The Life of an English Maman in Paris…

Anyone who knows me well will know that I am a bit (ok a lot) travel-obsessed, so it is natural that I want to bring an element of this into my blog. Ever wondered what it would be like to bring up a family in Paris? Or are you moving to Paris with kids? Here my old pal from our days in Paris, Marie-Anne Witcombe, tells me all about her life there as an English maman…

You moved to Paris BC (before children) …What made you move to Paris?

I had a couple of French friends living here, and an American friend who had a spare room for me (and also found me my first job), so it all happened quite spontaneously & easily ! I thought it would just be a good experience for a couple of years before going back…

What is the best area to live with kids?
The 17th arrondissement is know as “poussette land”, and it is good with kids here as a bit further out from the central hustle & bustle. It has loads of tiny parks pocketed around, loads of nurseries & schools… but there are probably lovely areas near Parc de la Villette which would be great for kids as it’s a bit more of an open air area of Paris.
Cost of living- is there anything families moving there absolutely need to take into account? (E.g. are school fees expensive? Is rent particularly high?)
Don’t expect to be living in a 4 bedroom house with a garden unless you are a multimillionaire !!! Here prices run high for housing and even wanting a tiny strip of a balcony is like chasing after gold dust. The state run schools are free and some would say the best.
Is it easy to get nursery/school places there?
It depends on your area for the nursery places… In some areas they are only for the lucky few (priority goes to single mothers, parents of twins, adopted children and other situations..) but here in the 17th there are more nurseries than usual and if you apply early enough you have a good chance of getting a place.
School is free for all and they can start pre-school from 3 years old. There is room for those who want it (which is practically everyone!)
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
7am rise & shine thanks to my early birds 🙂 Usually a slow wake up in front of some cartoons, then leave the kids with Gildas so I can have a jog or a yoga lesson, then he’ll cook lunch & we’ll eat early with the children at about midday. Time for a family siesta ! In the afternoon a trip to one of the parks. Martin Luther King park is good for my 5 year old who has started trying out the scooter ramps 🙂 Or if we adventure further we go to park Monceau and there are pony rides & all sorts.
Sunday mornings might include a family trip to the pool if it’s nice out!
What are your Top 5 places to go with kids in Paris?
– The Jardin d’acclimatation : is very fun (lots of theme park rides for little & big kids) and also great for a bit of rest from the noise of traffic. Lots of nice restaurants on site. There is “La Fondation de Louis Vuitton” which is also there if you fancy an art exhibition :
– Le Jardin des Plantes as it includes “La Ménagerie” which is basically a great zoo… You’ll also find an amazing museum full of animals “La Grande Galerie de l’Evolution” :
– Park de La Villette is a brilliant day out with kids. There are so many things to do there you could just spend all your weekends there and never tire of it. There is a 360° cinema, there’s a free workshops for little ones (LittleVillette), there’s “La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie” which has all sorts of exhibitions & cinemas, there’s the massive park for picnics, outdoor cinema in the summer, kids activities (trampolines & the likes), there are outdoor restaurants & beautiful indoor ones (it doesn’t really feel like Paris as there is so much space everywhere, it’s a breath of fresh air in the capital)…
– The Jardin de Luxembourg : pony rides, trampolines and huge playground, theatre & cafés…
– Disneyland
 Is it easy to meet other parents? How do people go about meeting other families?
If you have time then yes it is easy to meet other parents just through your daily tasks of school runs, park trips & of course through your children’s friends.
If you are an expat then there are lots of online groups which organise regular activities.
What is there to do for SAHMs and their kids during the day? 
– There are these places that I’ve only recently discovered with my second child which are great for rainy days or when you fancy a change from the park. They cost 1€50 per family as they are non-profit associations. It’s like a nursery but where you stay with your child. There’s a wide variety of toys, varying from water games to board games to wheelybugs! There are a few dotted around Paris, one just round the corner from mine! They are a good place to meet other SAHMs too :
– There are a few child friendly cafés, but this is something that Paris is definitely lacking.
One of my favorites for brunch is in the 18th, a little place with lovely home-made food and enough toys to keep the kids entertained, called “Petit Pois”.
But if it’s for the best Chinese food around then definately head to “Chez HE” as the kids run wild in the huge games area whilst you can watch them from your dinner table on the big moniter screens!
There’s a cat café near Bastille which accepts children too. Ok no toys but nice to go to if you don’t have pets at home (they are generally very friendly cats too!).
– Spoilt for choice with the theatre plays to go to with little ones.
– There’s a cinema called “le cinéma des cinéastes” which has an interesting offer of films for children, sometimes followed by a little workshop or an animated discussion on what you’ve just seen.
– There’s a museum which has guides for small groups of children, and you can also sign your kids up for an art workshop after the museum visit :
– The Pompidou Centre organise workshops for children during the school holidays too.
– Generation kfé has lots of different daytime activities for children (baby gym, music group, art class etc…) :
Most surprising thing about living in Paris so far?
It feels like you live in a small village as you stick to the same area and end up knowing the locals!
Best thing about Paris?
The array of things to do on your doorstep.
Worst thing about Paris?
The pollution, by far.
Are you a maman in Paris? Do you have anything to add to this list?

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