Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Take your Parents to Paris

To borrow a phrase from John F. Kennedy, we are the parents who accompanied Eloise to Paris and we have enjoyed it.

According to Eloise, Paris is Europe’s most parent-friendly city. She argues that parents are contented and easily distracted because the city is beautiful, the food is good and romance abounds. She goes on to say that contented, distracted parents make easy prey for the hidden agendas of children. Looking back on our recent visit, and the fact that we hardly ever disagree about what to do in Paris, I think she is on to something.

Take, for example, our visit to the Jardin des Tuileries. On the surface, this expanse of formal, neo-classical greenery smack dab in the centre of the city between Concorde and the Louvre feels like a place built for grownups. You might imagine that we strolled around enjoying the aesthetics, and we did. But we also ended up financing several carousel rides on a lovely belle époque “work of art” and several sessions of enthusiastic jumping on the in-ground trampolines. We did get to sit on the benches in the autumn sun while Eloise played in the action playground with all the children who were also on their school holidays and Jeff got to admire their mothers. Everyone was happy.

You can also take as an example our lunch at the Grand Colbert where we retreated after the morning in the Tuileries. Again, you might think the Grand Colbert, housed in a historic monument with a fabulous belle époque interior that was featured in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, is best for geriatric trysts, but, Eloise knows that a renowned and bustling brasserie is always a fine place to take your parents. While we were busy with our excellent lentil salads watching the midday show, Eloise was able to do unmentionable things to her plate of snails (one of which flew across the room) without invoking the attention or irritation of her parents or the maitre d’hotel who took rather a shine to her.

This was also the case the morning we devoted to shopping. “Mom, why don’t we go to Bon Marche?” (the most fabulous and exclusive department store in Paris). Of course, I’m a sucker for that approach. The fact that we spent most of our time in Bon Marche in the toy department buying these little animals known as Sylvanians (Calico Critters in the U.S. and “Sill van knee yan” in Bon Marche) is not surprising. The fact that later on we also managed to find a very chic and inexpensive Christmas dress down the road at Du Pareil au Meme also speaks to how well a girl can do when her mother is carried away by the elegant retail experience that is Paris.

In the Luxembourg Gardens, Eloise also managed to keep us busy. We got to watch her set a new record on the carousel where children collect rings on a stick as they go around. We got to enjoy a perfect Gallic display of pique as the British school children on holiday took over the action playground from the beautifully dressed pre-schoolers and even better dressed Mamans. Afterwards, when we suggested going to Polidor, (where a three course lunch during the week will only set you back €11), she conveniently reminded us to be sure and go to the bathroom before hand as “this is the place where you have to go standing up”. She also, conveniently, ate the desserts from our three course menu.

And finally, it was Eloise who suggested that we make a special visit after Polidor to see the Unicorns at the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages. Unlike my not-so-brillant idea to try and get into the Branly ( the new museum of tribal art) where the line wound around the building and down the street, the Cluny was an oasis of calm, no lines, no crowds, just impressive architecture, a good gift shop and some very good unicorns.

So if you are looking for a city where it is easy to keep your parents contented and entertained, where they will be well treated in restaurants and where spending money in stores comes easily, Eloise strongly suggests you look no farther than the City of Light.

The Grand Colbert
2, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
Tel: 01 42 86 87 88

Cremerie Restaurant Polidor
41 rue Monsieur-le-Prince 6e
Tel: 0143-26-95-34No credit cards

Le Bon Marche
24, rue de Sevres
Tel: 01 44 39 80 00

Du Pareil au Meme has branches throughout Paris

National Museum of the Middle Ages – the Baths and Hotel de Cluny
6, Place Paul Painleve
75005 Paris
Tel: 01 53 73 78 00

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