On Wednesday our alarm clocks were set to the horrifying hour of five am, necessary to ensure that Jeremy made his early morning flight from Charles de Gaulle home to California. After a fond farewell, I returned to my slumbers, and woke again around nine am. One of the very best parts of my sabbatical this spring has been the general absence of alarm clocks from our lives. What a delight to wake naturally (or to the sounds of your upstairs neighbor).
Since it was to be a very lovely, rain-free day in Paris, Penelope and I had decided to spend our solo day together revisiting the Jardin d’Acclimatation and its delights.
We spent a very full day at the amusement park, returning home around 4pm to welcome my folks to our apartment. They will be living with us for our final month in Paris, and we spent the rest of the day getting them settled in… and then visiting several different grocery stores to fully stock the kitchen with their preferred items. My mother was particularly delighted to find sultana scones and clotted cream at the Mark & Spencers—one of her all-time favorites.
Thursday morning we began planning in earnest, with every member of the new ensemble crafting his or her Parisian wish list for the weeks ahead. Penelope and I also indulged in an at-home mani-pedi session. Penelope chose the color, which she calls “Electric Mermaid.” Seems about right.
That afternoon Penelope and her grandparents walked around the neighborhood while I set out for the Ile St Louis to meet up with a group of former students who were all visiting Paris. What a delight to see them all! Pauline, Angela, Riya, and Sof met me at Berthillon. We indulged in some delicious ice cream then walked over to the nearby Seine, where we found a bench and happily chatted for a good hour or two. It was wonderful to hear about their adventures—at college and on a gap year—and to share a bit of my own sabbatical adventures with them. At the end, I successfully remembered to demand a photo to document our rendezvous, and Riya immediately produced a selfie stick.
After our meetup, I wandered around the streets of Ile St Louis a bit more, stopping in various boutiques. I even bought (gasp!) another scarf, much to Penelope’s chagrin when I showed it off later at home. We all have our vices…and I do love a scarf.
Friday morning we headed north to the Belleville market, one of my parents’ favorites from their extended stay in Paris in the summer of 2014. We meandered through the market for a few hours, marveling at the sheer number of produce stands—later, I looked up the online description and discovered there are more than sixty different stands for fruit and veg. Impressive.
On a side note, I was tickled to discover the new (at least to me) presence of poetry on some Metro cars. London has had poems on the Tube for years, but this was my first sighting of poetry on the Paris Metro.
And then at the market, I spotted this banner for an upcoming Slam Poesie competition.
We continued on through the market, selecting berries for dessert and artichokes for dinner, and then… Penelope spied her heart’s desire. Or at least her desire of the moment. One of her favorite pastimes is imaginary play, complete with varied accessories. Living out of a suitcase has, as you can imagine, limited her wardrobe somewhat. So when she spotted the varied fabrics on display at the market—only one 2 euros a meter!—she pounced. Imagine, she said—it could be a scarf! or a shawl! or a dress! Indeed.
We continued on our way and next, she decided, she needed a bedazzled gown. So up she stepped to the stall, asked for children’s versions, and then proudly wore her new garment through the rest of the market. A passing woman commented, “Trop mignon! Ca merite un photo.” So take a photo we did.
We hopped on the metro back home to deposit our market purchases, then headed to the ninth arrondissement to visit the Galeries Lafayette. We’d told my parents about the Funorama exhibit on display there, and they’d decided they wanted to see it before the celebration ended later this week.
En route, we walked into and then through the massive student protest, part of the worldwide Fridays for Future movement started by Swedish student Gerta Thunberg. Thousands of students were standing first in front of the Opera, then joining a massive march through central Paris.
Once we arrived at Galeries Lafayette, we all admired the stained glass dome and the newest additions. My folks declined to go out on the suspended trampoline (a wise decision), but my father and I did venture out on the glass sidewalk, one level above the trampoline. Amazing views!
Meanwhile, upstairs on the children’s toy and bookstore floor, Grandma indulged her favorite granddaughter by purchasing a new queen for her play castle at home, as well as an activity book based on Penelope’s current favorite show, Miraculous Ladybug. A good day all around!
On Saturday, we woke up early—but for good reason. We wanted to visit the Vanves flea market. This marche aux puces is one of the best in town, with hundreds of stalls selling antiques, knickknacks, art, china—what the French call brocante. My father spotted and acquired an original and amusing sketch of Wagner (his favorite composer), while I admired this enormous map of Bretagne, one of my favorite regions in France.
Alas, the framed map would not have fit in our luggage, so instead I purchased this adorable wee brass mouse.
Meanwhile, Penelope had only to ask how much something cost for it to be gifted to her by the small owner. Granted, she was almost always asking about the smallest trinket in the booth, but still! Needless to say, she very much enjoyed the flea market—and of all the tiny treasures she brought home, she only paid for one (after bargaining the stall owner down from 25 to 15 euros for the porcelain box she’d been eyeing).
That afternoon, we spent our time mostly at home, catching up on schoolwork. We’d found some French books at the local Emmaus (a secondhand store, like Goodwill, a block or so away), and Penelope and I very much enjoyed reading this particular French story together.
On Sunday, having not yet had enough of the markets, we went to our third in three days. This time we headed to our own neighborhood market, the Bastille, which Penelope and I had visited some weeks ago. The Bastille has some wares, but is mostly fruit and veg. And pig snoots.
We enjoyed an hour or so of wandering around the market, and stopping from time to time to listen to the various musicians.
Our bags full of produce and a rotisserie chicken, we headed home for lunch. That afternoon, wanting make sure that Penelope had enough running around time, we decided to head back to the Parc Floral, in the Bois de Vincennes. My mother opted to stay home and rest, but my father came along to see what flowers might still be in bloom. He was delighted to discover there was also an organic wine festival happening that day as well. So Penelope ran off to play in the five enormous playgrounds, my dad strolled around the grounds and sampled some French wines, and I staked out a central bench and happily read a book for the next two hours. Life in Paris is pretty good. 🙂
We’d looked carefully at the forecast for the next days and quickly realized that one of the best days for our next outing was Monday—so we were up bright and early that morning, bound once again for Disneyland Paris.
We started the day at Walt Disney Studio Park, immediately heading for Crush’s Coaster, which didn’t disappoint. It was, once again, Penelope’s favorite of the day. We did a few more rides in this smaller park, ate lunch, and then headed across to Disneyland Park, where more rides awaited. I heard many more English accents this time, and we soon realized it was a Bank Holiday in the UK. But the crowds weren’t too bad at all, and we had plenty of time for all of the rides we wanted—and some of them two or three times!
At Grandma’s request, we stayed to the very end this time and enjoyed the grand finale light show, complete with music and dialogue in French, and terrific fireworks.
Then it was home via the train and metro, where we all collapsed into bed—happy, but very, very tired.