Saturday: Wandering Paris

Even though it’s taken me forever to get to this, I promise that I haven’t been slacking off. Really. I’ve written three articles for KidsOutAndAbout.com. You can find them here:

As I started to write about our trip here on Capital District Fun, I couldn’t restrain myself from writing about specific planning and tips, but the truth is, they’re probably not all that interesting. I mean, I think that they’re super-useful if you’re thinking about traveling to Paris, but, let’s face it, not too many of us are currently planning a trip to Paris (although I just got an email alert from Scott’s Cheap Flights about deals in the $300s to $400s, so maybe we all should be). As the lag time between my last post and the next post got long, I just didn’t want to start with sharing purely logistical stuff. I’ll circle back to it later.

Also, a note on photos. I’m sharing a somewhat motley assortment because of course Cute W took awesome photos that he’s still processing and also we took a bunch of photos that are straight-on shots of our kids’ faces, which I generally don’t share. So, I apologize in advance for the weird cropping, quality that will disappoint Cute W, and other silliness. I also will relent a bit and possibly let you see a current kid’s face from a distance. If I waited to achieve perfection, I’d never do a post on any of these.

So! When we last left off, we had woken up from our jet lag-induced napping session and were headed out into the city.

Our apartment was very close to the Place de la Concorde, which is where there used to be executions by guillotine but where now there are statues, fountains, a big ol’ obelisk, tourists, and a gigantic Ferris wheel. It’s also one end of the Champs-Elysées, with the Arc de Triomphe at the other end. We were about a half-hour’s walk from the Arc de Triomphe, and  then it’s another half hour’s walk to the Eiffel Tower. So my tentative plan was that we could walk a loop to one or both of those sites, maybe going into them to climb up high, maybe not, depending on how we were all feeling.

One of the many things that worried me early on is that things close not only for Easter Sunday but also for Easter Monday in Paris. Or, theoretically many places do. It turns out that holiday closings had hardly any impact on us except maybe to make Easter even more fun, but at the time, I didn’t know that. We also had one little piece of business to attend to, which was purchasing a Paris Museum Pass. They’re sold in a bunch of different places, including a stand that was practically around the block from us. The guy there told me that many stores would be closed on Monday, but the ones along the Champs-Elysées would definitely be open. We decided to save that walk until Monday, both for the guaranteed-open stores and because the Paris Museum Pass works for the Arc de Triomphe, but we didn’t want to “use up” a day of the pass on Saturday, which was practically over at that point. Instead, we walked toward the Eiffel Tower.

We hadn’t gone far before we noticed the tourists buzzing around Ladurée, which is particularly famous for their macarons.  Was there a bit of a line, were they bit of an extravagance? Yes, but we felt that it was our sacred duty as tourists to purchase a few. We decided on chocolate, pistachio, rose, and salted caramel. They were all tasty, and weirdly the chocolate was probably our least favorite. At the time I expected that we’d definitely visit again and buy more, but as it turned out, that never, ever happened. But it was lovely to carry our beautiful bag full of beautiful macarons to eat along the beautiful Seine.

In Paris, it feels like everything is beautiful. There’s magnificent-and-opulent beautiful and ecclesiastically beautiful and shabby-chic beautiful and quirky-hipter beautiful, but all of these categories pretty much come down to beautiful. Except Pompidou Center. That place is an eyesore. But anyway. The point is that just walking around Paris is a delight. J loved the many amusements along the river. She was basically running circles around us for much of the time. One thing we absolutely loved was that there were brides everywhere. Apparently people come from all over to pose in their finery in front of the architectural splendor that is Paris. We find bride-spotting to be a particular pleasure, so that was excellent. Same with the book and souvenir stalls and market tents along the Seine. Everyone was ecstatic that we’d finally arrived and gotten settled, so we just basically wandered around.

We made it to the Eiffel Tower, but even though we’d revived a bit, not everyone quite felt up to the challenge of climbing up that day (we planned to take the stairs instead of the elevator for a shorter wait time). This made me a teensy bit nutty because I kept thinking about how I’d had a tentative plan of the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower as items on the day’s To Do list, and now we were not going to manage to check anything off our list for this whole, entire day. But I suppressed my tourist anxiety and agreed that we’d come back.

Instead, we decided to go looking for dinner, and with help from Yelp, we ended up at a quiet outdoor table at a Le Bosquet. Here’s where we were introduced to the splendor of outdoor heating lamps so that it was comfortable to sit and eat in the otherwise chilly April weather. Comfortable, that is, unless you are surrounded by smokers, which was often the case with the outdoor cafes. Sigh. Luckily this first night wasn’t too smoky. We decided to plunge right into French culture by ordering escargots to share. Everyone liked them. They are basically a vehicle for garlic and butter, both of which we adore. Then M had chicken, Cute W and J each had pasta (J’s was a creamy, pesto-y dish full of deliciousness that ranked as one of her favorite meals of the trip), and I, hell-bent on sucking the marrow out of this Parisian trip, got steak tartare. The woman was concerned that I might not know exactly what I was getting into, but after having extracted promises of family plate-sharing if I just couldn’t manage what is basically raw beef with some herbs thrown on top, I assured her that I’d be okay. And I was okay, except that it was a huge pile of steak tartare. I think it must have been more than a pound. The girls, having congratulated themselves on their escargots accomplishment, went with a tactical retreat and refused to even try it, but Cute W exchanged bites with me, and I managed to put away perhaps half of the food before I simply had to stop.

After dinner we wandered around some more and stumbled on Rue Cler, aka Rick Steves’ favorite market street in Paris. The stores were quiet for the evening, but the most important spot was open: Amorino, the ice cream shop. Oh, my gosh! In finding that link, I just realized that the chain has spread to North America now, too. I can’t wait to tell J that they have shops in New York and Boston. Because, I’m telling you, that girl loved Amorino. It’s not just that the ice creams and sorbets are delicious. To make it even more fabulous, instead of plopping scoops onto a cone, they add slabs of ice cream to form petals, so it feel like you’re eating a cold, delicious flower. That first night I ordered sorbets because I was so stuffed with raw meat that I couldn’t possibly consume ice cream. When J tried mine, she instantly regretted her own choices because the sorbets were so good, but I am not the kind of mother who just offers the kids my own dessert. To quote Meat Loaf, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. No, I won’t do that.”

By this time we were really quite impressed with our ability to stay out late. It was probably about 9 pm Paris time, which made it 3 am “our” New York time, and that’s late to stay up even if you’ve had a nap. We headed for home and enjoyed the lights along the way, including the Grand Palais in the center, here, which was apparently having a raucous and fabulous party. We also noticed for the first time that our apartment was just around the corner from the US Embassy, so there was a closed-to-vehicles and heavily guarded street on our walk home.

We hadn’t definitively checked anything off our sightseeing list yet, but we’d conquered macarons and escargots and had managed to stay awake and energized much longer than we expected as we meandering around. Plus, after studying maps for so long, it was wonderful to realize how close things were to our apartment. Altogether, it was an excellent way to start our week.

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