Bonjour from Paris! The City of Love and the City of Light. Both are true for us. It was originally called the City of Light because Paris was the centre of new ideas and enlightenment during the Renaissance. All those brilliant thinkers and philosophers sitting around drinking vin rouge, smoking and swapping ideas in the Latin Quarter. For example, dipping your croissant IN your hot chocolate. Now that’s some beautiful thinking!
The city of LOVE because …well, love is all over the place. Most everyone is stylishly dressed, beautiful without trying and occasionally sucking face on the corner. This Parisian pastime makes Lyla roll her eyes and barely stifle a ‘grosssssss’. It’s cute. When I told her that in about 7 years the “total highlight” of her life will be kissing a skinny perhaps smelly young man with BO under a willow tree by the river she can hardly stand it. “Disggggggustingggggg”! There is romance everywhere. In the cafés you sit side by side, not facing each other, so couples must be touching. Very flirty. Also, handy for sharing the ashtray. Wow, still a LOT of smoking here. This is something we’re going to have to get used to. You’re enjoying a quiche that could make angels sing with a simple delicate green salad and Pierre is blowing smoke in your general direction. We’ll adjust.
The last time we were in France was two and a half years ago with both children at Spring Break. Holden had been learning about WW2 in Social Studies so we visited Normandy, and Juneau Beach along with the Champagne Region and all the Parisian hotspots like the Museums, Eiffel Tower, Catacombs etc.. it was amazing but frankly we were all exhausted and bitchy by the end of it all. When you have only 2 weeks you try to cram it full like a kid on her first trip to Menchies.
This trip is very different. We have all the time in the world. Day one we slept so long Cam thought his watch was going to have to be repaired. “Oh no, its our first day and my watch is broken…merde!” It said 1:10pm when we woke up. His watch was not broken, we had slept for 17 hours, all three of us. We just don’t have a busy itinerary. We also have crazy jet lag. Well, I have a serious case of jet lag. Up for 5 hours a night staring at the cracked plaster ceiling. Hmmmm…what would you do in the dark in the middle of the night in a tiny apartment in Paris? Bingo! So, I’m not complaining.
One of our favourite discoveries has been the Parisian bike share system called Velib. This is an ingenious little dealio where you buy a card from the automated machine for about $2.50 and you can take one of 20,000 heavy 3 speed cruisers from any of the 1,800 stations around the city all about 300 meters apart. The machine takes a bit of figuring but once you’ve got it you’re dialed. You do need to put down a 150 Euro deposit on each bike so make sure you print a receipt when you return the bike in case of any discrepancy. The first 30 minutes are free so if you return your velo quickly you don’t have to pay anything. After that it’s about $1.50/30 minutes. We did this on the weekend doodling leisurely between the Musée d’Orsay (awed by the impressionists yet again), picnic spots (wood oven pizza, smoked duck pâté on a baguette and cold beer) and playgrounds for Lyla along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Crossed over the river then rode all the way back to our apartment in the Marais on cycle paths and bike lanes (about 15km’s round trip) all for about $12. We passed the Pont des Arts with its thousands of locks, all signs that love still exists. All those obvious statements of commitment made me a little teary, but that could have been the jet lag. As we pedalled along we could see the river boats, families gathering for picnics at the end of the day and the late day sun glinting off the dazzling golden dome of Les Invalides. Pretty snazzy for a hospital. Nothing was too good for the troops of Louis XIV.
We’ve done similar sight seeing before using the river boats and via the Metro, but biking was a blast. The sights, smells and sounds are closer, you get some exercise and who doesn’t look über cool with a basket on the front of their bike? Sundays many of the roads along the Seine are closed to vehicles so we zipped along through the tunnels, helmet free…OMG!… thinking of Lady Di. Apparently Parisians hate these closures because it snarls the rest of the city (sound familiar Vancouver?) but we are very grateful.
Our AirBnB apartment is tiny but cute and budgetarily suitable. It is right on what I call Falafel corner in The Marais. This is the Jewish section of town where people line up all hours of the day for the best falafels in the world (apparently). As you know, Paris is a city of amazing food. We didn’t have to go far to find a fantastic restaurant. It was right under us! Miznon is the Paris branch of a gourmet Israeli pita place with many a surprising twist. The windows are full of veggies, the staff are just aloof enough to make you work a little for your dinner and the pitas are incredibly delicious. The menu is scribbled on a big chalk board or slid across the table to you on a paper bag. Most everything is in a pita; beef bourgoigone, spiced fish, minute steak with an egg. The real deal maker though is the cauliflower. Boiled in salt water then roasted with olive oil. Mouth melty good. We went back two days in a row. Second day we added divine green beans with olive oil and lemon and some ratatouille. If we weren’t leaving town tomorrow we’d probably go back. When we left they shouted “au revoir Tara!” Do you think I could become a regular?
P.S. Lyla is becoming quite the photographer. Many of the shots used are from her eye and with her permission.
Amour from Paris,