Its been a while, hasn’t it! I’ve been going through so many ch-ch-ch-changes in my life right now and I’m just finally getting to take a breather so here’s to more consistent blogging from here on out!
I figured I’d quickly get all my Europe posts done quickly – before I leave for Paris again next month, this time without Sophie-doll ( a story for another day) so here’s the much much requested Europe Travel Tips. Thank you all so much for your e-mails and comments asking me questions and your patience in hearing back from me. I hope this posts answers everything you’re wondering about!
I’ve split them up into different categories for easy reading, but basically these are all our takeaways from our 2.5 week trip to London, Paris and Zurich! I’ll be blogging again on baby-friendly restaurants and places to bring your bubs for individual countries but here’s an overarching one to help you get started 🙂
If you’re travelling to Paris or London for the first time with your bub, you might not know that car seats are very very strictly policed in these two countries. I’ve asked around with friends and done my research, and we decided to book airport transfers in advance for better peace of mind.
There is the option of taking a regular metered taxi, but that would mean that you would have to wait for a taxi equipped with a car seat to pull up before you could be on your way. With lots of luggage, a cranky bubba from a long-haul flight and being probably completely exhausted yourselves, it’s going to be a real challenge! In our case, it was quite cold in March (9-14 degrees) and we didn’t want to risk being exposed to the cold while waiting it out either. 🙂
If you’re booking an airport transfer in advance, expect to pay between EUR60-80 from the airport (Charles De Gaulle) into the city centre. You can easily request for a child seat, and an MPV for your many pieces of luggage! Our baby taxi was very cute – they provided drinks, sandwiches and even toys for Sophie Rose to occupy herself with on the 30 minute drive to our apartment! 🙂 What a relief it was to see a waiting driver at the airport instead of lugging everything around frantically looking for a taxi.
I would definitely NOT recommend taking the train into Paris, even if you’ve got baby in a carrier, because most of the train walkways are too narrow for your luggage and they are often very crowded, putting you and your family in a vulnerable position. Buses are possible, but with multiple stops along the way, it may take a while before you reach your hotel or your apartment.
Where to stay in London and Paris
Hotels in Paris can be prohibitively small and extremely expensive. While K and I have always stayed in boutique hotels in our previous trips to Paris, this time we opted for an apartment as my sister and her boyfriend T were also coming along! We figured we would need amenities like a little kitchenette to prepare Sophie Rose’s solids and also a washing machine to do baby laundry.
My sister found us a place just off St Germain, which is a very nice and safe part of Paris. We were just down the street from a Franprix (supermarket), a 5 minute walk to the nearest metro (Place Monge) and literally a stone’s throw away from the nearest Pharmacy. The location was lovely, it was just 5 minutes away from the Jardin Des Plantes and Paris’ Natural History Museum, too! We bought all Sophie’s skincare at the pharmacy because we use Mustela and its so much cheaper in France.
The only downside was that our apartment was four whopping floors up! Luckily we had muscleman T helping us lug our pram up and down every day.
Don’t stay out of the immediate city centre – if it takes you a 30 minute train ride in every day, its going to be very exhausting for you and baby. Good (and safe) areas include – St Germain, the Rue De Rivoli stretch (near all the major attractions), Champ du Mars (near the Eiffel Tower). La Defense (the CBD) is safe and while its about 20 minutes away from the city centre, it runs on the newest metro line that passes almost all the museums and monuments. I would recommend Fraser’s Serviced Apartments at La Defense for a comfortable and well equipped stay!
I avoided Montmatre, despite there being some really nice sights there because the last time we were there it was quite sleazy, with lots of touts and pickpockets loitering around the area. I would also avoid the Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord (major train stations) because there’s a lot of criminal activity, the Pigalle area (red light district) and even Champs Elysees because there are many, many gypsies prowling the area.
We always stay with friends in London, which is to say, in a suburb near Canary Wharf. Its a little inaccessible, but I love staying with friends when I’m overseas for a real feeling of home ( THANK YOU ARON!) With a baby, it was great to come home to a home away from home everyday, again with all the amenities. There are also many pretty parks around the Wharf and in the Greenwich area you can bring your little one to for long lovely walks and to feed the ravenous swans, if you have a more chilled-out itinerary.
If not, I would recommend staying in the Kensington area, near the Kensington Palace Gardens – there are many serviced apartments there and they are just a quick bus ride away from most of London’s major attractions, including Harrods, the Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street, etc, but not as crowded and noisy.
Food for Baby
Right, I know a lot of you Mamas with bubbas who are on their solids are worried about how to feed them on the go in Europe! It is actually much easier than you think 🙂
We stayed very near a Franprix (in Paris) and also Waitrose, M&S and Sainsbury’s in London, so there’s food every where, no fear! Especially in the case of Paris, I simply fed Sophie Rose from these ready made Bledi-chef meals from the nearest Franprix. They have an extensive “Bio” (Organic) range for those mummies who only feed organic, and so many delicious varieties of yoghurt which Sophie had for breakfast every morning.
A quick check of the ingredients list showed me that there were no preservatives, no additives, had a pretty close expiry date and manufacturing date (which means no nasty long lasting mush) and they were quite tasty, too!Most of them are complete meals – with carbs, veg and meat so don’t worry that your baby is not getting enough nutrition.
Most bistros or restaurants will gladly help you heat your ready made meals. If not, as long as you have a kitchenette you can easily whip up a simple porridge and carry it around with you in a thermos for later.
