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Paris Dining Options with YOUNG children

As someone on the Florida board who lives in Orlando, I know how frustrating it can be to have traveling posters dropping in asking the same questions over and over, but I have a few specific questions that I have not been able to find by searching the France board, so I appreciate any help or pointing me to threads that have addressed these questions recently.

Next week my family is traveling to Paris for 6 nights and staying in an apartment in the 5th ar. on the Rue des Ecoles near Rue de la Montagne Geneveive. I know the Latin Quarter has its share of tourist traps, so we want to avoid those. We have two children (ages 5 and 2), so we're planning to use the kitchen a good bit as well as picnic when we can, but our kids are very young and normal for their age (I won't be delusional like some others and pretend a 2 year old is "well-behaved" or has a "sophisticated palate") so we're looking for some advice on the following:

1) A few places to eat with the kids (lunch or dinner) that would deliver a more "local" experience of where a Parisian family might eat if they went out with their family
2) A few places where we can bring the children with after we fed them at the apartment and they can color quietly while we enjoy a perhaps slightly more adventurous or sophisticated meal (but where we will not put any fellow diners out by bringing kids to the place)
3) A few outdoor markets or stores/shops not to miss for picnic goods or basics for the apartment
4) Any "can't miss" experiences for the kids (culinarily-related or not)
5) And finally, while not specifically food related, can anyone point us to where exactly Paris Plage is set up along the Seine?

Thanks for any advice, we want to have a great time WITH our young chiildren but also respect that many in Paris (whether residents or other tourists) may not want to to be around young children and therefore plan accordingly

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  1. 1) A few places to eat with the kids (lunch or dinner) that would deliver a more "local" experience of where a Parisian family might eat if they went out with their family

    - Chez Casimir has a 28euro buffet lunch on Saturday and Sunday. I have had great dinners there but have not had the buffet lunch, which may be a more flexible and user-friendly format for chldren.
    - Another lunch place is the marché Enfants Rouges, with individual lunch stalls. Possibly you can ask your children to pick out the food stall that looks most attractive to them.
    - Afterwards you can take them to a great Italian ice on nearby rue Dupuis.

    2) A few places where we can bring the children with after we fed them at the apartment and they can color quietly while we enjoy a perhaps slightly more adventurous or sophisticated meal (but where we will not put any fellow diners out by bringing kids to the place)

    In order of my food preference, in your quarter:
    - Dans Les Landes
    - Christophe
    - Les Papiles
    - Le Réminet

    All the restaurants I mentioned should be reserved. You can easily find current reviews of them on this board.
    You must know Google map, which even calculates walking distances.

    3) A few outdoor markets or stores/shops not to miss for picnic goods or basics for the apartment

    Besides the marché Enfants Rouges mentioned above, near you is the very good Maubert market. You can find its opening hours by searching this board.

    4) Any "can't miss" experiences for the kids (culinarily-related or not)

    I would take them to the nearby Gerard Mulot pastry shop on 76, rue de Seine, which is also on the way to the Luxembourg gardens, loved by children and adults alike. All the beautiful colorful pastries would give all of you a great taste and visual memory. Then all of you can go to the Luxembourg gardens just down the block.
    Bon séjour.

    5) And finally, while not specifically food related, can anyone point us to where exactly Paris Plage is set up along the Seine?

    Very easy for you. Just walk toward the Seine, which is about 10 minute walk for you, and there it is.

    2 Replies
      1. re: YosemiteSam

        There is also a pleasant foot court at mezzanine of the Louvre Pyramide mall. It is not great food but not too dumb for fast food.

    1. I've got a decent rec right in your neighbourhood: Les Pipos (rue de la Montagne de Sainte-Genevieve). Given the location, it should be touristy, but it's unpretentious and cozy, and my veloute de champignons, followed by boudin blanc aux morilles with puree de pommes de terre and compote de pommes, was perfect on a COLD day. All the diners there when we we went in March were multigenerational French families, so our 2-year-old was not out of place at all.

