I found an article about the top ten things to do with kids in Paris. I think we did almost all of them by the third day we were here. Paris isn’t THAT big, I forgot. But it is beautiful.
It was my goal to write a blog post every evening while we were here in gay Paree and clearly that hasn’t happened. But I’m thinking it’s for the best since I didn’t end up boring you with the banal minutia of our stay (which believe me…I would have…once, it took me all day to figure out which bottle was fabric softener…another time I came home with what I thought were freezer bags, but were actually separated plastic bags to make ice cubes…see? Boring). So let’s hit the highlights.
On our second day here, Michael went to work and I got the baby and went exploring and I found we were only a stone’s throw from the Tuileries Garden (if you can throw a stone about a mile). The Tuileries is the garden of the Louvre, the former Palace of many of the Kings of France and the gardens are massive. You can’t swing a cat in this town without hitting a Palace and so many of them have Gardens to match. When you have a child and it’s summertime, a Palace Garden is where you want to be.
During the summertime they block off the Northern edge of the Tuileries and turn it into an amusement park with games and rides and a big Ferris Wheel. I was so excited to be in Paris that I scooped the baby up and took him on the Ferris Wheel with me so we could get a good look at the whole city (I almost had a panic attack when we went around in slow motion for the third time, but the photos were worth it.)
As sad as it was to leave Provence, we were so excited to be heading back to Paree! Eeeeeeeeee! Our sweet and fabulous Michael rose at the crack of dawn and went back into Forcalquier to exchange our host’s gift before we headed to the train station. Michael overheard the night before how he was desperate for platters in the house, so back went the bowl and the apron in their place were 4 beautiful white ceramic platters hand made by small elves in the middle of the forest or something. Our host LOVED them. I mean he really loved them. I have to hand it to Michael he really scored there, and this is why I had to forgive him for delaying our departure time and getting lost and well…I won’t go into all the details, but we missed our train back to Paris. Our journey looked a little something like this:
NEVERMIND! We just bought two new train tickets and we were on our way once again.
They switched our apartment in Paris from the one we had the video of…so we were heading into the unknown. But the place is cute as pie, a little bigger than the other one, but still pretty tiny. I like to call it a pre-war apartment as in pre-every war that ever happened. It was built in the time when people were still very, very tiny, or when no one was allowed to be taller than Napolean. But as teeny as it is, it has a washer/dryer and a dishwasher, 2 things they simply cannot figure out how to get into pre-WWII apartments in New York. They can’t figure it out…they just can’t.
Meanwhile, we spent the day moving in and then we popped out to explore our neighborhood and realized we live off this adorable, pedestrian only street named Montorguiel. It’s full of fruit stands and brasseries, fromageries and boulangeries, chocolate shops and poisonneries, pharmacies and a StarBucks (sigh-they just can’t seem to leave well enough alone can they?).
But best of all…at the very end of this rainbow lies a fantastic French playground (in the shadow of a large Cathedral), full of darling little French children that I can actually converse with in French because my French is at the level of a 4 year old. This is my first French conversation with a 4 year old:
‘Je suis le capitaine de le bateau! Non filles!! Garcons!’ (I am the captain of this boat. No girls! Only boys!)
‘Mais oui? Je pense que vous etes un clown!’ (oh yes? I think you’re a clown!)
‘NON! Je suis le capitaine!!’ (NO! I am the captain!)
‘Vous etes le capitaine de les clowns!’ (You are the captain of the clowns!)
At which point the boy burst out laughing and ran off to meet Madeline and buy himself a new Hermes scarf.
After playing in cool, seventy something, partly cloudy weather (in august (!)) and then eating in a Brasserie, our little family was drunk with bubbly, French happiness.
And the next day was the Capitaine of our bateau’s first day of work. Yippppeee!
We woke up from our deep French sleep, had our continental breakfast and then decided to take a quick drive into Forcalquier, the closest town. We were secretly on the prowl for a good thank you gift for our host. We had no sense of his aesthetic before we arrived so we thought it best to wait and have a peek at his taste before we chose anything.
The photo above shows the view of Forcalquier as you drive toward it. It’s so charming. I love how the town spirals up a hill and is then topped with a church. It’s such a beautiful picture. We parked down at the bottom of the town and worked our way up on foot, but I will tell you this, we did not get far. My socks were charmed right off within the first 10 minutes of walking and I did that thing you do when you travel…that thing where you feel like the one restaurant or shop you pass first will be the ONLY one in the town you’re in and if you don’t stop and buy everything in it right away you will miss out for the rest of your life. And then, inevitably the whole town is filled with food, wine and clothing far better than what you spent all your money on first. I knew this going in, but I was SO excited and so enamored that I lost my head and wanted to capture as much of Forcalquier as I could. It boasted monuments that dated back to the fourth century. That means 300 as in year 300.
