Bon jour from Paris!!! Our time here has been amazing. We love the city and the people. And who doesn’t love fresh baguettes, croissants, pan au chocolat and crepes. The girls are in heaven! We have definitely dragged the kids all over the city thanks to our friend Jennie who came to stay with us for almost 3 weeks. We were counting down the days until she came, and now we’re counting down the days until she leaves so that we can rest 🙂 I don’t think I have been this tired the entire trip!!! That being said, she has been the best tour guide! She lived here many years ago, as well as in Dijon, and speaks fluent French, so that has been an added bonus. We will be sad to see her leave. Unfortunately the hours that Dave spends learning Japanese will not help us here.
Our Airbnb in the Bastille neighborhood couldn’t have been better – top floor with huge windows and sky lights and the big hit with the girls, the swing in the living room! Serge, the owner, greeted us and made us feel right at home. His music collection is quite extensive – from classical, to Elton John, to The Pet Shop Boys, French rap, to the pièce de résistance – AC DC, which our girls have now grown to love. Gotta love eating breakfast and watching them bob the heads to the beat of the drums.
It is on a fairly quiet street in the Bastille neighborhood, but around the corner from restaurants, grocery stores and the metro – which we mastered quite well. Plus, if you’ve been reading our blogs, you know that a close outdoor market is a huge bonus and the one here is amazing. It puts any San Francisco farmer’s market to shame I hate to say. We have been sure to make it each Thursday and Sunday for fresh olives and tapenade, roasted chicken, fruits, vegetables and of course a crepe for lunch. We have a great boulangerie on the corner where many baguettes and pan au chocolates have been purchased. The neighborhood is not without quirks. We have still not been able to bring ourselves to go into the Cafe de Chats. Chat, for those who don’t know French, means cat. And cats are in abundance in this cafe. They sit on the tables, on the chairs, the counters, they are everywhere. As I write this I am still disgusted at the thought of eating there, especially after seeing countless cat food bowls on the floor.
I can’t even begin to list all that we have done here. The weather hasn’t been a hindrance – we’ve had cold, light rain, warm, muggy and even hot. We have hit the museums, the parks, the palaces, the ferris wheel, numerous carousels, and even found trampolines in Tuileries Gardens.
We really love staying in one place for an extended period of time. You don’t feel rushed to get it all done in a short time, you get to know the neighborhood and you get to relax. People couldn’t believe that Jennie was coming all the way over here to stay in Paris for 3 weeks, but we haven’t even done all that we wanted to do. When planning a future trip, pick one place and do it well. Don’t feel like you have to check the boxes. And pack light!
As far as highlights, here they are:
Art History – I feel like my girls have gotten an art history degree on this trip. They don’t always love museums, but we try to pick the ones we think they will enjoy. Here in Paris we visited L’Orangerie and Musee Marmottan for Monet. The girls loved his paintings and in both museums they sat and did their own art work. They loved the ipad audio guide L’Orangerie has for kids. It’s great to see them sit down in front of a painting while listening to the guide.
We of course had to hit The Louvre because the girls wanted to see the Mona Lisa, but they also loved the Egyptian wing and Greek statues – we could have stayed there a lot longer, but we were exhausted. See the Mona Lisa and move on to something else – it’s a great museum that I’m sure many people miss once they see what it’s most famous for.
We also loved the Musee D’Orsay for Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and Serat. The girls are getting pretty good at picking artists out; I’m quite impressed. We also headed to the Montmarte area which in the past was home to many artists – Pissarro, Degas, Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, and Dali to name a few. The artist vibe still exists and we thought the girls would like to walk around the Place du Tertre and see artists at work. Yes, it’s touristy, but if you can get past the people asking you to have your self portrait done, you can find some beautiful art.
One artist, Dec, took a liking to the girls and took the time to explain how he used the oil paints on canvas. Such a treat to have a mini lesson from a real artist.
Each girl found a painting that they liked and added it the collection they have amassed from this trip. It will be fun to open boxes we have shipped home and see what treasures we have.
To finish off the art history, we took an awesome walking tour about graffiti in Paris. Why not show them something completely different in the world of art? It was super interesting and informative. I wish we would have done it towards the beginning of our time here because we could have kept are eyes out for all of the artists we learned about. They are all over the city.
A tip – before going into the museum, head to the book store and have kids pick out a few post cards of paintings they like and want to look for. A scavenger hunt always holds their attention. Also, buy the Museum Pass if you are here even for 2 days. It makes it easy to skip the long lines.
Tip about Musee Marmottan – A bonus after we left Marmottan was that there was a park across the street with an old carousel just getting set up. The men were actually pulling the old horses out of a storage area and hanging them on the hooks. The girls were each given a stick that they used to try to catch a ring each time they went around. So it was like a mini jousting carousel. They of course thought this was the greatest carousel they had ever been on and proceeded to go about 4 times! Claire immediately started devising a way she could build one in San Francisco.
