If the flaneurs walked turtles, then parents of toddlers have chosen to walk moody puppies who shift from sleepy and complacent one minute, to bubbly and delightful the next, to wailing and obstinate, and back ’round again. In both cases, the experience has the effect of forcing you to slow down a bit and to generally change your perspective on things.
What are my best tips for places to see in Paris with a toddler? Try for all of it. Which is really to say, nothing much in particular.
Start with where you’re staying. Venture around the immediate environs. Poke your head into the local cheese shop while singing a friendly bonjour and pick up something delightful to enjoy, regardless of whether your puppy-child will agree with its deliciousness. If parents are grumpy and hungry there’s no telling where the day will go. Next: Find an épicerie or a patisserie, or some other -erie that will allow for another little treat. If you’ve just flown in from the United States you’ll need a snack. (Don’t pay a lick of attention to the time on the clock, just get yourselves fed, and preferably before everything’s shuttered up. You’ll catch on to local culinary customs eventually.) A child in a stroller making a mess of strawberries is better than a child in a stroller wailing, and so give your little bug something to munch on and continue on your tour.
Expectations for sight-seeing need to be halved and then halved again. Long lines should probably be avoided at all costs, unless you happen to find one while the puppy’s in a particularly amenable mood or otherwise sleeping. (Never say never, etc.)
Parks and gardens are to be embraced; especially the ones that permit a bit of lounging (and or running like a maniac) on la pelouse. (On the other hand, gardens where lounging on the grass is not permitted are perhaps better left alone, lest you need to carry a child kicking and screaming from a lawn that they desperately want to destroy. Spoken from experience, of course.) If your puppy is like ours, fountains will be a main attraction. This will cause mild consternation as you repeatedly need to wrest your child from falling over the edge, but her squeals of delight at the “bubbles” will put everyone in a good mood and with a little luck on your side she won’t end up going for a swim.
If your timing is right, you’ll catch a delightful late afternoon sun glinting off the Pont Neuf, as we did. This moment might even coincide with a cheerful toddler gleefully pointing out the dogs on parade. Take time to take in the glorious open sky—a marvel for New York City dwellers like us. Walk slowly and in a direction that will guide you more or less in the direction of sights worth seeing, but without any expectation that you’ll check them all off your list. I’d warn against over doing it on the walking front (as we did) but this of course how you will manage to take in a bit of the beautiful city and so I say, carry on. (French pharmacies have an impressive array of band-aid options, anyway.) For us, a stroller was key and we even managed to boire un café en terrasse while the tuckered out toddler snoozed inside it.
The real point is this: You might well spend an afternoon sightseeing that leaves you feeling triumphant and wonderful as as if you’ve really nailed both parenting and touristing and in this case, a hearty pat on the back is deserved. The afternoon will likely also include moments when you are in the throes of an epic meltdown in which case the best idea is to slow your roll a bit and blame everything on jetlag.
Let out a bit of a sigh. Look at admiringly at older couples enjoying a moment of repose, and trust that you will indeed one day be them and that they one day were you. Don’t linger too long on the future or the past. Right now you need ice cream, and likely a nap.
Psst: Besides the obvious ones, James also took that last shot. I was busy chasing a puppy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. We’re taking our toddler puppy-child to Tuscany in September and I’d already started getting nervous. This has eased my anxiety a little. Have a wonderful trip. x
Have a wonderful time!
What a gorgeous piece! This is a glass-of-lemonade-essay, which is to say: it’s delightful, refreshing, honest, and hopeful. Looking forward to reading more as you enjoy your holiday. xx
Agreed. Beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you! I love the idea of a glass-of-lemonade essay!
This whole post was a treat to read, but that last paragraph. Man. Great writing! You’re giving me the travel itch, but I’ll do my best to enjoy a walk around the neighborhood with my own puppy in the meantime. : )
Thanks so much for these kind words! Happy trails!
Have an amazing time! Your travel tips are perfect. We were in Italy last October with an 18 month old and a 4 year old. Stroller naps and lots of gelato (for the 4 year old) allowed us to see the major sights on our list. But not always on the first try!