Well, we didn’t really have time to delve into all that—Michael found an amazing place to sit down to eat. We ordered a Provencal Platter for 2 and it was awesome. I can’t even remember what was on it…this crazy melted goat cheese over black olive tampenade, tomato & mozz, olives, boquerones (marinated white anchovies), anchovy dip, crudite, eggplant caviar. We had rose and a glass of pastis (which basically tastes like licorice).
Fortified, we moved on to shop! For the group we picked up 2 bottles of Rose and a bottle of pastis. For our host we picked up this beautiful rustic, white bowl, handmade in France and a linen apron for cooking. For family and friends we grabbed all kinds of herbs de provence and lavender scented items. Then Michael bought me a linen dress and a cowboy hat to keep the sun off. Aw!
When we arrived back at the house, one of the guests came to greet us in the very same linen apron we had just purchased. Ooooops.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
That’s how I felt when we pulled into the drive of Michael’s friend’s house in the south of France. Originally I was a little bit sad that we were going to be there for such a short amount of time. I wanted to stop in Aix en Provence, I wanted to buy lavender and do all the other things I was told we could do there. I really didn’t want to be stuck in a house full of people I didn’t know with no real means of escape.
What a fool I was. This beautiful home is outside of a tiny town called Forcalquier and it is a dream. In fact…I’m pretty sure I dreamed the entire 48 hours we were there. Let me take the time to describe it fully. It’s worth it. It’s the kind of magic I don’t get to experience often, which sounds so sad (!), but really that fact just set our time spent there in relief so I could fully appreciate and enjoy it more.
The House—what a house. There was nothing pretentious about it. It was not ‘done up’ like some Ian Schrager hotel in Dubai. It was simple, clean, airy, tasteful and above all elegant. It was the kind of house that comes alive with food, people and bustling activity. It had a rustic feel to it, but rustic like a country retreat. Everything was white, with wood beam accents and lots and lots of linen and lavender. The furniture was all mostly found at French road side sales, but not in even a slightly junky way, in a very romantic and sophisticated way. The house was situated and appointed in such a way that it could catch the breezes that rippled through the valley for you.
On the first floor starting from the left and moving to the right there was a small garage that housed a lot of modern water and electric situations, then there was a big studio that was used as a bedroom while we were there. Up a half a flight of stars was a second bedroom with a full bath and 2 twin beds that opened out into a good sized living room with a pull out sofa. This then went into the (3rd) bedroom where we stayed with a double bed and a standing shower. The room was breezy and cool and delicious. We had a soft white cotton blanket and freshly laundered white linen sheets. The sheets were so amazing I had to look at the label so I could be sure to buy one (one!) for my summer country house (in my mind). If you have your own summer country house (in your mind or otherwise) I recommend you click this link. John Lewis Dream Linen Flat Sheets. I will tell you this…I never slept off jet lag better than I did on those white linen sheets in that breeze with fresh lavender from the garden sitting in our window sill. Do I sound like a big goober going on and on? I don’t mean to, I just want to share my experience so it feels like you were there too.
When you exited this atelier you had to head down these little stairs outside to enter the other part of the house through the kitchen. OR you could go up this narrow hidden staircase inside…but more on that later. Once inside the main part of the house where the kitchen was, you also had the main living room. The kitchen had a big harvest table and chairs to sit and have coffee and continental breakfast. There was ALWAYS someone in the kitchen doing something. Always. So it always smelled fantastic. There was even a little antique chair just for the baby.
A brief pause for the food…oh my goodness…the food. There were cheese plates, fresh breads, lamb, and some sort of aubergine ratatouille. There were big, fat roasted orange slices with rosemary and brown sugar, served with homemade whipped cream. There was fresh grilled fish stuffed with lemon and herbs, fresh beans, roasted potatoes and homemade ice cream. It just felt like there was always something new to taste, not just to eat. So clearly we couldn’t leave until we found out where much of this culinary inspiration came from…luckily I was able to squeeze a few secrets out of the kitchen by distracting my prey with the baby. He has the ability to disarm all the knights in the realm!