Versailles – Versailles was one of the day trips we wanted to do with the girls. Dave and I had been there over 20 years ago and although Jennie had been a number of times, she never quite experienced like we did. We opted to rent bikes in the garden and it was the best outing! We got to ride around most of the massive garden, which most people never get to see because it’s just too big. Even in the cold weather, everyone had fun biking the trails along the Grand Canal and over to the Grand Trianon where we locked the bikes and walked into Marie Anointette’s hamlet. This was something that looked like it belonged in Disneyland, like any minute Snow White’s dwarves were going to come along singing, “Hi ho, hi, ho it’s off to work we go.”
Tennis – Of course Paris was planned around the French Open. Dave had to make it to Roland Garros. We bought tickets for two days and have now added a third. We weren’t sure what to expect sine our only experience at a Grand Slam was in Melbourne. Well, Roland Garros is much different – smaller, a little fancier, not as much hoopla, but it made it seem much more family friendly. There are no tickets sold at the gate and you can’t even get close to the entrance unless you have a ticket, so it seemed peaceful and easy, crowded, but not overcrowded. The girls were able to get autographs of numerous players with almost no effort. And we saw some good tennis too – The Bryan Brothers playing doubles, Americans Bethany Maddox-Sands and Madison Keys, the crazy Ferrer/Monaco match, Coric/Tomic, and the first night we were also able to get up in the stands for a bit of the Andy Murray match that got called due to darkness and went into a 5th set the next day. The girl also sat down with American Shelby Rodgers at a meet and greet – she has since gone on to win two more matches and is in the 4th round! All in all, tennis was great. We even turned Jennie into a tennis fan 🙂 And now that we’ve made two Grand Slams, I’m still trying to figure out how we can make it to Wimbledon next month 🙂
Eiffel Tower tour – As far as tours go, we were told to do the Fat Tire Tours Skip the line tour of the Eiffel Tower. Any time you can skip a line, it’s worth it. Juan Carlos made it fun and informative. I don’t need to say much here, but it was the Eiffel Tower and it’s pretty amazing.
Of course we did a boat cruise on the Seine, saw Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and Saint Chapelle. We walked the Marias and along the banks of the Seine. We walked a lot. We happened upon the festival of bread, which was a big hit – a tip given to us by a waitress – where huge mixers and ovens and bakers were at work baking baguettes, croissants, pretzels, brioche – all to win a prize we think. We were just fascinated watching it all happen and eating the fruits of their labor.
Jennie and I rallied one night and went to Centre Pomidou on Nuit des Musees – Museum Night. One night a year museums stay open until midnight and allow people in for free. We figured we should experience it since it happened while we were here. And people were out and about. We actually had to stand in line, but we didn’t mind.
We also ventured out in the rain for one last ice cream at Berthillon before Jennie left and also ran in the rain to the Eiffel Tower to see its lights flicker at 10pm. (This happens at the top of each hour for 5 minutes – quite a treat to see).
And no city would be complete without mentioning friends. My parents and I met Jill in Italy while wine tasting at the abby where we stayed at in Tuscany. We had been in touch and she happened to be in Paris while we were. Pretty crazy and cool. We had a great time getting to know her over wine and tequila and at the house. She has really done some extensive travel in her life, which was interesting to hear about. Dave and her instantly got along since she was also learning Japanese. Also a tennis fan, she got tickets to the French Open once we told her we were going and she met Jennie and Dave at Court 1. Check out her cookbook, Better on Toast.
Dave’s high school friend, John and his wife and kids, live outside Paris in the cute area of St. Germain. The last time Dave saw John was when they were both studying aboard in Vienna in 1992 during college and John happened to live on the same street where Dave was going to school! We took the train out one afternoon to have dinner with them. It was great to meet his family, have a home cooked meal, and listen to Dave and John relive their glory days.
And as I write this I am making plans with the friends we met in London, The Sweitzer Family, who is the cousin of our friend from college. They are the other family traveling the world and they just arrived in Paris today and happen to be in our same neighborhood. Such a small world!! We’re all excited to see them this week!
And of course, Jennie. She made the trip what it was. We loved having her here and it wouldn’t have been the same without her. Her love and excitement for Paris helped get the girls going many days as she rallied them out the door. Her need for pictures and a daily selfie made us all laugh. Her love of wine made for great evenings. We are all so lucky that she took the time to be with us.
Another great stop on our journey, which sadly will be coming to an end sooner than we would like. So now, we are planning the last few stops of this amazing adventure.
Next stop: Vienna.