Category Archives: France

Traveling with Teens: Paris

While our teens generally make for well-behaved and pleasant company, visiting lots of museums while suffering from a bit of jet lag has brought out a few groans. The trick to keeping things cheerful seems to be regular breaks for food. En route from our hotel to the Louvre we stopped at a Salon de The to fortify ourselves with croissants before exploring the many wings of the massive museum.  After navigating the collection, and the multiple swaths of tour groups, we ventured out to the Tuileries garden, and then to a table at the Terasse de Pomone for salads and sandwiches. One in our party had expressed a craving for a Croque Monsieur and apricot juice and these items figured prominently on the menu, along with an outstanding citron presse.  A tall glass containing a couple of ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice was served along with packets of sugar and a carafe of water- a hit.

Next we paid a visit to Monet’s magnificent water lilies at the Orangerie, and also their current Paul Klee exhibit. While half of our group found the Klee to be an outstandingly curated collection, well-balanced between history, information and artwork, the other half needed a modest antidote to a mild case of museum overexposure. This we found outside the museum in the form of a foot-long segment of baguette, swabbed with mustard and stuffed with a hot dog- a classic.

We continued our walk, across the Place de la Concorde, stopping to discuss relevant history- both the French Revolution and The Devil Wears Prada. Then along the Champs Elysee, en route to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.  To prepare for the rigors of the climb, we made a pit stop at Laduree. Our offspring decisively selected a dozen of the renowned macarons in such flavors as caramel, rose, coconut and, of course, chocolate and vanilla. We took the lovely package of cookies out to a bench on the Champs and made short work of its contents.  Thus refueled, we made our way to the top of the Arc for a spectacular, and well-earned, view of beautiful Paris.

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En France, In Brief, Day 2

Significant attention, effort, time and resources are directed to the aesthetic environment in France. While I appreciate the market-driven gritty frugality and respect for the taxpayers in New York City, it is very pleasant to spend time here in Paris. Here, even in an incredibly busy, complex urban environment, simple beauty abounds.

En France, in brief

Paris has a nice idea for low-consumption, low-emissions transit. The Velib – a system of self-serve bike rentals. There are almost 20,000 bikes available for short term rental at multiple locations through out the city. You can rent in one location and return at your destination. It’s not particularly good for parent’s traveling with young children, people with substantial cargo, or people with limited physical abilities but it’s a nice resource in the effort to make our world a little less petroleum-dependent.

My Top Ten List of Paris Favorites

American opinion appears to have returned to an appreciation of the French. Witness the recent run of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the top of the New York Times Bestselling Advice Book list and the omnipresence of Gilles Marini.  I have had the good fortune of visiting Paris on a few occasions and am now in the midst of planning a trip to Paris and Rennes with my family, the first for our children.  So now that it is safe again to love the French, and there is much to love, particularly their living-as-art-form approach to domestic life, I thought I would share some of my favorite things to do in Paris.  Please add your own recommendations.

Here’s a 10-item list  (sort of Lettermanesque) of my favorites, and other thoughts, from our time in Paris.

1) Boat Ride on the Seine at night. Very classic tourist activity– but of course it is.  It’s a really nice thing to do.  We used Bateaux Mouches, Pont de L’Alma, but Bateaux Parisien also looks good.  Be prepared; it’s light out until 10:00 pm, or later.

2) Gerard Mulot, Chocolats et Macarons, 76 Rue de Seine in the Saint Germain (6th) arondissement.  The pastries were the best we’ve had in our travels and we put a lot of research in on the ground.  You order at the counter; the guy gives you a slip, you pay at another counter and they stamp the slip, and then you bring the slip back to the first guy who has your order all nicely packaged.  Then you unceremoniously enter the street, tear open the pretty package and slobber all over it’s contents.  Yumm…

3) Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés.   The cultural history alone of this perfectly-located cafe makes it worth a visit.  The cafe of choice of such luminaries as Picasso,  Hemingway, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, a seat at Deux Magots by the sidewalk provides a ceaselessly entertaining view of passersby.  We enjoyed brunch there and the food was very good, especially the Poilane bread which I had with baked goat cheese.  In my opinion you really can’t eat enough goat cheese.

4) Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile.  The place for ice cream in Paris.

5) Fountaine du Mars, 129 Rue St. Dominique, 01 47 05 46 44.  Make a reservation for a street-side table.  We’ve had dinner here a few times and the food is great and so is the atmosphere.   The Obamas dined here on their last trip to Paris and apparently agreed with our assessment.  For dessert they do a nice job with Ile Flottante (Floating Island), a delicious French classic involving meringue and caramel.

6)  Le Petit Nicois, 10 Rue Amelie, 01 45 51 83 65.  Lovely Mediterranean restaurant with great seaf00d.    They do wonderful things with artichokes.

7) Tastevin, 46 rue St. Louis-en-l’Ile, 01 43 54 17 31.  A truly exceptional restaurant on Ile St. Louis.  Very tiny.  Amazing service.  Get the cherry clafouti.  We had the best table by a window that opened onto the street. 

8) Walking. Free and essential to balance out the caloric impact of the above-listed items.  A great walk is to stroll  through the Tuileries gardens to the Orangerie Museum, stop in for a visit with Monet’s Waterlilies and canvases from Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir and many others,  and then continue your trek over to the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe.  Climb to the top of the Arc for a great view of the city.  Must have good shoes!

9) The Pompidou Center, Place Georges Pompidou.  In my opinion, a waste, except for the view and the wonderful crepe I had from a street vendor before we went in.  I had mine with Creme Marron (chestnut) – very tasty.

10) And, FYI it is my observation that caffeine and cigarettes play a significant role in keeping  French women from getting fat!

Also, the Cluny museum, shopping at Dehillerin, the Conciergerie, Napoleon’s Tomb, shopping at Galeries Lafayette and so much more.  Great food, art, history and shopping.  What are your favorites?  What have your teens and tweens appreciated about Paris?

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