Here is what my undercover operation unearthed…first, the River Cafe Cook Book Easy. Next, Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe. Lastly we have Angela Hartnett. Now here’s the thing…on Amazon A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes: Angela Hartnett is hard to come by, but on Amazon UK it is listed as new. A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes: Amazon.co.uk: Angela Hartnett. I placed links to both sites. Do what you need to do to get it…that’s all I have to say. Those orange slices baked in brown sugar were no joke. I also included a link to her Italian recipe book, Angela Hartnett’s Cucina: Three Generations of Italian Family Cooking that is sold on the US Amazon site.
Out of the kitchen and through the living room the house opened up to a patio that faced the Alps.
There was a big outdoor sitting area, with a sofa and chairs and a table and chairs under a makeshift chandelier for al fresco dining.
Back into the living room there was a small set of stairs that led into a fantastic, carved out of stone, half bath and a laundry room. There was also a full staircase that looked like it was suspended in space heading up to the bedrooms. These stairs opened up onto another living room where the big TV was for watching movies and to the back of this sitting area was the master (4th) bedroom and bath. Coming back through the sitting room you were led down a long hallway and off this lovely hallway were 3 more (so that’s 5, 6 and 7) bedrooms each with their own bathrooms. Each room had shuttered windows that you could fling open wrapped in your linen bathrobe, with your lavender bouquet in your hand, while you waved goodbye to departing guests or welcomed new ones…sigh…At the end of the hallway was the secret staircase that lead you back into the part of the house where we stayed and brought you full circle. I could just keep going round and round all day.
Outside the house, just off the back terrace where the al fresco dining happened, there was a hammock and a tree swing. We like.
Walking up just off the left of the terrace was a great daybed covered with flour sack pillows. The view from said daybed was again, of the Alps.
Heading up around the the side of the house was another al fresco dining table and chairs situated next to the kitchen windows. This gave the house to ability to have a ‘pass through’ kitchen window. It was here you would place the coffee or tea or nutella on the window sill for someone at the table to pick up.
Walk away from all this…(if you can) and follow a little gravel path to the east and you will see another daybed and two more hammocks and then you will find your way to the salt water swimming pool…c’est magnifique.
The flight—we’ll just say we had some issues. It’s too boring to explain, but in the end we got a free seat in between us for the baby which was totally and utterly fantastic. He did ok. A few crying jags, but mostly he slept.
Once we arrived in Paris we went straight to the hotel and right to a bistro for a croque monsieur, un cafe, l’eau sans gas et une crepe miel. Everything is closed. I mean everything. The French take this time of year very seriously and most of the city is closed down for le grand vacance. Pas de probleme as I have probably just saved beaucoup d’argent by not being allowed into the specialty children toy and clothing shops.
After we ate we went back to our beautiful little hotel, took a nice warm bath and then pretty much passed out. Jet lag with a baby will be very interesting. He’s been a champ so far, I must say. After our nap we went for a walk and then just hung out in our sweet little room until we all fell into deep, dark sleep again. Breakfast in the little hotel dining room in the morning before getting on a train at the Gare de Lyon to head to Aix en Provence. Eeeeeeeeee…!
New York is filled with tourists right now and I love it. I don’t love it when they walk four across at the slowest pace a human being is capable of on a narrow sidewalk so no matter how complex your offense strategy may be…you will NEVER get through…but that’s ok. This year I love them, because soon I will be a tourist in someone else’s town. I will don my fanny pack, my favorite sneaks and my camera around my neck soon too.
At least that’s what I was going to wear until our little French survival kit arrived in the mail this week from NaNa Kit.
In it was what I have decided will be my Parisian Uniform: a stretchy, strapless, black jumpsuit that comes down just mid-calf; a pair of gold hoop earrings; a pair of kitten heel cage shoes; camera ready glow bronzer AND a package of adhesive mustaches. Fantastique! We will probably have to put the baby’s on while he is sleeping.
In health news, I went to yet another doctor because this was week four of my horrifying cough. I was coughing so violently that I literally strained my intercostal muscles that hold your ribs in place. The doctor gave me some cough syrup with codeine just to take at night so I could sleep (!) and told me to stay away from caffeine, alcohol and dairy…’but I’m leaving for Paris Sunday. I don’t think they have any other food groups there.’
As we pack up our 2nd temporary UWS apartment, we would feel sad, but we’re heading to Paris so we feel ok about it. Looks like we found yet a third temporary UWS place for the month of September. Then we will hunt for a permanent home for October 1st.