I’m a self-professed gypsy, which is why I’m a bit envious of Angelina Jolie – not because she is with Brad or lacks the jowls I seem to be developing, but because she jets around the world every week with her entire family in tow. How come their kids never throw fits in customs?
Why didn’t I pull off a birth in Namibia? Are my allusions of taking my two kids on my work travels just a fantasy? Don’t get me wrong; I’ve traveled with Isabelle and William before, but they weren’t exactly the most Zen experiences – especially since somehow, we inevitably always end up in the very last row of the plane – yup, the one where the seats don’t recline – while the Jolie-Pitts undoubtedly fly private. So I was determined to harness my inner Angelina recently when I decided to take my three-year-old daughter away with me to Paris for a mixture of business and pleasure: our first Girls’ Weekend.
ISABELLE IN PARIS, PART UN: SETTLING IN
Confession: I’m a disciple of Marc Weissbluth (I highly, HIGHLY recommend his Healthy Sleeping Habits, Happy Baby) and have been practicing his sleep training for years. So the thought of catapulting my three-year-old daughter Isabelle into another time zone was perhaps the most terrifying part of our Parisian “Girls’ Weekend” together. What if she never got back on schedule (and in turn, I never sleep again)? I’m happy (well, ecstatic, frankly) to report that she was totally fine on the trip: after watching a little Dora on the iTouch.
Another mother in my office recommended this to me for travel – these little contraptions can be virtual lifesavers (at least it’s saved my life repeatedly). Sure, I could’ve bought one of those huge portable DVD players for the trip, but who wanted to schlep it along with the art supplies, snacks and stroller? Usually I’m ambivalent about the TV thing – but when traveling, all bets are off and I swear by its allure. There is no way one can do Montessori-inspired puzzles all the way to Paris (at least, I can’t!) Isabelle conked out so hard that I carried her off the plane, plopped her into her gate-checked stroller, rolled her into a cab and put her back into bed at our trip accommodations.
We stayed in a friend’s apartment (dubbed “Snowdrop” for its serene décor and location), which rents through a fantastic site called Guest Apartment Services (www.guestapartment.com). Renting a temporary place was more economical than a hotel and perfect for a toddler. Having our own kitchen was ideal – and yes, they did have Isabelle’s fave meal, chicken nuggets and frozen fries, at the Francprix around the corner!
No Joel Robuchon for her – there is only so much gastronomy a North American toddler is willing to try. I joke of course, but for all you moms out there who have only done Europe sans little ones, you’ll be relieved to hear that every restaurant has a Kids’ Menu shockingly akin to ours. So you’re not a failure if your child is not knocking back escargot and Steak Tartare – it’s all nuggets and frites over there, too!
Once Isabelle woke from her nap, we were off and running. Our first destination – a park, so that Isabelle could blow off some post-plane steam and get a taste of Paris’ gorgeous scenery. My park of choice – by way of Ile St Louis and Bertillon ice cream – is Place de Vosges.
This small, gorgeous destination gives one a breathtaking first taste of Parisian architecture, including the home of Victor Hugo, now open to the public (if you have a really, really well-behaved toddler). Even the sand box at Place de Vosges has a Hausmann-ian symmetry! Isabelle quickly made friends with the locals and seemed right at home. Now, with a nicely acclimatized, well-fed and happy toddler in tow, I could get down to the nitty-gritty: Shopping!