We’ve just moved to California from Arizona, a move which became virtually all-consuming–four months since my last update–yikes! Otherwise, I admit, I’ve spent most of my time and energy on my paid writing gigs rather than on updating this site–I think that’s a natural choice. Time is scarce with three little ones! It’s been fun but hectic settling in. The girls have started a new school here in Irvine, and seem to have acclimated fairly smoothly, which is a relief.
I wrote a couple of (similar) newspaper pieces about last summer’s trip to Scotland (Boston Globe & Vancouver Sun)–I’ll post them another time but I’ve provided links. There was so much that didn’t make it in, some places were edited out by the newspaper, others didn’t fit well into the article. I’ll try to post a few of them here and when I find some time, I hope to publish a few shorter travel pieces online/in print, we’ll see!
I LOVED this coffee spot–one of my favorite in the entire world. Former professional opera singer and self-professed coffee geek Craig Steele, hand roasts ethically sourced coffees and serves them in his tiny shop. It’s located just across the Skye Bridge heading to the island ($2-$4). I loved the espresso–the hot chocolate was unforgettable.
My daughter’s face says it all.
Craig Steele and Mhairi Coogan brew espresso and mix hot chocolate in their shop on the Isle of Skye.
The Isle of Skye Coffee Roastery
Skye Bridge Service Station, Kyleakin side
Hoping to see Paris with new eyes, I signed up for a photography tour of the city last summer. I googled and found a company with stellar reviews, Better Paris Photos.
Registering was quick and simple, response almost immediate. I proposed a few potential dates and when we found one that worked, was assigned to Catherine O’Hara.
O’Hara is an Irish expat and professional photographer who focuses primarily on wedding photography in Paris and Ireland. I checked her website and loved her work. I couldn’t wait for the tour. I learned later that Catherine had contributed to the Paris Wedding book by Paris-based wedding planner Kim Petyt. I’ve followed Petyt’s blog for several years and think the book is gorgeous.
We spent 6 hours together, walking the 1st, 2nd, 3th and 4th arrondissements. The tour offered a fresh perspective on a city I love and know very well. It was a treat to have a pro teach me new techniques and help with hands-on practice.
My time with Catherine absolutely made the difference in the photos I took later in Scotland. I was more confident–I admit I’d felt some pressure knowing I’d need great pictures as part of my newspaper assignments. I got shots off quickly, many of them turned out remarkably well, and I’ve sold a handful of them to go with the newspaper stories.
Here’s a few of the more fun ones I took that day:
Bicyclist on a Vélib‘ (Paris’s free bicycle rental around town) in front of Centre Georges Pompidou, 4th arr.
Garden of Hôtel de Sully, 4th arr.
Playing with shadows, Place des Vosges, 4th arr.
Using reflections, Hôtel de Sully, 4th arr.
Door knocker in the 2nd arr.
When I was in Paris in 2011 researching The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children, I found a cute shop in the Marais that specialized in cream puffs (choux à la crème en français). Since then, it’s become a bit of a trend in Paris and a handful of other choux shops have opened. Odette was a standout among them.
Owner Frédéric Berthy, uses his beloved grandmother’s recipe to create his decadent pastries. As a child, he spent Wednesday afternoons at Grandma Odette’s house, where she’d whip up these bite-sized gems for him and his cousins in her tiny kitchen.
Odette is centrally located, less than five minutes from Notre Dame Cathedral. Inside, a simple black and cream color scheme and accents like antique cake trays and old photos, give it a comfortable, vintage feel.
Desserts can be taken to go, eaten at one of the tables out front, or upstairs on the 1st floor where there’s a view of Notre Dame. Typical daily flavors include: salted butter caramel, green tea, vanilla, coffee, pistachio and chocolate. Simple espressos and coffees are also served.
Odette, 77, rue Galande, 75005, Paris. www.odette-paris.com. Open 1030am to 730pm daily.
Bilingual Summer Day Camps in Paris for Kids
How young is too young for ‘study abroad?’
Enrolling a child in a summer camp program in a foreign country definitely isn’t for all kids, but it’s an incredible opportunity for some.
Vacation day camps exist in many of Paris’s most well regarded bilingual schools–and they are open to children visiting from abroad. Academic, sports, and art-themed programs that use English as the language of instruction offer week-to-week enrollment during school holidays.
Here are a couple of schools with bilingual summer vacation camps for English speakers in preschool through high school–I’ve listed more in my book, The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children. Students who are currently enrolled in these schools have registration priority so be sure to contact the administration well in advance for admission information. Tuition rates run the same as similar camps in the U.S.
I’m not sure there’s a better way for children visiting Paris to make friends with local and international students their own age!
International School of Paris
6, rue Beethoven, 16th arr.
