Wonderland In Paris

photo: trampoline jardin d'acclimatation
The trampoline has a bounce trainer to go along with it.

In the Jardin d'Acclimatation

Paris:- Thursday, 30. July 1998:- Last week Tracy Turner wrote about being an 'Au Pair' or nanny in Paris, and one of the places she took her charges was the Jardin d'Acclimatation.

Since one or two readers have written this year to ask if children are allowed in Paris and if they have to stand around on street corners while their parents 'live it up' in bars and cafés, I have been meaning to do some coverage of them - of places for kids - without going and doing the Luxembourg all over again.

It is a bad no-no to write 60-word sentences and I will try not to do it again. Through some freak of nature, weather was not too bad in the spring, it was great for the World Cup, and it has been utterly miserable ever since.

I figured there was no point in doing any playground reporting if the photos were going to show the kiddies in puddles. Week after week, I have waited for playground weather in vain.

On Friday, 24. July, the weather was half-good and I had Tracy's piece to get online, so I hit the Jardin d'Acclimatation for the photos - without knowing that she had included it in her piece. Lucky me.

Doubly lucky, because it has been raining or worse ever since. In this week's Café Metropole column, there is also a mention of a show for kids called 'Picasso's Paintbox.'

Just inside the entrance to the gardens, there are two museums. One is called the 'Musée in Herbe' andphoto: house of mirrors this is where the Picasso show is, and the other is the 'Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires.'

The first thing to do in the park - for free! - is get to look fat. Great!

I am mentioning these two museums first, even through I didn't visit them, because of the weather. If it is too wet for the garden and the playground, these are two perfectly good museums for kids.

For adults, the often overlooked 'Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires' is also worth a visit - I did a feature on an Asterix show they had once, and found out the museum's permanent collection is very interesting, especially if you would like to see how ordinary people lived in France a long time ago.

The Jardin d'Acclimatation is a park just for kids. At its longest it is just under 700 metres long, and at its widest it is about 250 metres across; so it is not small. It is located at the top end of the Bois de Boulogne, next to Neuilly, but its address is in Paris.

The history of the Jardin d'Acclimatation is harder to come by. Napoléon III sold or gave the Bois de Boulogne to Paris and the Baron Haussmann had his way with it. But nobody wants to mention the Jardin d'Acclimatation.

However it is a very real place. Just inside the Sablons entry, there is an open pavilion full of funny mirrors, and opposite it there is a theatre. Next comes an enchanted river, hidden within its own park. You can take boat rides past water wheels; but I think the boats are pulled along by an underwater cable.

On the north side there is a carny area where there are little wooden huts full of shooting galleries and throw the darts at balloons booths. Opposite this there is an old-car track, which runsphoto: bird cages in jardin on guides in the roadway, so there is no steering to do. For steering, there are normal bumper cars - and there are a number of rides.

From where I was, the birds were so tiny I don't know what they were.

These are mostly small in scale and do not have - as many - of the bright lights of the big travelling operations. There are not many people around but some of the booth operators tell me there are big crowds on the weekends - if the weather is fine.

Other sources told me they thought the prices are high, but these are probably experienced theme-park visitors, who have come to expect a certain amount of 'wow!' and gigantic for their money.

After the spend-money attractions, there is a big cage full of birds and this is followed by a little train hidden in the trees. At the bear pit, the bear was alive and walking around.

A groundsman was telling the kids to keep off the truck-farm, but further on kids could thoroughly explore the farm buildings. Kids came towards me riding ponies, between the 'dome' and the 'dragon.' The guignol was just beyond, followed by the 'Maison Enchantée' which I didn't see because I found where the nannies hung out.

In the middle of the area for teenies to play, there is a big, shallow, wadingphoto: wading pool in jardin pool. It is so shallow that the water doesn't reach its edges. If a baby fell in it, you wouldn't get wet above your ankles pulling it out. It looks like it could hold about 500 kids.

The mysterious blobs on the pool bottom are just mysterious blobs.

Around here there were some of the usual playground things you see these days; the ones that look like they were built by Ikea to be kid-proof. These included a good collections of 'just' slides.

I saw the mountain deer and the signs saying not to feed them; so I didn't see the 'bowling' behind the fake mountain. Just beyond this, there is an area for bigger kids, the ones who like to climb on things dreamed up by adults so kids will not learn to climb trees.

The radio-controlled boats on another lake looked like fun, even with the booms floating on the water to keep the boats inside an area and away from the ducks who chose to live there too.

Going this way I missed the miniature golf and other unnamed 'attractions.' Scattered between all of these items, there are a wide variety of kiosks selling drinks and candy and there are some café-type places as well.

If I noticed the circus tent, I've forgotten it. There was another conical-roof structure that seemed to have no purpose other than keeping off rain or too much sun. Maybe it is a hideout for successful rain-dancers.

There are a lot of trees around for the sun, and there are some odd structures as well. One tower looked like a vertical airport for pigeons, but I've seen real pigeon towers and they didn't look quite like this one. Maybe the Prussians built it as a lookout post when they camped somewhere around here.

It is a big park for little kids. Just walking in and out of it will wear them out. For medium-sized kids, there are more than enough attractions, without getting too close to the ones that require money.

These can be held in reserve as rewards or promised as bribes if you are having a hard time with your little but dynamic charges.

In order to make your money stretch a bit, you can buy a 'carnet' good for 16 'attractions' for 150 francs. As an adult, if you intend to visit the park a lot, there is an annual entry ticket for 350 francs.

Besides the Sablons entry, which is about a 12-minute walk from the métro at Sablons, there are three other entries on the Bois de Boulogne sides.

As a low-tech amusement park geared entirely for kids, the Jardin d'Acclimatation seems to me - no expert on this sort of park - to be a pretty good one. There are a lot of differentphoto: antique car ride attractions, and a lot of them require or invite participation by the kids. From their viewpoint, it might seem like paradise.

This is the antique car barn, where the cars wait for 'hands-off' drivers.

Through trickery and lies, faked illnesses and invented 'work,' I have managed to be able to avoid the newer high-tech and high-hype amusement parks, so I can't compare this one to those ones.

If you only know 'those' ones, and you have little kids, and you are in Paris, I will go out on a limb and give the Jardin d'Acclimatation a recommendation.

I think if your kids have been cooped up in hotel rooms and have been going gaga in restaurants and cafés and generally complaining about all the walking around you've been doing, then they will really like this park.

You might too. I'm not sure if you can go on all the rides though. I saw what looked like some moms hanging around at loose ends like they were waiting for their kids - kids whose faces looked like they were in wonderland.

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