Farewell, blog!

Standard

We are continuing to adjust to the East Coast time zone. We get tired in the evening and are wide awake early in the morning. The kids were welcomed back to school and pretty much loved on the entire day. How wonderful to get the chance to be told that you are missed and appreciated again and again! They came home with big smiles on their faces.

This entry puts our little blog to bed–perhaps just until our next adventure! It’s been fun to see all of the interest in the blog.  We have had over 9,700 views of the blog and an range of 70-200 views a day. Pretty amazing! Especially since I only made it publicly searchable  a few weeks ago. So most of the folks viewing it found out by word of mouth from our friends and family!

The blog will still live in cyberspace after we are done with our entries, so hopefully our experiences will be useful to others in the future! Thanks for joining us on our journey!

Eating and playing in Paris

Standard

After our tour of two churches, we found some narrow winding streets to explore, including a cafe with a lovely view.

I had mussels, pomme frites, wine, and..snails! The snails were the best part of the lunch. The kids had pommes frites and baguette.

    

   

Afterword, we found a McDonalds. I had promised Kaden we could get chicken nuggets if we saw one. She wanted to see how they tasted compared to Bangalore McDonalds (thumbs down) and U.S. McDonalds (thumbs up). I continue to be amused by the range of McDonalds in the world. I have talked about the Bangalore stores before where beef is not served. The funny item in the Paris stores was the McBaguette.

Plus below, you can see that they offer the traditional fries but also deluxe potatoes. Plus some very fancy desserts!

    

We were making our way to the Jardin du  Luxembourg, but had to stop for sorbet. Kaden deemed the fraises (strawberry) sorbet to the be the best she had ever tasted at Dalloyau. And that is quite a statement.

   

The Jardin du Luxembourg is the second largest park in Paris. The French Senate is housed in the Luxembourg Palace. The place was designed to emulate the Pitti Palace in Florence.  It was touted as a “must do” for anyone with kids, and I have to agree.

      

Have a look at Kaden’s expression when she caught site of the amazing playground on site. You have to pay to enter the playground, but it is well worth the price.

    

This zipline was the main attraction for my older kiddos. They must have ridden it 30 times.

   

The climbers were also amazing. As were the sand boxes, the spinners, the slides. Plus immaculately clean bathrooms and a tempting snack shack (although I’m sure the Parisians have a much more dainty name than ‘snack shack.’).

     

Above, older folks were playing what looked like Bocce ball next to the playground. And below, we found this snack shack on our way out of the park. Absolutely amazing cotton candy–the size of their heads! They call cotton candy “barbe à papa (dad’s beard).” Kaden thinks that’s a disgusting name, but loved the treat.

A tale of two chuches–Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame

Standard

On our second day in Paris, we set out to see the Notre Dame. But first we ended up at Sainte-Chapelle since our metro stop exit put us right in front of the chapel. Of course, we had a 40 minute wait, which we seemed to have for any attraction in Paris. The chapel is on the grounds of the Palais du Justice, which meant going through some serious security. The place jas been the site for determining justice in Paris in medieval times.  built on the site of the formal royal palace of Saint Louis which is why Sainte-Chapelle is still there.  Also, Marie Antoinette was imprisoned on these grounds before she was beheaded.  Below, a judge is talking on his cell phones in between court cases.

  

Above, waiting in the long line can be hard for kiddos! Below, the chapel itself is known for its beautiful stained glass windows. And in these photos, they are very impressive. I’m  not sure they were worth the 40 minute wait though. The chapel is surprisingly small, and with no pews, so it is hard to sit and appreciate the windows. I also thought that they could have done a much better job making the history of the building accessible to the visitors. An audio tour detailing the stories in the windows would have been great. As it was they had a handful of boards in various languages that you could borrow to read brief descriptions of the windows. But the English bin wsa empty, so no description for us! I don’t think I would recommend Saint-Chapelle for kids, and only for adults who really love stained glass and chapels.

    

   

After Saint-Chapelle, we took a crepe and ice cream break, served by a very cranky French woman!

Below, a nutella crepe and a row of electric cars!

   

As we walked past the boats on the Seine, we had thought of taking a boat ride later, but ran out of time and energy. Below we caught sight of Notre Dame.

Above, Kaden is annoyed by the smokers everywhere.

  

Getting into Notre Dame was quite easy since it was free. So the lines moved freely.

We observed a mass in session.

