When my husband and I decided on one last, baby-free holiday before we become parents this summer, we settled on Paris. It’s close to Beirut and it can be done on the (relative) cheap, especially if you go in the middle of winter.
Though I had imagined it as a romantic getaway, a trip to France at 20 weeks pregnant in February featured less strolling along the Seine and more Avène Cicalfate for the wind-burn that accompanies near-freezing temperatures. And while we didn’t spend our afternoons tracking down vintage shops or enjoying wine and runny cheese, as we would have done in the past, it was a different kind of romantic. The kind where you coo over French baby clothes, complain that your feet hurt, and agonize over what’s edible for a pregnant lady. And yet, it was still Paris and it was perfect.
If you’re thinking of traveling to France from Lebanon on a babymoon, let me offer up a few suggestions.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Paris Louis Blanc
Our main mission was to wander – no itinerary, no specific sites to see – so we chose to sleep in the 10th, away from any tourist crowds. Hotel Paris Louis Blanc was the ideal location, across from a Metro stop and right by the Canal Saint Martin in a residential area filled with great restaurants, boutiques, and kids dressed better than most adults I know. These are the things you notice when you’re pregnant.
Hotel Paris Louis Blanc isn’t fancy but it’s clean, cheaper than many hotels in Beirut, and it does the job (unless the job is luxury and pampering, in which case you’re better off going somewhere else).
232 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, 10th arrondissement, directly across from the Louis Blanc Metro stop on the 7 line, hotel-paris-louis-blanc.com
Note: Due to a mix-up, we ended up getting the twin beds featured in the above picture. Yet another thwart to romance, but definitely a plus when one of you is tossing and turning all night because she can’t sleep on her stomach. Or her back. Or any comfortable position, for that matter.
WHERE TO SHOP
We had intended to check out a few favorite shops and the usual pit stops, like Colette, but my husband joked that the entire trip was a tour baby stores. It’s no joke. Bring an empty suitcase to check, even if you’re going for a long weekend – we filled ours at the following spots.
Every American mother I know has sent a list of “essentials” that are nowhere to be found in Lebanon. From Aden & Anais swaddle blankets to the Ergo carrier (at a reasonable price), this boutique has them all. It also has mini nursery showrooms on the lower level, which will make you rethink everything you’ve already done to your baby’s room.
2nd arrondissement, wombconcept.com
Alice à Paris
If you want your kid to project that je ne sais quoi as soon as she’s out of the womb, load up on pint-sized separates here. Corduroy trench coat? Wool pea coat? Floral-print peasant blouse? They’re impossible to resist, especially if you get there before the seasonal sales end.
4th, 6th and 9th arrondissements. aliceaparis.com
More like a gallery of all things twee than a baby store, this boutique carries jewelry, accessories and home decor. If you’re looking for whimsical additions to a nursery and aren’t the Disney type, this is your best bet. There’s something adorable on every inch of surface space, including the ceiling.
11th arrondissement, boutiquelesfleurs.com
It’s no secret that Lebanon is the worst when it comes to maternity clothes, unless you like t-shirts with “Mama” written in rhinestones across the front. Stock up on basics like skinny jeans and nursing bras at one of the chain’s three Paris locations that have a maternity section. They may be out of the way, but I picked up three pairs of jeans for €20 each. My only regret is not stocking up on more.
hm.com. See the locations and other maternity suggestions here.
WHERE TO EAT
Even if you’re only mildly cautious about your pregnancy diet, France can be especially challenging (and if you don’t believe me, see here). So rather than be the dinner companion who whines that there’s nothing on the menu she can eat, I stuck to what I know. Or, what I know is cooked. Delicious, unpasteurized French food can wait until next time.
All of these places are in the same neighborhood as the hotel, and none require wrangling your bump into something uncomfortably “presentable” to wear. A swipe of red lipstick and you’re good to go.
La Chambre aux Oiseaux
A great breakfast spot with a vintage vibe. Our visit was marred by a beautiful couple speaking four languages to their young daughter, sparking a sudden insecurity about our unborn underachiever. But it did give us something to gossip enviously about over spicy chai lattes, a fresh baguette and the best plum jam I’ve ever tasted. (And we felt better when the little girl later threw her porcelain plate across the room – nobody’s perfect!)
10th arrondissement, Facebook
Kheak et Vero
A hole-in-the-wall Thai place that serves up home-cooking. It’s a bit cramped because it’s always so damn packed, but it’s a great spot for people watching too-cool-to-care locals in their natural habitat.
10th arrondissement, Yelp page
Kashmir House Paris
The majority of my pregnancy weight can be attributed to this restaurant. Affordable, full of flavor and relaxed: the ideal combination after an exhausting day spent cruising the city.
10th arrondissement, kashmirhouseparis.com
WHAT TO SEE
Already familiar with the Eiffel Tower? Not interested in a night on the town? Try some art, design, and naked women instead.
Le Crazy Horse
If your pants no longer fit, watch at your own risk: these ladies are flawless. But the acts are hypnotizing and – even better when your bedtime befits a 7-year-old – the early show starts at 8:15pm.
Foundation Louis Vuitton
This frank Gehry-designed museum is worth the metro trip to the suburbs, if you book online in advance. On a Saturday afternoon, the wait to get in can be nearly two hours. (If you do forget to book, have your weary husband go up to the most sympathetic person manning the front of the line and ask if his pregnant wife might, maybe just maybe, skip it? But you didn’t hear that from me.)
Images courtesy of Favim, Hotel Paris Louis Blanc, Maison et Objet, Alice à Paris, Les Fleurs, parisian-touch.blogspot.com, Le Crazy Horse and me.