The other day Maya (from the blog A table avec Maya) went on a mission to L’été au Palais – Palais de la Porte Dorée for Les Enfants à Paris. Her partner in crime was her 10 year old daughter.

This Art Deco building was built in 1931 and is quite impressive: the walls are decorated with sculptures representing the French colonies on all 4 continents outside of Europe at the time, their culture, their animals, and France in the middle.

3. Building - Entrance - France in the middle (1)

We started our afternoon with a *guided tour* of the premises. It was very interesting and put the museum in perspective: political and cultural contexts, purpose/objective of the construction and so forth… Did you know that the adjacent Bois de Vincennes was the theatre of the 1931 Paris colonial exposition? At the time, travel was uncommon and the French government wanted to show how strong and rich their country was. They invited all countries with colonies (except the United Kingdom which was probably more powerful than France at the time in terms of colonies) to participate in the exhibit. Temporary buildings were built all over Bois de Vincennes for every existing colony, the architecture being specific to each. Millions of people visited the exhibit, it was a huge success.

Nowadays, the Palais de la Porte Dorée and the Buddhist temple set in the Bois de Vincennes are the best-known remainders, even though the current Buddhist temple was originally the Togo and Cameroun pavilion! What a change!

4. Vegetal print - garden tour

The visit of the Palais was really interesting and rich of information and both my daughter and I appreciated it. Other kids were present and the lady in charge asked them questions to keep them engaged. This interactive visit is, in my opinion, best for kids aged 7 or 8 and above (I learned so much so definitely interesting for adults) as it might be a bit complex and long for younger kids.

We continued our discovery by attending a workshop called “*Impressions végétales*” (Vegetal prints) animated by Arianna Tamburini. To make a story short: we loved it!

We started with a visit of the garden outside the building, it was very interactive and the kids enjoyed it. We then headed to a room where tables were waiting for us, set with pieces of fabric, pads, brushes and pots containing some kind of glue mixed with different metals (such as iron or alum). After a technical explanation, we all started working on our own piece of fabric: put the paint/glue on the pads, apply these to the fabric to create patterns, then blow dry, quickly wash to remove excess paint and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the revealing infusion while kids could go play in the garden and have a snack. Once dried we marvelled at the results and brought our printed fabric home. So many happy faces at the end of the workshop!

5. Vegetal print - in 4 steps

The colours you can obtain depend on the metal used and the plant chosen for the infusion that will reveal the colours. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the one used as a revealing factor but the result gave yellow, orange and brown prints. It kept everyone busy, kids and adults included.

We really enjoyed this playful, fun and instructive workshop.

Kids aged 5 and under needed assistance but as from 6, they could all do it on their own.

Many other activities are foreseen for the summer, check their program. The Palais de la Porte Dorée also has a tropical aquarium (remember the original purpose of the building: allow French citizens to discover the French colonies), and a museum of immigration.

This place is worth a visit. And if weather permits, just cross the street and go discover the Bois de Vincennes.

We’ll definitely go back, what a wonderful discovery.

*Practical information:*

Palais de la Porte Dorée: 293 Avenue Daumesnil 75012 Paris +33 1 53 59 58 60 Métro line 8 – Tram 3a – Bus 46 – Stop Porte Dorée Programme d’été – L’été au Palais: