THATMuse

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.

Following a morning or afternoon on a THATMuse treasure hunt at the British Museum you may want to go scouting for off-the-beaten track treasures in blooming Bloomsbury, the museum’s intellectual (& green!) neighborhood. Mother of two and founder of THATMuse, Daisy de Plume lists her top five picks of Quirky Kid Fun in Bloomsbury. The following five are free and within 15 minutes by foot from the British Museum:   

Coram’s Fields

families with kids sat under trees near play park at Coram's Fields

This 7-acre park on the former site of the Foundling Hospital is a treasure trove of fun for the kiddies. From a flock of farm animals for all ages (from goats to chickens, parrots to bunnies) to a sandbox for tots, Coram’s Fields suits all. My 6-year old, Storsh, does a bee line for the challenging sling line (aka “Death Slide”) although half the time he just ogles in envy as heavier teens zoom past him with their speed zeal. For quick rain showers there’s a gazebo as well as a café within the open colonnade that serves toasties, hot chocolate and fruit. In the warmer months there’s also a lovely sunken fountain for the kids to go a-frolicking. For teens & adults the neighboring Foundling Museum tells you about how Handel donated his organ to the Foundling Hospital and William Hogarth designed the orphans’ costumes. 93 Guilford Street – 

St George’s Gardens

greenery, trees and graves in St George's Gardens

Another hidden treasure is the gorgeous gardens of an 18th century graveyard which only locals tend to cross. Off the beaten track, it’s no surprise it’s a destination for Geocaching families to track down. The gated entrance is at the end of the tiny road, Handel Street, which leads to the convenient Brunswick Center  (of Brutalist fame). Pick up some aluminum-wrapped chocolates at the ginormous Waitrose and using the supermarket’s back entrance hang a right to the gated entrance of St George’s garden, which bookends the tiny Handel Street.  Sprinkle your chocolates about the flowered garden and send your kids on a treasure hunt of their own in the park, or just play hide and go seek among the enormous plane trees, some dating to the 1750s! 1 Handel St –     

Pollock’s Toy Museum

colourful painted facade of Pollock's Toy Museum with windows full d vintage toys

Family run since it was started in an attic in 1956, this precious toy museum was always my Bloomsbury treat when I was a kid visiting from the States. Named for Benjamin Pollock, Ltd, which was the last of the Victorian toy theater print companies, their collection of children’s theatre sets is wonderful. Split between two houses (one from the 1780s, the other from 1880s), you can skip the museum for the wonderfully antiquated toyshop on the ground floor where you’ll find reasonably priced Villac kites, beautiful travel sets of checkers, chess or backgammon & colorful wood toys such as a Jacob’s Ladder. 1 Scala Street –       

Russell Square

Path, benches, fountain and cafe in Russell Square London

RStorsh has the luck of being trilingual (& the bad luck of being culturally confused). As such has made many an international friend in the central fountain of Russell Square. If you have a change of clothes for them pick up a sandwich at the museum and bring it to the neighboring park where kids are bound to find other like-minded imps splashing about in the bursting fountain. The green of the park encourages clusters of picnickers, or there’s a Russell Square café which has Italian gelati or hot chocolate to warm up after their dunking!

Jeremy Bentham

Philosophy gawking… How better to get your kids to remember the 19th centuryphilosopher and founder of Utilitarianism than to visit his wax corpse?!? He presides over the University College London (UCL) from a glass box, he requested that his skeleton should be preserved and dressed in his own clothes. Talk about English eccentricities! The “spiritual founder of UCL”, he’s been known to attend the University’s council meetings (in 2013 he was recorded as “present but not voting”), but when this happens it takes 3 people to move him as he’s bolted to chair in a glass box (on display for anyone to visit) and must be moved in one piece! I always recommend this to families who have chosen the Skull Scouting THATMuse at the British Museum, to take their treasure hunting outside the museum! UCL directions to Jeremy (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/access-ucl/self-guided-tour)

Have you built up an appetite after a hunt (or looking to fuel up before taking the museum by storm)? Listed below are a variety of hotels, pubs, cafés and restaurants near the British Museum where you can grab a bite to eat.

Please note, we’re happy to provide this list of places (all a stone’s throw to the BM) where we’ve conducted score tallying, but we don’t make reservations, nor do we negotiate menus. If your hunt starts between 2:30 & 3:30 pm it’s safe to make a 5:30 reservation (apart from Friday, when the museum’s open till 8:30)

The Bloomsbury Club

plush cafe bar in the bloomsbury hotel with comfortable sofas, coral coloured walls and a chandelier

The very first YMCA in the world, this exceptionally impressive Grade II building is now an elegant hotel. It has a 1920s-inspired Coral Room bar, a wood-lined, tony hipster lounge for cocktails in the lower level (where we’ve done several corporate score tallying), a lovely verdant terrace to serve high tea (the Dalloway Terrace, where we’ve done BuzzFeed, Lego & plenty of Hen Party Prize-givings). Any of their settings hits it just right, but it’s pricy. Not a surprise, as it’s to the standard of the Doyle Collection.
Address: 16-22 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3NN
Tel: +44 20 7347 1000
Email: reservations@thecoralroom.co.uk
Directions: Exiting the BM, hang a right on Great Russell Street, cross traffic-filled Bloomsbury Street and the large, elegant red brick building will be on your left (so you have to cross the street again). Less than 5 minutes on foot.

map from British Museum to The Bloomsbury Club

The Russell Hotel

Doorman at the font door facade of the Russell Hotel London

The old RUSSELL HOTEL has a new incarnation! For hipster clients, the 5-star Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel on Russell Square recently finished its renovation of the Grade II 1898 The-au-Lait building, with superflash bars, cafes, restaurants and spaces for treasure hunt score tallying! They have an appropriately splendid cocktail bar, Fitz’s (named for the building’s architect Charles Fitzroy Doll), a Burr & Co coffee bar with a large communal table that can seat up to a 25 people hunt or the upmarket seafood restaurant, Neptune.
Address: 1-8 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 5BE
Tel: (0)20 7520 1800
Directions: We’ll exit the back of the British Museum & wander across Russell Square & we’re there!

