Barbe à Papa: Paris for Kids

June 13, 2016

Kid eating candy“COTTON CANDY in French is barbe à papa, that means Daddy’s beard,” my mom explained as we waited in line for our turn at the top of the Ferris wheel. We laughed. We’d never seen our dad with a beard before. How hilarious would it be if Dad had a beard, let alone a pink one the size of the cotton candy we were eating? Naturally, finishing his sugar adventure before our turn in the line posed no problem. We listened to the tin melody of the amusement park rides standing its ground amongst the giggles of children leading their parents, the calls of, “Water! One euro only!” and young couples on dates. After a long day of learning, we couldn’t wait to get to the top. This was my family summer trip to Paris.

This was years ago, but you truly can get kids to appreciate Paris for its art and history, without necessarily dragging them to the Louvre. AmericanConcierge.com especially makes it fun and easy to experience Paris with the whole family. Although, if you do choose to do the Louvre, I’d recommend keeping it short and checking out the ancient Egypt exhibit and the old underground walls when it was a medieval castle (and still had a moat!) My parents brought my brothers and I to see the Renaissance art for what felt like a lifetime. “Ok, we get it, religion and nakedness are important.”

Our parents wanted to see museums. However, after four hours of old dark paintings of old dark biblical stories in the Louvre, ten-year-old me was more than ready to denounce “art”.

To this day, I’m glad we gave museums one more shot. We discovered what are to this day my two favorite museums in Paris: the Pompidou and the Musée du quai Branly. After hours of dark, more traditional and often exclusionary paradigm of art, those two museums opened up my eyes and helped me realize how big the world really is.

Not all the pieces in the Pompidou are kid-friendly but it’s easy to check out the exhibits beforehand. I still think about some of the pieces I saw that day—a video on loop a guy painting the same room a different color everyday. Why? Honestly, I still don’t know, but it was awesome! Quai Branly, a museum across the street from the Eiffel Tower that specializes in indigenous non-Western art, underscored what I learned in the Pompidou. The world is so big contains an infinitive amount of possibilities of expression. Obviously, I couldn’t process all this at age ten, but the seed was planted, to say the least.

carousel for kids

As for historical buildings, we got some of that too! We saw the Notre Dame and loved it. Why? Not just for the hilarious name – “It means Our Lady in French? It’s not a lady! It’s a building.” We got to climb all the way to the top of the lady! The church’s aesthetic and incredible historical context functioned as secondary bonuses we barely knew how to appreciate. Our main takeaway? “We climbed 387 steps of an 800 year old church with no stopping for breaks!” Admittedly, this kind of climbing adventure only works for children and parents with 800 years of energy inside of them.

Paris - Notre Dame at sunrise, France

And of course, there’s more to do than just art and history in Paris! Did you know that you could dress your kids in French fashions without bringing them to the Champs-Élysées? We each got an item from the charming children’s clothing store, Du Pareil au Même (locations everywhere in Paris), to make sure we were chic enough for classes in September.

Naturally, as a release after being on our best behavior through museums, and historical buildings, we got parks! In the Luxembourg Gardens, ate ice cream and tried to count the pigeons so that we could chase them later. And to wrap up our trip, we walked around the Tuileries, where they put up an amusement park every June. We posed with our ginormous barbe à papa on the metal horses on the carousel. We rode as many amusement park rides as possible. Then for a calmer activity, we admired the fountains, contemplating the idea of ducks that spoke French.

On top of the Ferris Wheel, we tried to count all the colors of lights we could see, and see which buildings we recognized. And at the top, we finally understood what our everyone had been saying all along—Paris is beautiful.

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