Encore Paris

Sunday morning, bags packed, I bid a very fond farewell to London and headed home to Paris.  I arrived in the early afternoon and enjoyed a very happy reunion with Penelope.  She was delighted to see me—and perhaps just as keen to discover what treasures I’d found for her on my British excursion.  When we’d visited Versailles, she’d accidentally left behind her ring in the bathroom—a ring she’d purchased with her savings at a small jewelry store in Florence.  So I’d promised to look for a replacement in London and, happily, found a lovely one that fit even better.  We also started reading one of the books I’d found at the British Library: Wicked Words, a book about etymology and word play from the folks who write the Horrible Histories series.  Penelope very much enjoyed the chapter on Shakespearean insults, and we’ve been hearing those regularly since then.  🙂

That night we had plans to meet up with another former student, this time one from Stevenson!  Scott is in Paris for the month for work, and we’d planned to meet for dinner at our neighborhood creperie in the 11th.  We had a lovely dinner together, joined by Penelope.  And after crepes, we dropped Penelope back off at the apartment where my parents awaited, and then Scott and I strolled around the 11th, catching up more about his life since high school, lo these many years past, and my sabbatical. 

It’s been so lovely to see alums on this trip!  And to be honest, that’s one of the reasons I still love Facebook—for all of the issues social media might have, Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with so many of my former students.  And it’s such a wonderful thing to see them growing into themselves as the years go by. 

Monday was a day of shopping and wandering around Paris.  My dad wanted to head to the BHV, one of Paris’ department stores, and then to the Grand Epicerie (also known as the food hall) of the Bon Marche, another great department store.  So off we went, exploring the various floors of the BHV (Penelope and I spent quite a long time on the bookstore/stationery floor; my parents enjoyed the kitchen and homegoods floors) and then walking from the Hotel de Ville all the way to the Grand Epicerie.

Along the way, we paused to admire many different shop windows and even indulged in an afternoon snack or two.

Penelope has a Marilyn Monroe moment.
She’s been talking about a fur-trimmed cape for some weeks now… apparently she and Grandma plan to make one for her in the fall.
Today’s treat! Not ice cream, but Spanish ham–equally delicious.

I neglected to take many photos at the Grand Epicerie, alas—I was too busy filling my basket with exotic mustards and delicious cookies from Bretagne.  But I did snap one, of a product that was simply too good to be true: Proust’s Madeleines.

On the way home we stopped at two different playgrounds—one near the Bon Marche, then after a metro ride, Grandpa took Penelope to our local playground for another hour or so. 

On Tuesday we decided to venture up to Montmartre—a part of Paris we hadn’t yet seen on this trip (and one I’m not sure I’d ever seen—perhaps on our first family trip in 1989?).  Following our guidebook’s tour, we began at the Love Wall near the Abbesses metro stop, where I snapped a pic of my parents, who just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary.

We walked on, strolling leisurely toward the funicular that would take us to (almost) the top of the hill.  On the way, we paused to see one of the best Rubber Duck stores I’ve ever been in (though, to be fair, it’s kind of a niche market), where I spotted this gem:

Alas, not purchased, though seeing this picture again is giving me second thoughts.  It’s just so good.

Then it was on to the funicular, where Penelope snagged a window seat and took in the view as we slowly rose to the top.

Once there, we surveyed all of Paris at our feet, picking out various buildings (the Pompidou stands out most clearly, perhaps), and then turned our attention to the grand church just behind us: Sacre Coeur.

The next stop on the walking tour was another church, smaller and much older: St. Pierre of Montmartre.  And it was there I spotted perhaps my favorite sculpture so far:

Saint Denis holding his head; one version of his martyrdom claims that the decapitated bishop picked up his head and continued uphill to Montmartre.

We continued along, enjoying the window displays and watching artists in action on the Place du Tertre.  Penelope and I both admired the creations of one painter in particular, and we each selected a small canvas to add to our growing art collection. 

The streets of Montmartre are just lovely, and we enjoyed following the their meandering curves and exploring a bit—the crowds growing thinner as we wandered away from the central square.

We ended at the (in)famous Moulin Rouge, snapped a quick pic, and then darted across the street to the Metro just as it began raining in earnest. 

Wednesday my folks decided to stay home and take an administrative day, but Penelope and I had other plans.  We woke up bright and early to head west to… the Eiffel Tower!  We’ve had many glimpses of the Iron Lady from various vantage points around Paris, but Penelope’s Paris wish list included going right to the top.  Advance reservations for the elevator to the summit were sold out for the month of June, so we’d decided to try our luck at an early arrival and hope for the best.

After a Metro ride, we started walking down the Champ de Mars, reveling in our first glimpses of the Tower.

We joined the impressive queue of visitors waiting to pass through security at about 9:20am or so—and the line began moving just a few minutes later.  Then another line, much shorter, to purchase tickets, then a shorter line to ride the first elevator.  We were at the top by 11am, so not too bad!

