Tips for running the Paris Marathon
The Paris Marathon, the 42nd edition of which is being held on 8 April, is definitely one of those races in which all runners should take part at least once in their lives. So if you're up to the challenge of running the 42 kilometres this year, be sure to check out these tips.more info
Paris, With Kids
1) Parc de La Villette
Open all year around, La Villette is a surefire destination for entertaining boys and girls aged 0 to 99 years! It is the largest park in France, stretching across an area of 55 hectares, and workshops, activities and shows are organised in its gardens and outhouses, come sunshine, rain or snow. It is renowned for its Cinéma en plein air (open-air cinema) in summer. Thousands of Parisians congregate there hours before the sessions to jostle for a good seat and unpack their picnic hampers. In winter, many workshops and other activities are held in the Grande Halle, an emblematic iron-and-glass building that was once France’s most important livestock market. But, to get back to what concerns us here – children – one essential destination is the Jardin des Vents et des Dunes, an admission-free playground recommended for children aged 0 to 13 years. Adults can stretch out on the chaises longues while they keep an eye on their youngsters. The Jardin des Voltiges, given over to circus, is an admission-free venue where kids can experience gravity on ropes, climb or ride a monocycle. Some interesting educational workshops and exhibitions are also organised in La Villette.
2) Cité des Sciences, Cité des Enfants and la Géode
La Villette is not exactly in the centre of Paris so, if you want to visit it, the best thing is to spend the whole day there and also see the Cité des Sciences, the Cité des Enfants and la Géode. The Cité des Sciences features some interesting educational exhibitions for the young – and not so young! – but for children the jewel in the crown is the Cité des Enfants. This huge space, taking up 5,000 square metres, hosts all kinds of activities, experiments, water games and discovery areas for learning while you play. It is divided into two parts – one for children for 2 to 7 years, and another for ages 5 to 12. To round off the day, a fitting choice would be to watch a movie or documentary on the 360° screen in the fantastic Géode.
3) Galerie de l’Évolution
The Gallery was inaugurated in 1889, shortly after the Eiffel Tower, as the Galerie de Zoologie. The formidable sight of a huge herd of elephants, giraffes, zebras or buffaloes will win over the young ones from the outset. The museum’s permanent exhibitions focus mainly on the evolution of the species, while the subjects of extinct and endangered species are also stressed. Children can discover biodiversity and environmental hazards through playful interactivity in the Galerie des Enfants. Further information here.
After such a flood of taxidermy animals, your children are likely to fancy seeing some live specimens. You need only to go outside the museum to come across the Zoo del Jardin des Plantes, a centre dedicated to the study and conservation of some 200 plant species, while for animal sightings you shouldn’t miss the Parc Zoologique de Paris, where you can have breakfast alongside the giraffes, or cut your teeth as animal handlers by feeding a manatee, a kind of giant seal weighing in at 600 kilograms.
4) Orchestre de Paris
One of France’s most prestigious orchestras offers concerts for the whole family where language is unimportant. Children and adults alike will discover music through a series of concert shows purpose designed for a public of all ages which elicit participation. You can check out their programme and times on this website.
Most museums in Paris have materials specifically for children, including whole rooms and halls customised to their needs. The Louvre, for instance, organises workshops, family visits and story-telling sessions geared to discovering the museum as a form of entertainment. Parents can also download teaching material from their website or request it at information points. Noteworthy among the museums most highly rated by Parisians for their family facilities are the Palais de Tokyo and the Pompidou Centre, where they also organise workshops, activities and exhibitions tailored to children and adolescents.
In addition to the well-known museums, Paris has a host of others catering to all tastes. Don’t rule out visting some that will cause surprises, such as the Musée de la Poupée, Musée Gourmand du Chocolat, Musée de la Musique and the Musée Aéronautique.
So, head for Paris with your children – check out our flights here.
