After a very early alarm clock, a vaporetto, a bus, and two planes, we arrived in Paris around 3pm on Thursday. Our luggage, alas, did not. We’d had a very short connection in Zurich, and we barely made our flight to Paris, so I wasn’t surprised when our baggage didn’t make the transfer. We took a taxi from Charles de Gaulle to our new (and last) home-away-from-home, in the 11th arrondissement. The apartment is on the 4th floor of a Haussmann building—I’m loving the view from the living room!
We spent the rest of the day in the usual way: finding our nearest grocery store, learning how the appliances work, and locating outlets to charge our phones. Our bags were scheduled to arrive by 10pm—but we gave up around 11pm and went to bed.
On Friday, buoyed by the knowledge that our credit card had delayed baggage insurance, we spent a couple of hours buying socks and underwear and pajamas and toiletries down the street at our local Monoprix. When we were in Italy, I was really looking forward to France because I wouldn’t need to use Google Translate as much in stores… but it took me at least thirty minutes to google all of our sizes into their French equivalents… who knew that Penelope wears a size 32 sock???
The rest of the day was spent walking around our new neighborhood, hanging out at the neighborhood park, and watching French cartoons. Les Pyjamasques translates pretty well, actually. And best of all, most of our luggage arrived that night… at 10pm.
The forecast Saturday was for rain, and rain it did. At home in our apartment, we did laundry, played Uno, read, and unpacked. It’s quite lovely to really unpack—I am so delighted to be living in the same place for two months. And around lunchtime our last checked bag was delivered—phew!
In the afternoon there was a brief break in the clouds, so we headed to our local Tati, where we’d read online we could buy home goods. Although our apartment has most everything we need, we’d decided a few more pillows, an ice tray, and more hangers would make life more comfortable. And of course we already needed more groceries, so we also tried another neighborhood grocery store. There we were delighted to find pre-made buckwheat crepes for savory dishes, so it was jambon fromage crepes for dinner. And for dessert, chef Penelope concocted a delicious treat: whipped cream, berries, and chocolate crumbles on top.
Sunday: more of the same! Another cold and rainy day meant schoolwork, balloon volleyball in the living room, art projects, and reading. And Elena d’Avalor (en francais, bien sur). We noted with interest that the TV guide suggests Le Livre de Jungle will play on TV tonight, though it starts at 9pm. Do French children really stay up so late??
Other accomplishments: figuring out how to order from Amazon.fr (with delivery to a local store, who holds it for the purchaser); planning our activities for the weeks ahead; and catching up on the blog. Our stay in Paris is off to a riveting start! 🙂
Monday we had a meeting scheduled with the AirBnB host, to figure out a few items in the house (how to control the heat, have some missing lightbulbs replaced, what to do with the trash, etc.). This is one of the few places we’ve stayed in which there hasn’t been a welcome book of instructions. Once that was sorted, we headed out for a walk around our neighborhood—and to visit the Marks & Spencer Food Hall a few blocks away. In addition to various British sausages and clotted cream, I was delighted to find my favorite cheese puffs.
Really, one of the most challenging elements of travel is finding your favorite snacks in different countries and then only having them once every few years or so. 🙂
Also on the agenda: stocking our freezer at Picard. Penelope was positively astounded to be in a grocery store that only sold frozen goods. It is quite something, I agree.
On Tuesday we decided to finally venture beyond the 11th arrondissement! We headed all the way over to the Bois de Boulogne for a visit to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, designed by Frank Gehry. The building is quite extraordinary, and it was great fun to explore—both for the art inside and for the architecture itself.
We started with the current exhibition, the Courtauld Collection, which was an incredible gathering of Impressionist art: Manet, Gauguin, Modigliani, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat, Monet, Pisarro, Renoir and many more.
Then we moved through the other floors, some quickly, some more leisurely, as our interest took us. We did, however, particular enjoy some of the immersive and/or interactive art installations.
And when we explored the roof-top terraces, we spotted our very first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!
After the museum, it was time for Le Jardin d’Acclimatation, an enormous playground and amusement park. Founded in 1860, it is one of the anchors of the Bois de Boulogne. Fortunately, the rides themselves do not date from the 19th century.