Right; totally! Try, try again!
Ah, enjoy. I love Paris in the summer (when it sizzles…)
And I’m sure you’re chock full of recommendations but the Jardin du Luxembourg is lovely for a stroll, as is, weirdly, Pere Lachaise Cemetery. And the Rodin Museum is outdoors, and your puppy (probably) won’t pose any danger to les statues
Lovely! We might spend another night on the end of our trip—to bookmark if we do!
Lovely post! I stood at the same fountain just two months ago and looked around at all the people of various ages enjoying themselves and was so glad to be there with my family. What a treat! My kids are no longer in the toddler-puppy stage, but their ages (6 and 9 years) still required lots of rolling with it. We left the apartment each day with one destination in mind and then would end up wandering here and there. We fully embraced cafe culture of Paris and stopped for treats OFTEN. My 6 year old daughter fell asleep on more than one city park bench. And both kids jumped rope all over the city to burn pent-up energy. My 9 yr old son found the smell of the cheese shop near our apartment in Montmartre amazingly bad and is fond of saying of anything remotely smelly: “this smells worse than a cheese shop in Paris!” They were not pleased with our decision to avoid the line and climb up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. But we did let them eat a pain au chocolat each day! It was a true family adventure, one that officially gave us all the travel bug and were currently scheming and saving for the next adventure. I think its wonderful that you are starting family travels now. Its great perspective on the every day. Enjoy your travels! And please keep posting – I love seeing your photos and reading your words.
Ha! A daily pain au chocolat makes all the difference, really. Thanks so much for reading!
I had been eagerly awaiting this. Thanks for the update and making us all unafraid to travel with a two-year-old. xo
We can do it (just slowly!). xo!
We are in the midst of a road trip through northern England; we just spent 2 days in York and are headed up to Newcastle upon Tyne for some more sights. With our 10 and 2 year old. I’ve had to cross sooo many things off our list. Our 2 year old puppy is definitely running the show! Thanks for the timely post and chuckle.
beautiful! i especially liked the line about the older couple. thanks for sharing, and enjoy!
Je vous suis en Bretagne et à Paris et suis tellement heureuse que vous aimiez et appréciez la France avec votre famille!
Thank you for your wonderful prose!
thanks for reading!
love this! we are planning a trip for the fall to paris, we will have an 18 month old! and i call our little girl puppy too 🙂 haha
would love to hear more about traveling with a toddler
Beautifully said. And the last photo illustrates your point so perfectly! (wonderful collaboration with James, as with puppy-child herself, hee hee).
i loved this! we’re going to new york in july with our puppy who will be 14 months by then. our only goals are all the fab parks and cookies every day from momofuku milk bar. =)
Have you, guys, been affected by the strikes and floods at all?
No, really not at all! It’s been dry out here in the West and we’ve been tooling around by car!
What a wonderful description of what travel is like with a small child. We took our now 5 year old daughter to Paris shortly after she turned two, and we had a comparable experience. She loved running around the Louvre courtyard and the Tuileries, and we also got to boire un cafe (et aussi une panache) en terrace thanks to naps in the stroller. After the trip, she got into the Madeline books since she went to Paris. When we read the books, she still likes me to point out the Paris sites she visited and asks when we will go back.
This brings back so many memories for me. Travelling with my eldest for the first time was definitely an eye opener. I love the half and half again comment because that basically sums up traveling with children. Two children and a lot of travel later. I have realised that you can still enjoy travel if you “half” your exceptions. Slow things down a little and try and enjoy the simple things.
Loved this! I always thought I’d be the type of parent who would travel with their babe, but now that I’m a mother to a 5-month-old baby, I just don’t know if I have it in me! Arm chair traveling will have to do for now, I guess. And it’s hard not to think wistfully about all my past travels, or when she’s old enough to leave with the grandparents and take off again. You said, “Don’t linger too long on the future or the past.” I need to tell myself that every day!!
Lovely!!! Thanks for sharing!
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