I have a confession to make: I can’t speak French. Not a single word, unless you count ‘croissant’, ‘bonjour’ and ‘Cartier’. Add in the fact that I would never describe myself as ‘chic’, ‘elegant’ or having a certain ‘juh-nuh say kwa’, and you’ll start to understand why I’ve not spent much time in Paris. Frankly, I’ve never relished the prospect of making a massive philistine twat of myself asking for, ‘una crossant por favour’ while everyone else swanned around by the Seine in Breton stripes and tailored tweed Chanel jackets, being firm-yet-permissive with their charming be-Petitbateaued children.
So how did I find myself in Paris a couple of weekends ago with only my eight-year-old son Oscar for company?
I guess I was having a bit of a carpe diem (that’s not French is it?) awakening, having spent an evening in the company of my inspirational friend Deborah James (buy her book ‘Fuck You Cancer’ HERE and follow her on Instagram @bowelbabe) who’s all about getting out and living the life you want to live RIGHT NOW.
Add this ‘live for the moment’ attitude to the fact that Oscar’s new class is called ‘Monet’, and I decided it would be highly education for him to see the artist’s work for himself, the perfect excuse for a bit of mum-and-son quality time and a chance for me to lay eyes on my beloved Degas ballet paintings again. Half an hour later I’d booked the Eurostar tickets and The Hoxton hotel, and negotiated a Friday lunchtime departure with Oscar’s school.
I still don’t speak any French, but 48 hours in Paris with an eight-year-old has qualified me to share my dos and don’ts of a (mainly) successful avec-kid trip to this sexy city…
DO stay at The Hoxton
Everything about The Hoxton was a huge hit with Oscar – and with me. Things we loved about the place include: the fact that you can walk there in 20 minutes from the Gare du Nord (that’s the station the Eurostar arrives into FYI); the super-friendly staff (who were incredibly helpful when my purse got stolen – see below); the excellent burgers; the delicious pancakes; the amazing hot chocolate (do you sense a small-boy theme here?); the quaffable champagne (that was me); the beautiful rooms; the gorgeous old building…I could go on for ages. Tip: if you’re light sleepers ask for a quiet room that doesn’t overlook the courtyard as it can get noisy at night.
DON’T take a walk along the Seine
The helpful receptionist at The Hoxton suggested we got the Metro to Alma-Marceau then walked along the Seine to the Musee D’Orsay. This would have been great if it had just been me, or if I’d been with another grown-up keen to see the sights and walk for about 25 minutes. Oscar was largely unimpressed by the former and completely fed up by the latter (which became closer to 40 mins due to feet-dragging). I had to bribe him with ice cream to keep him moving.
DO visit the Musee d’Orsay
Chances are your progeny will be wary of being dragged round a boooring art gallery, but this is as much about the building – a beautiful former train station of St Pancras proportions - as it is about the art. Head to the very top of the gallery and take in the breathtaking views both inside and outside on the roof terrace. Marvel at the giant clock, and casually throw in a whistle-stop tour of some of the most famous Impressionist paintings known to man. Let’s gloss over the fact that the biggest, er, impression was made by the Lego Eiffel tower he pestered me to purchase in the gallery shop. I really should have pre-booked those tower tickets…
DON’T just turn up to the Eiffel Tower
Instead you should pre-book online. And do it well in advance. I tried to book just a couple of days before our trip and they were sold out all weekend for trips to the top platform (though a few slots to the lower level remained). Not being a fan of what I’d been informed were lengthy queues if buying a ticket on the day, we only got an Eiffel from afar this time. Next time we’ll be better organized.
DO buy a carnet of Metro tickets
Your kid gets a discount on the Metro if you buy a carnet (set of 10 tickets) for them, but not if you just buy them individually. And if your mini-me is less than enthusiastic about trekking around town, these will get used up in no time.
DON’T put your purse in your rucksac
I did this after buying an ice cream in Montmartre, up near the Sacre Coeur cathedral with its breathtaking views of the city (defo worth a visit). The thieves must have been watching as I stupidly put my brand new Miu Miu purse (SOB!!!) containing more than 300 Euros (ARGH!!!) in the easily-unzippable outside back pocket of my rucksac. Five minutes later, after we’d pushed through the scrum of people in the Place du Tertre, I fumbled for my purse to pay for a ride on the little wheeled train tour (wish we could have done this – it looked fun) and discovered it was gone. KEEP YOUR VALUABLES CLOSE – I’ve since been warned that Paris is notorious for pick pockets. Thank goodness for The Hoxton, whose lovely staff calmed me down and sorted us out with room service when a lack of credit card or cash meant we could no longer go for dinner at Chez Janou…
DO go for dinner at Chez Janou
Clearly, due to the purse debacle, I didn’t get the chance, but Chez Janou was recommended to me by some of the coolest and most kid-savvy people I know, so I feel confident recommending it to you. Next time I go to Paris I’m heading straight there, kids or no kids.
DON’T eat at La Maison Rose
Due to an ongoing #pinkpilgrimage (my ever-growing list of pink-related places around the world I absolutely MUST visit), La Maison Rose, a pretty pink Instagram sensation of a restaurant, was a no-brainer of an itinerary item. But while the eight-year-old tolerated taking pictures of his embarrassing mum posing like an eejit outside the establishment, his reward - a chance to have lunch inside - was a disaster. Let’s just say that a place that refuses to serve ketchup on the grounds that it doesn’t fit with its all-natural, non-processed food policy was never going to be a hit with my offspring. Finally I promised him another ice cream and gave him some Tic-Tacs and my phone to play with so I could enjoy my (very tasty) duck salad in peace.
With a huge thanks to The Hoxton Paris for being amazing in every way and having us to stay in exchange for blog and Instagram coverage. For more on The Hoxton Paris and to book a room, click here