The Plough

classic British pub The Plough on the corner of Museum Road

Sometimes you just want a good solid Victorian pub. The Plough has an upstairs room where we’ve done the score tallying for plenty of 20 to 50-person corporate and birthday hunts.  Typical authentic pub menu with fish & chips, burgers steak and ale pies, etc, this is a Greene King pub. As it’s just down the road from the museum, we’ve probably used this most often for score tallying. Staff are hit or miss…
Address: 27 Museum Street London WC1A 1LH
Tel: +44 (0)20 7636 7964     
Directions: Exiting the front of the BM, turn right onto Great Russell Street & walk half a block before crossing to Museum Street. The Plough, on the corner with hanging flowers, will be on your right. An easy 2 minute walk.

map from British Museum to the Plough

Princess Louise

patrons at the bar of the Princess Louise pub

Historic pub with gorgeous ornate Victorian etched glass, wonderful tile walls and an upstairs perfect for a group meal, we discovered this gem when the compliance team of Disney did their THATMuse score tallying here.
Address: 208 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 8816
Website: http://princesslouisepub.co.uk/
Directions: When exiting the museum’s front entrance on Great Russel Street, turn left onto Bury Place. Next, turn right onto Bloomsbury Way. Cross the street and make your way back onto Bury Place. Turn left onto New Oxford Street, continuing onto High Holborn till you reach the Princess Louise. This walk should take about 6 minutes.

map from British Museum to the Princess Lousie

Cake Shop

croissants and donuts on display in front of a table service sign

at the London Review of Books
Conveniently located just opposite the BM, who doesn’t like going through a bookshop to get to your cakes? As their website says: “Surrounded by books and fragrant with tea, the London Review Cake Shop is the modern answer to London’s long-lost literary coffee-houses” It’s a small space only good for small hunts, with a communal table that seats 16 near a green courtyard and about 8 tables seating another 16 along a banquette. Delicious heavy cakes, wide variety of teas. Plus it feels right to support small independent bookshops! We’ve hosted plenty of Luxe Travelling families on their score tallying here.
Hours:         Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 6:30
Address:     14 Bury Place, London WC1A 2JL
Tel: +44 (0)20 7269 9045

Pied Bull Yard

outdoor cafe seating in pied bull yard

Pied Bull Yard is an enchanting little gem of SILENCE just opposite the throngs of tourists mulling about the BM’s Great Russell Street. Tourists and natives alike walk right past its (many) elegant entrances, unaware of its picturesque, leafy courtyard just behind the London Review of Books, where you’ll find a flakey croissant by the hand of French culinary students of the Cordon Bleu or one of London’s few proper biergartens in the form of the English pub Truckles, which serves ales in pewter tankards. Tracing its history is tricky, as this delightful nest of back alleys and courtyards was off the map till 1746 when it appeared on the Rocque Map as “Stable Yard”. Accessed by Bury Lane & Bloomsbury Sq Garden.

Dickens Museum Garden Café

wood panelled cafe counter and brick lined garden cafe with flowers and trellises at the Dickens Museum

Dickens Museum Garden Café is about 10 minutes by foot from the BM, making it just far enough from the tourist trail that one finds themselves in genuine Bloomsbury. Well worth a walk to Doughty Street, the museum itself is a double Georgian row house where Dickens wrote Oliver Twist among others. Great for teens who may have just read one of his treasures, but also a treat for families with tots; my toddler, Baz, has investigated every stone of this garden as he patters about barefoot while I rest my tootsies over a gin ‘n tonic or tea & cake. Pleasant staff and a precious gift shop finish it off as a destination unto itself. 48 Doughty Street https://dickensmuseum.com/

The Life Goddess

patrons eating outside the life goddess greek deli

Just a four minute walk from the BM, the Life Goddess in Fitzrovia is the perfect spot for you and your crew to tally up points and grab a bite to eat. The Greek restaurant prides themselves on fresh and quality ingredients from Greece, and is equipped with a mouthwatering menu that will satisfy all guests. The Life Goddess also has a “carefully curated” wine and cocktail list, and “is a must for lovers of quality food and wine.” With a relaxed and stylish setting that can accommodate groups, this restaurant might be the perfect post-hunt location for you and your team.

Hours: Monday-Sunday, 12pm – 11pm

Address: 29 Store St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7QB

Tel: + 020 7637 2401

Bibimbap Cafe

stone bowl of korean bibimbap with egg, carrots, spinach, cress and beansprouts

A Taste of Korea, Vegan Friendly!
If you’re not really in the mood for British cuisine, toddle along a little further (less than 5 minutes) to Bibimbab Café for some incredible Korean dishes. Bibimbab also has several vegan and vegetarian options if you have any dietary restrictions. A relaxed and cosy space, it has just enough room for a family or two to score tally after a Luxe Hunt!
Address: 37 Museum street, London WC1A 1LP
Website: http://bibimbabcafe.com/
Phone: 020 7404 8880

Konaki

White front of Konaki Greek restaurant

KONAKI is a Greek restaurant located just steps away from the front entrance of the British Museum. It’s a family run restaurant with typical Greek fare in a cosy setting. It sits up to 50 people and even has outdoor seating for when the weather is nice. Please note, they are only open for dinner service and are closed on Sundays.

Address: 5 Coptic St, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 1NH
Phone: 020 7580 9730
Website: http://www.konaki.co.uk/index.html

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. Looking for something to do on a nice day after an afternoon of competition at the museum? Jenna-Marie Warnecke, our wonderful THATLou colleague, will point you in the right direction with her guide on how to picnic near the Louvre. 

sculpture and flowers in Jardin des Tuileries Paris with ferris wheel in the background
Jardin des Tuileries

After spending a couple of hours running around the Louvre, racing against time to rack up the points necessary to win THATLou, you’re likely to be not only pooped but also hungry. There’s no shortage of (overpriced) cafés nearby where you can relax and grab a bite, but if it’s a nice day out, you can do no better than to have a picnic in the nearby Jardin des Tuileries.

empty tables at modern Brasserie Flottes
Flottes Brasserie

One of my favorite spots to get an easy, quality to-go bite is Flottes And Go at 2 rue Cambon (75001), just across the street from the Jardin des Tuileries (and about a 10-min walk from the Louvre). As an arm of the next-door brasserie Flottes, this bistro boutique is the perfect spot to pick up everything you need for a fabulous picnic from wine to cute napkins.