For breakfast, we gave her multi-grain bread from the Franprix as well as yoghurt. For lunch, she’d have her ready meal or I’d pack egg muffins made in the night to eat on the go. She snacked throughout the day on fruits, bread and the like and never went hungry!
For snacks, we simply brought along tupperwares which we filled with fresh fruit from the supermarket, along with baby biscuits, raisins etc. Just remember to always bring out a full bottle of water with you if you’re going to be out the whole day. Three packed feeds of milk was more than enough to last us the entire day. Don’t worry if your baby isn’t eating solids if they are still under 15 months – their primary source of food should still be milk! In the first few days when Sophie was settling in, she only wanted to drink milk and in fact she put on weight from 5-6 feeds per day!
We were away for nearly two and a half weeks but only brought along one tin of Sophie’s Bellamy Milk Formula with us. Reason being, milk is really heavy and takes up a lot of space. And at one year old Sophie is no longer picky about the milk she drinks. We easily switched her to Nestle Beba (recommended by Mama J) in Zurich which she liked as much as Bellamy’s and didn’t have to worry about bulky tins because they come in handy refill boxes.
Same thing went for diapers – we brought along only one pack of Merries diapers – and they lasted us for the entire trip – we weren’t too worried about bringing more than enough because they are easily available for sale everywhere! Save the space for your shopping, Mamas! 🙂
Recommended milk powder brands:
- Nestle Beba
- Bimbosan Bio Formula
Baby carrier vs Baby Pram
Another hot topic which I’ve been asked a lot about! Bringing your baby carrier (our Tula) vs bringing along a pram.
To be honest, I would say, bring both!
- Using a baby carrier (in our case, a Tula) keeps baby close to your body at all times and thus both parent and baby feel very secure. You’re attuned to bubba’s needs and noises and in an unfamiliar environment, this is great to calm them down.
- Your carrier is super important ( I mean ESSENTIAL ) on the plane. I don’t know how many times we had to walk Sophie-doll up and down the aisle when she started getting cranky, and on the way back, when she was sick, this was the only way we could comfort her and stop her crying.
- A baby carrier makes getting around on public transport in London and Paris a breeeeze. No need to worry about shoving your pram through the crowds to get on the train, or being squashed right to the side with dirty looks about taking up too much space.
- Don’t have to worry about stroller parking, since many major attractions don’t allow you to push your stroller in, like the Versailles Palace, for instance.
- Tulas make the most amazing fashion accessory (ha ha)
- In cold weather, the baby carrier is the fastest way to get warm and for nursing mothers, to feed your bubba! Look at us at -4 degrees up in the Swiss Alps!
BUT!! A pram is great for:
- Hanging all your random shopping and your diaper bag. Lets be honest, your diaper bag is going to be KILLING your shoulders after a few hours of walking around. A pram takes off this burden immediately. Ditto for all your shopping.
- When baby sleeps, a pram gives you more freedom to do your thing. Place your sleeping baby in a pram while you eat your first bowl of hot noodles in a week! Push silent baby around as you decide what bag to buy in Chanel! The liberation!
- Walks around London and Paris’s pretty parks. It’s nice to have baby facing forward and enjoying the trees, flowers and ground instead of cinching them to your chest all the time. Sophie-doll is at a very exploratory stage right now and wants to touch and feel everything and does not suffer from over stimulation any longer so we don’t always see the need to keep her facing us. If your bubba is 7 months or younger, I would skip the pram and just bring the carrier.
Just to qualify, we don’t use our giant mower-esque Joolz Stroller in Europe. Its huge and very sturdy but has no place in the tiny, warren like Parisian Metro and English Underground. We use our super travel friendly BabyZen Yoyo stroller, which is actually, French! It folds up so small and light (6kg) that it can be stowed as cabin luggage or hung casually from the hubby’s stroller. They were everywhere in Paris when we were there! And narrow enough to fit through all of Paris’s metro turnstiles, too!
- Pack a sleeping bag for baby. You know, one of those thick, full body zip up sleeping bags. We found that it not only helped keep Sophie warm at night, it also made her more secure and protected her body from any potential hygiene situation (you never know, we once got bitten by bedbugs in a 4 star hotel in Florence!) It doubled up as a stroller blanket and was comfy to use in her airline bassinet. We bought ours from IKEA
- Remember that your bubba will suffer from jetlag worse coming back, and will be waking up at odd hours at night wanting to play or feeling cranky. Sophie-doll took an entire week to get back to her usual hours. I’d suggest taking 3-4 days off after your holiday to settle your bubs back in.
- Pack a medicine kit. Very important! We packed a kit with Zyrtec (for allergic reactions like hives, rashes or very bad nose congestion), paracetamol, Ibuprofen (high fever), Kaloba Syrup (Cough) and also tummy medicine. Remember to pack syringes for the medicine and keep them in an air-tight ziploc bag in case of leaking. We also brought along some Kool-Fever patches in case she had a mild fever.
- Pack probiotics! We got easy-to-use probiotics in powdered sachets which we added to her milk every other morning, and she was “going” at least once every day. A constipated baby makes for a ruined holiday, or so I’ve heard.
- Bring your own laundry liquid / powder in a small tupperware. If your baby has sensitive skin, its not a good time to try a new brand of laundry detergent while on holiday 🙂
- Pack food scissors! We brought along a pair of Scotch food scissors so we could cut up pasta, noodles, bread into manageable slices for Sophie.
That’s all I can think of for now 🙂 Just drop me a comment if you guys have any more questions, and I’m sorry this took so long but I hope it helps! Bon voyage!