A Travellerspoint blog

Unleashed

all seasons in one day 68 °F

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I made the rookie mistake of telling the kids we could rent bikes to ride around the gardens in the "back yard" of the Versailles palace. Not to say we didn't spend a lot of time in the palace, but thank goodness we had the audioguides, which were included in the admission ticket.  

I woke the kids up at 6:30 this morning. We were out the door by 7am and on the Metro platform by 7:05. There were two or three others down there. Do the French take Friday off? I think instead they just sleep in! The train wasn't empty but there were not many people on it. Fine by me. We transferred to a suburban train and went to the palace of Versailles, created and made popular by King Louis XIV. 

We were there very early and waited in the sun for the palace to open. Seems like every account I'd read about visiting Versailles referenced hoarded of people, rooms jammed with crowds. I felt obligated to take the kids, it being such an iconic place, and was determined not to be intimidated by lots of other tourists. And, I was curious if my 30 year memory of the palace was accurate. Some flashbacks today, but mostly the pleasure of being there with the kids. We got lucky, no crowds.
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Magnificent this, gold leaf that, hundreds of rooms, a big old' party area called the Hall of Mirrors. Thanks to the audioguides, we lingered a bit, took some photos, did our best to eavesdrop on professionally led tours, and spent a solid couple of hours in the palace. We saw the strong morning sun coming into the Sun King's bedroom, just as Louis XIV planned it. 

That was all very good, but outside called us.
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Unleashed on the back 40 (well, 200), we hightailed it to the bikes. It was the first time they'd never ridden without helmets, they said. We rode around the entire "grand canal," down a few side roads, and around some smaller buildings. The sun was still shining. We even found one field with sheep (!), one with a farmer plowing (!), and a few with just grass. We saw a crane. After two weeks in a very, it seems, polluted city, it was nice to be in the country, even if it was only 35 minutes outside of downtown Paris. 

We rode on the cobblestone roads a bit, mostly because it made our voice echo when we held our mouths open. We stayed on the gravel and dirt wide paths a lot, with just a bit on the skinny side roads. The ride was flat for the most part, with no one else around except for an occasional runner. In my mind, the Tour de France! Ahead of me, two pedal happy kids. They put the bike rental of the things they want to do with Don when he is here with us. (So far, Don, that's 1) the Eiffel Tower to the top, 2) Versailles bike rental, and 3) re-eating every crepe they've already had).

By the time we returned the bikes and spent a few minutes in the gift shop, it was raining. We opened our umbrellas and got some pizza in the town of Versailles before heading home. Journal writing for all, reading log and math facts for the kiddies. We did a lot of school hours yesterday, knowing most of today would be a field trip. 

Late afternoon yesterday, we went to our playground, and then to one in Vosges square, took a nice walk and had falafel for dinner. I also got myself a souvenir: an Opinel pocket knife. It's orange, not too big and not too small, and has a little string handle. I will keep it in my purse for picnics. Love it, and very French! 

More than 24,000 on the pedometer today, but I think it was registering on the bike ride as well. Regardless, our bums are sore from the spiny seats and our sights are set for more excursions out of the city!
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Posted by Lindacdc 13:34 Archived in France Comments (2)

Yikes

sunny 63 °F

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I knew I was taking a risk. I did it for the kids, their pure excitement and anticipation were too much to deny. My advance purchase of the tickets was one way for me to guarantee that I'd actually do it. Our tickets to ascend the Eiffel Tower were for 10:30 this morning. I was at least hoping for some respite in a big, long line. But, there was no line today. Zero. After a quick couple of pictures, we were corralled into the elevator by other 10:30ers. 

Up we went. A bit sideways at the start, funicular style. Then, UP. We got off the first stop, mid-way up. That is, everyone got off so I had to too. I am terrified of heights. I have tried my entire life to push myself past this fear but have thus far been unsuccessful. I go up the mountains. I tried skiing. I want to see the amazing views. But, i freeze and I shake and I cry. Indeed, I've cried at amazing sites all over the US. I'll always remember how my dad let me sit, alone, in the lobby of the World Trade Center in New York City while he took my two sisters to the top. That was the day after he made me go to the top of the Empire State Building and the same trip where I found myself looking out the crown of the statue of liberty, two of dozens and dozens of attempts to rid me of my fear. I recall being on the Empire State Building observation deck, crying, pleading to go inside, to go back down. Guess he didn't want a repeat performance at the World Trade Center.  