Fresh sandwiches like focaccia and salmon or quiches with ricotta, zucchini and tomato run about 8€, while you can also grab smoothies and organic sodas like pink grapefruit for 2-4€ and gourmet ice cream with flavors like honey lavender for 4€. There are also plenty of adorable French souvenirs to pick up while you’re at it, including jams, spices, decorative tins and cookbooks.

multicoloured macarons arranged in a glass display case
Macarons at Pierre Hermé

And though Flottes has its share of sweets from artisanal chocolate to gelato, I’d recommend taking a few extra steps down the street to Pierre Hermé (4 rue Cambon, 75001) to try one of their famous macarons. Pierre Hermé macs are renowned for their perfect texture and wild flavors, from chocolat-foie gras to the Ispahan, a delicious blend of rose-raspberry. They are the ultimate picnic dessert!

Jenna-Marie Warnecke writes regularly for Girls’ Guide to Paris, OK Gorgeous and The Huffington Post. In addition to being a professional writer, she also runs Paris Cheapskate, regarding a wide array of events in Paris for those who have an eye to their purse. Jenna’s also been known to run the odd THATLou in the absence of yours truly, as well as to assist with large treasure hunts. You can follow her movements on Twitter at @jennawarnecke.

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.

Sunny paris street cafe under red awnings

Looking for somewhere to eat after a few hours of fierce competition at the museum? Doni Belau, the founder of Girl’s Guide to Paris, will point you in the right direction with her guide on where to eat near the Louvre.

Of all the things to do in Paris, going to the Louvre is on the top of nearly everyone’s must-do list. I personally tire of it because the place is so huge it can overwhelm which is why I recommend taking THATLou’s Treasure Hunt at the Louvre (what it stands for). Hers is one of the cleverest and most compelling ideas I’ve run across in all my time in Paris and it’s really a must in order to bring the Louvre down to a palatable size.

Whichever way you enjoy the Louvre, whether you are scavenger hunting or just making a regular visit, after several hours of ingesting culture, you’ll likely be famished. And after all that walking you won’t want to walk far, but at the same time you will NOT want to get stuck in a tourist trap either. Here are my best suggestions for any and every type of meal, drink or snack within 10 minutes of the Louvre. Bon Appétit!

A hearty lunch

In proper Parisian style, sit down for an elegant hot lunch prepared by one of the best chefs in town at La Régalade Saint Honoré. But do book ahead for Bruno Doucet’s homemade terrines and fair prices.
ADDRESS for La Régalade: 123, rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris
PHONE+33 (0) 1 42 21 92 40

It’s Raining

Like often happens in Paris, you are about to exit the Louvre and it’s pouring rain but your tummy is grumbling. Never fear, head back inside and ask for directions to the Richelieu wing. Head to the Café Richelieu, which serves the famous Angelina hot chocolate (and their complete menu). Sit back and sip the rich chocolaty-ness and take a sandwich while you wait out the rain. Just take IM Pei’s escalator up the 1st floor, where you’ll find it opposite the Middle Ages treasures.
ADDRESS: The Louvre, bien sûr!

Just a Sandwich

sunny empty dining room at Verjus bar a vin, Paris
Verjus bar à vin

Some days I can’t be bothered with a sit down meal for lunch. Why not head over to the scrumptious Verjus bar a vin, which serves wonderful wines by the glass and a fried chicken sandwich to die for, which you can take to go. If it’s sunny why not enjoy it on the Pont des Arts bridge? ADDRESS for Verjus: 52, rue de Richelieu, 75001 Paris
PHONE +33 (0)1 42 97 54 40

Brunch

For a quick brunch before heading over to the Louvre or a little cupcake to give you energy after your tour, walk over to Oh Mon Cake on the rue St. Honoré. After fueling up you’ll be ready for some shopping in the neighborhood!
ADDRESS for Oh Mon Cake: 154, rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris
PHONE +33 (0) 1 42 60 31 84

Just Drinks

Diners at Le cafe marly, sat underneath sunny arched terrace between cafe banners
le Cafe Marly

They can be rude and very Parisian, but the Café Marly – if you can capture a seat on the terrace – has the best view of the Pyramide at the Louvre in Paris. I do not recommend the food, however, as it is formulaic.
ADDRESS for Café Marly: entrance found from Passage Richelieu, or at 93, rue de Rivoli 75001
PHONE +33 1 49 26 06 60

Sick of French?

Book into this superb Japanese bistro for lunch or dinner. Less than a 10-minute walk and a world away from all the French food you’ve been having, Kunitoraya on rue Villedo serves up delicious udon noodles, sashimi, bento boxes and sushi. The menu is much more affordable for lunch.
ADDRESS for Kunitoraya: 5 rue Villedo 75001 Paris 
PHONE +33 (0)1 47 03 33 65

Drinks and a snack

Just behind the Louvre you’ll find a stand-by spot to prendre un verre (take a glass), the ever cozy Le Fumoir, which actually has pretty solid food as well. Happy hours are from 6-8pm when all cocktails are reduced to 7.50
ADDRESS for Le Fumoir: 6, rue de l’Amirale de Coligny 75001
PHONE +33 (0)1 42 92 00 24 Le Fumoir, ©L’Internaute Magazine, Maxence Boyer

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. (Want to see other parks in London & Paris? Check them out here: Part 1, Part 2)

Here’s the third part of our 3-part series on parks by Daisy de Plume, expat mother of two boys growing up in both cities (and THATMuse founder).

