Category Archives: Paris France

We’re Goin’ on a Playground Hunt – We’re Gonna Catch a Big One (in Paris)



Papa and I are up early to make the most of our last full day in the City of Heat. We’re getting prepared for a day of urban trekking. First order of business – sustenance. We head to our regular spot at the corner of Voltaire and Charonne after grabbing a couple of croissants each at the boulangerie across the street. The café au lait at l’Ingénu is just the fuel we need before the morning’s expedition to l’Haÿ-les-Roses gets underway.

We’re goin’ on a playground hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one. Yes, three days in Paris and we’re spending half a day on a quest for a 1950s playscape designed by Franco-Hungarian, Pierre Székely. Can you guess whose idea this is? Papa is very good natured about it and curious too. All we’ve got are screen captures of Google satellite and map views to try and find it. Oops, not as well prepared as I could be several thousand kilometres from home.

birds eye view


I guess we aren’t exactly the standard father and son duo off on a play adventure. As often as we’d done this in the past, at 80 and 57 respectively, we are a tad out of practice with the old roles. But it turns out that love and the pursuit of play are ageless.

We grab the Métro at Charonne, our home station in the 11e arrondissement, and slip over to Nation. I pull us up street side here for a few minutes to see the two huge 100′ high doric columns each topped with a king. They made quite an impression on me from the days we lived in Paris nearly 45 years ago.

As we make our way around the square, we encounter three kids in a spontaneous burst of play. Already the temperature is heat waving its way to 40ºC. Partially hidden from their dad’s view, the kids are running, dancing, jumping through a sprinkler. They’re happy as he continues to chat on the sidewalk. Each moment is an extension of freedom – getting soaked one drop at a time in this small patch of green.

From Nation we do the underground zip to the end of the line at Ville Juif. Nobody we ask there is familiar with the street names that encircle the playscape. Why should they be? It’s about 2 kilometres away from the station. But really, can you believe it – Rue de la Reine Blanche runs along the perimeter of our treasure? I was beginning to think it was all Alice in Wonderland. I’m ready to throw in the towel but that’s not in papa’s plans – no playgrounds left behind….

We do get some pointers from staff in a café and transit drivers. They set us out in the right direction to L’Haÿ-les-Roses. Once there it’s a like a game of hot and cold. Seemingly we move quickly in and out of range with people looking at us like we’re aliens or saying yes it sounds familar and is somewhere nearby. Two women, a cashier in the post office and young mom pushing her child in stroller, send us straight to the mother lode.

This is what it looks like nearly 60 years down the road.


What treasures to discover – texture, form, space and Yves Le Thuaut who saved the playground from demolition and is now working with others to restore it. See the photos and videos including yours truly going down ‘le toboggan’ – the slide and not ripping my shorts. It’s right here on Storehouse – 96 degress in the shade: playgroundin’ in tropical Paris. See la gruyère, le labyrinthe, les escaliers, les vagues, les pataugeoires et le corne de brume.

96 degress in the shade

Truly a successful playground hunt though it must be said I couldn’t get over it, under it, through it. In fact I just wanted to be in it.

Thanks to the as-tu déjà oublié? crew for introducing me to Székely.

Thanks to you for checking in – cheers from Canada’s far east…….

Paris Serves Up Les Halles Playground – Terrain d’aventures

Back in the spring of 2011, I wrote a post on Paris playgrounds. MJ, one of my workmates was there and took a couple of photos for PlayGroundology. At the same time I came across an artist’s rendition of of the playground that was to be built at the redeveloped site of Les Halles.

The terrain d’aventures opened in early October this year. The video below gives a taste of the unique equipment that makes this new play space a star attraction for Parisians on downtown outings in the 1er arrondissement.

The Mayor and his closest aides were there as well as France 3 Paris Ile-de-France TV. Unlike a playground opening earlier this week in Lisbon where there were no kids on camera, Les Halles features quite a few testing out the fun that’s packed in and parsed out over 2,500 square metres.

Les halles details

If you’re Paris bound, check here for details. The playground opens at 10 in the morning and currently kids can only play in it for 1 hour per day. The maximum capacity for the playground is 100 kids per hour. Reservations are required and entry is free.

Jardin des enfants - Mairie de Paris 1Click through on the image for a full photo gallery.

Don’t stop the fun at Les Halles. Check this list of Paris playgrounds.

All images courtesy of the Ville de Paris.

Paris Playgrounds à la Carte

Paris is a city of passion. Embraces in bustling boulevards like Doisneau’s iconic Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville are synonymous with romantic abandon. Not everyone has the good fortune to visit the City of Light in the first flushes of love. So if you’re in Paris with the kids and it’s not all romance all the time, les Parisiens have playgrounds too.

To help out visitors, the Ville de Paris has compiled a list of playgrounds throughout the city. Organized by arrondissement, the list provides the address, the types of equipment and suggested age appropriateness for each playground. Using Google Street View, you can get a sneak peek at some of the venues and scout out an itinerary. With many playgrounds located in squares, there’s a chance that you’ll be able to find a resto or café with a terrasse looking onto the play area. It’s a great way to get off the beaten path and explore Paris’ neighbourhoods.
Square Trousseau, Paris 11 – Google Street View – click to enlarge

I lived in Paris for six months as a young adolescent in the early 70s. When we first arrived, we lived in a quartier populaire in the east end’s 11th arrondissement not far from the Père Lachaise Cemetery. The area was full of life, bustle and adventure. When my father’s friend returned to the city we had to vacate the borrowed apartment and look for a new place.

We wound up in the west end’s toney 16th arrondissement full of embassies, expats and expensive boutiques. Close to our Rue de Ranelagh apartment there was a small playground with swings and a seesaw. My brother and I used to play catch there our gloves smelling of baseball and hot summer afternoons.
Parc de Ranelagh, Paris 16 – Google Street View – click to enlarge

There are also playgrounds in the centre of the action close to museums and major attractions. A workmate, thanks MJ, recently returned from a Paris trip and brought these shots of the playground at Le Jardin des Tuileries.
Click image for slideshow – MJ MacKinnon

In addition to Les Tuileries, there are a few other playgrounds I’d like to play at with the kids when we finally do make it to Paris. Near the top of the list is Parc Villette to try out the dragon slide. See this slide and more in the flickr gallery – Paris Playground Scenes.
Alexandre Duret-Lutz aka gadi on flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) – click to enlarge

That year we lived in Paris I was 14. I received a weekly booklet of Métro tickets and was allowed to wander the city at will during daylight hours. Playgrounds were not on the top of this gawky teenagers list of things to do. They fell somewhere way behind les bouquinistes, a geeky interest in stamp collecting, daydreaming about beautiful girls and the magic of discovery. But even back then, with my head in the clouds I would have stopped and played had I come across this scene.
Artist’s rendition of Les Halles Playground – click to enlarge

So Ville de Paris, kudos for the list and for making playgrounds a part of popular destinations like Les Tuileries, Notre Dame de Paris, Les Jardins de Luxembourg and the soon to be Les Halles, C’est un bon coup.
Les Jardins de Luxembourg – photo sourced at

En français s’il vous plaît – a few playground words.

playgrounds – les aires de jeux
swings – les balançoires
teeter-totter – also, les balançoires
slide – le tobogan, la glissade
monkey bars – la cage aux poules

Here are a few quick links if you’re in Paris with the kids.

Among the Swing Set

Bonjour Paris

Top 5 Toddler Friendly Sites in Paris

Visiting Paris with Kids

Bon voyage.