The delicious clearness of the air, the blueness of the sky, and the long stretch of wide, white road, bordered on both sides with flowering horse-chestnut trees, which runs from the Place de la Concorde to the are de Triomphe and the Bois de Boulogne, makes an ideal mise en scene for lighthearted enjoyment.
On the left-hand side of the Champs Elysees, beyond the wide gravel path where the prettiest of mammas, in the prettiest of frocks, accompanied by the most delightful-looking children, sun themselves, there lies a stretch of sandy gravel round the band-stand, which provides a most enioyable playground. Here, in charge of picturesque bonnes of every nationality, tiny tots, armed with spades and buckets, make the most elaborate sand pies from the piles of deliciously clean sand provided by the authorities, at the very feet of the gendarmes on guard, who merely smile on them indulgently. Meanwhile the bigger boys and girls make splendid castles of sand with flag-decked battlements and moats complete, which they attack and defend with much display of spirit throughout a long afternoon. Skipping games, too, are highly popular, and a couple of dainty little maidens in the smartest of short tartan frocks, cut well above the knee, short white socks, and hair decked with the jauntiest of big bows, hold the rope at either end, while a string of children play " keep the pot boiling," or its French equivalent. Those who have sous to spend find gaily decked goat carriages awaiting them, and a high-spirited coachful of tiny passengers, one of whom, a minute personage, is winding a tiny horn in most realistic fashion, will come rattling in and out amongst the fashionable folk, to exchange merry greetings with their friends right and left, while two very daintily garbed mammas follow in close attendance on the triumphal chariot.
A line of brightly caparisoned donkeys, with rosettes floating at their ears, standing in a row, all ready saddled or with panniers, are evidently irresistible, for a constant string of small folk await their turn to be lifted up and trotted off for a brief but glorious ride.
The merry-go-round, whose music can be heard for miles here as elsewhere, draws children as did once the flute of the Pied Piper. Its special attraction is easily understood when one learns that, by an ingenious arrangement, the small patrons can play tilting at the ring while mounted on their wooden steeds.
The children are given small wooden sticks to act as lances. As they whirl round they come to a crossbar from which a big brass ring hangs. To take this successfully on the end of the lance half a dozen times in succession as the steeds go whirling by is triumph indeed, and meets its reward in
The merry-go-round of the Champs Elysees is as popular with French children as its
English equivalent is this side of the Channel. Tilting at the ring is a favourite pastime with its little patrons the shape of an edible but very sticky prize packet, presented by the custodian of the roundabout, as the hero or heroine of the hour descends.
Petit Guignol is a naughty little impish boy, armed, like Punch, with a big stick, and it is on episodes in his adventurous
Driving "a l'ostriche" in the garden of the Paris Zoo is highly popular with little Parisians career that each little puppet-acted play is founded.
These plays are always most exciting. Witches who roll their eyes and show long, terrible teeth, as well as most realistic of ghosts, are introduced, and a performance will often wind up with a firework display with the most lurid show of coloured lights within.
Three new plays are produced every Wednesday afternoon, a time chosen because it is the children's half-holiday. On these premieres the benches of the little enclosure are packed with patrons, each of whom pays from ten to fifteen centimes (1d. to 1 1/2d.) for a seat.
An unwritten law insists that the first few rows shall be reserved for the children of the audience, and Guignol and they exchange the most sparkling of repartees during the play.
Round the outside of the palings the poorer folk of Paris, with their children, often congregate and spend an amusing half-hour watching what they can see for nothing.
Although there are no fewer than fifteen Guignols in Paris-one in every public park or place where children congregate-that in the Champs Elysees is the best known and most successful.
Every few hundred yards along the Champs Elysees one comes to some delightful little booth, hung with every imaginable plaything and goody that the heart of childhood could desire. Hoops, flags, skipping-ropes, tiny ships, bundles of spades, balls of every size and hue, painted with wonderful devices, are to be had in exchange for a few sous. Custom is very brisk on half-holiday afternoons, when the children arrive, rich with their week's pocket-money.