      We avoided dinner out in favour of picnics in the hotel room (it was just a quick weekend), but our recipe for lunches out meant booking at or showing up at 12pm in order to have the pick of tables and be able to stow the stroller without deranging too many people. We've learned to LOVE restaurants that have a wall of banquette seating - we'd always grab a two-top at the end, which gave our son some room to sit/stand/play with trucks/crayons, etc, again without bothering others.

      I echo Parigi's Lux Garden rec - the playground there (2 euros/child/day) is one of the best we've ever found. Plus it puts you at a decent stroll from good picnic provisions in the 6th - Gilles Verot for stunning pates and terrines (rue Notre Dame des Champs), Barthelemy for cheese (rue de Grenelle).

      Also good with kids in that neighbourhood - the Sunday organic market on blvd Raspail - there's a great Breton crepe stand!

      On the non-food front, I'd HIGHLY recommend a visit to Deyrolle, the taxidermists on rue du Bac, not far from the intersection of blvd St-Germain and blvd Raspail. Our son was enthralled by running from room to room and being nose to nose with lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

      Would love for you to post your experiences, as we'll be heading back to Paris in early Sept...

      4 Replies
      1. re: Kelly

        Merci. We are a little torn as to what to do on Sunday. Right now we plan to head out to Versailles for the park and to see the fountain show, as we heard (and remember from years ago) that Sundays are dead in Paris. Yet I have read in the last few days that the Marais and Canal St Martin are pretty happening on Sundays now, plus it seems that the markets are good Sundays. Wondering if we should go to Versailles on Saturday instead and stay in town on Sunday

        Will definitely report back

        1. re: YosemiteSam

          Saturday is just as happening in the Marais and around the Canal St. Martin and everywhere else in central Paris. For Sunday trip to Versailles, pick up food at the Monge market in the morning and Kayser for bread, etc and head to St. Michel Metro Station for the RER. Couldn't be any easier.

          1. re: PBSF

            On the question of taking very young children to restaurants, do bear in mind that:
            (1) a good restaurant would have a market-driven short menu. If your child eats, say, only 3, 4 things that he recognizes, - which some children do, - he may not be ready yet for restauranting in Paris;
            (2) a typical meal in France in a good restaurant would take a longer time, as the French do emphasize the leisure factor in all forms of enjoyment. No young child - even the most angelic - likes to stay seated for 2 hours.
            Once we had dinner with friends and their 3-year-old child, at 8pm, which was very late for the poor child, who already had done a whole day of sightseeing with the parents. And the parents had not brought anything to entertain the child, no coloring book, no game, nothing. The child had a transcendental meltdown. I mean, wouldn't you?

            O yes, PBSF, Sunday Versailles with picnic food from your 'hood market shopped one day early, that's exactly what I would do.
            As for the two markets, I have a slight preference for Maubert, which seems to have better quality and lower price over Monge. But admittedly we are comparing B+ and B++ here...

            The garden of Versaille has free admission Sunday. The fountains are fabulous. Unfortunately the Versailles management pipe in this generic Baroque music through a sound system that the French would call "casserole". In short, heavy metal Baroque.
            In the sprawling garden, your child, and you, must not miss the Hameau de la Reine, a "near" life-size hamlet built for Marie Antoinette traipsing there dressed as a milkmaid. Ahhhhh, it's good to be a queen.

          2. re: YosemiteSam

            Both Saturday and Sunday in Paris are lovely. But Versailles does seem more of a Sunday place.

            Bear in the mind that Versailles and its gardens require LOTS of walking. If the weather is bad, forget it. If you do go, Versailles is a very posh and pleasant town in its own right. There's an excellent open-air market on Sundays (until 1 or 2) at le Carré du Marché Notre Dame just off the avenue St Cloud and just a few minutes walk from the RER Versailles Rive-Droite station so no need to bring picnic stuff all the way from Paris with you. The streets around the market are also loaded with restaurants. Most are tourist traps. Some like Au Carré on the rue du Pain are not. Even though its location at the top of the avenue St Cloud across from the chateau would make it seem like a prime candidate for tourist trap status, le Resto du Roy is exceptionally pleasant, well-priced and, if they have tables outside in good weather, perfect for kids. Versailles' foodie restaurants like le Potager du Roi and Angelique are unfortunately not suitable.

