Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Driving through France with a preschooler

We have arrived in Belgium a couple of days ago and I would like to share with you a surprise and a disappointment of our drive through France.

We have found France more child-friendly that we had otherwise anticipated. This is particularly true of food options in restaurants, which always include healthy choices such as sole muniere or poulet de bresse, always accompanied by steamed vegetables and rice. The contrast with children's menus in North America (think hot dogs, hamburgers and fries) could not be more striking to us. At the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower, the children's menu was a three-course meal that included fresh mozzarella and tomatoes salad, pasta with pesto or steamed salmon, and a chocolate mousse shaped as the tower itself. And I am not talking about the super-fancy restaurant at the top (Le Jules Verne, where Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes), but the "brasserie chic" on the first floor (the 58 Tour Eiffel), which has an easygoing atmosphere and very reasonable prices. We were also impressed that even the most touristy destinations would have activities for kids. For instance, at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower there was a drawing station with colorful tables, crayons and paper. At the Castle of Chantilly, the garden included different mazes for kids and a playground.

My personal disappointment was the visit to Louis Vuitton's store on the Champs Élysées. It is the brand's flagship store and one of the meccas of handbags' aficionados like me. This is not the only reason while I wanted to pay it a visit though. I went there also because I am trying to find a new tote to alternate to my "Never Full", which in the past five years has been my faithful and indestructible "mom's bag" and has gone gracefully from diaper bag to beach tote as well as everything in between. The problem is that the store on the Champs Elysées takes the concept of a circus to a whole new level. There are long lines to get in, and once you succeed there are so many people inside that it is impossible to look at, let alone shop for, anything even for a motivated customer like me.

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