Penelope had actually been here once before, in 2014, as a wee three-year-old with her grandparents (see her grandfather’s blog for details!). But (not unexpectedly) she didn’t remember that visit, so we were all neophytes as we explored the grounds. Playgrounds, camel rides, zip lines, paddleboats, and roller coasters all vied for our attention. After some consideration, Penelope settled on some of the biggest of the rides to start: L’Astrolabe, Le Souris Mecaniques, Les Chaises Volantes, and Les Speed Rockets. Jeremy spent most of this time reading on nearby benches, while Penelope and I were whirled about at high speeds. Most enjoyable!
We headed to a few of playgrounds next, then a few more rides, the petting zoo, and a final stroll around the grounds before deciding to save the rest of our tickets for another day. We’ll definitely be back—what a terrific park for families!
We capped our day with a sweet treat from a local pastisserie. Penelope selected the citron macaron as big as her head. It was, predictably, delicious.
Wednesday was a Labour Day, a national holiday here in France. A major protest was planned by the yellow jackets—and Paris police responded with the closure of 18 Metro stops, more than 7000 gendarmes, 200 arrests, tear gas, etc. etc.
In light of all of that… we decided to stick to the 11th once again. Penelope tried out the Jacuzzi tub in the apartment (which is actually quite enormous—she called it her personal swimming pool), I read through a Paris guidebook and continued planning, and Jeremy enjoyed some reading time on his Kindle. In the afternoon, we walked around the neighborhood, finding a new park to explore and then heading back to our local playground. We ended the day at a Thai restaurant just down the street, Mme. Shawn.
Words cannot express how delighted I was to have Thai food for dinner. At home in California, we have Indian or Thai or Japanese at least once a week. Since leaving on our European travels in late March, all of our eating out has been Italian—and though excellent, I’ve been really missing those other flavors. After savoring my Tom Kha Gai and Panang curry—plus bites of Jeremy’s beef and duck and Penelope’s chicken satay—I was a happy short-term Parisian indeed.
Thursday we’d planned another double-header: the Musee d’Orsay and Oya, Jeux a Jouer. The d’Orsay was, as always, quite wonderful. It might be my favorite museum in terms of content and architecture—but it’s also a madhouse on the Impressionist floors, and yesterday was no exception. We persevered nevertheless, spotting both long-time favorites and new-to-us pieces.
Penelope enjoyed the 3-D transformation of the building from train station to art museum, took a picture next to the statue of Homer’s Penelope, and asked me to capture this portrait of a girl and her cat, by Renoir.
Some of my favorites, old and new:
But this was probably my best photo from our afternoon at the museum. 🙂
Penelope has been a trooper over the past five weeks, seeing more museums and churches in that time-span than she has in her entire life heretofore. But her enthusiasm is now waning a bit, so we’ve decided (when possible) to pair museum outings with a more interactive, kid-focused activity (as we did earlier in the week with Louis Vuitton and the Jardin d’Acclimatation). On today’s agenda: Oya, Jeux a Jouer—a game parlor/store. Upon arrival, we met with the store owner (and game inventor!) and he asked us a few questions about what kind of games we liked, how many players, etc. Then he set us up with a few options—and asked a family member (a little boy about Penelope’s age) to play with us to further explain the rules of each game as we played. It was a terrific afternoon activity!
We started with a board game—but deemed the action a bit too slow. Second, a card game—not enough interaction (as it was meant to be played in silence). Third, another card game—and this was one was definitely the best. We were initially hesitant to play it, since it’s based on football (soccer, to us Americans) and we know absolutely nothing about that sport. But we were coaxed into a game—and loved it. A fast, energetic card game—and, importantly for travelers, it comes in a relatively small box. We played several rounds, declared the game the winner, and left the store with a new copy of our own.
Dinner at home ended the day—and so too ended our first full week in Paris. We didn’t see many tourist spots, but it’s been lovely to slow down from our pace in Italy. And that’s the real luxury of having so much time here in Paris—there’s no rush to experience as much as possible in a week.
Still ahead: day trips to Versailles, Chartres, and Disneyland Paris (when the weather cooperates), more museums, and hopefully a cooking class!