There were many things we loved about our two weeks in France. I got to meet my long-time computer friend, Susannah, and her family; Ben got to practice his newly-acquired French (which was charming except when he was frustrated with us, and would shout a begrudging “D’accord!”); we all got to eat lots of ice cream and crepes and nutella and pain au chocolat.

But perhaps our favorite thing about France was the carousels. It seemed like every park, every plaza, practically every wide spot in the road had a carousel plunked down in it, and the boys rode them all. They learned to distinguish between up-and-down horses and rearing-back horses; they learned to look for leather belts that weren’t too worn down to buckle (because those rearing-back horses reared waaaay back!); they learned that sometimes it’s pleasant to ride the carousel on a bench swing, or a stationary, climb inside (rather than climb aboard) animal, or even a bench.

In Paris, we found carousels outside Sacre Coeur and in the Tuileries, and in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The one near Sacre Coeur was double-decker, the first we encountered (though we went on to see them in Montpelier and Avignon, too):

The carousel in the Jardin du Luxembourg doesn’t look like much; it’s not as sparkly bright and bejeweled as the others. It’s a single decker, rather small and delicate, there’s no music, and the animals, who are all sorely in need of a fresh coat of paint, don’t move up and down, or rear back, they just sway genty back and forth.

But none of that matters, because here, after the carousel operator checks each rider’s buckle and gently pats each animal’s head, he hands each child a short wooden stick, and as they spin round and round, picking up speed as they go, they get to try to catch a brass ring on the end of their stick.

The kids love it, and the parents all cheer their kids on — suddenly carousel-riding became an exciting spectator sport, and we all had a ball.

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