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Oui, Mon Chéri

the grass is always greener in paris

Of course it is—no one's allowed to walk on it. Chances are you'll spend most of your time in the Right Bank's Jardin des Tuileries and the Left Bank's Jardin du Luxembourg , where the kids will discover the grandeur of formal landscaping in addition to puppet shows, pony rides, carousels, and sailboat regattas in the fountain basins. The latter is the best entertainment value in the city: $6 buys an hour's ownership of a numbered sloop and a bamboo stick for launching it. Other worthwhile parks:
• Cleverly crafted from a defunct quarry, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (Rue Botzaris) departs from the flat parterre of most Parisian parks. Its cliffs offer a climb to a panoramic view, and its lake affords access to a grotto and waterfall—both artificial—and a refreshment pavilion. • At the Bois de Boulogne , you'll probably see only the northern end, where the Jardin d'Acclimatation, with its miniature train, mini-canal ride, go-cart track, and camel rides, elicits glee from the kids. During May and June, rent bikes and cycle to the Bagatelle to see the explosion of roses.

parks less traveled

Not every open space in Paris is overrun with people and their pooches. Here are two prime examples:
• Children love to rollerblade beneath the 18th-century arcades of the Palais Royal , as well as skip and hop amid the truncated columns of artist Daniel Buren's graphic 1986 installation. • The Parc de la Villette (Ave. Corentin-Cariou or Ave. Jean-Jaurès; 33-8/03-30-63-06) is farther afield but worth the trek if your child is science-minded. Within the 75 acres are centers devoted to music, history, and, most notably, science and industry; there's also the silver Géode housing an IMAX theater, the bright red modern garden follies, and grass that kids can romp on.

belle for a day

No city is more feminine than Paris, no place more fun if your daughter is of the princess persuasion. If you thank heaven for little girls, then indulge yours in . . .

PERFUME Eau de Charlotte and Eau de Camille are fragrances designed by Annick Goutal (14 Rue de Castiglione, 33-1/42-60-52-82; 12 Place St.-Sulpice, 33-1/46-33-03-15) specifically for girls, but even if you come away with just a spritz on the wrist, the memory of flitting about in a jewel box of a shop will linger.

A PARTY DRESS For the big events in their lives, proper young Parisiennes don a Bonpoint frock—traditionally styled, beautifully sewn. The main store is on Rue Royale, but those in the know plunder the tiny outlet shop (82 Rue de Grenelle; 33-1/45-48-05-45). After all, few back home will care if the dress is last season's.

A COSTUME À LA MARIE ANTOINETTE Let your princess eat cake in a fanciful gown, complete with a white wig. Le Bon Marché (22 Rue de Sèvres; 33-1/44-39-80-00), the Left Bank's noteworthy department store, has a selection of expensive, elaborate costumes in its toy department. The entire lower level, in fact, is a paradise for kids, who could easily while away a rainy day moving from toys and books, to crafts and clothing.

A SELF-PORTRAIT Most kids tire after a few minutes in front of a painting, but around a sculpture they move and bend and mimic. At the Musée d'Orsay (1 Rue de Bellechasse; 33-1/40-49-48-14), watch your ballet-loving daughter shift into third position when presented with Degas's Young Dancer , her mirror image in bronze. Or witness her getting serious in front of The Thinker in the garden of the Musée Rodin (77 Rue de Varenne; 33-1/44-18-61-10).

A MAKEOVER Paris fashion mademoiselles buzz to Agnès B. (6 Rue du Jour; 33-1/45-08-56-56), near the Beaubourg plaza, as if it were the last honeypot on earth. Insist that for every priceless T-shirt they buy, they spend five minutes in the reconstructed atelier of sculptor Constantin Brancusi (33-1/44-78-12-33), also on the plaza.

pick-me-up time

The carpet may be a bit frayed and the sounds of French negligible, but Angelina (226 Rue de Rivoli; 33-1/42-60-82-00; drinks for four $24) is still the destination for chocolate bars melted down to a thick syrup—a.k.a. hot chocolate . Or try conquering mont-blanc, another house specialty, a mound of meringue with whipped cream and a vermicelle of chestnuts. Afternoon tea at Mariage Frères (30-32 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg; 33-1/42-72-28-11; tea for four from $12) comes complete with tea cozies, a wide range of strainers and sugar scoops, and a booklet detailing the characteristics of all 500 teas on the menu. For an exotic milieu, head to the extraordinary pink marble Salon de Thé de la Mosquée de Paris (2 Place du Puits-de-l'Ermite; 33-1/43-31-18-14), within France's oldest mosque (the Arab community of Paris is one of the largest outside the Middle East). While adults refuel on Arabic coffee, kids warm to Moroccan pastries, mint tea, and the low, loungy furniture.

bonjour, mickey

Although the fun factor in Paris is high, even the most worldly of kids will occasionally clamor for reminders of home. Disneyland Paris is only a 40-minute train ride away (on the "A" RER Express, to be exact). The attractions may have different names—Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains, for example—but they don't differ significantly from the two American parks. Kids can marvel at Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, test their bravery with Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril, or choo-choo around the park on Casey Jr., Le Petit Train du Cirque. Disneyland Paris has six hotels with weekend packages (Friday and Saturday night and two days in the park from $218, double.). There is also an off-site guest ranch, Davy Crockett Ranch. For day-trippers, Disney Passports—purchased in advance at FNAC or Virgin Megastores throughout France, or in the French tourist office (129 Champs Élysées; 33-8/36-68-31-12)—cost $33 for adults and $28 per child. For more information, call 407/934-7639 from the United States, or 33-1/6030-6030 in France.
—Emily Berquist


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