 

Kaden lit a candle for Pap Pap and Grandma.

Then it was time to exit and wait in the separate, and LONG, line to go up to the top to see the gargoyles. That line was about an hour. Long enough for the kids to discover “much needed” treasures in the nearby gift shop including key chains and pocket knives. Carson managed to cut his finger on his pocket knife within five minutes of the purchase. Nothing serious but enough for him to be more concerned about his finger than the gargoyles at times.

  

The walk up the turret to the top was not as far as the Eiffel Tower, but still a lot of steps!

From the top we had beautiful views of the city. And we all enjoyed the many faces of the gargoyles. Very cool indeed.

   

  

Above, Kaden makes her own gargoyle face.

  

   

Seeing the greatest art in the world through the eyes of kiddos

Standard


After our Eiffel Tower escapades, we hopped a cab to the Musee d’Orsay. My favorite art museum in the world. Walls and walls of impressionist art that just blows you mind–Renoirs, Monets, Cezannes, Degas.

Lesson learned from previous visits–start at the top where the the good stuff is! We were so jet lagged and cold, this lump resting spot was hard to leave near one of the clocks.

We wanted to rest and have a good bite to eat before seeing the art. The cafe at the top of the Musee d’Orsay is gorgeous. A work of art in itself, and we had fun playing the game of which artisitic features we loved the most. And also which feature we might want in our own home–not the same question, actually!

Unfortunately, the menu was unbelievably NOT kid friendly. For a museum, I was really surprised. No pommes frites? No crepes? Carson’s “ham and cheese sandwhich” was covered on top with bitter, fancy cheese. The cheese plate for Kaden was only the very fancy stinky cheese. I love cheese, but even I couldn’t eat it. As Carson said, “It tastes old and spoiled.” I am a foodie, but I was surprised that they didn’t have something simple on the menu. Plus my  carrot soup was bland. But mom’s pasta with pesto and ham and fancy cheese was good. And I did enjoy Carson’s ham sandwich even though he didn’t. But for the price, it was a frustrating food experience.  After four months in India where I felt that waitstaff bended over backwards to accomondate the kiddos, I thought that Paris with all of its kid friendly talk would do the same. Not so! The view, though, was exceptional.

And the real reason to be there was the art. I was THRILLED that the kids got absorbed into the paintings, despite our fatigue. We played our art game again–“Guess which picture on the wall is my favorite.” It really helped the kids to study each wall of paintings carefully and to reflect on their own favorites plus others. When walking through some of the early impressionistic paintings that are much more realistic than the Monets, we played another game–“Where is the light shining in this painting? And why would the artist want to draw your eye to that spot in the painting? ” Again, this game was surprisingly a big hit!  And in the end the kids developed some definite opinions. Much to my surprise, Kaden is a huge Cezanne fan.  Below was one of her favorite paintings.

Carson liked Monet and Van Gogh. We talked a lot about how different it is to see a Van Gogh in person because of his thick brush strokes, swirls, and density of paint. They really appreciated this difference. This painting below had been on his wall in his room for many years. He really enjoyed seeing it in person.

After the museum, it was time to do some souvenier shopping. Kaden insisted on a beret. Here she is outside the Musse d’Orsay.

 In the museum shop, I also saw this sign about learning English on the door. I was fascinated, since I think in general the French are not such fans of using English. The times they are a changing I guess.

Then it was time to head home, which unfortunately for us, led us in a big circle trying to find our train back to the apartment. Note to travellers in Paris: the metro and the RER lines are viewed as very different to Parisians even though they are on the same map and tickets are the same for each. So if you ask for the nearest metro stop, even though the RER line is literally ten steps away, they just might send you four blocks away to get to a proper metro train. Lesson learned!

Scaling the Eiffel Tower with jet lag

Standard

After sleeping 13 hours, the kids woke up and I told them it was time to see Paris. They insisted the Eiffel Tower must be the first stop, so we found the metro station and headed that way, albeit sleepily!

    u

 

Condoms in the metro station–at the “Point cap” machine!

When Kaden saw the Eiffel Tower, she said, “I wasn’t expecting it to be that big!”

