A perfect weekend in Beijing with an 8-year old

Beijing / China / Kids / leap & hop / Travel

Travel book kid Beijing

You might think that Beijing is not an ideal choice for a three-day weekend with an eight-year old in the middle of July.  I was dreading the pollution and had avoided Beijing for a few years because of the smog but when the opportunity came to go again, we dusted our old guidebooks and took off.  At first glance, there seems to be very little online about things to do with kids in Beijing that do not involve Ocean Park, the zoo or amusement parks in general.  This weekend required more research but it was so worth it.  Here is what I found and recommend.

1. The Great Wall

Leap & Hop Blog Travel with kids Beijing

Of course, there cannot be a trip to Beijing without a visit to the Great Wall.  Having experienced the Badaling tourist trap in the past, we opted for what we remembered as the nicer way to explore the Great Wall: Mutianyu.  Unfortunately, we were not the only ones. There is now a giant parking lot where you need to leave your car and buy the set of the many tickets you will need along the way.  Whether you decide to walk, take the cable car or the chair lift for the way up and then the slide on the way down, you need a ticket.  All these options are available and it seems that you can change your mind on the way if you’ve opted for the walk up and don’t feel like trekking down but fancy a giant ride down the slide.  We chose the chair lift up with the slide on the way down – an absolute must with kids.  Even if the number of tourists and hawkers has grown exponentially, the views, the walk and the slide down never disappoint.  For the ride down the slide,  stay away from a parent with a small child or a camera-trigger-happy-tourist who all have a tendency to slow down (if not stop all together) on the steepest slopes.  No fun for adrenaline seeking kid (or parent) on their way down the metal slide.


2. Museum of Ancient Coins

Ancient Coin Museum Beijing China Travel with Kids

Whether or not your interest lies in numismatic, the Museum of Ancient Coins was a great find. The museum is quite small with only two exhibition halls showcasing four thousand years of Chinese coin history but it’s connected to the Deshengmen’s watchtower, one of the last remaining towers from the Ming Dynasty City Wall.  You can walk up the tower and admire the views of the city from the top.  On display you’ll find weapons from the Ming Dynasty to the delight of children who can checkout giant cross-bows and siege warfare equipment from 600 years ago.

3. Getting lost in the Hutongs

Hutong beijing kid travel

Exploring the hutongs in the heart of Beijing will bring you back hundreds of years.  You can walk around on your own and get lost in the narrow alleys (our favoured option) or take a rickshaw who can stop along the way to show you special houses.  If you are looking for souvenirs I would recommend  Yandai Xiejie, while it’s touristy it’s much less overwhelming that Nanluoguxiang (a nightmare).  If you enjoy gallery-hoping, there are many art galleries sprouting in this neighbourhood.  If you get a chance to stop at Lab47 you’ll see an exhibition of French artist Thierry Liegeois (until August 20).

4. Boating on Houhai Lake

Houhai Lake Beijing Travel with Kids Leap & Hop

With the heat pounding the city, everyone seemed to be zeroing in on the lake.  Despite the signs forbidding swimming and fishing, we saw many people wearing swimming caps and doing laps in the lake.  Not so appealing for swimming, the lake is a great place for paddle boating.  We tried both the paddle and the electric options.  Paddles are hard to reach for younger kids and our son preferred to play captain and keep his hand on the wheel of the electric version to follow the ducks around.

5. National Museum of China

National Museum of China Travel with Kids

Another great option for us to stay cool in Beijing was to spend an afternoon in the National Museum of China. Admission is free with a picture ID, hence the giant lines when it’s boiling hot. There is currently a very interesting exhibition on Walt Disney’s animated pictures (original drawings and a couple of interactive activities for kids). However, our favourite exhibition was the showcase of  state gifts donated to China by foreign nations.  We spent a couple of hours playing  a guessing game with one rule: after taking a quick look (without reading the description) we took turns in guessing which country made the gift.  To make it easier sometimes we limited the guess to continents.  It was quite easy for gifts from India (mini-Taj Mahal) or Egypt (Sphynx-like sculpture) but more challenging for pieces from Europe.

