You may be wondering how we’re actually doing here in Paris. Now that we’ve mastered the art of buying groceries and speaking enough French to get by, we’re settling in pretty well. So well, on a catch-up FaceTime with one of my Besties last night she asked how long we’ve been away. I confidently answered ”Seven weeks!” At least I was pretty sure its been seven weeks. She was less confident in my right-ness and consulted her calendar. ”Ummm no. You’ve been there for NINE weeks.” NINE WEEKS???? WHAT???? No freaking way. I can’t believe it. But the calendar doesn’t lie and neither does H. So here we are, 9 weeks into our World (Abbreviated due to Covid) Tour.
We’ve managed to visit 5 other countries and take 3 side trips within France, one of those to the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt but it still counts as a trip because we slept overnight and had to pack a bag. This week, the Big Kid’s BFF arrived from Canada so we’ll no doubt be up for more adventures (EuroDisney anyone?).
Monsieur is always up the earliest, often hours before the kids. He’ll head out for a swim at the public pool at Châtelet Les Halles, an amazing underground complex housing a major Metro transit hub, a shopping mall, a movie theatre, a library and a sprawling aquatic centre. All nestled underneath a vast open square and Saint Eustache Church. On his way home, he’ll stop at our local boulangerie for croissants and a baguette for breakfast. Then I play a game called, “I’m only going to have a small piece of the pain au chocolat, well maybe 2, ok fine I’ll eat the whole thing.”
Once we are appropriately caffeinated, we wake the slumbering enfants. After breakfast its time for school. By now there is far less resistance to school time as we had in the beginning, but there is still plenty of grumbling. School runs until about noon-ish and then we head out for the afternoon. We usually opt for lunch on the move since Cafe’s are an easy stop. Sometimes we’ll eat in cleaning out leftovers or a salad and some great baguette sandwiches from our local boulangerie. My current favorite salad I plan to recreate when we get home – quinoa, lettuce, cucumbers, quinoa, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds and mint. Yum! Paris is filled with lots of great food on the go options from Traiteurs, salad bars and other take-away places.
Afternoons are usually spent with a Museum reservation (check out my museum rundown below), a park hang out (French gardens are amazing and a nice leafy respite from the limestone jungle of Paris) or a guided tour (we love the tours guided by Emmanuel’s Hidden Gems.) But our favourite pastime is a good wander. Pick a direction, perhaps with a destination in mind, and just walk! We’re never disappointed because there’s always something fun to see, yummy to eat or interesting to experience.
We manage to get in an average of about 10,000 steps every day. Its easy to do when running errands and sightseeing are all rolled into one day. I would hate to drive in Paris. Its nice and compact so you can walk most places. The Metro is vast, reliable (unless they are on strike) and fast (5 minutes from the Arc de Triomphe to Les Halles on the RER – amazing! – look at it on a map. Its far!). Taxis are plentiful here but you can’t really hail them. You need to pick them up at a Taxi Stand, a hotel or you can call one via an App. G7 has been recommended. There are the Velibikes you can rent – but the administration to register the app is complicated and we have yet successfully been able to rent one. And then of course, there’s Uber.
For dinner, we sometimes eat in. Our little kitchen isn’t as equipped as we’re used to. Three burners, 3 pots and a tiny oven with one shelf. So we often buy a roast chicken from the butcher and cook some veggies on the side. Its a favourite around here and a welcome change from cafe fare. We’ve also successfully re-created our famous spaghetti bolognese, which reminds us of being home.
When we do go out, we have enjoyed experiencing all the various cuisines you can get in a big city. Vietnamese, Lebanese, Moroccan, lots of Italian and of course plenty of French! We’ve also found our local sushi place, which as Vancouverites is essential. I’m proud of my family as they’ve learned how to order en français.
”Je voudrais un coca-cola.”
”Je prends une soupe a l’oignon gratinée sans fromage, s’il vous plaît.”
“Monsieur, je suis allergique aux cajoux et aux pistaches.”
Many restaurants close between lunch and dinner, so first reservations are not until 7pm. You can find cafes that offer Service Continu, which means the kitchen is open all day. But we’re often heading out to dinner about 7. We laugh as we usually sit down in an empty restaurant that is completely full by the time we leave, we can’t seem to shift dinnertime any later to join the crowds. We often finish dinner somewhere around 9-9:30 and wander home. After 10,000+ steps we’re pretty pooped.
The adventure/ joy of this trip is living in Paris like a local (sort of). Its fun and a bit scary navigating all the day to day things like finding a dry cleaner or sending a package home. I even managed a haircut and colour. I was terrified! The salon was recommended, but when I got there I realized its basically the Magicuts of France. Gahhhh, what have I done. Well, its Paris and while its a salon chain, its slightly more chic than Magicuts and the stylist was on his game.
The real secret here is that our school day far extends the two hours we spend each morning on math and reading and writing. We’re all learning so many things about daily life in another countries, cultures communities and countries. The amount of new experiences daily is sometimes overwhelming and often times exhilarating. This is the beauty of travel. We realize that while things may feel different, we’re all really just the same. We want the same things; safety, happiness, love. So our kids are learning along with us that different doesn’t equal weird. That we’re weird to the locals here if that’s the case. Its just different and different is exciting and fun and sometimes totally awesome. We can keep the secret between us that right now for the kids, school is happening 24-7!
When in Paris, the museums are plentiful. Best to book in advance, especially in Covid times and for many museums its necessary. It makes it much easier to navigate the line-ups. Expect security everywhere and be prepared to open your bag or put it through the x-ray machine. People come to Paris for the museums, so be prepared for line-ups and leave big bags at the hotel.
We’ve only scratched the surface but so far we can tell you that The Louvre is amazing, but you need days to see it all. You can get in and out quickly if all you want to see is the Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa and Liberty Leading the People – they are all conveniently located in The Denon Wing (the one closest to The Seine). We’ve been lucky enough to buy a Membership, which makes it much easier to pop over and have a snoop around in small bite-sized sessions. Its very very big and there is plenty to see.
Musee D’Orsay is stunning and may be more manageable if your stay in Paris is short. You can see many incredible works of art in an afternoon. We let the kids roam on there own at the Musee D’Orsay and the littlest came to find me and said ”MOM, come over here. There’s a superfamous painting!” Ahh yes my young Padawan, I have taught you well.
Another must do is The Rodin Museum. Its beautiful and best experienced on a sunny day, half of the exhibits live in the garden. Its also very small and manageable so you only need an hour or two to fully explore.
While he was a bit of a mysogynistic dickhead, Picasso did make some incredible art. However, the Picasso Museum here in Paris was a bit of a letdown. The only highlight for me was an old film showing him working with pottery to make a vase into one of his ubiquitous birds. Otherwise, unless you’re a big fan of the man himself, this is more about him and less of his art.
Next stop for us will be L’Orangerie to see the Impressionists and trip to Versailles.