This week we welcomed our first visitor; Granny (my mum, as opposed to “computer grandma” who lives in LA and has been keeping in touch via skype) from the Eurostar to great excitement. Arthur wouldn’t let her out of his sight all the way home, always craning around to make sure she hadn’t disapeared. Since someone had actually crossed (under) sea to come visit us I felt like we should actually venture into the centre of town and be a little touristy (beyond eating yummy waffles from the market – I’m actually a little obsessed with those waffles). The problem is that being a tourist is decidely more difficult with a toddler in tow, particularly when that toddler is a high energy, high volume beast. The rainy season has started with a vengence so indoor attractions are most appealing but art galleries and or anywhere else remotely civilised are out of the question. With all that in mind it’s easiest to just go for child centred activities so we went for the “musee jouet” or toy museum. An entire museum of toys that you can look at and play with is pretty appealing to any age group so for me Arthur was just a good excuse to vsit.
The museum’s a five minute walk from the Parc subway stop. (I thought we could combine the trip with a run round the park but the constant drisel put pay to that well thought out plan). It’s situated in a terraced town house, spread out over four stories. It has a combination of old toys densely packed into glass cabinets and plenty of old and new toys that were lying around ready to be played with.
The place struck me as a bit of a health and safety nightmare (I’m sure it would have been shut down long ago in England) there were old ride along toys (that were now very rickity and probably not at all safe) inviting kids to clamber all over them, precarious large wooden toys waiting to be pulled over by eager toddler hands, a rusty old VW van that looked like it was actually from the 60s with plenty of sharp edges that you were apparently aloud to climb inside (Arthur and all the other kids I saw did so I assume it was allowed) and no supervision anywhere (there were two girls working on the desk but that was separated from the rest of the museum by a big door).
That said we kept a close eye on our little visitor and his roaming hands and nothing was fallen off or pulled down. Making it more safe would involve making it less fun so it just meant we had to be extra careful which was fine.
Our first stop was an entire kitchen constructed out of wood. Since Arthur loves to pretend cook (probably because it’s the only domestic thing he actually sees going on at home) he was enthralled. It was better equipped than my actual kitchen with a wooden washing machine (with dirty laundry and drying rack provided for the complete pretend hosuework experience) that you could spin round, wooden cooker, wooden dish washer, wooden sink, even a wooden pizza oven (complete with wooden velcroed together pizza that could be cut up with wooden knives) and wooden toasters complete with wooden toast (you probably get the idea with with wooden appliances by now).
Moving on (only because a school group was looking on longingly at the kitchen ware; I’m pretty sure Arthur would have happily moved in) there was a giant hand made wooden ball run, a huge rickity marble run you could race marbles down, plenty of retro cars, motorbikes and planes that could be clambered onto into and over.
There were plenty to be picked up and played with too from retro classics (the fisher price till),
victorian dolls houses to slightly macabre old battered dolls with half of their limbs removed to the more unusual in particular a giant eye-less teddy that towered over two storeys. Moving up the house there was a giant electric train set (wisely house inside a glass cabinet) that could be switched on on request, a victorian school room, puppet theatre and games room (wooden noughts and crosses, chess and checkers available to be played with). The place was totally rammed with toys over four levels, every wall had something to be spun round, pulled or played with somehow.
Every cabinet was full of toys of all description and all ages, that combined with the old townhouse location definitely gave the place a very nostalgic feel. If I was more creative It would probably inspire me to do prop design for some kind of romantic childhood film set in the victorian times that could be shown on christmas day. Being more of a geek I just thought it was pretty cool and was happy to poke about (and an excited Arthur running about in the vicinity of a very steep stair case didn’t give me much time for these kind of contemplations).
Being that it was an unsupervised four story house full of toys by the end of the morning it had descended into a scene of mild chaos. Toys had been liberally redistributed across the entire place (we tried not to contribute to this but I’m not sure we succeeded). It closes for two hours over lunch time and I can only imagine this time is spent doing a tidy up of an epic proportion; a thought which actually makes me grateful to only live in a one bedroom flat.
All in all it was alot of fun and we’ll definitely be returning (especially since we realised half way home Arthur had stolen an ancient looking block). It’ll definitely be worth picking another quiet time of day (we went on a monday morning and apart from two small school groups it was deserted) I think on a busy day thousands of hyper children competing for hundreds of toys might make for a less peaceful excursion.