6. Playing Jianzi in the street

Jianzi beijing kids travel

In every Chinese park you’re bound to find people playing jianzi.  It’s a game played with a shuttlecock (like in badminton) but with feathers and weights.  The casual game involves passing the shuttlecock around from player to player using only feet and other body parts (no hands).  It looks fun and so easy!   We had to try.  Well, it’s not easy at all.  Very quickly, we were joined by a group of young Chinese who were all too eager to show their skills.  We bought one to bring home and practice some more.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more to see in Beijing.  On our list for next time:  Lama Temple (my personal favourite), Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace (must-see).  We also want to explore other artist areas beyond 798.

We will share our finds on the blog 🙂

Paris – Cool Places for Kids in the Hot Summer

Family / Kids / leap & hop / paris / Travel

Travel Kids Paris Carrousel

Photo Credit: Boddi Chrin

It’s July, you’re in Paris with your kids and it’s unbearably hot.  I’ve been there, I grew up there, so I know …  Paris is not always equipped to handle such crazy temperatures.  After you’ve exhausted all the big museums and reached your limits with hoping from shop to ice cream parlour, you may want to try other “cool” places to take your little ones that generally don’t make it to the top 5 places to visit with kids.  This is my list, in no particular order.

1. The Catacombes

Kid Travel Book Paris Catacombes

If it’s hot outside, going underground seems like a good option.  The fact that these walls are covered with human bones makes it all the more intriguing.  The visit will take you through a labyrinth of dark and cramped passageways (with the name of the street that is above ground) covered with human bones recovered from the Cimetière des Innocents at the end of the 18th century.  The bones were packed in an “artistic” way.  As a result, there is no way of knowing whose bones belong to who.   What we do know, is that the bones of  Charles Perrault, author of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood, and those of Robespierre, one of the most feared politician during the French revolution, are there somewhere.

For more info:www.catacombes.paris.fr

2. Museum of Magic

Don’t expect anything like Hogwarts here.  The museum showcases everything magic through the ages.  You will discover with your kids how magic has been performed over the years and uncover some classical tricks.  There are some very old accessories, optical illusions, decorated box for splitting people in half and more. Both kids and grown-ups with enjoy a visit which can be combined with the museum of automatons (the robots of old times). As a bonus, the museum is located in the Marais, right smack in the centre of Paris.

For more info (in French):  www.museedelamagie.com

3.  Versailles – Fountains


If you plan to see the Château de Versailles – and you should – try to schedule your visit on a day where the fountains are turned on.  In the summer; the fountain shows are exclusively on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.  For a different  (and probably cooler) experience try the Night Fountain Show on Saturdays.  You can turn this visit into a navigation game with your little ones.  Give them the map and let them loose in the gardens.  The game is for them to take you from fountain to fountain to the sound of Lully’s music.  Your role is to follow, let them make mistakes and retrace their steps if that happens.

For more info: en.chateauversailles.fr

4.  Doll MuseumParis Travel Children Doll MuseumFor doll lovers, big and small, a stop in the doll museum (Musée de la poupée) is a must.  Located close to the Pompidou Centre, the museum has a permanent collection of dolls as old as 200 years.  The special exhibition this summer focuses on “Becassine” a beloved character for French children, celebrating her 90 birthday.  The dolls are arranged in windows with furniture and accessories from the same period so you can take a sneak peek at what life looked like in those days (at least in the eyes of doll makers).  There is also a small doll shop where you can buy doll clothes, furniture and accessories in the “French style”.

For more info: www.museedelapoupeeparis.com

5. Musée des Arts et Métiersmusée paris leap and hopNot conceived exclusively for kids, this museum will interest the whole family.  The Musée des Arts et Métiers focuses on instruments and machines throughout  history.  Located not too far from the Pompidou Centre, the museum displays objects in seven collections: Scientific instruments, Materials, Energy, Mechanics, Construction, Communication and Transport. From the invention of the printing press, the typewriter (try to explain to a kid how common typewriters were just a generation ago), the engine, to electricity and robotics, your kids will see objects that were great innovations of their time.  Even the subway station sharing the name with the museum, “Arts et Métiers”, is a sight to behold and your kids will get a kick out of the gears on the ceiling on the platform.  The museum is opened until  9:30 PM Thursdays and free after 6:00 PM.  Remember that it’s still light at 9:30PM in Paris in July.

