petite anglaise

October 17, 2005


Filed under: city of light, Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:58 am

I feel my hackles rising. Having paid € 21 in entrance fees for the bioparents and I to take Tadpole to the mini-zoo in the Jardin des Plantes, my ungrateful child is not paying the animals any attention whatsoever. And this after chanting “go see the animals!” at least seventy four times during the métro journey to Gare d’Austerlitz.

Granted, the antelopes and wallabies are not very inspiring, lolling listlessly in the grass, not even twitching so much as an ear in our direction. And there are only so many different breeds of owl that one can look at, silently roosting in their cages, without having to stifle a yawn.

Nonetheless it is galling to see that Tadpole is more interested in giving dolly (Tico l’Ecureuil) a ride in her pushchair.

“Look over there!” I cry, in the patronising, over enthusiastic tones of a children’s television presenter, attempting vainly to draw her gaze towards a couple of stampeding ostriches who have just been let back into their enclosure, after being mucked out. “What big birds! Aren’t they funny?”

“Non mummy! I pushing the pushchair!”

My shoulders sag. I decide it is futile to try and show or teach Tadpole anything, and instead we just stroll around the menagerie, enjoying the warm sunshine.

The reptile house is more entertaining, not least because we have to leave the pushchair outside the front door. Tadpole, Tico and I marvel at the snakes, baby lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises. The giant tortoises are a resounding success, reminding Tadpole of the Miffy postcard on her bedroom door. I explain, patiently, that it won’t be possible to ride on the tortoise’s back, regardless of what Miffy gets up to in “Miffy at the zoo”, and I manage to head off a tearful temper tantrum by pulling a banana out of my bag to divert her attention.

Fed up of the animal kingdom, we head up to rue Mouffetard to grab some lunch. The sky is a unlikely shade of azure for the month of October, and as I push Tadpole along the cobbled street lined with stalls selling ripe cheeses and all manner of rustic looking farm produce, manoeuvering past a man and woman who are doing a slow dance in the street accompanied by guitar music outside the café where Juliette Binoche was filmed by Kieslowski in Three Colours Blue, I feel a little stirring of my long dormant love for this city I live in.

That night, I manage to cajole Tadpole into eating a few leaves of iceberg lettuce, “just like the tortoises”.

All in all, it wasn’t such a bad day.


  1. am quite fond of the menagerie. it’s really the saddest little zoo in the world. the big cats building has its feeding hours somewhere in the late afternoon. I like seeing this. Nice big wet red bones tossed before the hungry cats who are otherwise bored and driven insane in their panopticon. The first time, I turned to my husband and said, “that could be you.” I’d like to try that on a difficult toddler, but perhaps that’s the reason I don’t have children.

    Comment by nardac — October 17, 2005 @ 12:42 pm

  2. I get so excited when you mention places close to where I live!

    Comment by Anne — October 17, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

  3. Children are so often ungrateful. I have spent hours deciding, buying wrapping up the perfect birthday/chistmas present only to find by son more interested in the 5 euros thingy he got from a long lost aunty of mine.Or even worse the boxes and wrapping paper are great fun to throw around the room.

    By the way – You got your daughter to eat lettuce,now that deserves a medal.

    Comment by P in France — October 17, 2005 @ 1:19 pm

  4. Dear Petite, may I say that you are sounding more negative/bitter by the day? I know Paris, like all big cities, is a bitch for raising small children, and all the more as a working (and single) mother. I can well understand that you are wishing yourself elsewhere (in Brittany?). I realize you are not happy with your working life. However, when you will have left Paris you may wish with nostalgia you had enjoyed it more, the little things, the opulent markets, the food stuffs you do not get abroad, the CAKES (!!!), the old buildings (OK you get them in the UK, too) and many many other things that take just the batting of a lid to enjoy. So, just a quick reminder. All the best.