The Holiday Language Program is available to students from ages 3 to 18. The ISP Holiday Language Program offers courses in French and English on a weekly basis during the month of July.
American School of Paris
41, rue Pasteur, Saint Cloud, 92210
Students from around the world share in a well-rounded, interdisciplinary program during their summer holiday. Classes in English are offered for students from ages 4 to 18. The school is located in a Parisian suburb, approximately 10 miles from city center (transportation options on website).
École Montessori Rive Gauche
24, rue de Babylone, 7th arr.
www.ecolemontessori-rivegauche.comThe helpful staff of this small Left Bank Montessori schoolwelcomes children 2–6 years old into its weekly, bilingual vacation program. (photo from école montessori rive gauche’s website)
Not sure how many posts this summer travel highlights “series” will be…difficult to believe it’s over. It’s been a whirlwind of a summer and my kids are already back in school!
We’re back home in Arizona, mostly settled in, so I’ll get back to posting here and there. Our summer travels, which were quite extensive compared to what we usually do, are still top of mind. I always overestimate what I can do on the road with three kids in tow–obvious from the fact that my last post was May 29th.
Here’s one of my favorite memories of the summer–the day we spent in Parc des Buttes Chaumont, in Paris’s 19th arrondissement.
From my book: The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a magical garden, one often missed by
visitors on short stays in the city. It’s worth the trip out to Belleville
in northeastern Paris however, for a less manicured, less bourgeois
experience than what you’ll find in the central parks. Rocky buttes,
sweeping trees, a mysterious grotto, an artificial waterfall, and the
curious Temple de la Sibylle located high atop a peak on a small
island in the middle of the lake add to an aura of both fantasy and
romance. The temple is accessed by two bridges—older children
will certainly appreciate the adventure of crossing the stone bridge
70 feet above the water; a lower-lying suspension bridge provides
the second option.
Two well-equipped playgrounds, swings, and a carousel make
wonderful playtime choices. Pony rides are available Wednesdays,
weekends, and holidays from 3–6pm (2,7€, www.animaponey.com).
Le Guignol de Paris, a covered puppet theatre with an entrance at
the intersection of avenue Simon Bolivar and rue Botzaris, produces
familiar shows like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aladdin
and the Magic Lamp, and Little Red Riding Hood on Wednesdays,
weekends, and holidays at 4pm and 5pm (06.98.99.66.24, www.
guignolrank.com). Apart from three restaurants inside the park,
there is space for picnics on the sprawling lawns and food vendors
sell crêpes, cotton candy, and other goodies around the lake.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Entrances on rue Manin, rue Botzaris, rue de Crimée, 19th arr.
M Buttes Chaumont, Laumière, Botzaris
I was asked about Packing tips in a Q&A on The Collected Traveler. The links didn’t come through to the products I was talking about so I’ve provided them below. Hope this is helpful! If you’ve got any good packing advice, traveling with or without children, please post!
Do you have any advice about packing?
A: I do! I used to be able to travel for months with a fairly small backpack, but having children has changed all of that of course! It’s tough to pack light with infants: diapers, gear, gadgets, care items and food fill luggage quickly. The amount I pack is sort of inversely proportional to their age. I love to use these packing cubes–I’ve had the ebags brand for years and they’ve held up brilliantly. I separate each child’s clothes into cubes and it’s virtually instant unpacking once we arrive. I just unzip and pop them into a dresser drawer. I’ll separate pajamas, underwear and bathing suits into a separate cube. I’ve only needed to augment my cube supply, but haven’t replaced any of them in the past five years. Renting an apartment with a washer and dryer makes packing light more realistic–another major advantage over hotels.
As far as actual luggage, I’m keen on suitcases with spinners because they maneuver easily. You’ve got to be agile when you’re trying to keep a handle on a wandering toddler in an airport. For the five of us, we aim to bring a maximum of two medium-large suitcases and two medium backpacks. This way my husband and I have one hand free at all times. Initially, I was attracted by the price point on these Weekender Convertible Backpacks, but the quality has been stellar so we’ve stuck with them.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention my favorite packing list available at OneBag.com. I adapt it slightly depending on the trip, but I rarely forget anything when I use this as a guide. We also bring along an umbrella-style stroller–it seems to work best for Paris’s narrow doorways and cobblestones. Our Maclaren strollers have worked perfectly.
I apologize for my delay in posting these stops, but I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks with the book launch party and with the various pieces I’ve been working as part of the ‘tour’. The Guardian newspaper (UK) also asked me to write an article for them that is scheduled to appear May 11th. The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children will be released May 16th in the UK. I’ll post a link when it’s up.
One thing I’ve learned for the next time around is to book more time in between stops!
