paris: things to do

How to Pack for Paris in the Winter with Just a Carry-On Bag

I’m in Paris this week and I only like to travel with a carry-on. I did a post last summer on how to pack for Paris in the summer but the winter is a whole other beast so I thought I would do a post on it. The first thing I think about when packing for the winter is being warm. When you are a tourist you have to dress warmer than the average Parisian who is usually just going from home to work. A tourist spends most of the time outside going from location to location so you have to dress for the elements. Paris rarely gets snow but gets a decent amount of rain. I’ve found a good pair of leather boots repel the water just fine. It’s not worth bringing a whole other set of rain shoes. If you are going somewhere in Europe with a lot of snow it might be a different story. I usually buy an umbrella for 5 Euros from a street vendor if I need it, same with cheap black gloves. I don’t pack that kind of thing with me because they usually get lost quickly and I don’t want to worry about lugging my good stuff across the pond with me. Below I’ve listed what I brought with me with an explanation of how I use it. The main thing to think about when you are traveling in the winter is that every single outfit is basically going to look the same because of your winter coat. So pick your warm coat first and then plan all the outfits around that. I bring enough underwear so I only need to do laundry once (if I’m staying for 10 days I bring 5 pairs!) I do a load midweek (it’s usually underwear and tshirt layers) to save space.

How to Pack for Paris in Just a Carry-On

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Shopping Paris in 8 hours

Some people still don’t know that my awesome big sister is also Design Mom. When I was younger I used to steal her clothes (she aways had the best clothes.) And she was the one who taught me even when I was in middle school to care about design. I remember her telling me “Never buy anything ugly. If you have to buy a trash can, make sure it is the most beautiful trash can you can find.” Here are three things you might not know about Gabrielle. 1. She is one of the best stylists I know. Every shelf in her house is casually and beautifully arranged. She doesn’t show it off very much but her house looks like a photoshoot in real life. She doesn’t even have to try hard and things look beautiful. 2. Her and Ben are really the best parents. Their kids are happy and passionate about lots of things (because they are encouraged by their parents.) You really have to see it to believe it. 3. She is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and she means it. I’m super lucky to have her as an older sister! It has been so fun to move here to France at the same time. We can go up and visit them in Normandy and they can come visit us in Paris. Last Friday she took the train to Paris so we could spend the day together without kids. I thought it might be fun to list our itinerary here. Here is how to spend 8 hours in Paris. This is perfect if you don’t really want to site see and just want to get some good shopping and exploring in.

8 HOURS IN PARIS
11:00 am We meet for an early lunch at the trendy Pause Cafe, 41 Rue Charonne, in the Bastille (we got the poached eggs.)
11:45 am Finally flag the waiter down and pay our bill. Walk around and explore the shops in the Bastille.
12:15 pm Try on lots of awesome clothes at a vintage store Adom, 56 Rue de la Roquette. They have the cutest boots there!
12:30 pm Rent some Velib bikes and ride to BHV
12:40 pm Explore BHV, 55 rue de la Glassware, the famous French department store. We check out every floor and make sure to stop at the craft and stationery sections, the lighting department, and the toy department.
1:45 pm We get on bikes and head up to the famous market street Rue Montorgueil and Les Halles.
2:00 pm We park and start in at E. Dellherin, 20 Rue Coquillière, an industrial cooking supply store and G. Detou,  58 Rue Tiquetonne, a specialty cooking store. We stop at Stohler, 51 Rue de Montorgueil, one of Paris’ oldest bakeries to try one of their famous pastry: Puit d’Amour. SO GOOD! We walk down Rue Montorgueil and check out bakeries and stores. (If you want to spend more time on Rue Montorgueil follow David Liebowitz’s guide.)
3:00 pm We head to COS, 68 Rue Monmartre, an awesome Swedish brand. They make beautiful quality clothing with really interesting designs. We try on clothes for a long time! G buys me a fluorescent bracelet I was admiring (thanks sister!) We also stop by La Drogerie, 11 Rue du Jour, an amazing ribbon and trimmings shop and a quick stop at HEMA, 118 Rue Rambuteau, a great Dutch brand that has cheap knick knacks.
4:30 pm We jump on bikes and head to the Marais.
4:45 pm We stop at Merci and Bonton. And afterwards head down to Rue des Rossiers to check the famous Falefel.
6:00 pm We head to the park Place des Vosges and get some macarons and a lemon tart at Carette Cafe, 25 Place des Vosges, before we hail a cab and Gabrielle goes to the train station to catch her train.
7:00 pm I get on my bike and meet my friend Valerie before I ride along the Seine back to my home in the 7th.