For more info: www.arts-et-metiers.net

6. Paris Plage

Kids Paris Plage

If you need a break from the museums and want to embrace the heat between mid-July to mid-August, the riverbank of the Seine turns into a beach with sand, lounge chairs, palm trees and ice cream parlours.  There are several locations where you can enjoy the beach Paris has to offer but near the Bassin the la Villette, in the north of Paris, there are water activities such a kayaking, and rowing which are a welcome bonus in today’s weather. For sand only, try the riverbank on the left bank between Pont Neuf and Pont de Sully or the square in front of the City Hall.

For more info: http://www.parisianist.com/en/attractions/annual-events/paris-plage/

7. The Art of the Brick – Special Exhibition

As another indoor activity during the summer until August 30, 2015, visit the Art of Brick.   For the lego lovers, big and small, this show will take your breath away.  The exhibition showcases around 100 pieces from American artist, Nathan Sawaya. You can see his reproduction of the Venus de Milo (you can see the original in the Louvre) and a giant T-rex among many other pieces built out of more than a million lego.

For more info:http://int.rendezvousenfrance.com/fr/agenda/art-brick-paris-expo

8. Musée des Arts Forains

travel kids fairground museum

Ok, this is another museum, but it’s the last one on my list for today. This special museum will take you and your kids to the world of fairgrounds.  Whether it’s artefacts or old-time rides, the museum will enchant your children.

for more info: www.arts-forains.com

9. Cruise on the Canal Saint Martin or Canal de l’Ourcq

Travel Kids Paris CanalA good alternative to the traditional Bateau-Mouche along the Seine, try the cruise on the Canal Saint Martin or the Canal de l’Ourcq.  That boat ride can takes 2.5 hours.  There are several itineraries, one of which takes you from La Villette to the Quai d’Orsay on the left bank.  You will go through the many locks and hear their stories as well as the historical sites along the way.  It’s more leisurely than the cruise on the Seine and you will enjoy the differents view of Paris.  Several companies offer cruises along the canals and they may not take place every day so you need to check for itineraries, reservations and deals.

For more info: en.pariscanal.com and www.canauxrama.com

Enjoy the summer and stay cool!

Paris – Quiz walk in Montmartre with Kids

Family / Kids / leap & hop / paris / Travel

Leap_Hop_Blog_Paris_Cover 1 Emilie

Leap & Hop Paris is coming out this week in Hong Kong and around the world but since I’m in Paris, I wanted to have the opinion of a couple of French kids. Can Pierre-Oscar, a local 10-year old, and his brother, Felix, 7,  enjoy a quiz walk around the artsy neighbourhood of Montmartre written for children coming from other countries to visit their hometown? Well, the answer was a resounding “oui”!

We met in front of the walls of “Je t’aime” or “I love you”, an art piece signed Frédéric Baron et Claire Kito nearby the “Abbesses” metro station. The game is to decipher on the wall “I love you” in as many languages as possible. Pierre Oscar found several French versions, as well as English, Spanish, Italian, Hindi, Arabic and several Hebrew expressions. Pretty impressive and fun.


Next, he guided us through the little streets to the Place Émile Goudeau where we found the Bateau Lavoir, famous artist residence in the early 20th century. To the question: Which artist who lived in this studio painted the “Demoiselles d’Avignon”, Pierre Oscar proudly answered “Picasso”. Correct! For those who don’t know, there is a lot of information in the window.


We wandered around and surprise, surprise, on top of rue Girardon spotted the two surviving windmills of Montmartre.


We followed the itinerary to Place Marcel Ayme and its sculpture of the “Passe-Murailles”. As I was busy taking pictures of the kids and the famous man, stuck in the wall, Pierre Oscar discovered not only the story of the adventures of the Passe-Murailles but that the sculptor was none other than Jean Marais, a famous French actor, known by all French kids who have seen “Fantomas” or “Beauty and the Beast” by Jean Cocteau.  We didn’t know that in addition to being an actor Jean Marais was also a sculptor.


On our way to the “Maison Rose” famously painted by Maurice Utrillo , we stumbled onto the patch of cultivated land next to the Montmartre Museum.  Pierre Oscar and Felix found out that there are vineyards in Montmartre and that wine is made from its harvest every year.


Finally, we arrived on the top of the hill at the back of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and it took another 300 steps for Pierre Oscar to find which monster was slayed by Saint Michael.   There is no front view even from the top of the Basilica. With some guessing and a little imagination, you too can find out what kind of creature he was dealing with!


