Category Archives: food

Eating and playing in Paris

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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.

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

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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

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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!

Home safe and sound!

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We are home safe and sound after quite a long journey home from Frankfurt via Newark and Harrisburg. We are surprised to see everything lush and in full bloom in our beautiful neighborhood. The little things are surprising us. The size of drinks at the airport (that’s a medium? looks like an extra-large to me). Ordering at McDonalds I was shocked at all the choices and had trouble placing my order. They thought I was crazy when I exclaimed with glee at being served my favorite Sugar-Free Vanilla Iced Coffee.

When we arrived home last night I groggily had trouble figuring out how to flush the toilet. I kept looking on the top of the commode. I also found my sheets and pillow to be the most luxurious linens I have ever experienced in my life.

The kids were greeted with welcome signs on the door from friends. They played with neighborhood friends today; Todd and I went on a long run. What a beautiful day. We will rest again tomorrow and head back to school on Tuesday!

More blog posts to come on our Paris leg of the trip…

Connections made in Bangalore

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It has been four months of memorable moments in Bangalore!

wearing uniforms to school and making friends from around the world at the Canadian International School

sharing a passion for cricket with Dada

spending time with old friends

receiving temple blessings at Nandi the Bull and elsewhere

sliding down the boulders on a plastic bottle

yummy buffet lunches at hotels

Uncle K’s walk into the wall at the Lalit Ashok hotel!

ice cream–lots of ice cream!

playing Holi!

 

visiting schools of all shapes and sizes

Being sought after for photographs like we were movie stars. And meeting kiddos from all around Bangalore in the process.

seeing student voice in action!

wild monkeys!

Mojitos and milkshakes at the Taj after a nightmare autorickshaw ride!

raising a glass with new friends!

Bollywood dancing

building international relationships in my professional life!

yogaaaaahhhhh!!!!

shopping for treasures

neighborhood friends

Saying goodbye…

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On May 1 at 2 in the morning, our Lufthansa plane lifts off from Bangalore and we head towards home. We have a layover in Frankfurt where we are getting off the plane and heading to Paris for a few days before we return home at the end of the week. That little stopover seemed a lot more logical almost a year ago when we booked the tickets. We’re now realizing we’ll have to pay double baggage fees plus storage in Frankfurt for that choice. But, hopefully Paris will be worth it!

The blogs will continue throughout the week, as I still have more to share about our Bangalore experiences! And I will share our Paris adventures when I can find wi-fi in Europe. It HAS to be faster than what I have here :).

Our last days in Bangalore were spent at home, packing, packing, packing. And spending time with neighborhood friends. When putting together a list of what we will miss most about Bangalore, the kiddos and I unanimously agreed that we would miss our new friends the most.

I will miss my yoga mommies and Astha, our fierce but friendly yoga teacher!

      she’s doing the lion pose here!

   

After our last yoga class we had a delicious lunch at Jashn!

    

Kaden had her school friends over for one final fling.That’s Sophie from Signapore, Marian from NJ, Kaden, Monisa from Massachusetts, Caroline from Denmark, and Kaya from Virginia (Ester from Denmark came a little a late).

      

Dear Mr. Yadov, the head security guard of Almond Tree, stopped by and happily joined in the festivities. We will miss his cheerful greeting, said all in a jumble, “How are you fine thank you!!”

     

At one point, Yadov officiated the swimming races. “One! Two! Three!” He shouted and laughed out loud. Such a fun spirit!

We also bid farewell to the sweet teenagers who did our ironing every Sunday–for the equivalent of 16 cents per item. They both have completed school through 9th grade but their father said they must now work instead of going on for further schooling.

Even more than school friends, the kiddos will miss their neighborhood evening fun–especially their nightly Cops and Robbers games in the courtyard!  In this picture, below, all had  been invited to the clubhouse area for Diya and Ecta’s party.

I love the way this neighborhood is a community. The kids all spill out into the courtyard and play together. Whoever is out, that’s who plays. No cliques or “so and so can’t play right now because she has a friend over….”  Every one plays together. If you have company, they join in the mix. That’s the way it is here. The way it was when I was a kid. I wish it was this way  back home.

The whole neighborhood was also invited to the latest birthday party, which happened in the courtyard/swimming pool area. And all of the moms pitched in. One ran the games, the other manned the music. Everyone worked together.

I also found it fascinating how cultural traditions are the same/different. It seems fairly universal at the parties that we have attended for the birthday song to be sung in English but with clapping throughout the song. At this party, after the singing, the girls fed cake into the mouths of their friends, like Americans do for weddings. I checked with the other neighborhood kiddos and they confirmed that’s a normal custom. Kaden was so glad we don’t do that since she rarely likes the cakes at parties!

    

Below, who wouldn’t want sweet Angel to join in the fun! She is getting so big

Below–cops and robbers being played in earnest!

  

On the final night we had pizza for all the kiddos in the neighborhood (pizza in the background, intense trading of WWE wrestling cards in the foreground!