10 Things to Do in Paris with Kids

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I just had someone ask me for recommendations on things to do in Paris with kids again so I thought it would be good to get it online on one place. So, here goes.

1. Pizza Picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Does visiting French restaurants with kids make you nervous? Avoid the whole thing by picking up a pizza at Gusto Italia (their veggie pizza is really good) then take it across the street to the park for a picnic right in front of the Eiffel Tower.

2. Bike Rides. Velib, Paris’ public bike system is amazing, the only problem is there is no way to bring the kids along. Paris’ bicycle path system is extensive and biking is one of my favorite ways to get around especially when tourist season hits. If you are nervous about biking in a big city stick to park paths and some of the bike paths along the Seine. You can rent bikes with kids seats right here.

3. Le 104. This is one of the most special places in Paris. It is part art installation, part interactive museum. The installations are made to play in and “experience” and are perfect for both children and adults. In addition to the changing exhibitions Le 104 is also home to my favorite carousel in the world.

4. Seine Boat Tour. Pick up a ride at Ile St. Louis for an hour long cruise through the center of Paris at sunset. The kids love the boats and you can see the big sites in one fell swoop.

5. Puppet Show. Some of the bigger parks like Jardin de Luxembourg and Champ de Mars have the classic old marionette shows. They are in French but have a lot of physical comedy that any 3 year old will think is hilarious. Check for exact times but they are usually in the afternoons on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

6. Carousels. There are as many carousels in Paris as there are Starbucks in Manhattan. That might be a slight exaggeration but really, they are everywhere. It is so great to be able to stop throughout the day and treat your kids to a carousel ride.

7. Toy Sailboats.  Some of the parks like Jardin de Luxembourg and the Tuileries have adorable toy boat rentals run by equally adorable old men. You choose your boat and send it off into the little pond with a stick to guide it. It is surprisingly entertaining and makes for great photos.

8. Parc Floral. A friend introduced me to this impressive park last year. It is enormous and has the best toys of any park I’ve been to (they are really awesome!) If Disneyland were a public park  it would be Parc Floral. Mountains of slides, ziplines, fields of flowers, and snack bars aplenty.

9. The Cité des Enfants is one of our favorite kids museums. It’s especially great for younger kids and toddlers. Lots of science related toys to play with. A really well done children’s museum.

10. Ferris Wheel. In the winter the Ferris Wheel sits prominently at the bottom of the Champs Elysees (and during the summer months there is one in the Tuileries.) Hop on for a ride and a 360 degree view of the city.

all photos by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day

ps Here are my tips for traveling with kids and tips for traveling on airplanes with kids. Plus 6 tips for planning the best vacation ever.

Happy Things in Paris: Artazart

I found Artazart Bookstore on accident right after we moved to Paris. We were looking to buy some Polaroid Film and saw on the Impossible Project site that it was sold there. Artazart only sells photography, design, art, and fashion books, some well known and some obscure. It is one of my favorite stores in the world. It is just piles and piles of the most beautiful and inspiring books. (Most of the books are in English or else are just pictures.) I always stop here when I’m showing friends around Paris. Plus it is a good excuse to go sit along Canal Saint-Martin and people watch–not an area the tour books will usually send you but it’s one of my favorite neighborhoods. (My thoughts on collecting art books here.)

Artazart | 83 Quai Valmy, 75010 Paris, France

A special thanks to my sweet friend Valerie Dray for taking these photos. She is one of my favorite things I’ve found here in Paris.

Rue Montorgueil

I can barely pronounce the name of this street (Mon-tor-guy) but it is one of my favorite places in Paris. Rue Montorgueil is a pedestrian street that has bakeries, cheese shops, and delis a plenty. It’s a bit like Rue Cler but is somehow way more adorable. Besides the fun energy of this market street there is some really great shopping on the surrounding streets towards Les Halles, a lot of boutiques and even some good chain stores. When people ask me where to stay I usually recommend they stay in this area. The location is perfect, it is centrally located with short walks to both the Marais and the Louvre. My friends recently moved to Rue Montorgueil so we find ourselves visiting it a lot more. If you are planning a visit David Leibowitz has a fantastic guide with lots of recommendations right here.

all photos by Oh Happy Day