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Dining out in Paris with Kids: One Ex-Pat Mom’s Experience

Lisa Czarina Michaud
 

I wish there was the perfect how-to guide to dining out with kids. Well, other than “Don’t do it. Stay home and cook.” As any parent will tell you, each time is different. Whether you are in Paris, New York, your local dive or a fine dining establishment you couldn’t get a babysitter for, the experience can range anywhere from relief to regret, but rarely ever results in a fully enjoyable meal. What no one tells you is that it doesn’t always start out like this. The cruel joke the universe plays on new parents is convincing us that babies like going out to eat. It is not until you experience that game-changing dinner when you realize going out to eat will never be the same…well, at least for the next ten years or so.

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Posted in Food, Parisian Living | No Comments »

French Lessons: An American Family Goes to School in Paris

Oz John Tekson

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.

Boston Public Library; Eliza Dudnikova

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.

Karen Booth; Carams

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 »

Posted in Parisian Living | 29 Comments »

Kid-Friendly Paris: Le Jardin du Luxembourg

Little Girl in Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens (Ktylerconk)

I’ve always thought of Paris as the ultimate adult playground. But Paris for the under-four-foot set? I wasn’t so sure.

That’s why discovering kid-friendly Paris (yes, it exists!) has been such a happy surprise. When the kids tire of museums and medieval churches (dubiously labeled “kid-friendly” by many a travel guide) put the Luxemburg Gardens on your family game plan. Even if much of the grass is interdit, there’s more than enough here to tire out your little travelers leaving papa et maman to enjoy an evening à deux.

Ktylerconk

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Posted in Green, Parisian Living | 7 Comments »

Pass the cheese! Paris’ Best Outdoor Picnic Spots Part 2

Riverside picnicking by the Seine (Malias)

Summer is at last upon us, and with it comes the opportunity to partake in the favorite past time of many Parisians: Le Pique-nique. The possibilities for picnics in Paris are endless -from benches and bridges, to parks and promenades- so when the weather is warm, there are few better ways to wile away the long summer evenings than by gathering some people, bread and wine and picnicking like it’s the last supper. Here are a few places to enjoy the perfect picnic…

Picnicking staples: le vin, le pain, le paté! (Kari Geltemeyer)

The medieval gardens at the Museum of the Middle Ages
The institution of the picnic dates back to medieval Europe, when outdoor feasts were served before hunting, so what better place to have a picnic than where it all began? The medieval-inspired gardens beside the Musée National du Moyen Age, right in the heart of the Latin quarter, offer a tranquil haven from the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain. Split into three sections, the names of the gardens sound like something straight out of King Arthur. Past the ‘carpet of a thousand flowers’ and through the ‘sunken lane’ you come to a courtyard headed by a silver reed fountain. Within lie a quartet of square gardens with period-inspired themes: a medicinal garden, a celestial garden, a vegetable patch and a garden of love. When it comes time to unpack your basket, head beyond the courtyard to the shady glades of the ‘unicorn forest.’ Hidden behind a woven wicker fence, medieval plants like hazel, elder, holly and medlar reign supreme here. Through the ‘forest’ you can even glimpse the ruins of the only remaining Roman baths in Paris.
Musée du Moyen Age. 1 rue de Cluny, Metro: Cluny la Sorbonne (line 10)

Gardens of Cluny museum – Erica Berman

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Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 7 Comments »

Playtime in Paris: Kid-Friendly Activities for the Whole Family

Erica Berman - BonpointErica Berman– Bonpoint Boutique Paris rue de Tournon

There’s no doubt about it: Parisian kids have a good thing going on. They’re well-dressed, well-fed and, by virtue of being French, are destined for terminal coolness.

I used to spend afternoons at a little park in the 5th where the same group of schoolchildren always had their post-lunch play hour. In retrospect, I probably looked incredibly creepy as I sat there observing them, but I was totally mesmerized by the scene: their demeanor (distinctly Parisian, but innocently so), their adorable school clothes, their clear, deliberate French. I’m convinced that Paris—with all of its sensory pleasures—would be a fascinating place to grow up.

KtylerconkKtylerconk

But what about Paris for visiting kids? Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 4 Comments »