To Paris… and beyond!

Saturday morning I headed out for a few hours of solo exploration, starting at the giant shopping center at Les Halles and then wandering happily back toward our apartment in the 11th.   Don’t tell Jeremy or Penelope, but I *might* have also wandered into an Amorino gelato shop…

In the mid-afternoon, Jeremy and Penelope met me at the Bastille metro stop, and we followed the walking tour of the Marais from our guidebook, from the new Opera house to the Place du Vosges and beyond.  A lovely afternoon for a family walk!

Penelope was enthralled by our historical walking tour, as you can see.

Sunday morning Penelope and I decided to celebrate American Mother’s Day with a girls’ trip to our local pastisserie and then a walk over to the Bastille Market.  We’ve tried a few different patisseries in our neighborhood (as one does), and decided that Cyril Lignac is hands down the best.  We were delighted to later discover that this particular patisserie is actually on lots of top ten lists for baked delights in Paris.  We have good taste, evidently.  🙂

My absolute favorite continues to be the kouign amman, and this pastisserie makes—I have to say it—the best I’ve ever had.  I ordered one for me, Penelope opted for the pain au chocolat, and we split a small bag of choquettes as well (my second favorite sweet treat).  Munching happily, we walked about fifteen minutes or so over to the Bastille Market.  At ten in the morning, the streets were largely deserted, and it was lovely to explore together.

When we arrived, the market was in full swing, from fish stalls to fruits and veg.  Penelope ordered her weekend fruits with confidence, and we took a break mid-way through the market to nosh on a saucisson fromage crepe (Penelope’s current favorite). 

Our last stop at the market was the French maritime clothing stall, where we considered a variety of striped options.

Ultimately, however, I decided on a lovely blue with white stripes—and Penelope chose one to match, since it was (as she said) Mother’s Day!  🙂

We walked back from the market to meet Jeremy, and after lunch headed back out to my favorite church: Sainte Chapelle.  I think I would love Sainte Chapelle even if it only had the lower level—I love the painted ceiling and the human scale of the place.  But then you walk up that small spiral staircase, and you are positively dazzled by the light from all of the stained glass.  No place like it.

Looking up into all that light!

To cap the day, we decided to take the metro over to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where we took the Rick Steves walking tour via his terrific audioguide.  This one was perhaps one of the best we’ve listened to, as it incorporated music throughout.   Approaching Edith Piaf’s grave, we heard her wonderful warbling—then Jim Morrison and The Doors, followed by Chopin.  Even some excerpts of poetry from Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein.  It was a terrific tour, and we very much enjoyed the quiet beauty of this enormous cemetery.  (And when I say enormous… it really is.  Bigger than Disneyland Paris, according to Monsieur Steves.)

Midway through the walk, Penelope decided she wanted to add memorial flowers to particular graves. Here, her offering at Chopin’s grave.

And then it was back home for dinner and to put our feet up… in preparation for what the next day would bring.

Monday was our eagerly anticipated trip to see La Grande Souris at Disneyland Paris.  My absolute favorite Pixar movie is Ratatouille, and I’d booked us a lunch at Bistro Chez Remy.  They’ve recreated the rat restaurant from the final scenes of the film, so that diners are ostensibly rat-sized, and all of the details from the human world are gigantic.  It was every bit as charming as I imagined it would be… and we had the best time!

The rest of the day was spent in a happy haze, first exploring Walt Disney Studios Park, then, in mid-afternoon we walked over to Disneyland Park.  Lines were relatively low, since school is still in session here in France, and we were able to ride everything we wanted—both familiar favorites and rides that were completely new to us.

Penelope and I agreed that Crush’s Coaster was the best ride of the day, we all loved the many wonderful details throughout both parks, and Jeremy, as always, made us spin like crazy on the Mad Hatter’s Teacups.  A wonderful, wonderful day.  We can’t wait to go back in June with the grandparents!

On Tuesday, tuckered out from our Disney adventure, we relaxed at home in the morning.  But the gorgeous weather (combined with Penelope’s interest in “doing something!”) led us out to the Parc Floral de Paris, a beautiful park southeast of us, part of the Bois de Vincennes. 

We appreciated too all of the outdoor art, from the flamingo car doors to a line of enormous ants marching up a tree.

Needless to say, Penelope had a wonderful time—and Jeremy and I enjoyed both strolling in the sunshine and reading our books on a bench near the playgrounds.

On Wednesday we had another day trip planned—this time farther away, to the lovely town of Chartres.  The main lure of Chartres is, of course, the cathedral—but it was also nice to see a smaller French town, as a respite from Paris’ size and pace.

We took an RER train out to Chartres and began walking through the town toward the cathedral—easy to spot, as it dominates the town skyline.  Once again, we turned to our guidebook for a tour, starting outside with the untwinned towers and then inside, with the cathedral’s gorgeous stained glass—especially the rose windows.

A restoration and cleaning is well underway, both inside and out, and it was fascinating to see the difference that cleaning made.  Here are two pics—you can see the difference vertically on the left, and horizontally on the right—it was really quite amazing. 

Penelope’s favorite pastime during our church visits: making an offering and lighting a candle.

As we finished the tour, we were stunned to see what appeared to be two mountain climbers aloft one of the towers… and then quickly realized that they were cleaning the outside of the cathedral, lifting free debris and moss from the nooks and crannies of the tower.

By this point it was late afternoon, and Penelope was (as usual) plaintively complaining about her hunger.  A few blocks from the cathedral, she spotted a nearby establishment, and we decided… why not try “the original French tacos”? 

Yes, reader, we tried them.  Imagine, if you will, a burrito-like wrap filled with diced cordon bleu, béchamel sauce, and french fries.  It was… interesting? Try as I might, I just can’t see the appeal of french fries inside other items.  Especially sandwiches.  But it was a fun culinary adventure—if perhaps less haute cuisine, more hot mess. 

After our repast, we continued through the town, enjoying a walk along the river, spotting a half-timbered spiral staircase, and taking a traditional family selfie.

Our day concluded, we hopped on the evening train back to Paris—a most enjoyable field trip!

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