When we left Africa, the children thought that we were flying straight to Miami, Florida, where we had planned a 10-day visit with Dan’s parents. We told them to be prepared for a long flight via Abu Dhabi and Europe. What we didn’t tell them was that we were actually going to break up the journey with a full week in Paris, France. We kept this secret running even when we had arrived in Charles De Gaulle airport, and then boarded the metro into the city center, explaining this journey as a necessary transfer to another airport. It wasn’t until we exited the St. Michel underground and were in the midst of the Latin Quarter that we divulged our secret surprise. Despite the fact that Stella and Gabriel were extremely anxious to be reunited with their Grandparents, they were also thrilled to be in Paris and get to fulfill their dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower.
Like Rome, it had been 22 years since I had been in France, and I was equally excited to be in one of the most beautiful and cultured cities in the world. My only frustration was the gloomy April weather. I had been fantasizing for weeks about walking the streets of Paris and thoroughly exploring each avenue and alley of the most famed arrondissements. Of course it was possible to quickly traverse the city by underground transportation and spend much of our time in the warm indoors of museums and cafes, but this was not how I had envisioned it. At least two of our days were plagued with torrential downpours and cold temperatures, that our summer wardrobe was ill-suited for. All of our mesh tennis shoes and socks were sopping wet within a matter of minutes, with not much opportunity to dry out, leading to highly unromantic walks down any Parisian avenue. When the sun did come out, we bolted to the streets and parks, stripping off raincoats and emphatically praising the budding hope of Spring. At these times, you could not wipe a smile off my face. I Imagined myself in an Eric Rohmer film, and dreamed of living in my own artist’s garret, high above a cobble-stoned lane.
We indulged in cappuccinos, croissants, baguettes, french wine, bistro lunches with pomme frites, macaroons & eclairs, and rich, thick, hot chocolate drinks. My favorite afternoon was in La Favorite de Sam, where we ordered a charcuterie, foie gras, and cheese plate, accompanied by a peppery red wine, and satiated my hunger for the cured and crafted delicacies of France. Having a budget in Paris, does make for a thin line between substandard tourist fare, and a satisfying culinary experience. We did our best to seek quality vs. quantity, and may have raised our spending limit “a hair” to do so. Here are some gratuitous food and restaurant shots:
Here are the highlights of how we enjoyed our stay in “Gay Paree”, the “City of Lights (and love)” and tried to soak up as little rain and as much culture and inspiration that our week allowed. I’ll begin with where we stayed – in a teeny one-bedroom apartment on Rue Saint-Jacques in the Latin Quarter. We were on the top fifth floor, with no elevator, which guaranteed a daily bum-buster. My favorite part of our accommodation was the view of Parisian rooftops from our windows.
We were close to my favorite English bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare and Company:
The rain predictably led us to spend many an hour in some of the most popular museums. It seems like we weren’t the only people in the city who had the same idea, when we visited the Musee d’Orsay. This enthusiasm for art was once again marked by the long lines for George Pompidou Center on a free museum entry date. We decided not to suffer the crowds at the Louvre and omitted this worthy museum from our tour. The other museums that we visited were the Carnavalet and the City of Science and Industry.
We waited to visit the Eiffel Tower until we were sure of fair weather and the better views that we would have. Once we found out that the cost of an elevator ticket to the top was 17 euros per adult/8 per child, we decided that we were fit enough to hike the stairs and be satisfied with only reaching the second level (7 euros per adult/3 per child)! Although I will likely never reach the summit, there was plenty to appreciate from the heights we reached, and they felt well-earned.
One of the rainy days found us standing in line, OUTDOORS and UNCOVERED, for over an hour, in order to visit the catacombs. If we had known how long it would take, we would have never withstood being drenched in the cold, but once you have waited 30 minutes, it is hard to break that commitment. The catacombs themselves were eery as expected, since this underground ossuary houses the skeletal remains of over 6 million people.
What visit would be complete without visiting a few cathedrals or churches? Our main focus was on the Notre Dame on Ile de la Cite and the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, but many more basilicas were appreciated.
It was in the Paris parks, like my favorite -Luxembourg Gardens, or the Tuilleries, that we watched miniature sailboats cross ponds, studied magnificent monuments, and admired spring blossoms and the fashionably dressed. It was outside of the new Jardin Nelson Mandela, near Les Halles, where parents are prohibited from entering the child’s play area, that we were free to abandon our kids under the care of the park workers. Dan and I took this opportunity to succumb to the “French way”. We darted into a local tabac to select a single cigarette for our first smoke in years. Unfortunately, Stella and Gabriel spied me inhaling my vanilla scented cigarillo and chastised me repeatedly for my wanton weakness.
The Seine River and its many ornate bridges were the perfect place for wistful contemplation.
Bundled up with must-see sights, our hours strolling streets (like the Champs-Elysees), or exploring neighborhoods (like the Marais or Canal St Martin) to observe the architecture, the shops, and the people, were equally rich. These forays often lead to my greatest inspiration and appreciation of all the artistry and style in our vicinity.
I am passionate about my love and appreciation for the beauty of this elegant and timeless city, and can only hope that these photos do more justice to the grandeur, art and life of Paris than my brief words.