We posed for a photo and then it was time to figure out a plan. You can see a yellow crane in the corner of the photo–half of the elevators were under construction. So the always long waits up the tower were twice as long. No online tickets were available, either! But before we made our climb, I needed to find a restroom. Easier said than done. I found one with a line of 50 people. Then I found a French portapotty–one of those automatic restrooms. Just four people in line–hurray. Except for each person, the stupid machine engages in a TEN MINUTE cleaning cycle before it allows the next person in. So four people ahead of me = a FORTY MINUTE wait. Mom didn’t have a cell phone and she was waiting with the kids further away. It was cold, rainy, and everyone was miserable before we had even started!
     

But once we got started, the kids perked up–well Kaden especially. We skipped the line and took the stairs–about 500 stairs–to the first and second levels of the tower! It wasn’t so bad except that Carson somehow managed to fall five times walking up the steps. Even holding the railing. The kids really enjoyed the view from the top–“Is this really Paris?”

    

The long lines stretched below us. So glad we weren’t waiting in those! The bathroom line was enough!

Would you believe that the tower actually has two restaurants plus snack bars, gift shops, and bathrooms up there? I should have used the bathroom once I got up to the second level!

       

Turns out we could buy a ticket to take an elevator from the second level to the top–it was just the lower level elevators that had issues. Kaden was so thrilled to go all of the way up! Carson was grumpy, causing Kaden to comment, “Why is he always grumpy when we visit one of the wonders of the world?” (referring to our Taj Mahal visit).

Carson finally cheered up and got into the spirit of things. The kids were particularly interested in the exhibits comparing the Tower to the other tallest structures in the world. They have learned that the tallest building in the world is in Dubai. We will be hearing wishes to go to Dubai at some point, I’m sure!

We climbed down the Tower just as it started to rain. Mom was waiting for us at the bottom. Her hands were freezing. Time to get to a museum and see some art!

Paris pit stop

Standard

On our way back home to the United States, we booked our tickets to have a few days to see something in Europe. Kaden insisted she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. We flew into Frankfurt, stowed our luggage at the Holiday Inn Express (for free, thank goodness!), and took the fast train to Paris. Below, we are waiting for the train and then finally boarded. After an all night flight from Bangalore, we were exhausted!

   

The scenery in Germany and France was gorgeous–yellow flowers in big patches blanketed the springtime countryside.

In Paris, we found an apartment to stay in through the website airbnb.com  It’s a website that links you with individual people who want to rent their house out for short term stays all around the world–even in the United States. All of the photos are verified plus individual certifications from people who have stayed at the homes make it feel very safe to use. With five people, we would have needed two hotel rooms (no hotel rooms with two beds in Europe!). Plus, this was just so much more pleasant.  A kitchen, a neighborhood.

We stayed in Phillipe’s house on Rue D’Hautpol near Canal de San Martin. It’s the apartment he has his kids staying with him. We guessed he was staying with a girlfriend while we were in his place.  He came over and showed us the neighborhood, helped us to book a taxi and overall was very kind.

    

We were delighted to find boulangeries on the corners, fresh fruit stands, and if you went up the hill just a half a block, a gorgeous park. We arrived on May Day, so many things were closed. Most signs in Paris said Closed December 25, January 1, and May 1. So May Day is a huge deal in Europe!

      

The Canal St-Martin  connects the river Seine, near Bastille, to the Canal de l’Ourcq, near the Villette in the 19th arrondissement. Here, the Canal turns into a beautiful park just a few m inutes from the apartment. Above is a view from the park to the apartment below where we were staying.

The Parisians were really enjoying their May Day at the park. I do’nt know if you can see the plumes of smoke emerging from each group of people. Smoking is still in full force here in France. Kaden was shocked!

This picture was taken at 8:30 in the evening. We were astounded that it doesn’t get dark here until 9:30! In hot and humid Bangalore, it gets dark at 6:30!

    

The neighborhood also has a school. Although it was unclear if they really did have uniforms all the kids were in black. The place looked so big and depressing to me, I honestly stopped to consider whether it was a prison! The kids were in a caged area for their recess/break that was kind of freaky!

    

The neighborhood also had a cool cemetery and lovely patisseries, boucheries, and boulengeries!

    

    

Kaden summed it up this way “smoking, dog poop and lots of old things, but lovely cafes on every corner!!”  We loved the food, and we are not talking fancy restaurants. We saw none of those, but perfect baguettes, crepes, croissants, and fruit on every corner. Carson loves the nutella crepes. I am returning home inspired to find beautiful ingredients even for the simplest of foods.

And the art is amazing. And we love how it stays light for so long.

The graffiti was an issue too–Kaden thought it was a disgrace. Carson thought it was cool.