REGENT’S PARK

path under vine trellises and arches in Regents park

Impossible to distill the breadth of this green oasis in NW London, this was yet another hunting ground of Henry VIII and kept in royal hands long after John Nash planned this 410-acre park. For kids the choices abound, from the London Zoo with over 20,000 animals and nearly 700 species to the boat pond which is easily as big & verdant as Central Park’s. For the water weary, there is also a separate Children’s Lake open on weekends and on school holidays where kiddie pedalos are available for hire (either for the whole family, 28£/2 adults, 3 kids or children’s pedalos for only 4£ for 20 minutes). With plenty of playgrounds, the snazziest is near Hanover Gate, which has a timber tree house for older kids within a large sandpit for tots. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: Since he was 3 Storsh’s favorite part of Regent’s Park has been the Rose Garden, a secluded circle included in Queen Mary’s Garden. With about 12,000 roses and 85 single-variety beds, the garden’s laid out with five-foot rose bushes, divided into centralized beds that you can circumnavigate. It’s there that we compare the smells of the roses, inspect their thorns, laugh at some of their dippy names (Lady Marmalade? Bees Knees? Betty Boop?) and then Zulu-like play a savage game of hide-n-go seek/tag. As there are generally so few people, I don’t mute Storsh’s yelps of joy, fear of being found and general exuberance.

JARDIN DES TUILERIES

Flowers and sculpture in front of Ferris wheel in jardin de tuileries

The 23-hectare gardens connect the Louvre (where the kings lived), to Place de la Concorde (where the kings lost their heads in the French Revolution, site of the guillotine). The gardens we know today date to 1664, by André le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s Versailles gardener. The name comes from the tile factories (tuile means tile in French) they replaced when Catherine de Medici built the Palais des Tuileries with accompanying gardens. From a kid point of view the Tuileries has plenty to offer, from a wonderful playground with a behemoth steel jungle gym, popular hammock and roundabout, to two lovely boat ponds for pushing 1920s boats with sticks, not to mention a carousel. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: It’s easy to miss the sunken trampolines that are off the Tuileries central allée. They’re at about the level of the WH Smith bookstore, between the carousel and Place de la Concorde, yet plenty of Parisian parents don’t know about them. These trampolines, divided by padded frames, cost €2.50 for 5 minutes a pop for kids aged 2 -12. A great way to get their energy out after a morning Treasure Hunt au Louvre! METRO: Tuileries (line 1), Concorde (lines 1, 8, 12)

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.

Looking for something to do in London with kids that’s fun but also not too tiring?  Look no further, as Cheyenne, student intern at THATMuse, is here with a list of fun markets to visit while in London!

Borough Market

Entrance to Borough Market on Park street by classic pub and view of The Shard
Classic shot of the entrance to London’s Borough Market

Located in Southwark, this market is one of London’s most famous, with everything from fresh, UK-produced cheese to homemade Turkish delight to hand-blended milkshakes. This market is right off of the Thames, which makes for a nice view while eating, and is located near several hot tourist spots. London Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern are all close by, and worth a visit if you have the time and inclination. A much lesser known attraction is the Southwark Cathedral, literally less than two minutes’ walk from the market, which is a beautiful church that is open to the general public for free. It has a statue dedicated to Shakespeare, and some very pretty gardens to eat in. Just remember to throw away your trash in a bin!
Address: Borough High Street, Borough, London, SE1 9DE
Phone: +44 (0)20 7407 1002

Spitalfields Market

Food and clothing stalls under the covered Spitalfields Market
Spitalfields Market is the perfect place to spend a rainy London afternoon!

This market doesn’t share the heavy focus on food that you will find in Borough Market, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of a visit. There is some amazing street food here, so you can eat as you walk around and enjoy the stalls selling everything from antiques to hand-made toys and clothing. If you’re looking for a good hot chocolate (I know I always am!) a restaurant named Dark Sugar less than five minutes away from the market makes some of the best hot chocolate I’ve had in London. There’s also a garden nearby if you want to turn your family outing into a picnic with food you picked up from the market, or just let the kids run free for a while.
Address: Brushfield Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6EW
Phone: +44 (0)20 7247 8556

Bloomsbury’s Farmers Market

Shoppers stood by local milk stall under a tree at bloomsbury market
Bloomsbury’s Farmers Market is a quaint and personal market experience for any would-be Londoner

This is certainly not a very large or well-known market, but it’s my favorite by virtue of being located right outside my flat, and on my way to work. Nestled between the schools of UCL and SOAS every Thursday, this market may be on the smaller side, but it certainly has plenty of delicious food to make up for it. My personal favorite is grabbing a wonderful organic brownie from a dessert stand, but they have all kinds of different food here, making it a perfect fit for any family. Like Spitalfields, there are several gardens nearby for a picnic: specifically Gordon Square and Great Russell Square, both of which are beautiful. The British Museum is less than a five-minute walk up the street, if you want to burn some of your kids’ energy and let them learn at the same time.
Address: Torrington Square / Byng Place, behind ULU, WC1E 7HY

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

pond in St James's Park London with view of Whitehall and the London Eye

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

Flowers and lawns at Jardin du Lexembourg

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)

Discovering Paris with THATRue: An Intern’s Perspective

I arrived in Paris on a Saturday morning with a layer of sleep that glazed my eyes, but the genuine anticipation of beginning my THATLou internship on Monday– not to mention living in the most amazing city in the world — made that daze of jetlag fade away.  My internship did not start slowly; I would be jumping into my first THATRue hunt on Thursday and my first client would be the Dutch Embassy (a 70-person party). There was no way I could shake off the nervous-excitement that I felt for that day, so I spent the rest of my weekend glossing over the blogs that pertain to the power-hungry queen, Marie de Medici; pre-text to the hunt.

Monday morning I took to the streets of the Latin Quarter by myself, with my hunt in hand and with the job of making corrections if needed. My goal was to get used the treasure hunt layout and then to become familiar with the route. I remember as a little girl visiting the Luxembourg Gardens and picnicking there with my family, but I was in no way familiar with this particular area of Paris, nor the history that belonged to it, so this experience was completely new for me. The immaculate façade of St. Sulpice surprised me most, known for its lopsided architectural design; the second largest church in Paris took me back to my memories of reading the Da Vinci Code. The brass line echoed thoughts of the Holy Grail, but in stark reality the church despises Dan Brown for his fabrication, which I had a good laugh about– I knew the Dutch Embassy would get a kick out of that. I spent most of the hunt inside the church, not only because of the gorgeous organ, or the incredible sundial, but because one of the clues was hidden under layers of construction and I went in circles trying to find it. That sneaky Delacroix!