            On Saturday and Sunday, picnicking in the gardens seems to be tightly controlled and limited to the the (unshaded) perimeter of the Grand Canal and, less crowded, the Pièce d'Eau des Suisses on the other side of the Orangerie. There's a couple of over-priced and not very good restaurants at the start of the Grand Canal. Better is the outpost of the famous salon du thé Angelina near the Chapelle of the Petit Trianon. The kids love the eclairs chocolats and the wife and I share un choc africain. There's a little electric bus that connects the main Chateau, Trianon, and Petit Trianon but on the Grandes Eaux Musicales days it's only available (for an extra fee) for the 25 € ticket holders. My kids always demand that we rent a row boat/ "barque" on the Grand Canal...the wife always wears a floppy hat à l'anglaise and sips freshly pressed orange juice bought at the stand next to the boat rental place/ "location de barques", the kids pretend to spy fish in the waters, and I sweat at the oars. Whatever you do, expect to be totally exhausted by the end of the day.

            To get there, get the métro at Maubert-Mutualité to Javel and then follow the signs for Javel-André Citroen RER for the C line to Versailles Rive Droite. There are also RER trains to Versailles Chantiers but the walk is slightly longer once you get to Versailles. You can use your Paris Visite travel pass to Javel but you'll have to buy a separate ticket to Versailles at the Javel-Andre Citroen RER station. Full price (3.50€) for you and wifey, half price for the 5 year old and free for the 2-year old. BTW, the RER C between Invalides and Austerlitz in Paris is closed for engineering works until mid-August so, for you, the nearer St Michel RER station is not an option.

        2. We French are far less tolerant of intrusions into our space than Anglo-Saxons. Good restaurants will always try to protect their habitués and, to some extent, that's why non-French tourists are often "segregated" into certain parts of restaurants on the assumption that their conversations will be carried on many decibels above what the French consider to be polite. Adding kids to the equation will severely limit your choices of where and when to eat.

          As a Parisien with young kids, I find that restaurants/ cafés with large outside terraces are best for minimizing problems. The kids always seem better behaved outside (lots of distractions), the other patrons are far more tolerant, and one or other parent can take the kid for a short time-out walk if she/he starts acting up. In your part of the 5th, the best choices are probably at the top of the rue Montagne Sainte-Geneviève near l'École Polytechnique. As suggested by Kelly, Les Pipos is great during the day but might be a bit too boisterous at night. Chantairelle (garden in back) on rue Laplace is pretty reliable although predictable. There's also a fab Corsican épicerie/ bar à vins "A Loghja" further up the rue Montagne-Ste-Geneviève near the Église St-Etienne-du-Mont. You can grab a quick bite there or buy the fixings for picnics/ at home.

          Ethnic restaurants in general and Lebanese restaurants in particular seem to be especially tolerant of kids. Al Dar on the rue Frederick Sauton not only has good grub (and great finger food for kids) but also outside tables and a lovely setting on a picturesque and historic street with Notre Dame as a backdrop. If Lebanese is not to your liking, there's a cluster of passable Chinese restaurants around the place Maubert.

          Surprisingly, one of the most kid-tolerant neighbourhoods is the trendy Canal Saint Martin quartier in the 10th. Both Philou (French bistro) and Cambodge (Asian) on the avenue Richerand have nice terraces-- and superior food. And a super pizza place (with outside tables) on the corner of rue Marie et Louise and the rue Bichat.

          Re Paris Plage, there seems more stuff for toddlers in the stretch from the pont Sully to the pont Marie. 15 minute walk from your place or take the 86 or 87 bus from boulevard St Germain/ place Maubert to Sully-Morland.

          Re markets, the Place Maubert (2 mins walk from your apartment) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and the Place Monge (10 minutes by foot or 2 mins by bus from rue Monge/ Cardinal Lemoine) on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Quality and choice are pretty similar but Place Monge gets extra points for a more picturesque setting.

          Get a zone 1-3 Paris Visite bus/ métro pass and learn how to use the buses! Much, much easier than hauling kids up and down stairs/ escalators at métro stations. Luckily, the rue des Écoles has 3 buses for getting you anywhere west (St Germain des Prés, Invalides and Trocadéro/ Eiffel Tower). For going east and north to, say, the place Bastille which is prime café territory or the Marché Aligre, the stops are on the boulevard St Germain. You can also get north or south from the bus on the rue Monge.

