Sunday, November 18th, 2007 at 11:13 am in Family Travel.
Ah Paris, romance, candlelight, the Eiffel Tower … le bebe? Ooh la la, the Rivoli family says in today’s Times Travel section, and they’ve got travel tips to spare.
THE TREK IN A SEC: Longing to retrace their romantic steps from an earlier era — before parenthood — a new mom and dad set out to see if Paris, the City of Lights, was still all that.
THE TRAVELERS: “Computer guy” Tim, writer Shelly (author of “Travels with Baby“) and their daughter Angelina, 14 months.
BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOTEL: The El Cerrito family used Venere.com to navigate Paris’ many hotel possibilities, and chose the Hotel de Nantes, a small 2-star hotel near Metro Montparnasse. “They promised they could provide a crib and a double bed — rarities among budget hotels in big European cities,” says Shelly. “And having an elevator and a private bathroom were great bonuses for us — we’d usually made do without either one on our previous adventures in Europe.” A light breakfast — yogurt, coffee, juice and French pastries — was included.
If you’re doing the Louvre with baby, aim for naptime, says Shelly. The Rivolis travel with an extra blanket and binder clips (for clipping the blanket to the stroller canopy) to encourage stroller napping. When Angelina got antsy, they took a break and visited the museum cafeteria for snacks, and used a staircase in a not-so-busy part of the museum to burn off some energy, practicing stair climbing while holding on to mom and dad’s hands. “We didn’t expect to spend as much time (at the Louvre) as we had in our pre-parent lives, but we were happy just to be there again,” says Shelly. “We’d picked the parts we wanted to see most and prioritized the short list. Anything else we got to see was gravy.”
Residential neighborhoods and parks were wonderful too, because Angelina fell in love with France for its many little dogs – and pigeons. “We especially enjoyed the Tuileries,” says Shelly, “where there were plenty of pigeons and other small children, and Angelina could cruise around and around and around the fountain admiring the strange-looking ducks.”
BEST FOOD: The Croque Monsieur. “Loosely translated as ‘Mr. Crunchy,’ it’s the French version of a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, and we ate at least one each day we were in Paris,” says Shelly. “The daily ritual started because the Croque Monsieur is so commonly available at cafes, the simplest place to eat early, relaxed dinners with a baby in Paris. But we quickly became addicted.”
But the Rivolis’ favorite “dining out” in Paris experience was at the Parc du Champ de Mars, “nibbling all the various goodies we’d picked up from the shops and market stalls on Rue Cler — with a grand view of the Eiffel Tower from our park bench. C’est la vie!”
1) AirFrance has a direct flight from SFO to Paris that starts with dinner and a movie, then “hours of darkness for snoozing,” says Shelly. “As a bonus, AirFrance even provided baby food and biscuits… But the big hit with Angelina was the warm mini baguettes that were brought out by the basketload throughout the entire flight.
2) Diapers are sold in pharmacies, not grocery stores. They may be kept behind the counter or in a back room, says Shelly, so be ready to ask, “Avez vous des couches?”
3) Getting around Paris is easy via the underground Metro but expect stairs — lots and lots of stairs. If you are toting a stroller, make sure it’s lightweight, collapsible and has a shoulder strap, so you can keep your hands free for juggling baby and Metro tickets. And make sure it has decent-quality wheels that can cope with cobblestones.
AND … IS PARIS ROMANTIC EVEN WITH A BABY IN TOW? A stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg, a stop by the magnificent Fontaine de Medicis … ooh la la.
Has your family been somewhere wonderful? Share your photos, favorite hotels and outings, and travel tips by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.