The THATMuse blog has content pieces about the actual museums where you’re hunting, but we’ve also amassed plenty of recommendations of what to do in Paris and London apart from your museum time. Check out our “Travelling in Paris & London” category on the blog for pieces from kid-friendly parks, cafes and toyshops to romantic cocktail lounges near our museums.
Here’s part two of a 3-part series (you can see Part 1 here) on parks by Daisy de Plume, expat mother of two boys growing up in both cities (and THATMuse founder).
ST JAMES PARK
The oldest Royal Park in London is St James’s, dating from 1532 when Henry VIII acquired it as a deer park. Surrounded by three palaces (Westminister, St James’s and Buckingham Palaces), it’s the backdrop to numerous movies from Woody Allen’s Match Point to James Bond’s Die Another Day. The kids will remember the lake from 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close and Jeff Daniels where a chase is set through St James’s that ends with a splash. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: Apart from the recently renovated children’s playground, wander the grounds for an Animal Hunt, counting how many types of furry & winged creatures you can find; from robins & woodpeckers to squirrels & bats, St James has more than 17 different species of waterfowl alone. The most famous bird residents are the pelicans, found on Duck Island. Storsh loves it when we catch the daily feeding, their long necks and big, gaping mouths go flapping for their food. These comical creatures have been here since 1664 when the Russian Ambassador gave them to Charles II for the park. Linger over Blue Bridge for a Coot fight. Those black birds with white foreheads (where we get the terms “Bald as a Coot”) are territorial and mean, they’ll fight anything that swims or flies! Whilst on the bridge, quiz your kids on a bit of London history, the park they see is by the hand of John Nash, the architect and planner of St James Park, as well as Buckingham Palace (viewable from the bridge). If they’ve been to Trafalgar Square or Regent’s Park, Nash’s name will again be bandied about. For longer stays, grab a sandwich and rent a stripy deckchair for an hour for just 1.60£. Open Daily, 5 am – midnight
JARDIN du LUXEMBOURG
There are so many kid-treats in Jardin du Luxembourg that Napoleon dedicated it to “the Children of Paris”. In the 1600s it was originally laid out to accompany Marie de Medici (Dragon Lady Queen of France she holds the key to THATRue’s Latin Quarter hunts!)’s Palais du Luxembourg, which now houses France’s Senate. The 25 hectares hosts 1920s boats you can stick around the boat basin (3€ a pop), a delightful pony trail, a Punch & Judy-like puppet show and one of the city’s best playgrounds, tailored to all ages (Paid entry, with a guarded gate). For artsy families you can go statue-stalking as there are 106 sculptures to track, or for photo buffs there’s always a photography show exhibited on the garden’s fences. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: Since the delicate and discreet Merry-Go-Round is the oldest in Paris, I nominate this for our hidden treasure list. Designed by Charles Garnier, of Opéra fame, this 1879 weather-beaten carousel has the added attraction of having a “Jeu de Bagues”, where kids try to spike iron rings onto their sticks. No easy feat for those older kids on the peripheral circle of horses (and mesmerizing for waiting parents: the attendant re-loads the rings with hands as fast & graceful as a gazelle!). Unlike many of the city’s other carousels, Garnier’s animals swing from above. METRO: Odéon (line 4), Notre-Dame-des-Champs (line 12), Luxembourg (RER B)