          There's a sweet little park and playground 2 minutes from you on the rue des Écoles just before rue Monge. And free wifi too!

          The Luxembourg is indeed a sensational and very kid-friendly park... maybe a 10-minute stroll from your apartment but you can save your footsies by walking up the rue Montagne-Ste Geneviève/ rue Descartes to the rue Clovis for the #89 bus to the place Rostand/ Luxembourg. There are two (?) buvettes/ snack bars inside the Luxembourg gardens but not really recommendable. Instead I'd head to the terrace of the Au Petit Suisse on the corner of the rue Vaugirard/ rue Medicis, the Café Rostand on the place Rostand/ rue Medicis, or the Dalloyau pastry/ tea shop on the place Rostand/ boulevard St Michel. Not much grass for a picnic and napping except for the sunbathing area at the far end near the avenue Observatoire.

          The garden of the Musée Rodin is also a great place for a picnic. But the café is good enough that you don't need to bring your own grub. From your apartment, the #87 bus/ direction Champs de Mars on the rue des Écoles to the Vaneau-Babylone stop and then walk. Bus + walk = 20 minutes.

          For a memorable meal (despite kids in tow), Parigi's suggestion of Chez Casimir is perfect (even better if you can snag a table on the terrace).

          2 Replies
          1. re: Parnassien

            Merci. What great suggestions and I appreciate you taking the time to write such a detailed post.

            We appreciate the desire for the French to enjoy a quiet meal so that is why we are looking for these types of options. I respect the culture and want to be appropriate - if we wanted to let the kids go crazy we'd go to Italy or Spain :)

            The Lebanese options are great as my wife was born in Beirut and these are likely a little more authentic than we get in Florida.

            The bus seems a little intimidating as we don't really have buses here and from what I remember from my days living in NY the locals using it as regular transportation are not very tolerant of a slightly confused visitor with kids slowing them down. If we get the pass is it easy to use a bus? We were fine on the Metro before but this is the first visit with children so I hear you about the stairs.

            1. re: YosemiteSam

              Bus is easy as pie. Especially if you have the RATP apps on your smartphone. Go to www.ratp.fr and look in the "services mobiles" section for a download. If your phone plan, doesn't cover u in Paris, you can still connect at any of the 100s of free wifi hotspots in Paris. The closest to you is the little park at rue des écoles/ rue monge. First-time use registration is required but I think there's an english version of the online registration form:

          2. We recently stayed in a hotel apartment in the 5th with our 6, 5, and 2 year olds.

            For picnics/eating in your apartment, a few suggestions:

            The Place Maubert marche is very good (intersection of Maubert and Monge), with an excellent fromagerie, good to serviceable boulangerie (stick to breads, which are excellent), and adequate charcuterie. Alouette is another very good fromagerie in the 5th.

            Eric Kayser is on rue Monge and has both great bread and pastry. Next door to the shop, they have a small, counter service place that will serve coffee to go (harder to find in Paris than you would think). Carl Marletti is also in the 5th but we didn't get around to going. The kids took great delight in walking to the bakery every morning and picking our their breakfasts.

            If you are looking for a bottle of wine, there is a place at the corner of Rue des Ecoles and Rue Descartes that has a reasonable selection, good prices, a good number of wines stored chilled for immediate drinking, and an English speaking and friendly staff (owner is an expat Brit).

            The Jardin du Luxembourg is really greater than the sum of its parts. I can't remember an hour that sailed by (pardon the pun) as quickly as watching the kids play with the sailboats in the park's center.

            From the 5th, it's a quick walk to the Ile St. Louis for ice cream--Berthillon. They're closed for much/all? of August, so check ahead.

            In general, you can't go wrong walking through Paris with kids. No matter what arrondisement we were in, they would see things in the windows of patisserie/boulangeries/etc and try things, and they loved getting crepes on the street.

            And as a sidenote: we found the Pompidou to be very child-friendly, with our kids taking a drawing class, and large, not-too-crowded galleries. The kids loved the "outside" esclators and the views from the upper floors.

