By Sue Lancaster
Earlier this year, my husband and I ventured to Paris with our nearly-two-year-old, Tabitha. Now, usually a city break wouldn’t be my first choice for a getaway with a toddler in tow, however on this occasion I was almost seven months pregnant and didn’t fancy flying. So, in order to escape the UK for a few days, we decided a high-speed train into France was our best option. The Eurostar is surprisingly good value if you book at the right time—i.e., when there’s a deal on—and we managed to get return tickets for all of us (including a seat for Tabitha, although under-twos can go without) for under £200. Also, it’s such a straightforward and fast way of getting into Europe from London, without the stress and hassle of airports.
On arrival in Paris, we soon realised that the capital’s Metro (their Underground) is not the easiest transport system to use when weighed down with a pushchair, child, pregnant lady and suitcases. We found that where there were lifts, they were largely out of order, so my poor husband spent a lot of time lugging the buggy and our bags up and down the many stairways. From then on we avoided the Metro where possible; a lot of Paris is accessible on foot and there are plenty of buses and of course taxis too.
Hotel rooms in Paris are both notoriously expensive and a little on the small side, and when you’ve got a young child with you, one room for everyone simply isn’t enough. So instead we booked a spacious two-bedroom apartment in the Latin Quarter through a website called www.myfrancevacationrentals.com. The cost was no more expensive than booking into a nice hotel, but the amount of extra room we got was amazing. The apartment had a lovely kitchen—which included a fridge/freezer, dishwasher, microwave, cooker, hob and so on—a utility room with washer/dryer; a big lounge with a dining area, sofa, TV, DVD player; a shower room and two big bedrooms. It was ideal for us as we could cook meals ourselves rather than eat out all the time, keep up-to-date with our laundry and, most importantly, watch DVDs in the evening while Tabitha slept peacefully in her own bedroom.
Because my husband and I have visited Paris previously and done all the touristy stuff, we didn’t attempt to do any of this with Tabitha. Instead we avoided the crowds and opted for things that we knew (hoped) she’d enjoy. The Jardin du Luxembourg was very close to where we were staying and is a great space for kids to let off steam. It has a fenced-in playground, pony rides and children’s entertainment too. We also went to the zoo at the Jardin des Plantes. It isn’t a big, fancy zoo—in fact it’s one of the oldest in the world—but it has a great variety of animals to look at and the surrounding botanical gardens are nice to wander around.
We decided we couldn’t go all the way to Paris without a visit to Disneyland, even though we knew Tabitha was a bit too young to fully appreciate it. There’s certainly no denying that Disneyland is expensive: as well as the pricey entrance fee, there’s lunch, drinks and the inevitable souvenirs to factor in too, but it is a magical day out for children. Unfortunately, the day we went it was rather wet and miserable, which did hinder our enjoyment somewhat, but it was a March day in northern Europe—what more could we expect! We caught the RER train from central Paris, which took about 45 minutes, and before the rain set in too much Tabitha enjoyed exploring the magic of Main Street and taking in a parade or two. In terms of rides, Fantasy Land is best suited to young children: here you’ll find the likes of It’s a Small World, which was a big hit with Tabitha, and the Teacups (not so much). Had it been a nicer day, there was a kids’ play park just outside of Frontier Land, which I’m sure she’d have loved too.
Overall I think our five-night stay in Paris was a success and proves that with a bit of research and forward planning, a city break can be a viable holiday option with the little ones.