Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "paris"

A Rough Goodbye to Paris

Posted on May 24, 2011 in Europe |

Bye, Paris! Merci!

Our last day was a little hectic. Carter wanted a glass figurine on I’le de – I’le de something. Not the big island, the smaller one. Things got funky that day – Sherry got backwards and I got annoyed. I got us back to Jardin d’ Acclamacion (yes, again) and the kids got to jump on giant outdoor trampolines, go zip-lining and ride a bunch of fun kid rides. But today was the day that time was too short and we had to high-tail it back to the apartment. Somewhere along the way Carter got motion sick and we had to jump off the Metro.

We walked for fresh air while Sherry went to the apartment and we got delayed when we didn’t find her and visa-versa. A quick glass of wine and snacks for the kids and we were off to the train station for the overnight train to Milan.

Oh dear.

When we got to the station, I knew something was wrong. I just knew we were in the wrong place. I ran around to confirm , and sure enough, the overnight TVG to Milan was at a different train station across town — and, it was leaving in 35 minutes.

I grabbed my backpack and the kids and ran.

I wouldn’t have cared. Miss a train? So what. But we had non-refundable tickets at 400 euro. The kids kept up and we ran for a cab. He told us it was unlikely to make the train in traffic. Maybe I should have picked the Metro to transfer us. But the bags and the kids…. it was tricky. They can’t do a lot of stairs with their backpacks.

With six minutes to go, we were literally running through the train station, racing for the train. We made it. Sort of.

The tickets I had were reservations, not tickets and the office was at the other end of the terminal. I dropped my bags and ran again. I could feel people looking at me and I got scolded at the ticket office. A hot guy was screaming at me, “Your train. IS. LEEE-VEE-ING.” Again, for the umpteenth time today, I ran.

The family cheered as I jumped on the train. “Go Team Fein!” We were on our way.

I wish I could say things got easier. Sherry was exhausted. Carter and I were motion sick and Ava frustrated with us whackos. The dinner reservation lady came around and we booked inner — as she walked away, she said. “Cash Only.” We had 15 euro — that’s it. Four people, twelve hours and no food.

Eventually we talked them into taking my secret $100 bill that my mom had given me and they changed it for euro — just enough for a sandwich, chips and two plates of plain pasta. Ugh. It didn’t matter, I was so motion sick that I couldn’t stand up. Carter too. We lied in our cots and told stories in the dark because the lights and movement made us want to throw up.

Ripped sheets, yucky toilets, loud, bumpy train. We arrived today in Milan at 5:20 a.m. ready for bed.

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Who Can Do the Louvre in Three Hours?

Posted on May 23, 2011 in Europe |

Inside the Louvre

We didn’t ever want to go into the Louvre, but we woke up one morning and decided to give it a go. My goal: to see Winged Victory again. She was my highlight today. I texted mom from there. Winged Victory reminds me of my mom.

The kids did great and liked the mummy and Egyptian exhibit, but the crowds kept us from digging any deeper into the exhibits. The Mona Lisa, I’m convinced, brings out the worst in tourists. Shoving, pushing. Bah.

Venus de Milo is so much more beautiful than I remember her.

We decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower to have Ava dance her dance from the show she is missing — she danced right in the middle fo the garden with the tower in the background. So unforgettable.

We walked from there with Ava as the guide of the map and headed toward Jardin di A’clammacion. While we’d heard it was a great park, we didn’t know it was such a huge park. We walked five + miles — no joke — through the massive park. It took hours! We laughed and laughed and skipped and walked and told stories. It’s hard to describe the intimacy of that day. My children,spouse and I were in our own world. It didn’t really matter where we were or what we were doing.

We arrived at Jardin di Acclamacion 45 minutes before it closed. Ah well. The kids ran and played a few things, but the park itself was the star. It reminded me a lot of Happy Hollow and Gilroy Gardens combined. So pretty. I loved, most of all, the beautiful, random lounge chairs for the grown-ups. Parisians are so, Parisian.

Exhausted, we found a Metro back toward Les Halles and ended up having our last night in Paris in a tiny incredible North African restaurant. Tiny, beautiful, cozy and delicious. The little hole-in-the-wall is a converted bok store. I had the tagine of rabbit and although it wasn’t off-the-charts, the atmosphere was.

We wandered to the bar across from the apartment for a cognac and dessert and the four of us sat victorious in our day and week of discovery and wonder.

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Sunday Play in Paris

Posted on May 22, 2011 in Europe |

Sunday Play in Paris

Sherry and I couldn’t wait to pop out of bed and go by ourselves to the patisserie for morning rolls. We found a beautiful little shop with gorgeous pastries. We bought two petite croissant and two croissant natural and strolled back to the apartment.

Today is Sunday wo we’ll head to the park instead of anything else since so much is closed on Sundays. We’ll go first to Luxenborg Gardens then maybe to Parc d’Acclamacion or another few we want to play in. Hoping today will be low-key.

I’m sitting by the window in our apartment writing with the remains of breakfast and cold french milk brimming my glass, the sun is shining on my back, the kids are also writing in their journals. I can hear Paris behind me calling: COME OUT AND PLAY, SILLY GIRL.

11 p.m.

I won’t remember today, tomorrow or maybe it will be the day I’ll never forget.

A stroll through Montparse on a Sunday for us meant stumbling on an open market with live music. We spontaneously bought cheeses (brie, whipped goat and Manchego). We found a patisserie and got two baguettes that were still warm from the oven. The kids hopped and skipped and ran with the bread in their arms yelping, “It’s still waaarrrmm!” the whole way down the cobble streets.

We found our way to the gardens in the Louvre and had a picnic there.

