Posts tagged ‘france’

The Last Day of Paris

I get Ben to choke down some Tylenol — he’s feverish and sore-throated, but he doesn’t want to rest in the apartment any more than I do. We forge ahead to L’Orangerie to visit Monet’s enormous water lily paintings, hung in their own two oval rooms. Oval skylights, covered with a linen shade to diffuse the sun, light the room; the effect is watery and beautiful.

Walking through the Tuileries gardens after we leave the museum makes La Villette make more sense — the huge scale, the geometry — La Villette’s designers were clearly referencing this space. Even though La Villette has grass, the Tuileries’ stone buildings and dusty pebbled paths feel warmer and more accomodating than all of La Villette’s concrete and sharp edges. I may not like it any better now, but I’m happy to understand it better.

the boys with Henry Moore

a view of tall things

There’s a carousel, so we buy the boys a ride, and then as we continue down the path we notice — hurray! — a small pond with a man renting sailboats. It’s wonderful serendipity to make up for the lack of sailboats at the Jardin du Luxembourg earlier in the week. Plus, these boats are gorgeous, true works of art with hand-quilted sails, all different colors and textures of fabric. We rent boats for each of the boys, and then the man drops a third in to the water — “Just for fun” he comments — and then a fourth, and then he gives us a third stick to push them all around.

Then, another lucky break: an easy time at the Louvre. We sail right in via the Porte de Lions entrance, walk down the long (long) hallway to the Mona Lisa, pay our respects and leave. Eli has no particular interest in the museum, but he’s delighted to do a naked baby scavenger hunt: naked babies with wings! naked babies with arrows! He’s never seen so many cherubs in his life.

And then our happy luck runs out. We’re close to Angelina’s, famous for its hot chocolate, and decide to get the kids a treat. Except we’re not really close enough (they’re exhausted by the time we walk there); it’s too hot for hot chocolate; we really just need lunch. There’s nothing on the menu the boys want, and I don’t want to risk spending 20 euros on a meal they won’t eat, anyway. We should really just cut our losses and leave, but we’ve come all this way… So, we order ice creams for the kids and a salad and omelette for Tony and me to share. The food takes ages to come and we’ve left the boys’ coloring materials at home so they’re cranky and bored. We couldn’t be luckier, sitting in a beautiful cafe, surrounded by gorgeous food, but nobody’s happy. We eat quickly and head back to the apartment.

While the boys get their downtime, I get one last outing, visiting a friend who lives in the Belleville neighborhood. We walk in a park that reminds me of San Francisco’s Buena Vista park — a beautiful, overgrown hill rising out of a transitional, arty neighborhood.

It’s good to see another side of Paris — less touristy, less polished. Last year we stayed in Paris’ Union Square, this year we’re in Paris’ Noe Valley; maybe another time we’ll stay here.


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.