Paris has some of the best museums in the world, but if you start to experience overload or your family threatens a mutiny, it's time to discover some of Paris' other recreational options.
Life's a Beach
Paris Plages -- Beaches (2009 dates: July 20-Aug. 20; www.paris.fr/portail/ete2009/Portal.lut?page_id=9281)
Each summer, a touch of the French Rivera comes to Paris. Tons of sand are trucked in to add a "shoreline" to the Right Bank of the Seine. Lounge chairs, beach umbrellas, misting fountains, cafes, and palm trees add to the festive ambiance and the roadway along the river is closed to traffic. Now, there are additional beach locations and plenty of outdoor activities as well as concerts and performances that keep the Plages buzzing well into the night:
Voie Georges Pompidou (Métro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland) -- The original Plage, along the Seine's Right Bank, becomes an urban St. Tropez.
Bassin de la Villette (Métro: Stalingrad) -- This canal basin is the largest in Paris and has the feel of a lake. The Paris Plage sets up on its Quai de la Seine bank and offers free use of sailboats, kayaks and pedal boats for kids.
Paris Pools (Listing of municipal pools: http://en.parisinfo.com/guide-paris/learning-in-paris/sport-3/guide/sport_swimming-pools2)
During the summer months, the weather in Paris can get hot and steamy. But, Paris has some 30+ municipal pools open to the public, many of them in stunning architectural gems. All of the pools have different schedules (outlined on this website in French: www.nageurs.com) but should only cost a few Euros to use. It's a wonderful way to chill out, especially if you go at off-peak hours. Here are three beautiful pools:
Piscine Josephine Baker (Port de la Gare, Quai François Mauriac; tel. 01-56-61-96-50; 13th arrondissement; Métro: Quai de la Gare): Swimming pool barge, right on the Seine, open all year round with a retractable, glass roof for the summer months.
Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles (5 Place Paul Verlaine; tel. 01-45-89-60-05; 13th arrondissement; Métro: Place d'Italie): Art Nouveau-style swimming pool, built in 1924, supplied by a natural hot spring.
Piscine Pontoise (19 rue de Pontoise; tel. 01-55-42-77-88; 5th arrondissement; Métro: Maubert Mutualité): A beautiful art deco pool.
Tennis Courts (Directory of municipal tennis centers: www.paris.fr/portail/Sport/Portal.lut?page_id=153)
If you'd like to keep up your backhand, you'll be happy to know there are hundreds of public courts at parks and athletic centers throughout Paris. The rates are nominal from around 7.50€ per hour for outdoor courts to 14€ per hour for covered courts. It's advisable to book ahead. You can do this in person at one of the municipal tennis centers or online.
To reserve court time online, you'll need to register (http://tinyurl.com/m4lrr9). Enter your last name (nom de naissance), first name (prénom), date of birth and address to get a free ID number (identifiant) and an access code (code d'acces) to log into the system. You and your tennis partner can also just go and sign up for the next available court but be prepared for a long wait. The Tennis Channel recommends:
Jardin du Luxembourg-Tennis Courts (in the garden near Le Sénat; tel. 01-43-25-79-18; 6th arrondissement; Métro: Odéon): 6 courts
Tennis La Faluère (Bois de Vincennes, Route de la Pyramide; tel. 01-43-74-40-93; 12th arrondissement; RER (A): Joinville-le-Pont, then Bus 112 to Plaine de la Faluère): 21 courts
Centre Sportif Suzanne Lenglen (2 rue Louis Armand; tel. 01-44-26-26-50; 15th arrondissement; Métro: Balard): 14 courts (2 covered)
If you'd rather be a spectator, plan your trip to Paris during May and June for the French Open at the Roland-Garros stadium (www.rolandgarros.com).
Down on the Farm
Ferme de Paris -- Paris Farm, (Bois de Vincennes, Route du Pesage; tel. 01-43-28-47-63; 12th arrondissement; RER (A): Joinville-le-Pont, then Bus 112 to Mortemart.)
Holy, cows! Yes, right in Paris. If you're traveling with children, leave the Louvre behind and head for the Bois de Vincennes. This fabulous park was once the royal hunting forest. Now, it's a recreational area with lakes, activities for kids, tennis courts (see above) and -- a working farm! In addition to cows, there are goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits. The Ferme de Paris tries to educate city kids about farm life with chores such as milking, veggie gardening, sheep shearing, harvesting and jam making. Fun for toute la famille!