Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hold the Roller Coasters, Please

It's August. That means that a large part of Paris's population has cleared out to various beaches and mountains across Europe. Lucky for us, that doesn't mean that the city has shut down entirely. The parks are still here, including a few summer-only ones like Paris Plages and the amusement park in the Tuileries Gardens. If you're traveling this way with a child, here's a non-exhaustive list of the places that have filled our summer days:

Jardin de Luxembourg: The most famous, with reason. If you've never been to Paris, this is probably the place you picture when someone says "Parisian parks." The manicured lawns (most not to be stepped on, beware), the statues, the little pond with the wooden boats being pushed around by children of all ages, the Guignol (puppet show), the joggers trotting by (including me, some mornings!), the people stretched out on the ubiquitous green lawn chairs either taking in the sun or reading the newspaper or having some lunch... It's all so heart-breakingly perfect that despite the other available options, I choke up the 3,70 Euros for Malanga Girl and I to enter the kiddie play area there at least once a week. Note that this is the only "for pay" playground I have found in Paris so far. One fee covers you for the whole day, though, and you can enter and exit as many times as you wish until 7pm. Be sure to bring along enough money for the carrousel (1,50 Euro) and the puppet show. And a crepe or PEZ dispenser or cotton candy or any of the other sweets around to tempt children and adults.

Les Tuileries: a beautiful, huge garden sandwiched between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. It's impossible to miss if you're strolling along the Rue de Rivoli or taking a bateau down the Seine. There's a very nicely designed kiddie park area available all year, and in the summer, the huge amusement park includes a ferris wheel, a trampoline (4 Euros for 5 minutes, but in my experience, they let you jump for a far longer period of time), and various rides, even a rollercoaster. The Caterpillar rollercoaster is designed for younger riders, but Malanga Girl did not like the ride at all. Some fried dough and carnival games made her forget all about it, though.

Bois du Boulogne Jardin d'Acclimatation: A second attempt on the rollercoaster at this park proved to all members of Malanga Familia that Malanga Girl is not a rollercoaster girl at all. Happily, there are many other rides for the four-year-old set to enjoy.

Parc Champs de Mars: with a wide expanse of green grass kids are actually allowed to run and play on and a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower, what's not to love? It has not one, but TWO carrousels, three free kiddie park areas (divided by age-appropriateness of the equipment), concessions stands, a Guignol (puppet theater) and a concert area. Oh, and pedal cars! Did I mention that one of the carrousels is crank-operated? And that the largest playground area is shady and cool on a hot summer's day?

Parc Monceau: A little gem in the patrician 8th arrondissement. I stumbled upon it on a brisk November day during my house-hunting trip. It immediately seemed magical for reasons that are hard to put into words. We don't get there very often, but the very words "Parc Monceau" are like a fairytale encantation for Malanga Girl.

Parc André Citroën: Not the easiest park to get to since the closest subway stations are still a decent walk away. However, the time and energy you invest in getting there will see their reward in the form of water play and a hot air balloon. Note that the balloon only goes up if weather conditions are favorable. Check here for more info. There's also lots and lots of grass for picnicking.

Parc George Brassens: Off the normal tourist track, but it's an especially lovely place to visit on Sundays, when there's an old book market and pony rides for kids. The two kiddie park areas are superb and the Guignol (puppet show) is charming. There's also an outpost of famous Parisian bakery Poilâne nearby.

Parc des Buttes-Chamont: The park I know the least as it's massive and we still haven't been able to explore each corner of it. It's in northeast Paris, in the 19th arrondissement, and overlooks the whole city. This is the place where Malanga Mama is most likely to spend an entire day by herself once fall comes and school is back in session.

Jardin Catherine Labouré: My favorite park when I just want to lie on the grass or sit on a bench sunbathing while Malanga Girl plays. It's perfectly self-contained and a haven of peace and quiet almost any day of the week.

Canal St. Martin: Not technically a park, but the canal is a child-worthy destination to see the boats passing and the locks system in action. It makes for a lovely, lazy walk on a Sunday, when the streets are closed off to vehicular traffic. There are some parks along the way, including one tucked in just between the Canal and Gare de L'Est. And for four weeks spanning July and August, Paris Plages is set up along one part of the Canal.

More Malanga Mama park-swooning here and here.

If parks aren't your thing, Malanga Girl has also greatly enjoyed riding the little train that goes around Sacre-Coeur, the Batobus around the Seine and visiting the Musée Dorsay (the ballerinas are her favorite).

Just for fun, here's a link to a post describing my first trip to Paris with then Malanga Baby. I can't believe that was three years ago already!