And it’s with a great sense of accomplishment and a lot of giggles that we rode back down on the funicular. Until the next time!



A new way of traveling with kids

Kids / Travel / Uncategorized

Thanks for the nice review 🙂

les pascalettes uk

Happy New Year 2015 to all!

If you are already planning family travels for the year ahead, i can only strongly recommend these amazing books, made especially for kids to enjoy, have and discover different countries!

All written by a mum herself (Isabelle Demenge) who couldn’t find a better way to entertain her kids while traveling to these amazing places, few ideas include: taking a selfie in front of the best monuments visited, experience local food and write about it or even playing the ‘I Spy’ game in places like Angkor.

Fun and much interactive!

See for yourselves: 

Don’t forget to pack your CHIC BIB Les Pascalettes in your bags!


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11 fun things with kids in Myanmar

leap & hop / Myanmar

Leap_Hop_Blog_Myanmar_Noam_Reclining Buddha

Never have we been so surrounded by other families traveling in Southeast Asia.  This came as a big surprise. Taking our kids to Myanmar seemed a bit adventurous.  We thought we were ahead of the curve, well, we weren’t, not at all.   We saw tons of French kids running around but we also heard plenty of English, Italian, Dutch and German speakers.

As we went through the Leap & Hop draft book of Myanmar with the “guinea pigs” we were amazed at how many fun things there were to do in addition to temple-hoping.

In no particular order, here are the top 11  things on the kids’ list.

1. Lunch time for monks of all ages.  In Myanmar, the last meal of the day for a monk is at 12.  No solid food after that until breakfast.  All buddhist men in Myanmar have to spend some time as monks.  It doesn’t have to be long, sometimes not more than one week and boys can enter a monastery as young as 8 or 9 years old.  They can be joined in their stay by their father and brothers and school vacations seem to be a good time.  What are you doing for Spring break?


2.  Posing for pictures with local people.  When traveling in Asia, three fair-headed kids will constantly be asked to pose for pictures and ours have grown to hate it over the years.   Somehow, this was not the case in Myanmar, as they turned out to be pretty cooperative with selfie-craving Burmese.


Even our 12 year old was game for putting on a smile for the camera!


3. Kayaking in the rice fields in Kayin state at sunset.  It was a magical day that ranked way up there on our list (grownups included).


4. Getting close to the monkeys in the cave temple of Ka Goon. As much as they look cute and cuddly, you shouldn’t touch them.  What to do when they are the ones coming to you? Hold your breath and take a quick picture.


5. Going on a scavenger hunt in the temples.  Temple-hopping remains an all time favorite as long as there is something fun to do other than admire the architecture and carvings.  Exploring a “secret” passage in search of a hidden buddha is a good start.


6. Riding the circular train in Yangon with local commuters.  Traffic in Yangon is very congested, commuters use the circular train.  The whole loop takes three hours.  We shared their ride for 45 minutes and the kids enjoyed every minute of it.  Between watching people selling food in the train, and looking through the window at the ever changing scenery, the kids were totally engaged.


7.  Riding horse carriages are always great fun for kids.  In Sagaing, Marcel was the one holding the reins.  Yee-haw!


8.  Local workshops.  Everywhere in Myanmar you’ll find little workshops making and selling all sorts of goods and crafts: flattening gold leaves for the temples, puppets for tourists, weaving textiles for longyis, and leather flip-flops for monks.  Among the favorites were the lotus fibre weaving workshops on Inle Lake and puppet stores in Mandalay.



9. Sunset cruise and ball game on a sandbank in Bagan.  Sunset is a big thing in Myanmar as the sites are truly gorgeous but after three such “amazing” sunsets that cannot  be missed, the kids started to lose interest.  In Bagan, the light came back on when the sunset cruise was paired with a game of dodgeball on a sandbank in the middle of the river.


10. Boat rides on Inle Lake.  The children were very impressed by fishermen paddling with one leg. How long does it take to master this skill?  And how about growing vegetable on floating gardens on stilts? Quite a different and unique lifestyle for the kids to discover.


11. Watching hot air balloons in Bagan.  Although we didn’t go on the balloons ourselves (you need to book months in advance if you are going over Christmas), the kids enjoyed seeing the balloons taking off above the pagodas at sunrise.  Next time, we will get on, it’s a promise!