On the day of the hunt for the Dutch embassy, I arrived to the meeting point an hour early, taking in essential preparation time, plus my nerves were rising to an obscene level. I sat in front of the clock in one of the perfectly placed lawn chairs that surround the Gardens, enjoying an espresso and my view of Le Sénat. Once Annie, in charge of the hunt and the Odeon trail, and Maria, another helper leading the Pantheon trail, arrived I began to set into reality and my nerves calmed down a bit.

At 10 am, a sea of multi-colored ball caps bounced down the right-hand set of stairs leading to Le Sénat. The Dutch Embassy had arrived, all 70 sporting different colored baseball caps that separated them into teams of four, brilliant! Annie provided the teams with the instructions; Maria and I handed out all the materials and then gave each team a time to depart, letting them go in 3 min intervals.  All of the teams were determined and ready start their treasure hunts, a lot provided playful banter with other teams in confidence of their future victories. Once all of the teams departed it was time to keep a stealthy look-out on the trail and tail behind. Oh what fun that was! My pink cap team (the last to depart) in the St. Sulpice hunt, was gearing up to take first place, it was amazing to watch them surpass the rest of the teams, as they were the first to complete the treasure tasks inside St. Sulpice. They remained in the lead, although neck and neck with the orange team for quite a while, but remained triumphant in the end beating the orange team by a mere two minutes. To see all 70 smiling faces after the hunt was really gratifying.  It’s the most fun and perfect way to see the Parisian world and its past and I was so lucky to be a part of it.

With many of Paris’s parks dating to the 17th Century, the history of each one is worthy of tomes. One thing they all have in common is seasonal entry hours (generally dawn to dusk), which are posted at entrances. All are packed with history, art and practical playground delights. Here’s a list of Hidden Kid Treasure as well as garden “Spillover” for the whole family to enjoy.

JARDIN DES PLANTES

The Royal Garden Jardin des Plantes was designed by Louis XIII’s doctor, Guy de la Brosse, in 1635. After it was opened to the public, it fell to disrepair until Colbert was named administrator and had the medicinal plants and allées rejuvenated by leading botanists of the day (including Jussieu, whose name graces the nearest metro station).

colourful flowers in Jardin des Plantes, Paris

HIDDEN KID TREASURE: A special treat for Parisian tots is a labyrinth where they can climb in the hallowed-out bushes and secretly make their way up to the next level while parents toddle up the spiraling dirt path. The conical maze is hidden behind the Art Deco Winter Garden (serre in French; the hot house is also worth dipping into). With terraced levels being crowned by a looking-point gazebo, the labyrinth looks a bit like a massive green ziggurat. It’s a delightful treat for kids, but perhaps agree to a special whistle prior to letting your kids run free, as it’s easy for them to get lost in the maze! Or agree ahead of time that they’ll find you at the apex, sitting in the gazebo, so they know to climb up. (Can you tell my 5-year old has scared himself getting lost there aplenty?)

SPILLOVER: The Jardin des Plantes, 23.5 hectares (69 acres), also has an 18th century zoo with animals from the royal menagerie at Versailles, and four main galleries comprising the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paleontology, Entomology and Mineralogy Museums.

METRO: Gare d’Austerlitz (lines 5, 10, RER C), Jussieu (lines 7, 10)

JARDIN du LUXEMBOURG

The terraced gardens of the Left Bank’s Jardin du Luxembourg are a playground for both kids and adults. (You’ll find city-run tennis courts and a canopied area for chess players, as well as the 19th century Rucher du Luxembourg where adults can learn about how to care for bees and harvest honey from the garden’s hives.) The gardens were originally laid out to accompany Marie de Medici’s Palais du Luxembourg, which now houses the Senate. The 1620s palace was meant to replicate the Dragon Lady Queen of France’s childhood home, Florence’s Pitti Palace, and the gardens were inspired by Florence’s Boboli Gardens. The gardens have so many delights for kids (Napoleon dedicated the 25-hectares to the “Children of Paris”), that it’s a challenge to highlight one.

lawns of jardin de luxembourg

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.

SPILLOVER: Too many to name! The 25 hectares host a delightful pony trail, 1920s boats you can stick around the boat basin, 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, or of course you can check out the temporary exhibitions at the Musée du Luxembourg at 19, rue de Vaugirard (12€/adults).

METRO: Odéon (line 4), Notre-Dame-des-Champs (line 12), Luxembourg (RER B)

JARDIN DES TUILERIES

The Florentine de Medici family also left its mark on the other major Paris park, the Jardin des Tuileries. After Queen Catherine de Medici, Marie’s elder, was widowed by Henri II, she had the Tuileries gardens built for her Palais des Tuileries (1564); both the gardens and palace got their name from the tile factories which they replaced (tuile means tile in French). The 23-hectare gardens we know today — which connect the Louvre, where the kings lived, to Place de la Concorde, where French monarchy came to an abrupt (and bloody!) end — date to 1664 at the hand of André le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s Versailles gardener. (By no coincidence, le Nôtre’s grandfather had been a Tuileries gardener when it was Catherine’s stomping grounds.) From a kid point of view the Tuileries has plenty to offer, from a wonderful playground with a behemoth jungle gym, popular hammock and roundabout, to two lovely boat ponds for feeding the ducks or pushing the 1920s boats with sticks, not to mention a carousel.

Jardin DES TUILERIES

HIDDEN KID TREASURE: It’s easy to miss the sunken trampolines that are off the Tuileries central allée. They’re at about the level of the WH Smith bookstore, between the carousel and Place de la Concorde, yet plenty of Parisian parents don’t know about them. Separated from each other with padded edges, these trampolines cost €2.50 for 5 minutes a pop. They’re available for kids from 2 to 12. (Although my son, Storsh, was too young at 2 to understand what to do other than watch the older kids bouncing like a basketball.) It’s a great way to get their energy out after a morning au Louvre!

SPILLOVER: For the artsy families you can go sculpture scouting for the likes of Maillols, Rodin, Giacometti, or more modern Dubuffet and Roy Lichtenstein. More formally, two museums overlook the Place de la Concorde side: view Monet’s waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie or stop off at the Jeu de Paume, which often has excellent photography exhibits.