Today, I took enough steps to get out of the way and so no one would push me over the edge. Then I hugged every piece of that tower that I could. The kids, not surprised by my reaction, offered to go straight back down. But, I knew they wanted to look around. I played as as happy as I could. Meanwhile, they went to the edge (!) and took pictures, used the telescope and asked a lot of questions about the tower and my general well-being. I think I looked up once or twice but mostly kept my eyes on my own feet. It took about a half second for the kids to approve my plan: leave the f$@&!?($&n tower as quickly as possible and their dad would take them all the way to the top in November if they really wanted to go up higher. Sorry, Don, it's all on you now. On the way down, we stopped on the first floor for about two minutes but that wasn't in my comfort zone, either.
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After about three hours in the gift shop, we walked north across the bridge to a nice neighborhood, had lunch and took a peak at the Arc de Triomphe. 

Today at school we focused on math and reading but it was a short school day for us. Tomorrow, lots on the schooling list. Coco is reading Little House on the Prairie, which I just think is so sweet! 

Metro rides today but lots of neighborhood walking in between. More than 10,000 on the pedometer today. I'll take it. Started to teach the kids how to play poker. Seven card std.  Five card draw. Seemed like the simplest games to start with. I also taught them how to play 52 card pick up, which was hilarious. They were so surprised to see me throw all the cards up in the air! I told them I them their Grandpa Louis taught me that game, they told me that would not surprise them at all! 

Posted by Lindacdc 11:56 Archived in France Comments (5)

Field Trip

overcast 67 °F

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We pulled a double yesterday. We did double home schooling so that we could go on a field trip today. I was the chaperone! I asked Henry for his signed permission slip this morning and he got vey concerned until I told him was only kidding. Phew! 

We went to the Musee d'Orsay. I'd gone there the last time I was in Paris in the early 90s with my good friend Serie, not long after it opened in 1986. The museum just (last year?) completed a renovation and is seemingly brand spanking new again. A former train station, it's huge. I thought the museum was focused on Impressionism, but it also has a TON of art deco / art nouveau material. We all really enjoyed meandering through the art nouveau furniture and arts and crafts items. Like many others, impressionism was my first art love.  I was again totally enthralled today.

I had the kids each pick out an item, write down the particulars and expect to work on a report for next week. Coco picked out an art nouveau vase and Henry picked out a big polar bear sculpture. Not Van Gogh's starry night, not Monet's lillie's, not Renoirs couples or or Degas's dancers. No bruised egos there, I guess! We've since learned, thank you Google, that Coco's chosen artist lived not too far from our apartment and Henry's was an assistant to Auguste Rodin, who the kids know because Don has "The Thinke"r bookends. 
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We had a great view of Sacre Coeur from the museum, helped us all put the city into perspective. We walked to an adjacent neighborhood for lunch. On the way back to the museum we heeded my friend Jennifer's advice and went to a fascinating store, Deyrolles. Taxidermy central for the Left Bank jet set. A 26,000 euro giraffe. Thousands of butterflies. Hundreds of animals, beautifully preserved and for sale. Need a 5 foot zebra? A big old polar bear? We went out on a limb and got a poster.  

Then, back to the museum for an hour before we headed home. Even though we took the metro to and from the museum, I still logged more than 13,500 steps on my pedometer. 

Evening reading, fashion show featuring our collective scarves, some Skyping, a talk with Don and a nice dinner at home. Solid day. 
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Posted by Lindacdc 12:31 Archived in France Comments (1)

City Hall, and Our Apartment

sunny 78 °F

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Today we took advantage of the annual "heritage days" weekend, thanks to a tip from Guillaume. Lots of things are open that are not usually open.. The kids and I walked down to the Hotel de Ville, the city hall, most of which dates back to the mid/late 1500s. 
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There was a short line to get in. I've learned that if you are in line here, you've got to keep it tight between yourself and those in front of you. If you do not, any one from behind you is likely to jump you in the most nonchalant of ways. 