    Comment by Angie — October 17, 2005 @ 1:32 pm

  5. Ah, Miffy at the Zoo. Have read it, and many other Miffys and Poppy Pigs, ad nauseam. Such dodgy rhymes! Funny how children love them so much. Are they better in VO I wonder?

    Comment by Susan — October 17, 2005 @ 1:45 pm

  6. Miffy rocks. My favourite animal in the ménagerie at Jardin des Plantes is the chien des buissons. They fix you with their gaze from under their little hiding bushes. So sweet.

    Comment by Katherine — October 17, 2005 @ 2:13 pm

  7. I have only recently convinced my youngest that you can’t have a Wolf as a family pet.

    Comment by Greavsie — October 17, 2005 @ 2:15 pm

  8. Sounds as if that day, at least, went better than you expected. Which would be good news.

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — October 17, 2005 @ 2:33 pm

  9. I love that little zoo – I went there a while ago with a friend (no kids to use as excuses for going). I think the animal rights people woudl quite justly have a field day but I found it an oasis in the centre of Paris.

    Did you see the monkey house? I spent ages watching them they were hilarious.

    The big cats thing was shut when I went there, which was sad.

    Best thing is to do kiddy things without kiddies there to spoil it for you…:-)

    Comment by cheria — October 17, 2005 @ 2:37 pm

  10. I didn’t see any big cats either, as the fauverie was shut, and I feel suitably cheated. I demand a refund!

    (I did also think the menagerie had probably seen better days)

    Comment by petite — October 17, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

  11. All 2year olds must be the same. I take my daughter to soft play area there is a bouncy castle there, ball pitts and loads of other things for her to do but what does she want to do she wants to play in the toilet. If i knew she was going to do that i would have stayed at home and she could play in mine at least i would know that it was clean.

    Comment by Growing Up — October 17, 2005 @ 3:22 pm

  12. I don’t think kids are ungrateful – they just show us that the monetary value doesn’t count!;) bloody annoying though.
    I took our three to the West Midlands Safari park over the summer; not just any old lions, these are ENGLISH lions! But no go; my elder boy (4) spent the whole 1h30 taking photos of the steering wheel with the box of deer food.
    The BEST thing of all was the ride on a Coventry double decker – they sat at the front and pretended to drive pressing the screws to make it go left, stop, open the doors etc. I’ve never seen them so appliqués!
    You can’t get better than a doubledecker (and that includes silly ‘articulated’ buses – dangerous, unstable, and daft-looking).

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — October 17, 2005 @ 3:29 pm

  13. P.S Just going back to French boat rhymes –
    j’ai fait faire
    Un petit bateau sur la riviere.
    J’ai fait faire un petit bateau
    Never understood that first line…

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — October 17, 2005 @ 3:52 pm

  14. Yes, the jardin des plantes zoo is a sad place, like all zoos IMHO. However, I do like the sloths. They don’t seem to care where they are, they just look completely stoned.

    Comment by Smartie — October 17, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

  15. I thought iceberg lettuce was banned in France!

    Comment by Homer — October 17, 2005 @ 5:29 pm

  16. Be happy the sun was out, it was a glorious day, I was in Paris this weekend too for the first time in about 25 years. This time I actually enjoyed it, but then it was the person not the place that made it great!!

    Comment by Keith — October 17, 2005 @ 6:20 pm

  17. Miffy rocks… and so does Three Colours Blue!

    Zoos can be difficult with children. I recall a trip to the safari park on a very hot day. Fan on full blast in car, sucking air in at a great rate. Monkey sits over air intake and lets rip. And us kids in the back of the car discovered exactly what a diet entirely composed of fruit means…

    Comment by Richard — October 17, 2005 @ 11:14 pm

  18. Hey, I just read the Hotel entry from September – now that beats the lions at West Lids Safari! You can really see the fur fly…
    Now I know it’s all out in the open! Congrats Petite and Parkin Pig for making it public! ;)

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — October 18, 2005 @ 12:00 am

  19. I meant West Mids of course…

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — October 18, 2005 @ 12:01 am

  20. More importantly, what’s Miffy’s name in French? I used to read these gorgeous books when I was little and they were in French! Any clue Petite?