Later, we walked our way through tiny streets toward Luxenborg Gardens for the third day in a row. The kids played and we drank coffee from porcelain cups in the park right outside the kids play area. It was Sherry’s first-ever coffee at the ripe old age of 37: she loved it. Especially the little ginger cookie that came with it. Oh Paris, you are showing us how to live well.

A marionette show, a race car drive between the four of us and a soccer playoff game took the rest of our day.

We found ourselves later walking through the Latin Quarter where I bought a pair of classic Parisian espadrilles — bright red with a little bow.

Dinner was somewhere random in the Latin Quarter with a prix fixe meal of onion soup and whole fish. Ava ordered escargot and loved it. We saved a shell for her and named him Eduardo le Escargot. Dessert was the eyeballs out of my fish — my children are rockstars.

We found free wi-fi and in front of the Pantheon, did Facetime with Mom and Dick. We were jumping up and down when we saw them! We tried to show them the Eiffel tower in the background, but the connection was slow. Later Carter said he was homesick for Granddad and Grandma.

Walking into the sunset streets we found ice cream and street crepes. Later we ducked into the bar near our apartment for tea and cognac. Everyone is happy. Everyone is tired.

So glad we have an apartment. Being able to do laundry, make a home base and hang out is so worth it.

Tomorrow: the Louvre from the inside.

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Wandering Paris

Posted on May 22, 2011 in Europe |

Wandering Paris

Rough night of sleep.

We got up and headed toward the islands. We left the kids in the apartment while we wandered across the street to the grocery store looking for breakfast food. One can only eat so many croissant. The kids highlight of the day was that we found them Rice Krispies.

We spent the day walking through the islands – one so crowded and touristy and the other not much better. Carter was having a day. You know, the kind where you are seven-years-old and are tired. So we bought a ball and headed to Luxenborg gardens again. The kids played until the park closed and we played soccer in the park past 8 p.m.

Tired and hungry, we went in search of dinner and ate at a busy little spot in Montmarte but the food was good. The kids had navigated us during the day using the street maps to get around. We had such a great time watching them work out direction and spacial relations, and everything written in French. Ava’s French accent is really quite good!

I had chacutterie for dinner, a happy break from the heavy French cream and butter. Earlier I had an Italian coffee that reminded me of the best coffee in Australia. It was perfect.

The kids and I are finally getting used to the time change and we’re on schedule again. We finished our night with a Nutella and banana crepe from a street vendor in Les Halles.

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Oh for the Love of the Food Gods

Posted on May 20, 2011 in Europe |

Oh for the Love of the Food Gods

THE MEAL! Wow! Eureka! Holy religious experience!

Cafe du Marche did not disappoint. Ava and I had crisped duck leg with roasted potatoes and salad with dijon vinaigrette. What an amazing meal topped with espresso and bits of kids merengue.


Later, an apricot flan. Oh man.

We walked along the Rue du Cler full of cheese, bread and pastry shops. I didn’t buy anything — yet.

Our day just kept on with it’s magic. From there we took a long strolling walk navigated first by Carter, then by Ava to Luxenborg Gardens with stops at a children’s book store, window shops, a baguette break and purchase for Ava at a costume shop for a Hermione Granger costume.

We walked everywhere. The kids took turns navigating the map and I took photos. We saw some amazing places and some not-so-amazing places. The kids hated the Champs Elysses (who wouldn’t?) and they much preferred the London Tube to the Paris Metro. Right now, I happen to agree.

I am eating my way through Paris and I must stop! Lemon merengue tart, flan, crepes.

Tonight we went to some touristy spot that I thought wasn’t touristy. My meal was great but I had no idea what it was — ground veal with bechamel sauce? Dunno, but my stomach is throwing a fit.

The highlight of the day was watching the kids play in Luxenborg Gardens — that place is unreal! Such beauty. Wow. We plan to go back tomorrow. Everything is Paris is so different when you have kids. I like it much more.

I hadn’t planned on cooking this week but everything is so rich in price and calories that I might head to the grocer store tomorrow for some food that can give my poor fat-filled body a break.

The wine– mostly Bordeaux — has been light and good. No one has been drunk yet. Hey now, that’s a plus.

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En Route to Paris

Posted on May 19, 2011 in Europe |

En Route to Paris

8 a.m. Off to Paris! We are on the Chunnel!

11 p.m.: Whoah, what a day. It’s hard to describe Paris in a day like this. Navigating the Metro, walking the Paris streets in Les Halles, getting our apartment, finding our way through town — all before 2 p.m.

The afternoon was spent at the park, wandering through a beautiful cathedral, Sainte Eustache, walking the streets near Monmarte, stopping for Orangina and playing tag. We laughed and sang and played the day away. We found our apartment again after walking past the Louvre, laughing at a performer at the Muse D’Orsay and taking a walk by the Seine.

Tonight we ate baguette and walked over to the Eiffel Tower before heading up to the second floor then walking our way down by the twinkly lights. The tower was complete lit with gold lighting and as we stood there, was illuminated with twinkling lights at 10 p.m. sharp — I can’t ever get over the mixture of strong and delicate that is the Eiffel Tower.

Our apartment is beautiful and peaceful. It overlooks a busy crossroads and even now, at midnight, music is playing and people are filling the bars drinking and smoking.

We put a padlock on the bridge over the Seine today with “S2+2” on it, and another one that said “Carter and Ava te aman Paris!” We kept the keys — a beautiful gesture. A beautiful day.

Although I couldn’t wait to eat in Paris again, the food I’ve had so far has just been mas o menos. Today I ate french fries (my nicoise was inedible), lemon sorbet and baguette and wine. Nothing was memorable.

Tomorrow I’m going to find the great palate of Paris.

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