2nd April 2015
Being an avid traveller, I am keen to get back out there and see the world. To ease myself back into it though, I took a friend for some support, and I definitely needed it in Paris. This will not stop me though, I plan to make a baby traveller out of Betty!
I used to live in Paris and have visited countless times, so I thought this would be a good place to try travelling. I hadn’t realised before how poorly equipped it is for babies and families. Perhaps better suited to families of older infants, preferably older than that.
The two main options for travelling to Paris are plane and train. There is a fixed fee for under twos on the plane, they can have 2 baby items checked into the hold but they aren’t allowed luggage. The Eurostar allows children under four to travel for free, they can have a pushchair and car seat but no extra luggage although I have never seen luggage restrictions applied on the Eurostar. There are family carriages which have more space and are next to the baby changing facilities. We opted for the Eurostar as it was just a more pleasant experience and easier to fit in meal times and naps. The staff were very helpful with finding space for our luggage and the buggy so it would have been possible on my own. I used a baby carrier for getting on and off as it made getting to my seat with backpack and changing bag much easier.
If you thought the London tube was behind the times for the modern family with a pushchair, you’ll be appalled by the Paris metro. Almost all stations have stairs to the ticket hall, apparently only 50 metro/RER stations are wheelchair accessible which is very few considering there are almost 500 stations. Each station has one wide gate entrance, these are not like ours which just need a ticket to enter, are automatic and usually manned. It is one gate, the size of a small wall, think cattle gate. There is a button next to the gate which informs the person in the ticket office that you want to pass through, if you are lucky and someone is working, the gate catch will be released, if you are unlucky you could have a long wait… You then need to clear the ticket barrier area as the cattle gate takes up the whole space when opened, also don’t forget to pass your ticket through the standard gate machine before taking the pushchair through the cattle gate. Sounds like a palaver? It was! There are then more stairs down to the platform, very occasionally an escalator instead. Then there’s the fun of trying to fit into a carriage without anyone moving to clear a space for you, what joy!
There are of course some positives to the Metro and RER. They cover a huge area so the quickest way around town. They also run quite frequently when there isn’t a strike or engineering works on.
Alternatively there is also a large bus network to get about town. Most buses have space for 3 pushchairs and you can enter at the back. Once again, people will try to avoid moving to give you room so there will need to be some jostling while the bus is moving. All part of the French immersive experience.
Most supermarkets, including the local outlets, have a baby food selection. Similar to a UK offering, with jars of varying degrees of mush. I struggled to find baby snacks like rice cakes, baby crisps and fruit treats.
The traditional French brasseries and cafes are fantastic with great set meals and endless fresh bread for adults, not many child options though. Unfortunately these rustic places often have little space for a buggy and I only found high chairs in one restaurant, and they were all in use, so obviously the families knew this was the place to go. As you need to use the buggy as a high chair for feeding, best to hunt out a more spacious eaterie so that you can park the buggy next to the table without collapsing it.
Betty is too young for Disneyland so we’ll save that treat until she’s older. Then maybe she’ll get to go to all five like I have 🙂 I found a few baby friendly attractions but didn’t have to time to visit any of them. I tried to visit the kids sessions at the Pompidou centre but they were very strict and would only admit over 2s.
La Musee de Poche has this on “The art of baby (ON RESERVATION)
Through the words of the narrator, babies are awakening to sensory experiences in 1001: an imaginary landscape taking shape before their eyes, puppet characters are agitated rhythm, a sweet melody awakens the ears for the first steps of the toddler viewer .”
104 has a whole range of family entertainment. Screenings, workshops and performances.
Musee de Cluny has specific workshops for parents with under threes. They incorporate the current exhibition to entertain the little ones while still being informative and cultural for the parents.
Le Jardin d’Acclimatation is good for some outdoor time with playground, animals and puppet shows.
France has some fantastic children’s clothing brands. With the euro in its current state, it is cost effective to buy at source.
I didn’t find flip down baby changing tables in any of the toilets I used. Therefore Betty got changed on many floors and then I had to use the toilet at speed before she crawled over and pulled a bin over or into a dubious wet patch on the floor. Many toilets were just too small to put her on the floor so a park bench was used a few times.
All the mainstream hotels offer a travel cot in the hotel room but they are so clinical and bland. We opted to hire a whole apartment using AirBnB. This had huge advantages as we picked a place owned by a couple with two small children. This meant it was equipped with cot, baby bath, high chair and toys so I could travel relatively light. It didn’t mean we scrimped on style though, the place was amazing, a great vintage/modern mix. Also meant we could eat great food and drink great wine after putting Betty to bed in her own room. No tiptoeing around while she slept in the corner in a travel cot. Much more comfortable.
Baby friendly info:
The best way to travel is to have a baby carrier.
The best way to eat is to use a buggy or carry a travel highchair attachment.
The best way to stay is to rent an apartment which is already baby equipped.
Ensure you have a good changing mat for the cold hard floors.