On our last day we had a final meal at the Movenpick Hotel’s yummy buffet, including a final round of fresh lime soda–sweet!

    


Lunch under a mango tree

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We got out of the hundred degree heat to head to the most famous restaurant in Hampi–The Mango Tree. It is the only restaurant in India that I have visited where my driver, the kids and I could all sit down and order exactly what we wanted at prices that we could all afford and with the peace of mind that the food was safe to eat.

You find the restaurant by walking through a banana plantation. On the way, the tour guide pointed out these little miniature ferns that would close up when you touched them (much like sea anenomes). They made Carson very happy. Below, right, the restaurant is located in the backyard of a family’s house.

    

The setting was to die for. Lovely lounge like seats under a shady mango tree.

I had a traditional thali veg lunch, hummus and veggies, and then I ended my meal with rice pudding garnished with fresh coconut. And I mean fresh!  The kids ordered french toast, fried rice, french fries, and watermelon slices. They loved the food!  Carson had a nutella crepe for dessert.

  

We gazed at this view as we ate. Or rather I did. The kids gobbled down their food and then happily scampered about the complex under the shady trees until I was ready to go.

After spending over an hour soaking up the ambiance of the Mango Tree restaurant, we had a renewed spirit and energy to see the ruins of Hampi. Our afternoon was much more cheerful than the morning!  To drive to our next destination, we headed past active archeological sites and recently excavated ruins. In the bottom left picture, they plan to excavate the banana fields all the way to the mountain in the distance.

  

Perhaps our favorite stop of the day was the Lakshmi Narasimha temple. There was so much to see, it was hard to focus on any one thing. The statue itself is the largest in Hampi and carved from one piece of granite. The tourguide enthusiastically started telling me the story of this god–half lion, half man–the fourth incarnation of Vishnu.  The story, as told on the official Hampi website. It is such a good story that it is worth repeating:

“Vishnu kills the demon Hiranyaksha during his Varaha avatar. Hiranyaksha’s brother Hiranyakashipu wants to take revenge by destroying Lord Vishnu and his followers. He performs penance to please Brahma, the god of creation. Impressed by this act, Brahma offers him any thing he wants.

Hiranyakashipu asks for a tricky boon. That he would not die either on earth or in space; nor in fire nor in water; neither during day nor at night; neither inside nor outside (of a home); nor by a human, animal or God; neither by inanimate nor by animate being.

Brahma grants the boon. With virtually no fear of death he unleashes terror. Declares himself as god and asks people to utter no god’s name except his. However his son Prahlada (who a devoted worshiper of Lord Vishnu!) refuses. Repeated pressurization on him yields no results for Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada declares the omnipresence of Lord Vishnu.

Narasimha (being a man-lion god form) kills Hiranyakashipu. He comes out to kill at the twilightt (neither day nor night);on the doorsteps of his palace (neither inside nor outside); uses his nails to kill (neither animate nor inanimate); puts him on his lap before killing (neither earth nor in space). Thus making power of the boon ineffective.”

As the tour guide was telling me the story, Carson starts reciting the story with him. He knew the story by heart. So did Kaden. Turns out it is the basis for the Holi holiday.

As fascinating as the statue and the story was, there were just so many other things to see at this site. Long tailed monkeys–a pack of mothers with little babies. The kids LOVED watching these monkeys and Kaden took some great shots of the mommas and babies.  

    

Below, right, one baby monkey kept trying to nurse from it’s mother, and you could tell the mother was just DONE. They were high up on the top of a ledge and she kept pushing the baby away. I was worried the little one would fall but he held on tight!

    

Also located on the same site was a very large example of a Shiva linga. The statue symbolized male and female components and is a place to come to pray for fertility.  The kids were equal parts fascinated and a bit grossed out by this statue.

     

The site was also teeming with local  people as it is an active site for religious worship.  And the kids were playing in the water, and the ladies were cooling off from the heat. And the goats were wandering by. India.

Another site that we almost skipped, and I’m glad we didn’t was the Queen’s Bath  (below). More like a spa retreat, the Queen would come to this structure to have a soak, sun bathe, get her hair and nails done, and more. Below, right, Carson clammored down to where the swimming pool used ot be.

  

The last large complex that we visited included the Lotus Mahal structure–part of a ladies only complex where the women would stay when the men were away. They kept the place cool by pumping water up to the second floor (what Indians call the first floor) and then streaming water over the sides of the structure to create natural air conditioning. 

   

Above, right, watch towers where Eunichs protected the ladies. Below, the gallant elephant stables!

Above, Carson and I pretend to be elephants.

  

We decided to cool off with a fresh coconut near the elephant stables. The electrolytes from the coconut really bolstered our energy! And heck, I paid Rs. 15 for this coconut. I hear Gwenyth Paltrow pays $20 for the same drink back in NYC!

Above is a modern temple near Hampi. The kids really loved the collection of gods and goddesses displayed. We had a long conversation about this temple with our tour guide. Even Srinivas our driver joined in the conversation helping us to identify the characters portrayed.