In December we met Nate in Paris for about 10 days. Our plan was to meet there and then travel together to the Midwest for Christmas with our families. Nate arrived a few hours before us on a Saturday morning, and once we exited customs we hopped in a taxi to our AirBnB apartment.
As you might imagine, there is lots of info on the internet about what to do in Paris. Museums, markets, shops, restaurants, etc. There is not, however, a lot of info about what to do when you’re there with a baby, especially one that is crawling around and starting to develop a sense of independence.
Never in a million years did I think I’d be writing so many baby-centric posts (yes, two is a lot as far as I’m concerned) and if you stop reading now I don’t blame you. I would have before I had a kid.
That said, here are my tips for managing Paris with a baby:
- You can find lots of good baby foods, like pouches, snacks and applesauce at the grocery store. But if your kid is addicted to peanut butter, bring it with you. We found pouches with no added sugar that were really inexpensive and M loved them. That beautiful Eiffel tour photo at the top? We asked a stranger to take a family portrait with that background, but M had a pouch that he would not let go of. So instead of having a photo with a screaming baby, we have a photo with a brightly colored pouch reflecting the flash. Like I said, he loved those pouches.
- Rent an apartment. M loved having the space to crawl around and explore, and each evening Nate played with him while I bought ingredients for dinner and a bottle of wine. We would eat lunch on-to-go or at a restaurant each day and then we’d eat dinner in our apartment. It worked perfectly. Plus, everyone sleeps better when you have your own room, especially when you’re jet lagged. Our apartment was in the Marais near the Bastille metro stop, and the location was amazing. We could walk just about anywhere, and the metro and bus were really convenient. We were near a farmers market on Sundays and there were wine shops, produce markets, grocery stores, patisseries and boulangeries all close by. Having an apartment (and therefore a fridge) also means you can buy all the cheese you want .
- You can let your baby crawl around at the Petit Palais (free admission) and in parts of the Musee d’Orsay. You can not let your baby crawl around in the War Museum. We let M crawl around the exhibits at the uncrowded Petit Palais, and when a museum employee came walking by I thought she was going to yell at us, but instead she smiled and waved at M. At the War Museum we did get yelled at. In the Musee d’Orsay there’s a kind of lounge area by the impressionist wing with big leather chair things and a huge clock. It’s also by the gift shop where there are lots of neat things. The gift shop by the impressionist wing is better than the gift shop on the main level.
- You can find nice free bathrooms at department stores and at the Petit Palais. I’m sure there are other places too, but these came in handy for us.
- You can take your stroller into the Louvre and the Orsay. You can not take your stroller into the Orangerie or the buildings in the Versailles complex. A word on strollers in the Louvre: finding functioning elevators that take you where you want to go is HELL. Seriously, it was bad. The problem was that it looked simple, and each time we thought we were just one elevator ride away from where we needed to be. So we never folded up the stroller and carried him because it was always “just five more minutes.” This went on for over an hour. At the Orangerie, we entered with our stroller and then we checked it and they gave us a small stroller to use. Another note about the Orangerie: if you are taking photos with a DSLR camera and your flash is turned off (as it should be), you still might have a light that flashes when your camera is focusing. Turn this light off or a museum employee will give you a talking-to. For Versailles, I’d recommend bringing a baby carrier along with your stroller. But don’t bring a hiking pack because you can’t take that into the buildings either. You have to check your stroller when you enter the either of the Trianon buildings or the chateau. You can use your stroller in the gardens, including the area between the Trianon buildings and Marie Antionette’s hamlet. However, make sure it’s an all-terrain stroller because it’s rocky, sandy and uneven in parts. Whew, that was way longer than expected.
- Babies love art museums. All the big colorful paintings, statues and sculptures are fascinating to tiny humans. Even more so if you take the time to point out the animals. But expect the fascination to last for a limited amount of time.
- There are farm animals in Marie Antoinette’s hamlet at Versailles. M could have spent hours there, and wow did he scream when we left. I felt kind of bad because this was one of the first things we did that he enjoyed, and our time there was sadly limited. We let him walk along the fence line and try to feed dead leaves the animals. He had so much fun.
- Go out for a late lunch. You’re in Paris, so obviously you want to eat the wonderful French food. With a baby, the best time to do this is lunch. It’s less romantic than dinner, so you’re not ruining it for anyone else if you have a fussy baby. We’d eat lunch around 1:30 or so, towards the end of the lunch rush. Restaurants were less crowded, which is important since hardly anywhere has high chairs and there is more room to stash the stroller. On a related note…
- L’ Esmeralda by Notre Dame and Cafe du Marche on Rue Cler have high chairs. L’Esmeralda seems to have mixed reviews, but we enjoyed it and for a restaurant right by a seriously touristy place like Notre Dame, the food was genuinely good and not expensive. I could have eaten at Cafe du Marche every day. That place was awesome. I’m sure there are lots of other restaurants in Paris with high chairs, but these were ones that we found easily that served us well.
- If you have a stroller, the metro is a pain in the butt. Lots of stairs and no escalators or elevators. The bus system is really easy and takes you everywhere you’d want to go.
Also, a few notes about Paris in December:
- It’s amazing, do it!!! It never got that cold (it was generally in the 40s), and we only had a few hours of light drizzle one day. The crowds are less, and there was hardly anyone at Versailles when we went. Granted some of the statues were covered, the fountains were turned off, and parts of the gardens were closed, but there were only 20 other people in the Hall of Mirrors. It was incredible.
- You can get mulled wine in the street and raw oysters. I remember walking around by Notre Dame looking at the Christmas lights and watching all the people our first afternoon there with a cup of mulled wine in hand, never ever wanting to leave. And we ate so many raw oysters at the farmers market. It was awesome.
- The Christmas Market on Champs-Elysees was kind of a bust. Most of the stalls were selling stuff you could find just about anywhere. Although there were a lot of stalls selling good mulled wine.
- You can find good Christmas decor and ornaments at the garden and flower market near Sainte Chappelle. Plus, you can easily do all of your Christmas shopping in Paris. You’ll come home and you won’t need to worry about it!
- You don’t get the harsh summer sunlight in your photos and nearly everything has perfect lighting.
Okay, I think that’s it. I’ve got other posts in the works for our other trips we’ve taken (I’m working on focusing on the good things that have happened over the past year).
Oh, I should add that Nate sat with M for the return flight and I sat by myself on the other side of the plane and it was amazing. I watched movies, napped, raised and lowered my tray table and window shade when I wanted, and sipped my drinks as slowly as I wanted. I will never again understand people when they say “OMG I have this super-long 10 hour flight. Whatever am I going to do with myself?” Um, you can do whatever the hell you want, dude. You’re by yourself.