Images by Cité des enfants, Francois_Grandin, Galerie de l’Évolution, Little Palais, Paris Tourist Office. Daniel Thierry, Paris Tourist Office. Amélie Dupont, Arnaud-Legrainmore info
Paris Shakespeare & Company
When one thinks of Paris, one of the first images that springs to mind is that of an aspiring writer, secluded in an attic, waiting for the Muse of inspiration to make her appearance. Paris is pure poetry and, as such, it houses some of the world’s best bookstores, like Shakespeare and Company. We are going to relive the fascinating history of this book shop and tour the most select Parisian literary venues.
Shakespeare and Company
Sylvia Beach had been in Paris for 20 years when she realised the need to open a shop where readers could find works in English. Shakespeare and Company opened on the rue Dupuytren in 1919 and subsequently moved to rue de l'Odéon, near Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The bookstore founded by Sylvia Beach – who was soon to embark on the publication of one of the great works of universal literature; James Joyce’s Ulysses – almost immediately caught on as a meeting point for English-language writers during their stay in Paris. There must have been some memorable literary gatherings within those walls between such illustrious figures as Man Ray, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett, among others.
In 1941, during the German occupation, Sylvia Beach refused to sell the first copy of Joyce’s novel, Finnegans Wake, to a German officer, an act of defiance which led her to be arrested and incarcerated in a concentration camp. She was released six months later, but never opened her book shop again. Sylvia Beach died in 1962 and a year later, another American, George Whitman, acquired her publishing list.
George Whitman had his own bookstore, Le Mistral, which was little more than a study full of printed pages on the rue de la Bûcherie, at the intersection of Saint-Jacques, alongside the Seine and opposite Notre Dame. Fascinated by the life story of Sylvia Beach, and as a tribute to her legacy, he changed the name of his store to rekindle the legend of Shakespeare and Company, the most famous bookstore in the world. This literary venue is well-known, among many other reasons, for providing accommodation to writers who come to Paris in search of inspiration free-of-charge on the upper floor of the shop. In exchange, they are expected to help stack the new releases that keep coming in, as well as serve and chat with customers. A huge number of literary figures have slept over in that loft – George Whitman estimates they number some 40,000. They include both anonymous enthusiasts and those who have ended up becoming paramount figures of the literary world. Prominent among our own literary figures is Terenci Moix who in his autobiography dedicates some passages to George Whitman and his stay at Shakespeare and Company (37 Rue de la Bûcherie).
Another of the most endearing bookstores in Paris is Abbey Bookshop. Located just a stone’s throw away from Shakespeare and Company, it is run by a Canadian whose warmth and friendliness are simply beyond words. The store is notable for its endless list of works in English (29 rue de la Parcheminerie).
Located on the bucolic Canal St Martin, Artazart is a must-visit spot for design lovers. There, they will be enthralled not only by a stunning range of books and magazines on the subject but by some of the most outlandish design objects, on sale in the shop (83 Quai de Valmy).
“The Most Sophisticated Books in the World” is the motto of Assouline Publishing. With branches in New York, London and Paris, its venue in the Saint Germain des Prés quarter features a boutique where you can purchase their publications, if you can afford them (35, rue Bonaparte).
In the centrally located Place Saint-Michel, rather than a single bookstore per se, Gibert Jeune has several premises scattered around the square, each devoted to a different subject: literature, history, biography, etc. It can take up a whole afternoon’s browsing – and even two! (Place Saint-Michel)
A store featuring rare books, its major appeal lies in its boundless collection of titles dedicated to cinema, photography and art in general. In addition to books, the shop carries a huge selection of posters, acetates and promotional photos. A film-worthy experience for visitors (13 Rue Gerbier).
L’Écume des Pages
A bookstore purpose designed for those who cannot go to sleep without first reading for a while. At L’Écume des Pages, you will not manage to exhaust their wealth of titles, despite the shop staying open until midnight, except for Sundays, when they close at 10 p.m. to get a break (174 Boulevard Saint-Germain).
