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Going for the brass ring
By Catherine | | 7 Comments

You know that that expression “going for the brass ring”? It comes from an old carousel tradition where children try to reach out and hook a metal loop as their horse gallops around the ride. You don’t see this feature in many merry-go-rounds these days, but it is alive and well in at least one park in Paris.

Luxembourg Carousel in ParisCarousel in Luxembourg Garden, Paris.

Carousels are everywhere in Paris (trust me, we sampled most of them), but the little wooden carousel in the Luxembourg Garden was my children’s hands-down favorite.

Compared to some of the grand golden gizmos out there, this ride is a rickety old runt in need of a paint job – but it’s a true classic. Built by Charles Garnier (architect of the Paris Opera House) back in the 19th century, what the Luxembourg carousel lacks in style it makes up for in substance. The challenge of going for the brass ring elevated this ride to royal status in my girls’ eyes.


Each child is given a little stick – a lance, if you will – and as their trusty steed rounds the corner they have to aim it through the center of a small circular target, trying to capture the ring like a jouster of yore. It can be a little daunting for the under-three set, but kids four and up should be able to snag at least of few trophy rings. An attendant facilitates the process and does his best to help the children reach their goal – and oh, the beam of pride they’ll flash you when they get one! You might want to coach your little one to hold their stick up at an angle or any collected rings will simply slide off.

Not that it matters. Kids don’t keep the rings or exchange them for prizes or free rides or anything. The beauty of this quest is that thrill is in the experience in and of itself. It’s a refreshing concept in today’s “what do I get” culture.

You and the kids can easily make a day out of a visit to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Right beside this carousel is one of the best playgrounds in all of Paris. There’s a small entrance fee to this fenced-in park, but it’s well worth it. Along with the usual swings, slides and sandboxes are some innovative spinners, zip cords and climbing structures – my girls spent most of their time scaling the Eiffel-esque rope tower. Listen for the bell that announces the next puppet performance at the adjacent marionette theater. Language is no barrier for children to enjoy the wacky (make that whacky) adventures of Guignol, a famous French character.

Kids can also take little wooden sailboats out for a spin on the Grand Bassin pond and enjoy pedal-powered cars towards the south of the park. Keep your eyes peeled for a small Statue of Liberty nearby.




October 23rd, 2009
Glennia says:

Sounds like a perfectly charming way to spend a day!

October 23rd, 2009
Linda says:

Thanks for sharing this tradition. How nice that the attendant helps the kids reach their success!

October 23rd, 2009
Debbie Dubrow says:

I love this carousel too! Adam Gopnik wrote a beautiful story about his son’s experience on it in Paris to the Moon if you’re looking for some wanderlusty reading ;)

October 23rd, 2009
Sharlene says:

There is a carousel on the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz where you get to throw rings. Its so much fun!

October 23rd, 2009
maria says:

My son loves old carousels too, but he hasn’t been on this particular one yet. How rewarding to catch the rings! It sounds like great fun.

October 24th, 2009
Dominique says:

I love old carousels…and love taking photos of the cool animals. I’ve never seen one with the ring game in action. Sounds like great fun for kids :)

October 27th, 2009
Marina K Villatoro says:

That sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon. My boy would love the ring catching, it gives regular carousels some aditional flavor

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