            1. Oups, I forgot to suggest the Jardin des Plantes. Easy walking distance from you. http://www.jardindesplantes.net/ My kids' favourite place.

              And its restaurant La Baleine on the rue Cuvier is very kid-friendly (with a children's menu and outside tables) and surprisingly good.

              1. I wanted to report back on our recent trip as the advice I received from all of you was so helpful and feedback is so important.

                Overall it was a fantastic holiday and further proof that regardless of the ages of your children you can still travel to interesting places and expose both them and you to new experiences. Having said that, I think one of the primary reasons we are able to enjoy these types of trips with our young children is we adjust our expectations and build in an incredible amount of flexibility to allow for the the expected inconsistencies of traveling with children at a young age.

                The best decision that drove the whole wonderful experience was to get an apartment with a kitchen rather than stay in a hotel. It was our first time doing this and frankly it is a lifesaver both from a budget perspective (both in per night costs as well as food and supplies) as well as location.

                Not unexpectedly, our 5 year old confirmed her recent trend towards very picky eating and therefore limited our ability towards enjoying a large number of restaurant meals (in contrast our 2 year old is currently in a phase of eating everything you place in near proximity to him). To deal with this we wound up eating lunch at restaurants most days and taking dinner at the apartment, with the kids eating earlier and us enjoying a later meal in peace and quiet once they were asleep. These adult "meals" were the best part of the trip and were possible because of our fantastic location near so many superb markets.

                A very quick overview of our lunches - we basically decided more on what was near our current location at the time lunch arrived and then picked a place that seemed like having young children wouldn't be an issue. We had a nice lunch at Cafe Central on Rue Cler near the Eiffel Tower - it was touristy but of all the places we ate they were the most friendly with the children and we had a nice respectable lunch for ourselves with a tasty tartare, Croque Madame and carafe of nicely chilled rose. Not a foodie find at all, but perfect for what we needed at the time. Other lunches that went well included L'Escurial in the Marais near Place des Vosges and La Piazzetta just off Jardin du Luxemborg near the playgrounds (my 5 year old ate pasta around 7 times in 6 days - sigh). Again these were not groundbreaking meals, but delivered solid well-priced options and didn't cause us to sweat the kids being present.

                We loved the look of Les Pipos and planned to eat there, but the one night we were in the area for dinner they were closed and then on our last night the kids were just too tired to risk a dinner out. The only night we ate out at all we dined at Le Twickenham right off Maubert Marche because as we walked by a diner was enjoying moule frites and we had an immediate craving. A funny learning was that our 2 year old loves mussles - go figure. The other enjoyable dining experience was in Canal St. Martin where we got a couple of great unique pizzas from Pink Flamingo and then they deliver it to you by the canal where they find you by the pink balloon they give you. My kids loved watching the boats navigate the locks on the canal and enjoying the pizzas in the open air.

                Back to the "meals" in our apartment: Breakfast from Kayser around the corner was amazing and I could enjoy their baked goods everyday if I had the opportunity. But the best was several nights we went down to the Maubert Marche and grabbed cheese from Fromagerie Dubois, meat from the charcuterie, a baguette from Kayser and wine from the little wine store right across from our apartment Ex Cellar. It was fantastic looking out on the Parisian streets from our 2nd story perch and enjoying the freshest ingredients (we got fruit from the market several days as well) and great wine.

                This is already long, but I wanted to mention a few final thoughts:

                1) If you have children and wish to shield them from second-hand cigarette smoke, do not expect to enjoy dining outside much as it is basically a haze of smoke from locals who can't eat and smoke inside of restaurants. And EVERYBODY seems to smoke in Paris :)