Freedom, fashion, design, Paris, elegance, class, youth, vibrant cultural urge… these are the words used by Ofr. to describe their publishing policy. A bookstore and exhibition gallery geared to art, design and fashion targeting the modern set, hipsters and other contemporary birds. Welcome to your Parisian intellectual gymnasium! (20 rue Dupetit-Thouars)
If Paris is just your first port of call on a long journey, make sure to drop in on Ulysse, one of the best bookstores in town and anywhere as far as globe-trotters and other migratory species are concerned (26 rue Saint-Louis en Île).
Summer Park Festivals in Paris
Paris makes the most of the inbound good weather by scheduling all types of events in the city’s parks and gardens. They range from music festivals to activities for kids and even spectacular light and sound shows. All this fanfare provides the perfect excuse for visitors to head for these splendid spots to chill out, refresh themselves and discover an alternative Paris, removed from its usual museum, café, restaurant and fashion store offerings. Following is a selection of some of the events that should be must-dos on your agenda if you happen to be in the French capital this summer.
Who said Paris had no beaches? With the arrival of summer, the Parc Rives de Seine and Bassin de la Villette fill up with deck chairs, sunshades and areas to chill out, cool off and beat the heat. Additionally, all kinds of activities are laid on, including concerts, exhibitions and watersports. Especially inviting is Parc Rives de Seine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which covers some ten hectares stretching along the Seine riverbank. The area has undergone a radical upgrade since 2013, now refurbished as a public precinct with areas for promenading, doing sport and featuring playgrounds for small kids and even organic restaurants.
Rock en Seine
The Parc de Saint-Cloud is the spot earmarked to host one of the leading pop-rock music festivals in France, Rock en Seine. Three days, five stages, 65 concerts and 120,000 attendees await you at this marvellous venue, regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful parks. A half-an-hour’s train ride from the Paris Saint-Lazare railway station, we assure you this festival is ideal for camping out in the park, which has its own camping area for festival-goers. And, should we have failed to win you over with the location, you are sure to be blown away by the heart-stopping lineup. Now in its 14th year, it features the likes of The xx, PJ Harvey, Flume, Franz Ferdinand, Cypress Hill, At The Drive-In, The Kills, Fakear and Mac DeMarco. Irresistible, isn’t it?
Festival Classique au Vert
Running from 5 August to 17 September is the Festival Classique au Vert, where you can delight in a complete programme of classical music which spans different styles, centuries and cultures. The programme is as eclectic as the venue it is hosted at, the Parc Floral. Stretching across twenty-eight hectares, it is part of the Paris botanical gardens, together with Bagatelle Park, l’École Du Breuil and the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil. Inaugurated in 1969, it is acclaimed for its variety of vegetation, with some, clearly Japanese-inspired areas and others shimmering with flowers – they boast a collection of 650 different types of iris. A unique experience in a unique setting.
Open-Air Film Festival
Our list of festivals would not be complete without the Open-Air Film Festival, held in the Parc de la Villette, in the city’s 9th arrondissement. There you can chill out and enjoy the evening watching a movie. Admission is free-of-charge and each year the screenings revolve around a different theme. This year it runs from 20 July to 20 August and is themed on food. Talking of which, don’t hesitate to take your picnic hamper to the park. You simply couldn’t think up a better way of ending the day!
Grand Night Show at the Fountains of Versailles
At the Palace of Versailles everything is oversized, as is the stunning light and sound show hosted there every summer in the famous gardens. Awaiting you on Saturdays from 17 June to 16 September from 8.30 p.m. are two and a half hours during which you will witness an intermingling of Baroque music, interplays of light and water and fireworks worthy of the Sun King.
Fête des Jardins
The twentieth Fête des Jardins (Paris Garden Festival) is held when summer gives way to autumn. This festival is hosted at some 150 venues in Paris and its environs and for one weekend a plethora of activities for all audiences are on offer, from guided visits to gardening workshops, games, concerts, tours, etc. One of the aims of this event is to reveal to the public all the ins and outs of landscaping and gardening and the elements involved in these professions. It is also a great chance to visit certain gardens which are only open to the public on this occasion.
Book your Vueling to Paris for these summer festivals, when you can get to visit its magnificent parks and gardens.
Text by Los viajes de ISABELYLUISmore info