Stay tuned for more details on the release of Leap & Hop Myanmar…


Off to Myanmar


Leap_Hop_Blog_Myanmar_Inle_Lake It’s time to pack and go with the family on our winter break adventure.  The Christmas break of 2010 is when the whole thing started: I had to write a book for the kids for our trip to Cambodia.  With my sister’s family, we had 5 kids aged 8 and under and we (the adult minority) were determined to spend quality time in the temples, not around the pool.  The books were designed to give the kids something fun to do in the temples with us grown-ups.  They had to look for details on the bas-reliefs for the ultimate I-Spy game in Angkor Wat, go on a treasure hunt in Bayon, sample and rate typical Cambodian food, learn about currency exchange and time zones.  It was such a success with the kids who became experts at distinguishing devatas from apsaras in the Khmer temples, that a family tradition was born.  Since then, every Christmas is an opportunity for a new book (with a few others in between).  The kids grow up but are very attached to our ‘christmas+trip with cousins in Asia+book routine’.  This year, we are going to Myanmar and my five guinea pigs are ready to fulfil their annual mission.  And as a bonus, this year, Emile (my now 12-year old)  is also going to help with the photography. I can’t wait to see what he is going to capture on film!

New Book – Bali

Bali / leap & hop

Leap_Hop_Blog_Bali_Book_Promo copy

The date is set, Leap & Hop Bali is hitting the bookstore on December 19! Just in time for the winter break.

Today we want to debunk a few myths about Bali.  Somehow, most people think of Bali as the place to go for great water sports and fun night life.  If you’re going with the family, you may be thinking of resorts, water park and monkey forest.  Well, there are other things to do in Bali.   Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing restaurants in Bali and the monkey forest is definitely worth a visit with the kids but don’t stop there.  This is your chance to broker a peace between your kids and temple-hoping.  As hard as it is to believe, kids can get really engaged when visiting temples if they are steered in the right direction.  They need a bit of a prompt, something to look for and play with.  Once you find what sets them off in a temple, they will be asking for more.

Have they located the nagas – the mythical serpents flanking the Bedawang Nala, the giant turtle carrying the world on her back?


Can they recognise the god to which the temple is dedicated? Hint: how many arms does he have? Are they familiar with the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata?  It’s all there, on the walls of the temples and the ceilings of Klungkung.


With over a thousand temples, amazing surfing waves, great food and beautiful nature, Bali is the perfect place for your next family holiday.

Count-down to Paris!


Yes, I am going to Paris in 4 days!  I can’t wait to be back home but this time it won’t be (only) about diner with friends, catching the latest French movies or exhibitions.  No, next week I will be a tourist in my hometown and I can’t wait.  The draft book is nearly done, it’s just so hard for me to limit it to 100 pages (and maybe I won’t, let’s see).  The decision about what will be in and what has to go out will have to wait until I come back to Hong Kong.  In the meantime, I’m gathering a whole bunch of kids who will accompany me on my day trips next week to try out each activity.  It’s going to be fun to hang out with my friends’ kids and get the French perspective. What’s on the menu? Well, the must-sees will be included of course: Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame de Paris, Pompidou Centre, Montmartre and the other obvious ones, but we do have a few surprises. You will just have to wait until the book comes out in December.

How Leap & Hop Bali is coming along


The process is more of less the same for each book: I need guinea pigs. The first ones are always my children.  It’s only fair, I started writing the Leap & Hop series for them. For Bali, the family experience took place last June. Kids were happy temple-hoping for a week with a snorkelling trip as a break.


Check out their collection of ticket stubs.  They also found a few typos and things that didn’t work and made some great suggestions.


Emilie and I spent the rest of the summer adjusting the drawings here, adding pictures there, changing the colours and putting the final touch to the text.

October kicked in and another friend volunteered to take a look at the revised draft while on vacation in Bali. The conclusion was the following:

1. Mimi spent a lot of time playing, drawing and learning about Bali with the book.

Leap_Hop_Blog_Bali_Mimi 2. She decided she loved it.

Leap_Hop_Blog_Bali_Mimi_History 3. She also suggested we add something about the wildlife in Bali.

It’s now November, the book is being edited and Mimi’s request granted.



Can you guess which animal this is?  We won’t tell you, but what we can say is that you’ll find an animal scavenger hunt in the final book!

Stay tuned for the launch date…