Macarons, llamas and breastfeeding in Paris

Photograph of young girl in front of Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Paula poses in front of the Arc de Triomphe, near where we used to live

This post forms part of a series about my trip to Paris with my daughter Paula. We revisited the city for her 10th birthday as we lived there during the first two years of her life. To read from the beginning, click here.

Breakfast the French way

There’s already a queue at the bustling local boulanger at 7.30am, but we persevere and leave happily clutching our rustling white paper bag with a still warm almond croissant and pain au chocolat a few minutes later.

We leave a trail of flaky crumbs in our wake on our way to the metro, eating and planning our route to Neuilly-sur-Seine, our first stop of the day.

The subdued suburb was the first area we lived in during our two-year sojourn in the City of Light and we shared our elitist address with no less than former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and a sea of grey-haired, silk-scarved aristocrats.

As an insecure, first-time mother, it was a time of having every rug under my feet pulled out with such force that a part of me prefers to blot out memories of feeling constantly out of depth in turbulent emotional waters.

But these are not thoughts I want to share with my 10-year-old daughter. I want to open a memory bank of the beautiful moments we had in-between – some unsuspected and some only fully appreciated once they were long gone.

Parisian women don’t breastfeed 

Neuilly, although rather snobbish and unwelcoming, was close to my husband’s job, as well as a tranquil and beautiful corner of the Bois de Bologne, vast parklands filled with lunchtime joggers and cyclists by day, but with an unsavoury reputation as the city’s cruising headquarters at night.

When eventually I’d recovered from the shock of giving birth and changing countries over a period of 14 days, we braved the five-minute walk to the woods most mornings. Paula giggles as I recall the many times I rushed back at breakneck speed to breastfeed a screaming, red-faced infant in the privacy of our apartment.

Parisian mums don’t breastfeed – and those who do certainly don’t do so in public. Big, veined boobs popping out of maternity tops don’t really feature on the Parisian café scene.

As I grew more adventurous, we moved further afield, crossing the deafening traffic of Charles de Gaulle high street en route to our local Monoprix. This ubiquitous supermarket is France’s answer to Tesco but with a French flair that stretches to deliciously ripe cheeses, freshly baked croissants and baguettes, stylish accessories and children’s clothes you’d be hard pressed to find on a Tesco shelf.

Picnic at our favourite hang-out

Young girl in front of llama pen in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris

Paula used to love the llamas when she was a toddler.

Today, we choose a Moroccan couscous salad, baguette, camembert, strawberries and a selection of pretty pastel macarons from the deli counter for our planned picnic in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, a wonderfully retro amusement park near our old apartment, where Paula and I spent many mornings together.

One of the city’s top family attractions in summer, the park is all but deserted on this early Spring day, apart from a few workers lazily painting the fences and a smattering of Filipino nannies with their excited charges.

We stroll around, rediscovering long forgotten favourite haunts, including la Petite Ferme with turkeys, pigs, sheep, donkeys and the llamas, which fascinated the toddler Paula to the point of near obsession.

A princess:  now and then 

Young girl in carriage on carousel in Jardin d'Acclimatation

Carousel in the Jardin d’ Acclimatation

I take a photo of my beautiful girl in a gilded carriage on the vintage carousel, to add to a collection of earlier photographs of her in the same spot.

The camera hides an unexpected onslaught of tears as the picture brings into sharp focus my memory of a tiny little princess nearly 10 years ago waving excitedly at onlookers as if she had the whole world at her feet.

Young girl with older woman in carriage on carousel in Jardin d'Acclimatation

Paula with her grandma Laurita on the carousel

Post Comment Love

11 thoughts on “Macarons, llamas and breastfeeding in Paris

  1. Great post and interesting bit on breastfeeding. I would find it so difficult – P was feeding every 2 hours so I was always sticking my boobs out wherever we went . And John Lewis in Edinburgh was always a great hideaway with brilliant facilities 🙂 Looks like such a lovely holiday!

    • Thanks! Breastfeeding was difficult but I kept it up for 6 months and got a bit more thick-skinned as time went by, ignoring the raised eyebrows in cafés. I could’ve done with a John Lewis, though.

  2. Such a captivating read, I really do like your writing style. I really must go on an adventure with my daughter when she is Paula’s age. It must be lovely being able to remember and go to places you previously visited when she was small. Thank you so much for linking up to PoCoLo again 🙂 xx

  3. Thanks for PoCoLo – and your lovely comments. I’m getting a bit carried away with Paris posts now, i think – but I enjoy writing them and if they inspire other mums, that’s fantastic.

  4. Great to read about your Paris trip with your daughter. Have only visited Paris once and it was fabulous so must go again sometime soon.

  5. I love that you revisited Paris with your daughter and I especially loved and could completely relate to this: ‘But these are not thoughts I want to share with my 10-year-old daughter. I want to open a memory bank of the beautiful moments we had in-between – some unsuspected and some only fully appreciated once they were long gone.’

    I have been considering a visit to Paris with my 15 yo daughter. This lovely post has reminded me of that!

    • Thanks Michelle for your comment. This was definitely one of my better ideas – and she absolutely loved it. We didn’t get to do everything we’d planned, but it didn’t matter and also gives us an excuse to do so again at some point.

  6. I loved this. I had my first daughter in Brittany and they certainly do things quite differently out there. i never had the courage to breastfeed in public – couldn’t cope with the stares the French are so good at ;0) I love the fact you are sharing the positive memories with your daughter. Makes me keen to remember those good times for my daughter too. Maybe I’ll take her back for a trip down memory lane when she’s old enough to really appreciate. Pleased to have found your blog – popped across from Vevivos. Love your writing style – honest, direct with a lovely edginess to it x

    • Thanks for your lovely comments! Did you go through the pelvic floor re-education in France? That ‘s an experience I definitely need to blog about at some point. Only sorry I didn’t think of writing all these things at the time and bringing out a book – like so many other English mums have done since.

      • Oh yes definitely went through that ! I think it’s more for the men than for us 😉 But hey at least my pelvic floor was pretty damn close to it’s pre-kids state once they’d completed their magic ! Maybe we could do a joint blog post on that one :0) x Great to connect with you. A bientot xx

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