METRO: Tuileries (line 1), Concorde (lines 1, 8, 12)

Apart from being romantic, Paris is also marvelously family-oriented. Despite this, it can be tiring traveling en famille. My son, Storsh, is far more tourist-tolerant if he knows some “kid time” is just around the corner. So instead of making the whole day about the kids, why not plan your days with several bursts of kid-time in between what you want to see? I’ll even give Storsh a few city facts, explaining that I’m going to quiz him on them before his next “kid-time,” and watch his ears perk up a bit. Here are some of my favorite kid-friendly activities, all of which are free or cost less than 5€.
What’s better than free fun? Smack dab in the middle of town is the gorgeous Palais Royal, with Daniel Buren’s stripy stumps that any Parisian kid has raced through. Or there’s always the forest of columns at either end of the enclosed gardens, once Cardinal Richelieu’s residence, where my family and I play a quick game of hide-and-seek when passing through.
Make the outside of the Louvre your playground (before making the inside their treasure hunting ground with a THATLou!). The Louvre’s fountains have wonderful iron fish faces and countless soaring lights, so have the kids count how many they can find across the Cour Napoleon, the courtyard with I.M. Pei’s pyramid, whilst sharing the story of how it housed dynasties of French monarchs before becoming a museum in 1793 under Napoleon. The stunning Cour Carrée, the center of the Sully Wing, is also a go-to for hide-and-seek.
The slanted place facing Paris’ modern art museum, the Centre Georges Pompidou, has been a magnet for street entertainers since built in the 70s by architects Rogers & Piano. Let the kids run free as you sit alongside Parisians taking in the inside-out architectural façade. Pigeon- and bubble-chasing is Storsh’s favorite Pompidou activity, but there are also buskers, mimes, and jugglers who’ve kept him entertained for long stretches. Incidentally, the Pompidou also has the best atelier des enfants on the lobby’s raised mezzanine, as well as phenomenal views from the top floor, though they aren’t under 5 euros.
While in the area, don’t miss the whimsical Stravinsky Fountain by Swiss partners Tinguely and de Saint Phalle, where each family member can choose their favorite creature and pose for a photo impersonating these swiveling, water-spouting figures.
If your children are happy to sit still for half and hour and zone out (or tune in!) to some lovely free classical music, there are a few wonderful options in the area. The neighboring 17th-century Church of Saint-Merry has an afternoon series every other Sunday at 5:30pm and the 16th-century Saint-Roch (296 rue St-Honoré) also has a free classical music series on Tuesdays (12:30-1:45pm). If your children are music-oriented (and you’re willing to dish out more than 5 euros), Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris offers a weekend kiddie music program.
One of Storsh’s favorite activities– and probably any boy of a certain age whose favorite word in English is “gross”– is window gazing at any one of the city’s fascinating taxidermy shops. Deyrolle, located on rue du Bac, is the most famous. Another gorgeous option, often with a stuffed polar bear (which does make me wonder), is Design et Nature in the 2nd arrondissement. But if you want to get authentic – especially if your kids saw the film Ratatouille – there’s also the gruesomely gross Julien Aurouze pest control shop, whose storefront is filled with dangling dead rats in all sorts of contraption traps; its perfectly aged façade reads “Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles” (Destruction of Harmful Animals).
There are carrousels all across town, but I recommend heading to the oldest in Paris, designed by Opéra architect Charles Garnier and located in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Another 19th-century number, which is especially fancy, is the double-decker carrousel – the largest in Paris – at Hôtel de Ville. Alternately, you can find more modern rides, like those at the Villiers metro station near Parc Monceau, or artier carrousels, like the one located near Gare Montparnasse, where Impressionist paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Manet lining the center panels.
Finally, for scaled-down versions in practical locations, there are also plenty of siren-ringing, traffic-shaking firetrucks or motorcycles that rattle around most covered markets and run one euro/ride.
Deyrolle, 46 rue du Bac, 75007; Métro: Rue du Bac; Tel: +33 (0)1 42 22 30 07
Design et Nature, 4 rue d’Aboukir, 75002, Métro: Sentier; Tel: +33 (0)1 43 06 86 98
Church of Saint-Merry, 76 rue de la Verrerie, 75004, Métro: Châtelet; Tel: +33 (0)1 42 71 93 93
Church of Saint-Roch, 296 rue St Honoré, 75001, Métro: Tuileries; Tel: +33 (0)1 42 44 13 20
Philharmonie de Paris, 221 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019, Métro: Porte de Pantin; Tel: +33 (0)1 44 84 44 84
Julien Arouze, 8 rue des Halles, 75001, Métro: Châtelet; Tel: +33 (0)1 40 41 08 98
Villiers, Boulevard de Courcelles, 75017, Métro: Villiers
Gare Montparnasse, 17 Boulevard de Vaugirard, 75741, Métro: Gare Montparnasse or Montparnasse Bienvenue
Related Links
Need tips for where to eat with kids in Paris? Have a look at this useful guide from Paige Bradley Frost.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is a great kid-friendly zone. Discover all that it has to offer here.
For more kid-friendly activities in Paris, check out this article from The New York Times.

Apart from being romantic, Paris is also marvelously family-oriented. Despite this, it can be tiring traveling en famille. My son, Storsh, is far more tourist-tolerant if he knows some “kid time” is just around the corner. So instead of making the whole day about the kids, why not plan your days with several bursts of kid-time in between what you want to see? I’ll even give Storsh a few city facts, explaining that I’m going to quiz him on them before his next “kid-time,” and watch his ears perk up a bit. Here are some of my favorite kid-friendly activities, all of which are free or cost less than 5€.


