Paris is magical, obviously. For lovers, for gourmets, shoe shoppers, people watchers and art freaks – but what is less well known is that Paris is also magical for children.
Even the most accessible children’s activities there have that unique Gallic style. No plastic, no batteries required, definitely no logo. It all looks as if it has been set up by a lifestyle magazine.
But to make the most of the magic of being with a child in Paris, you will want your kid to look like the impossibly chic and adorable local ones.
Here’s how to achieve both within easy walking distance.
How to Play Like a Real Parisian Kid
On a Wednesday afternoon in the Jardin du Luxembourg, an elegant oasis just beyond St Sulpice in Saint Germain, my then two-year old daughter had her first ride in a pony and trap, along a sandy avenue between pollarded plane trees. This was quickly followed by a ride along the same route on a donkey called Gelt. Dear, gentle Gelt.
It was early October and shafts of sunshine cut through the orange leaves, the sound of hooves dulled by the still air. The general scene greatly enhanced by the marvellous Frenchness of the other little children; all cute haircuts, pouty lips and clothes in muted colours… But we’ll get to that later; first, the rest of the park.
After saying goodbye to Gelt, we headed for the tiny and ancient carousel, where the children sit straight-backed on exquisite little horses, holding javelins with which they spear brass rings held up by the fearless operator.
Then there was just time to let off some steam in the Poulet Vert (Green Chicken) playground, fabulously equipped with slides, swings and bouncy animals on springs, before catching the next show at the nearby puppet theatre. Puss in Boots retains its charm, we discovered, even if you don’t catch every word of the dialogue.
From there we headed for the round pond right behind the splendid white stone Palais du Luxembourg, which houses the French senate, where you can hire little wooden yachts to sail. Or, if you are a rather weary parent, you can flop on a handy metal chair and turn your face to the sun.
How to Look Like a Real Parisian Kid
Now for the shopping part. With that infallible Gallic logic, at the south west end of the Jardin du Luxembourg, an uncommonly pleasant statue-enhanced walk from the pond, is rue Vavin – a whole street of childrenswear shops.
It kicks off with a branch of Jacadi on the corner of rue d’Assas. This upscale kiddie chain is not as chic a proposition as Bonpoint or Tartin et Chocolat, but the price tags don’t make you spontaneously vomit, and you couldn’t find a better source of classic children’s clothes.