                2) I came across that rare occurence of extreme apparent Parisian rudeness that we've found rare in our visits but tends to color much of Americans views of the locals. I like to point it out as the exception it is, but also share it as it was so extreme and out of place with almost every other local we met as to warrant mention. The main proprietor of the Fromagerie Dubios in Maubert Marche is what we here in the States call a first class a**hole. He has a few tiny signs (in English of course) saying "don't touch the cheese". Now I'm kinda a cheese afficiando so I assumed he was trying to stop clumsy tourists from manhandling his cheese, but any cheese lover knows that they way to get an understanding of the quality of a cheese as well as its characteristcs is to gently probe its rind and closely view its appearance and scent. I picked up a cheese as he was roundly ignoring my presence anyway and within seconds I was verbally accosted in English to please release the cheese and then followed by what I assumed was a stream of complaints and curses in French to a local customer about my actions. I fled immediately embarassed without buying any product despite what was an admittedly nice selection. I will note that he made no attempt to engage me in my 10 minutes I had been in his establishment and to offer me tastes of his product or advice on what was good as I encounter in all the fine cheese stores here in the States. The next day I peeked in and he wasn't present so I went in and received fine service from another cheesemonger and spent over 20 Euros on cheese. The next day I dropped by again and they were at closing, but before entering I asked if it was OK if I came in to purchase some cheese and I was invited in to do so in a very open and friendly way. While looking for my choices, this same guy came out the back and literally pushed in front of me at the shelves and proceeded to remove the signs and labels from the cheese I WAS DIRECTLY looking at at the time, all without a word or acknowledgement of my presence. Again, the other cheesemonger in the store helped me out pleasantly, but I believe this guy was either the owner of the manager and if his selection wasn't so great and location so convenient I wouldn't have bought anything from them. As it was I spent over 100 Euros in the store over the course of the week. Long story, but if one of you locals who knows French happens by this place, please go in and tell the guy he's a real jerk for me in his native language.

                Finally, I want to thank all of you for your non-food suggestions as well. Our kids loved the playground at Jardin du Luxemborg, we all had a great time at Versailles, and overall we had a wonderful family holiday and created many memories, much of them thanks to your generous recommendations. I hope you will tolerate this long report-out and also accept my sincere gratitude. Merci beacoup!

                3 Replies
                1. re: YosemiteSam

                  So glad you and your family had a great time. And thank you so much for reporting back.

                  "if one of you locals who knows French happens by this place, please go in and tell the guy he's a real jerk for me in his native language."

                  In summary:
                  1. There was a sign in English expressly telling customers not to touch the cheese,
                  2. But you chose to interpret the sign to mean something else,
                  3. And now you are asking us to insult, on your behalf, a person who you think may be the owner or manager or employee, who was guilty of … of what? Of really not wanting you to touch the cheese?
                  With all due respect, I would like to point out that we locals were all happy to help you and share information with you, but please do not burden us with your personal need to be rude and unreasonable.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    Oh my goodness, I apologize. My request for a local to visit was intended purely as a joke. I guess the intent was either lost in cultural translation or perhaps it just wasn't a very good joke. My intent for this post was to convey my thanks to all of you for your help and that we had a wonderful time, and it pains me that my aside could have caused you any offense and distracted from my appreciation. Again, please accept my apology.

                    My instinct is to edit the post to remove the offending section, but then your reply would not make sense so I'll leave it as is and hope this clarification helps.

                    I do want to address your thoughts though. Re-reading my post I did not make it clear that I didn't see the signs until after I was yelled at, so I did not willingly ignore the directions. And you are correct that it is their establishment so if they don't want the merchandise handled that's their perogative. My intent in sharing was to comment on the nature of the interactions as well as the follow on experience whereby I was invited into the store and then treated in a way I perceived as rudely. A simple "Sir, please do not touch the cheese" would have sufficed no?

                    Again, though, I appreciated all of your advice and never intended you to act upon my request as I meant it completely in jest.

                  2. re: YosemiteSam

                    Ah, but the cheese at Laurent Dubois is fantastic -- it's my favorite fromagerie in Paris. I make special trips over there just to buy cheese. I've actually met and chatted with M. Dubois and while I wouldn't describe him as warm and fuzzy, he is truly devoted to his métier -- he is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France! He isn't merely the proprietor of a dinky cheese shop -- he is regarded as one of the best fromagers in the entire country, as highly respected as Pierre Hermé or any 3-star Michelin chef. He doesn't cut and weigh cheese and offer samples -- he has a staff of assistants to do that for him. None of this excuses his rudeness and impatience, but perhaps it explains it a bit...?