What’s better than free fun? Smack dab in the middle of town is the gorgeous Palais Royal, with Daniel Buren’s stripy stumps that any Parisian kid has raced through. Or there’s always the forest of columns at either end of the enclosed gardens, once Cardinal Richelieu’s residence, where my family and I play a quick game of hide-and-seek when passing through. Make the outside of the Louvre your playground (before making the inside their treasure hunting ground with a THATLou!).The Louvre’s fountains have wonderful iron fish faces and countless soaring lights, so have the kids count how many they can find across the Cour Napoleon, the courtyard with I.M. Pei’s pyramid, whilst sharing the story of how it housed dynasties of French monarchs before becoming a museum in 1793 under Napoleon. The stunning Cour Carrée, the center of the Sully Wing, is also a go-to for hide-and-seek.

The slanted place facing Paris’ modern art museum, the Centre Georges Pompidou, has been a magnet for street entertainers since built in the 70s by architects Rogers & Piano. Let the kids run free as you sit alongside Parisians taking in the inside-out architectural façade. Pigeon- and bubble-chasing is Storsh’s favorite Pompidou activity, but there are also buskers, mimes, and jugglers who’ve kept him entertained for long stretches. Incidentally, the Pompidou also has the best atelier des enfants on the lobby’s raised mezzanine, as well as phenomenal views from the top floor, though they aren’t under 5 euros.

While in the area, don’t miss the whimsical Stravinsky Fountain by Swiss partners Tinguely and de Saint Phalle, where each family member can choose their favorite creature and pose for a photo impersonating these swiveling, water-spouting figures.If your children are happy to sit still for half and hour and zone out (or tune in!) to some lovely free classical music, there are a few wonderful options in the area. The neighboring 17th-century Church of Saint-Merry has an afternoon series every other Sunday at 5:30pm and the 16th-century Saint-Roch (296 rue St-Honoré) also has a free classical music series on Tuesdays (12:30-1:45pm). If your children are music-oriented (and you’re willing to dish out more than 5 euros), Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris offers a weekend kiddie music program.

One of Storsh’s favorite activities– and probably any boy of a certain age whose favorite word in English is “gross”– is window gazing at any one of the city’s fascinating taxidermy shops. Deyrolle, located on rue du Bac, is the most famous. Another gorgeous option, often with a stuffed polar bear (which does make me wonder), is Design et Nature in the 2nd arrondissement. But if you want to get authentic – especially if your kids saw the film Ratatouille – there’s also the gruesomely gross Julien Aurouze pest control shop, whose storefront is filled with dangling dead rats in all sorts of contraption traps; its perfectly aged façade reads “Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles” (Destruction of Harmful Animals).


There are carrousels all across town, but I recommend heading to the oldest in Paris, designed by Opéra architect Charles Garnier and located in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Another 19th-century number, which is especially fancy, is the double-decker carrousel – the largest in Paris – at Hôtel de Ville. Alternately, you can find more modern rides, like those at the Villiers metro station near Parc Monceau, or artier carrousels, like the one located near Gare Montparnasse, where Impressionist paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Manet lining the center panels.
Finally, for scaled-down versions in practical locations, there are also plenty of siren-ringing, traffic-shaking firetrucks or motorcycles that rattle around most covered markets and run one euro/ride.

Deyrolle, 46 rue du Bac, 75007; Métro: Rue du Bac; Tel: +33 (0)1 42 22 30 07

Design et Nature, 4 rue d’Aboukir, 75002, Métro: Sentier; Tel: +33 (0)1 43 06 86 98

Church of Saint-Merry, 76 rue de la Verrerie, 75004, Métro: Châtelet; Tel: +33 (0)1 42 71 93 93

Church of Saint-Roch, 296 rue St Honoré, 75001, Métro: Tuileries; Tel: +33 (0)1 42 44 13 20

Philharmonie de Paris, 221 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019, Métro: Porte de Pantin; Tel: +33 (0)1 44 84 44 84

Julien Arouze, 8 rue des Halles, 75001, Métro: Châtelet; Tel: +33 (0)1 40 41 08 98

Villiers, Boulevard de Courcelles, 75017, Métro: Villiers

Gare Montparnasse
, 17 Boulevard de Vaugirard, 75741, Métro: Gare Montparnasse or Montparnasse Bienvenue

My Insider’s Guide to Paris with Kids

When people think of going to Paris, they often think of it as a romantic destination (which it is), but it is also a fantastic place for families and if you’re planning a spring getaway over the Easter holidays, then a quick hop over the channel could be just the escape you need. I’ve lived in Paris for 12 years now and have explored it exhaustively with my 5-year-old son Storsh, who loves this wonderful city as much as I do. Here are some of my favourite family-friendly gems in Paris for you to explore too. You never know, you might even have time for some romance….


Parc de la Villette

Up in the 19th Arr., straddling Canal de l’Ourcq, which hosts the Paris Plages (city beaches) in the summer months, is the reclaimed industrial landscape-turned-futuristic Parc de la Villette. There are plenty of imaginative kid-friendly pieces here, from an enormous dragon slide to a verdant bamboo maze and it is a fantastic place to wander through in spring.

While you are there, don’t miss the amazing interactive children’s museum, Cité des Enfants (closed on Mondays; buy tickets in advance), which sits on the west side of the canal. If you ever manage to drag the kids away, there is an enormous Géode cinema just outside, which shows most of latest I-Max films in an English version too. Also nearby is a real submarine for the boys in your family to explore – my son Storsh’s favorite part!

A new addition to Paris’s cultural landscape is the Philharmonie de Paris, built by Jean Nouvel, which has some great children’s programs (from 3 months-3 years (sound & instrument discovery), to 7 & up (“From Beatbox to Mozart”). It’s worth checking out their website ahead of time (http://lavillette.com/) to find treats such as the Villette en Cirques complete with magicians, acrobats and the lot (Running till 17 April, tickets range from 10€ to 26€).

Metro: Corentin Carious (line 7) and Porte de Pantin (line 5).

Website: lavillette.com


Jardin d’Acclimatation

With Disneyland and the like banned from my childhood, being allowed to go to the 19thJardin d’Acclimatation always made Paris a favourite city of my youth. As it’s out in the Bois de Boulogne (the suburbs of Neuilly) it’s well worth arriving on the “Petit Train”which departs from Porte Maillot (17th Arr.). The toot of the horn and chugga chugga choo choo never ceases to delight Storsh.