    Comment by Maurine au bout du monde — October 18, 2005 @ 1:32 am

  21. “Miffy at the Zoo” was my favorite book when I was a little girl. Sorry Tadpole wasn’t very interested in her own Zoo Adventure.

    Comment by Milly — October 18, 2005 @ 3:55 am

  22. Well, as Angie said above, the overall tone of your article does suggest (to me) that you might be on a bit of an emotional “downer” right now, though I could easily be wrong about that, not knowing you.
    I have a close friend who is also bringing up his daughter (born May 2003, so about the same age as yours)
    in separation from her natural mother, though both parties have equal access to their child. From what my friend tells me (and from what I read between the lines) his daughter plays a lot of subconscious “games” in what she says, and how she acts, towards both her mother and her father. There seems to be some sort of shadowplay going on in her (my friend’s daughter’s) mind, a way for her to find out who “really loves her” the most, and to determine which party might be “to blame” for the upheaval which you have gone through recently (and have put her through, too – there’s no point in me mincing my words). Perhaps you experienced this situation too, when you were younger? I’m only guessing.
    Your article just reminded me so much of my friend telling me about the times his daughter has said, (for example), “I wanna have an ice cream!” and then when he buys her one, she seemingly deliberately drops it on the ground and cries. So, so frustrating, in a sense, isn’t it? And yet, (a)- you can’t expect a child to reason like an adult. But nonetheless, (b)- that child has more going on upstairs than you might realise – she is possibly playing out a scenario, with the aim of seeing how far she can push you before you “break” and lose your temper – and no doubt, she’ll be playing a similar sort of game with her father too, when she’s with him. In her mind, the one who “breaks” first is the “guilty party”. Because a child cannot see the grey areas of adult relationships in the way that adults can sympathise with – one party has to be the “bad guy”, the other the “good guy”. It’s pure Cowboys and Indians for a while, until she gets older. (In my opinion).

    Comment by Tom — October 18, 2005 @ 7:06 am

  23. I think I appreciated the zoo much more as an adult than as a child :-)

    Comment by Fiona — October 18, 2005 @ 10:15 am

  24. Tom, I think that sort of behaviour is universal in two year olds, no need to look further than that. Tadpole has shown no signs of hardship adapting to our new situation, just happiness at seeing daddy more often and for better quality time.

    I didn’t realise the post was negative in tone. Probably more influenced by fatigue after a few days entertaining relatives than anything else…

    NB Miffy in French ??? I thought mimi, but then I realised that is Maisy mouse. Anyone?

    Comment by petite — October 18, 2005 @ 12:10 pm

  25. Never mind getting eaten by lions, in Yorkshire they’ll soon be scoffing parkin pigs around bonfires!

    Comment by Parkin Pig — October 18, 2005 @ 3:47 pm

  26. PP – I’m familiar with Yorkshire parkin, but I’ve never seen a parkin pig?

    Comment by petite — October 18, 2005 @ 8:18 pm

  27. Maybe parkin pigs didn’t get as far as York but have a look at this and this.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — October 19, 2005 @ 10:33 am

  28. Thought exactly the same thing, Petite!

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — October 19, 2005 @ 10:41 am

  29. Just a point of information… Miffy’s real name is Nintje (a shortening of the word “rabbit” in Dutch) and she comes from the Netherlands. In Utrecht they even have a square called Miffy Square (Nintje Pleintje in Dutch, which rhymes and thus sounds much better). She _is_ better in VO (although I still have a weakness for the English names).

    Comment by Hazza — October 19, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

  30. Hmm, I meant, of course, Nijntje.

    Comment by Hazza — October 19, 2005 @ 3:41 pm

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