending three amazing months in the city this year, not a single day passes by without a mention of Paris in our innocent conversation.
Beaubourg and fun art
Contrary to what many expect of Paris as a city for grown ups – after all, it is the city of love, of moonlit walks along the Seine, and of endless retail therapy – it is actually a wonderful place to visit with children. At age three, my daughter has been here four times. Continue Reading »
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April 17, 2012
When we decided to move to France, one of the biggest decisions was where to send our kids to school. International bilingual? (Too expensive.) Private Catholic? (Too Catholic.) American Montessori? (Too American.) Public French school? (Perhaps too…French?)
We opted for total immersion in our neighborhood maternelle, the French equivalent of preschool + K. And so our adventure in French schools began. What we’ve found has been a cultural education in itself, surprising, occasionally maddening and enlightening all at once.
School is free. For Americans and Brits accustomed to shelling out thousands for private education, this was a most welcome change. No more paying $800 per month for our three-year-old to attend morning preschool. No more monthly kindergarten fee (even at the local public school). School was free! It was hard to imagine.
The Napoleonic dream. The French system is indeed rigid, disciplinarian and devoted to the teaching method envisioned by Napoleon. Kids are not so much taught as trained – to absorb information by memorization and dictation with an eye toward shaping little French citizens. Where was the individuality? Creative problem solving? These were American constructs with no place in a system with only two answers: right or wrong. Hmm.
Le Menu de la Semaine The state-sponsored lunch service (“la cantine“) surprised and delighted us with its weekly menus rivaling a Michelin-starred restaurant. A sample daily menu, including four courses, might include:
Salade de pomme de terre/tomates
Escalope de poulet à la crème
Duo carottes / salsifis
Yaourt aromatisé Poire
Pain / fromage Jus de pomme
At least one day per week is strictly bio (organic). And no menu is complete without the daily “suggestion du soir,” the recommended dinner selection to prepare at home to complement that day’s dejeuner. The scene at the cantine is something to behold: Groups of preschoolers sit at small round tables, their place settings complete with porcelain plates, bowls and glasses. They spend no less than 45 minutes a day a table. Just like the States, non? Continue Reading »
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