All sorts of simple cakes, glasses of syrup, and other harmless drinks are also obtainable, so that French nurses and their little charges can remain out for hours and find refreshment on the spot. The old airball woman of the Champs Elysees is a famous character in Paris, and hers are most superior balloons, covered with coloured nets, and sometimes with gaily coloured paper flags that flutter in the breeze, attached to them. On windy days, her stock of balloons often almost carry her away, like her famous Kensington Gardens prototype depicted in Arthur Rackham's delightful illustrations to "Peter Pan."
In the Tuileries Gardens, within a stone's throw of one of the busiest thoroughfares of Paris, M. Pol, the bird charmer, is daily to be found feeding his countless flock of feathered friends, chiefly pigeons and sparrows, with a sprinkling of the rarer birds, to the delight of the children, who look upon permission to watch his pretty performance with his pets as one of the most delightful events of the morning walk.
The small feathered inhabitants of the gardens not only know his whistle and come flocking to greet him when he calls, but will answer also to the names which he has chosen for them. They perform numberless little tricks at his bidding on the grass or gravel walks, and in springtime, though busy with their nests, the birds may be relied on to leave family affairs, and flutter down from bushes and trees as he goes about the gardens
The camel is another favourite steed of French children. The beast kneels on a heap of sand from which the little ones may mount him and calls them by name. No sooner can their offspring manage to flutter down from their nests than they are brought by their proud parents and introduced to Monsieur Pol, who may be counted upon to follow up the introduction with an offering of crumbs.
The Luxembourg Gardens is another favourite playground of little Parisians, for here miniature boat-sailing can be indulged in, just as on the Round Pond in London. On fine, breezy days in spring a fleet of white-sailed vessels continually crosses and recrosses the water, and the winning craft are greeted with shouts of delight by their small owners on their arrival at the other side.
The Bois de Boulogne, just outside Paris, is much given over during the spring and early summer months to parties of little folk who bowl their hoops and play diabolo and la grace, or whatever the game of the moment may chance to be, with surprising skill, and on Sundays often spend the whole day there, indulging in the merriest of fetes champetres with their parents under the trees upon the grass. Zoologique d'acclimatation-the Paris Zoo-is a highly popular resort on Sunday afternoons. Here gay family parties repair soon after dejeuner to spend long and delightful afternoons, armed with bags of buns and cakes.
Special arrangements for giving children pleasure begin at the very gates, in the shape of a Lilliputian tramcar run on miniature rails, which will spin you round the gardens in no time, if you chance to be under twelve.
Sooner or later, one is sure to meet the electrifying vision of a keeper, leading a tall ostrich, harnessed to a high two-wheeled
The Paris Zoo boasts its riding elephants, and their keepers are busy every fine day taking small patrons for a ride cart, full of merry, laughing children. The bird perambulates the gravel paths just as a four-legged beast might do, for driving a l'ostriche is a highly popular pastime with little Parisians, who would feel their holiday shorn of half its glory if it did not include at least one ostrich drive during the afternoon. Camels and elephants also stroll in the gardens bearing animated burdens on their backs. The camel is thoughtfully provided by the authorities with a tall heap of sand, on which he accommodatingly kneels for his small fares to climb up, so that a camel ride in Paris is a distinctly more exciting affair than at home, where one merely climbs a ladder in order to step into the saddle, and never knows themingled joy and terror of a camel's "getting up."
Like his London prototype, the Paris camel also has a nasty trick of biting those he does not like-and he is difficult to please !-and so he, too, wears a muzzle.
In spring the Paris toy - shops are doubly irresistible, and every imaginable object which could be needed to run a model dolls' house with eclat may be obtained at prices which range from a few sous up to as many francs. The inmates of a well-conducted establishment can have ideal meals served to them at proper intervals during the day by their young owners, from coffee and rolls at breakfast, to sardines, omelettes, chicken, hot-pot, and asparagus at dejeuner, afternoon tea, and a six-course dinner at night.
In the dolls' house larder will be found marvellous dishes modelled in papier-mache and painted by an artist's hand, while the table decorations of flowers and fruit and suites of dolls' house furniture are indescribably attractive.