The park rides range from standard modern play equipment (target games, a mirrored fun-zone) to more antiquated novel pieces (from the more acceptable TinTin section to a more historic – read possibly objectionable – jungle boat ride with colonialists in pith-helmets & natives sitting in the grass).

With plenty of picnic tables, there’s also a farm-inspired café (and a farm with live farm animals!) or more the modern Angelina for lunch. If you’re going all the way out there, be sure to allot time to Frank Gehry’s fantastic new Fondation Louis Vuitton, replete with concerts, exhibitions and estaurant Le Frank, all nestled into the Bois de Boulogne. Open 10am -6 pm, 5.90€ for entry & Petit Train ticket combined, not including rides which are 2.90€ or you can buy a carnet).

Metro: Sablons (line 1) or Porte Maillot (line 1 or RER C)

Website:jardindacclimatation.fr



Ballon de Paris

Skip the lines of the Tour Eiffel and take in a fantabulous view of Paris from a tethered hot air balloon. Getting you off the beaten-track, the Ballon de Paris rises about 150 meters, delighting kids no end. Anchored to the 1992 Parc André Citroen (which abuts the Seine in the 15th Arr.), the park also has ping pong tables and a fun water distribution fountain that kids can have a good romp through, darting around – or through — the playful water jets. Before heading down there, check the website for wind conditions though.  Fares are 12€ for adults, 6€ for children ages 3-11, toddlers under 3 are free).

Metro: Javel or Balard / RER C Javel or Boulevard Victor (the park’s address is 2 rue de la Montagne de la Fage 75015 Paris).

Website:  ballondeparis.com


Vedette du Pont Neuf

I always recommend planning a Seine cruise before or after a half-day at the Louvre (where you can also take part in one of my THATMuse family treasure hunts at the Louvre) to give the kids a rest from walking & standing. The closest boat to the Louvre has the benefit of being moored off the Pont Neuf (Paris’s oldest bridge, despite its name, “New Bridge”) where there’s a precious little patch of green, Square du Vert-Galant, right on the water’s edge, good for an energy-spending frolic before and after the boat ride – or for a baguette and stinky cheese picnic.

To play it safe perhaps pick up a Jambon Beurre (ham and butter baguette sandwich) in case the kids are resistant to being initiated to any of France’s delicious, but sometimes strong 350 (plus!) cheeses. The boat offers seating outside (upstairs) or in, both areas having a multi-lingual tour of the sites you’re passing over the hour-long tour.

From 15 March- 31 October the Vedette du Pont Neuf runs every 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 10 pm (the rest of the year it runs on the hour). Tickets are 14€/adults, 5€/kids (aged 4-12) when purchased at the dock, but better prices are available online (9€ in the morning, 11€ in the afternoon).

Website: vedettesdupontneuf.com


Jardin des Plantes

The 17th Century Botanical Gardens are brimming with well-documented plants, trees and splendid allées flanking either side of the 23.5 hectares (69 acres). For kids there’s the 18th century Zoo (originally with animals from the royal menagerie at Versailles), a delightful Art Deco Winter Garden (a hot house is Serre in French) with glass galleries of exotic plants from all corners of the globe), and of course the Natural History Museum comprising 4 main galleries (the Grande Galérie de l’Evolution, Paleontology, Entomology and Mineralogy Museums) is a dusty delight. Behind the hot house, kids can burn some energy and inspire some hide-n-seek imagination in the spectacular labyrinth of hollowed-out bushes, crowned by a gazebo.

Metro:  Gare de l’Austerlitz (line 5, RER C), Jussieu (lines 7 & 10)

Website: jardindesplantes.net

The idea of adding a Food section to the blog was originally Aussie in France’s Rosemary Kneipp, who lives just opposite the Louvre in Palais Royal and ran her own “Five Places to lunch Near the Louvre”. She gave me this wise idea an age ago, when we met for a Louvre photo shoot last May, to accompany a piece she wrote for Ma Vie Française on “Why I Came to France”.

Though I do love a good nibble + swig, my forté is more aligned to pondering painting and the like. So what better opportunity to introduce my wonderful THATMuse colleague, Jenna-Marie Warnecke, than now? With no further ado, here is the first Food + Drink 5-mins-from the Louvre series, this one with a guest post by the pen of Paris Cheapskate:

After spending a couple of hours running around the Louvre, racing against time to rack up the points necessary to win THATMuse, you’re likely to be not only pooped but also hungry. There’s no shortage of (overpriced) cafés nearby where you can relax and grab a bite, but if it’s a nice day out, you can do no better than to have a picnic in the nearby Jardin des Tuileries.


One of my favorite spots to get an easy, quality to-go bite is Flottes And Go at 2 rue Cambon (75001), just across the street from the Jardin des Tuileries (and about a 10-min walk from the Louvre). As an arm of the next-door brasserie Flottes, this bistro boutique is the perfect spot to pick up everything you need for a fabulous picnic from wine to cute napkins.


Fresh sandwiches like focaccia and salmon or quiches with ricotta, zucchini and tomato run about 8€, while you can also grab smoothies and organic sodas like pink grapefruit for 2-4€ and gourmet ice cream with flavors like honey lavender for 4€. There are also plenty of adorable French souvenirs to pick up while you’re at it, including jams, spices, decorative tins and cookbooks.


And though Flottes has its share of sweets from artisanal chocolate to gelato, I’d recommend taking a few extra steps down the street to Pierre Hermé (4 rue Cambon, 75001) to try one of their famous macarons. Pierre Hermé macs are renowned for their perfect texture and wild flavors, from chocolat-foie gras to the Ispahan, a delicious blend of rose-raspberry. They are the ultimate picnic dessert!

photo taken from Chérie City (www.cheriecity.co.uk)

Jenna-Marie Warnecke writes regularly for Girls’ Guide to Paris and The Huffington Post. In addition to being a professional writer, she also runs Paris Cheapskate, regarding a wide array of events in Paris for those who have an eye to their purse.

Jenna’s also been known to run the odd THATMuse, in the absence of yours truly, as well as to assist with large Treasure Hunts, such as the 40-person Dutch Railway company (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) corporate event we hosted last night. You can follow her movements on Twitter at @jennawarnecke