Paris for les petits: How one hotel is doing it for the kids with some très cool activities
The weather was turning and we all needed a weekend away. A city break would be the perfect way for my husband Andrew, nine-year-old son Hayden and I to take a break from endless rounds of homework and colds.
Deciding on the destination was easy. Paris has it all; romance, glamour, history and oodles of culture. And it's just a hop across the Channel.
But finding a stylish hotel where children are really welcome was more of a challenge.
Culinary masterpiece: Hayden is shown how to make pizza by resident chef Laurent Andre
Then I discovered Le Royal Monceau Raffles, which recently started a children’s programme with creative activities and workshops such as DJ lessons and perfume making.
This beautiful hotel is seeped in history. It was built in 1928 and was a rendezvous of choice for artists and intellectuals. Today, it combines traditional French character with modern chic. It reopened in 2010 after a two-year transformation by the famous French designer Philippe Starck, who has reinvented the 1930s spirit with vibrant colours, vast chandeliers and quirky art pieces.
The moment we stepped inside, we were greeted by friendly staff who immediately made us feel welcome. When our son Hayden, entered the room, he spotted an acoustic guitar (there is one in every room) and happily started playing. It was great for us to see him having fun without an iPad.
The children’s programme is called Le Petit Royal and is complimentary to young guests of the hotel as well as those visiting for weekend brunch at it’s Michelin-starred restaurant, La Cuisine. The workshops are in both English and French and are not only educational, but capture the spirit of the city.
Style and the city: Celebrity haunt Le Royal Monceau also welcomes families
The hotel has even appointed a Director of Children‘s Relations, Maria de la Chica, who coordinates all the activities. You can book the workshops beforehand or if you wait until you arrive, Maria or another member of her team can meet with you to discuss the programme available.
Sweet treat: The macarons were a particular highlight for Jill
We signed Hayden up for pizza making at brunch the following day. Yes, pizza making in Paris!
He was taught how to make a pizza by the hotel’s chefs Laurent André and Roberto Rispoli. Laurent shared his secrets for the perfect tomato sauce and how to roll the dough.
Hayden's highlight was choosing his toppings - although eating it was pretty fun too.
It was ready within 15 minutes and
went down so well that it was followed by a dessert pizza including
Hayden’s favourite ingredient - Nutella.
and Roberto were fantastic with the children - they were so funny and
made it entertaining. All those arguments we had about homework were
Our brunch also had an amazing assortment of pastries, macarons and chocolates by Pierre Hermé, Le Royal Monceau’s pastry chef. This was not the time to think about diets! The macarons were delicious and I wasn’t surprised to learn that Vogue magazine called Pierre the 'Picasso of Pastry'.
A young David Guetta: Hayden spins some discs under the supervision of the hotel DJ
During brunch, we noticed the unusual cups and saucers. Each saucer had a different motif (a fish, an eye, a ring) which reflected onto the cup, creating an optical illusion. Hayden found this fascinating and it personified the hotel’s sense of humour and imagination.
Paris convert: Hayden loved exploring the French capital
We also scheduled DJ lessons for him later that day, which he was excited about. Soon he was behind the decks, mixing and scratching with Le Royal Monceau’s resident DJ Jean-Edouard Lipa.
Jean-Edouard asked the children to choose their favourite songs and used those songs to teach them mixing techniques. Will one of them be the next David Guetta?
Le Petit Royal has many other activities to suit children of all ages. There are guided tours around Paris - one is a scavenger hunt to discover which ghost has stolen the Mona Lisa from the Louvre.
Another is perfume making in which they can create their own personal scent with a customised bottle. There are art workshops which relate to major exhibitions and events in the city, featuring artists such as Lichtenstein, and a special Picasso workshop coincides with the reopening of the city's Musée Picasso.
Film screenings and a fashion workshop led by a professional couturière (of course, this is Paris after all!) complete the repertoire.
Parents can choose whether to stay with their children during the activity or can slope off and leave the young ones - in groups of no more than 10 - to have fun with the three members of staff supervising them.
When Hayden wasn't learning new and unusual skills, we made plenty of time to explore the city as a family, often finishing off our day at the hotel's magnificent pool, located in the spa. It is the longest swimming pool in a Paris hotel at 23 metres and there are no restrictions as to when children can enter.
Taking the plunge: After days out exploring, the hotel pool provided a great relaxing escape
But, of course, the reason holidaymakers choose Paris for a city break is due to its proliferation of attractions. The hotel’s location - minutes away from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées - made our tours easy.
Hayden loved the colourful works of art in the Musée d'Orsay, where Monet's impressionist paintings had him impressed and van Gogh's Starry Night seemed to twinkle on the canvas.
In fact, the whole trip left him quite impressed. Although he'll have to work on those DJ'ing skills if he wants to spend more time at Le Royal Monceau - watch out David Guetta.
Travel from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord with Eurostar (www.eurostar.com 08432 186 186) from £69. If you’re travelling alone with your
children and need help with your luggage, assistance is offered. Each
train has family friendly coaches with baby changing facilities.
Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris (www.raffles.com/paris 00 33 1 42 99 88 0) offers rooms from €950 (£795) per night
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