Penelope admiring the mechanism of the elevator at work as we rode to the second level.

We headed straight to the top, where we enjoyed the amazing views all around—including the art installation currently taking place on the Champ de Mars.  The clasped hands are a spray-painted fresco by French artist Saype, who specializes in biodegradable artwork.  Quite amazing to see from above.

We continued our walk around the tip-top, taking in the views and spotting landmarks, then began our descent, pausing at each level to snap photos and enjoy the views from each new vantage point.  What an amazing structure.

The rain began again that afternoon, so the rest of the day was spent at home, with schoolwork and puzzles on the agenda.  We found this one at our local thrift store, and to our delight the box included not one, but two French street scenes.  A lovely way to spend our afternoon.

Thursday morning our long-awaited visitor arrived: my sister Rachel.  Rachel and her husband Will had planned a summer trip to the southwest of France with several friends, and she’d arranged to come a few days early to spend some time with us in Paris.  Penelope had been most excited to see her Aunt Rachel, and she immediately glued herself to Rachel’s side for the next 48 hours.  🙂

After a strong coffee for the jet-lagged Rachel, we set off to the Marche d’Aligre to browse the market.  This time we also spent some time exploring the interior market, which reminded me of Oxford’s Covered Market (though this French version is much smaller).

Penelope also wanted to get some flowers to properly welcome Aunt Rachel, so she ordered some from one of the florist’s stalls.  The vendor, upon hearing Penelope’s request en francais, doubled the order for free.  Another advantage to having a bilingual 8-year-old in the family!

We walked from Marche d’Aligre over to the Bastille market, then, our marketing complete, stopped at Amorino to introduce Rachel to its wonders.  Though, to be fair, Penelope would seize upon any excuse to have a sweet treat.

Then it was back to the apartment for a nap (Rachel) and schoolwork (Penelope) and reading (the rest of us).  The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting in the living room—and playing with Snapchat filters.

By the time dinner rolled around, we were all ready to head back out.  I’d secured reservations at Bistro Paul Bert, reputedly one of the best bistros in Paris (and handily located just a block from our house), and we were all very much looking forward to our dinner.

We enjoyed a white asparagus appetizer, a plate of foie gras, and wonderful steak au poivre with frites.  Just fabulous.  Somehow we had room left for desserts, and we ordered three for the table to share: L’Ile Flottant, a Grand Marnier soufflé, and a citron tarte. 

Full to bursting, the five of us walked slowly home, savoring a beautiful Parisian evening.

Friday morning we enjoyed breakfast at home before taking the metro to the Bois du Boulogne, where we planned to spend the day.  Rachel and my parents headed to the Fondation Louis Vuitton, to see the Courtauld Collection exhibit, and Penelope and I got a head start at the nearby Jardin d’Acclimation. 

This was our third visit to the Jardin d’Acc, so Penelope was now a pro—and since the park was only lightly attended (it’s still the school year here in Paris), I purchased her an unlimited rides wristband.  We’d also discovered that she’s tall enough to go on almost all of the rides without an adult, so I happily read my book on a nearby bench while she went on ride after ride. 

I did, however, join her once in a while.  Especially on Les Speed Rockets, which was our mutual favorite. 

Rachel and my parents joined us for a late lunch, and we found a shaded patch of grass for the picnic we’d packed.  After our meal, we explored the park for another hour or so, riding more rides and enjoying the sight of Penelope enjoying herself.  In one memorable queue, we met another family from Palo Alto—a small world indeed!

As the afternoon waned, Rachel voiced an interest in a bit of Parisian shopping and walking, and my mother heroically volunteered to stay with Penelope for another hour at the amusement park while my dad and accompanied Rachel back into central Paris.  (Sidenote: Penelope’s unlimited wristband revealed a final tally of 39 rides at the end of the day.  Impressive!)

We rode the Metro to the BHV, which is definitely our family’s favorite department store.  There our father disappeared into the basement floor on a mysterious errand (I suspect it might have been Christmas gift-related), and Rachel and I spent a happy hour browsing the delights of the paper goods floor.  My dad had long since headed for home, so Rachel and I opted to walk through the Marais so she could see more of Paris.  It was the Friday of Pride weekend, and lots of preparations were underway.

We all eventually arrived back in the 11th and spent an hour or so relaxing at the apartment before heading back out to our last dinner with Rachel.  She’d selected our neighborhood creperie, so we headed there once again, eagerly anticipating another delicious meal.   As expected, we very much enjoyed our crepes and cider.

My favorite dessert crepe: the Salidou (house-made salted butter caramel, with a small boule of glace vanille). Divine.

All in all, it was a short but lovely visit from my younger sister… who is always ready to photobomb my nicely framed pictures. 

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