A native of Madrid, art historian Almudena Cros founded Across Madrid in July 2014, here she talks about Paris and babies.
We travelled to Paris last weekend with our 5-month old baby and despite the torrential rain on Saturday and Sunday, we very much enjoyed our time there. There were some challenges, particularly when it came to public transportation. If you are considering using the metro system in Paris by yourself with a baby in a stroller, think again. We found it extremely difficult since there are no elevators anywhere on the main central lines of the metro network, and had to climb up and down numerous steps to access the platforms. In fact, we were the only travelers with a stroller, and such a rare sight on the underground must account for the attention our baby got from fellow passengers. Our baby was smiled at, spoken to, and even touched and tickled by quite a few very friendly Parisians, who must have been in awe of our brave decision to use this very unaccessible transportation.
We found the bus service much more friendly, and it was very easy to get on and off the bus through the central door of the vehicle. However, I found myself having to push some eager commuters out of our way when we had to get off the bus. In any case, using the bus when you are travelling with a young baby is feasible, which the Metro is certainly not.
Much to our joy, we realized that the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay have priority access lanes for those with babies in strollers. So no need to purchase an advance ticket – just find the priority gates at the museum and security will wave you through. This is a wonderful policy, which was particularly appreciated when it was pouring down with rain and we had a rather rattled baby.
We navigated through the dense crowd at the Louvre with some difficulty, particularly because there are not that many elevators (which is understandable in a historic building) and traffic was slow due to the sheer number of visitors and the time it was taking to go through some rooms where people were lining up to take their photograph. Instead of taking selfies, we preferred to document our baby’s first encounter with Veronese:
When we visited the Museé d’Orsay the next day, we were delighted to find a much more manageable museum with plenty of elevators. These are hidden from view, which is great to stop able-bodied visitors from using them unnecessarily. The staff at the Musee d’Orsay was particularly friendly, and since this is a smaller gallery, we thoroughly enjoyed looking at the collection, despite the crowds. Our baby was particularly fascinated by the bright colours in Van Gogh’s paintings:
In terms of food preparation, we had no problem asking at bars and restaurants to heat up our distilled water for the baby’s bottle, and everybody was delighted to assist us. In general, Parisians seemed to be in love with children!
There are plenty of beautiful gardens and parks to rest and relax in the French capital. Our favourite was the Jardin du Luxembourg.
If you are visiting Paris with older children, aged 2 to 12, you cannot miss the Cité des Enfants at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. It is a magical place, with English-speaking staff, and interactive displays with panels in French, English and Spanish, to introduce your children to the world of science and discovery.
For information on family-friendly activities in Paris, we relied on the resourceful Little Goguette, a website listing all sorts of cultural and healthy leisure options for families. Through her, we discovered that the Centre Pompidou offers amazing workshops and exhibitions geared towards children. ‘The Galerie des Enfants is a multidisciplinary, temporary exhibition space where children, accompanied by their families, can develop an outlook on the world through observation and experimentation. The Galerie des Enfants offers children a programme that fosters their exposure to creation and artists, with two special exhibitions each year. The Atelier des Enfants is a place dedicated to thinking and creation. Workshops designed for children aged 2 to 5 and 6 to 10 become new keys – forged by the children under the guidance of visual artists – to understanding works and becoming immersed in them. For very small children, circuits with storytellers, musicians or visual artists awaken the five senses, fostering exchanges and questioning.’ We cannot wait for our baby to be 2 years old and be able to attend some of those events!
If you speak French, you might want to book into one of the great activities hosted by the Musée de Cluny, including sessions for parents and young babies. This museum holds a top-quality collection of medieval art, and older children will find it fascinating, so even if you cannot book any of their family workshops, we certainly recommend that you visit this sensational place.
If you want to experience the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay through an active treasure hunt, book with THATLou or THATD’Or. Your family will certainly enjoy completing these scavenger hunts.
Finally, to prepare for your trip, we find the selection of picture books by Erica on this website an amazing resource.
A native of Madrid, art historian Almudena Cros founded Across Madrid in July 2014. Across Madrid offers eleven different walking tours covering more than five centuries of Madrid’s history, each unique in content while ensuring a flexible and fun experience. She also offers tours specifically aimed at families and children. This article was first published on her blog in September 2015.