“Paris is on our list of ‘must-visit’ destinations. Not only is it one of the most romantic cities in the world, rich with history, art and culture, it happens to be part of my husband and children’s lineage. Visiting Paris would be a trip of a lifetime for our family and it’s something we want to do while the kids are still young.
Traveling with children to an international destination requires research and preparation. Sights, eats, shopping, flights, everything about the trip needs to be researched beforehand to make the trip as easy as possible. I love travel guide books but they lack the family aspect that I’m looking for. There is no first-hand advice from a mom who’s “been there, done that”…..Read the rest HERE
10 Tips for traveling with your kids to Paris that I wrote for Babble.com with Nadia Carriere (the publisher and writer of childmode.com):
“Planning on traveling internationally with your kids? The planning process can be quite daunting! Travel guides, reviews and expert advice are your best friends! I recently had the chance to review Kim Horton Levesque’s new book The Little Bookroom Guide To Paris With Children.
Levesque is an expert on everything that is kid-friendly in Paris and has done extensive research while traveling throughout the city with her three daughters. Together they played tourists and scouted out the best places to play, eat and shop. If you are looking for the best way to give your children an incredible experience in Paris and insider tips on where to find a last minute babysitter, and the best places to purchase French children’s clothing, this book is for you! You can find our full review on ChildMode.com where we dish on all the details.”…….Read the rest HERE
“Readers of my Paris book likely know of Kim Horton Levesque, who wrote an indispensable book called Pampered in Paris: A Guide to the Best Spas, Salons and Beauty Boutiques (The Little Bookroom, 2010) — I featured this terrific book under the ‘Spas’ entry in my A to Z Miscellany. Kim’s been busy since that book was published, and her newest project is Paris With Children (also published by The Little Bookroom, one of my very favorite book publishers in the world). I’m pleased and honored to participate in Kim’s official blog tour this season.
I know very well that Kim’s Pampered book took a lot of work, but Paris With Children took infinitely more, and Kim deserves a whole heap of praise for compiling such a book. In the same way that I only recently began to appreciate how beneficial spas are for travelers, it was only when I read Kim’s new book that I discovered it isn’t just for travelers with children in tow. There are so many great suggestions in this book for anyone who’s spending time in Paris.” Find the rest HERE
The virtual book tour for The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children began yesterday with a Q & A with Lindsey Tramuta on her Lost in Cheeseland blog as part of her Franco File Fridays series!
Tramuta is an American “who fell in love with a Frenchman and moved to Paris.” She discovers new trends in the city, covers not-so-cliché topics and writes about her experience living in the French capital. It’s some of the best and most expressive travel writing I’ve read. I’m appreciative of her support of my book.
I’ll be posting details on my next tour stop tomorrow! Stay tuned for more!
Here’s the intro to the Q & A:
“The countdown to les grands vacances has begun. Soon, children will be on an extended holiday but before that can happen, their parents must scramble to find a place that is both kid-friendly and relatively entertaining for themselves. While Paris ranks high among travel destinations, its many paws-off pristine parks, bustling avenues and more adult dining options make it a less obvious choice.
But author Kim Horton Levesque says it shouldn’t be overlooked. Beneath the landmarks, museums and well-worn boulevards is an entirely different city, teeming with activities appropriate for kids. Kim culls her personal favorites and recommendations into an astute guide called “Paris with Children”, just released this week. Almost all of the spots Kim recommends to eat, sleep and play are also well-suited for visits without children, making this book an incredibly useful resource for all travelers (and let’s be honest, we all have friends with children who would love to receive a little gift from one of Paris’s beautiful kid’s clothing and toy stores so the shop references are invaluable!). Below, she offers a few tips for traveling to Paris as a family.”
I’m excited that Paris With Children is finally out! And I saw it priced at $12.01 on amazon.com–which is a deal!
I stopped into La Grande Orange, a trendy specialty store here in Phoenix, and saw the book on the shelf–always an exciting moment to see it somewhere outside of your own house! I can’t wait to read the press as it starts to roll out.
Gayot.com posted a link to their review on my Facebook page today. Here’s a snippet. You can read the rest of it via my FB page (and don’t forget to “like” my page while you’re there) or read it on their site.
“All too often, the difference between the fantasy of traveling with children (wee ones skipping along in wonder against a majestic European backdrop) and the reality (jet-lagged children who won’t leave the hotel) can be vast. Thanks to The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children, you don’t have to wait until your kids are in college to visit Paris.
Paris with Children guides you through visiting Paris’ most important sights in a child-friendly way. Organized around places to play, eat, shop and stay, the book allows you to plan your day around activities that both you and your children will love.
Levesque did her homework. She lists classic cafés where Parisians take their children and tells you where to get the best pain au chocolat in town. The book also lists plenty of food options for picky eaters and suggests picnic spots, marionette shows, pony rides and ice-cream parlors………”