The city hall was gorgeous and regal, all golden and painted and chandelierred. We saw the massive reception room where they still hold parties and met the staff that keep up with the building's floors, lighting fixtures, door and lock hardware, clocks, and flower arranging. We went into the city council's chamber, basically a small version of the House or Senate gallery. The highlight, and thus the end of the tour, was getting to walk through the mayor's office (this and a couple other rooms we went into are not normally open to the public). The mayor's office was expansive, a perfect blend of very old and ultra modern. 

Henry asked if we would be able to meet her.  I don't know if the mayor is a man or a woman but I'm glad he thought the mayor might be a woman. 
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Afterwards, we went to our playground for a long time (gorgeous weather today) and ate falafels there. We then made our way home, with a stop at the small grocery across the street. Henry needs a haircut and i'll start scoping out moms of similar fuzzy headed boys to ask where they get their hair cut.  That should be an adventure! 

I'm posting some photos of our apartment. No chandeliers or gilded fancy stuff. But, it is very nice, just like the little scenes you walk into in an Ikea store. My guess is that 98% of everything in here is from Ikea, from the floors to the silverware, all the furniture, towels, etc. Part of the reason I like it is that I know, if we break something, we can probably afford to replace it. 062.jpg

We ended the day playing a new, for us, card game: stealing bundles. A game of quick rounds, lots of winning and lots of maybe-I'll-win-next-time hopes. 

Posted by Lindacdc 12:54 Archived in France Comments (1)

It's Only Saturday Once a Week

sunny 70 °F

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I would like to thank French people for loving rhubarb as much as I do. Yogurt. Jam. Of course, lots of new flavors. Coconut yogurt. Almond yogurt (I may not be able to get myself to try that). Faced with an extremely important decision, we chose the six-pack of rose scented toilet paper. We have not regretted this, as it brings orange toilet paper to our mostly white bathroom and if you inhale it like a street huffer, it really does smell like roses. 

While I am at it, I will also apologize to Coco for ruining one of the two short sleeve shirts I allowed her to pack. Yesterday, it was a white shirt with a funky design on the front. One of those really light weight, super soft, long torso t-shirts and, obviously, one of her favorites. Well, today it is splotchy blue because of my total laundry failure. Henry's khakis are also slightly blue, as are his white socks.. We'll see if he notices. But the t-shirt's transformation is undeniable. Oops. We will be the Garanimal family, obviously belonging together. 

Today we walked, and we walked. I finally woke up at a semi-regular hour. Then at 8:30 I went to wake Coco up (enough is enough!) and then proceeded just to crawl into bed with her and we both slept until 10:30. She was pretty pleased about that, and after a very brief consideration, so was I. 

We left the apartment around 12:30 with two very loose goals: to visit a street market and to visit Luxembourg Gardens, both on the south side of the river.  It may be my inability to distinguish my rights from my lefts (never rely on my directions) but I have a hard time remembering which is the right bank and which is the left. Our apartment is north of the river Seine, which is the right bank. We went to Rue Mouffetard and Luxembourg gardens, with a few diversions in the Latin Quarter (lunch, toy store that took 1/2 an hour to peruse, use of a public bathroom. (space capsules that entirely close and self-spray themselves down between "visitors"), postcard shopping, a very park (use aborted in search of said bathroom)), etc. 
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The gardens were, and I cannot recall ever using this word, resplendent. Today's weather was gorgeous, full sun and at least 70 degrees. The kids rode the carousel, which was clearly meant for younger kids but they really wanted to go on. Our kids have no issue being the oldest kids doing whatever the activity is. In fact, I think Coco prefers it that way a lot. So they rode the tiny wooden horses, got to try and stab metal rings with their wooden sticks and called it a great success. We also found a massive playground and had to pay to use it. Hard to say if that's to keep the  riffraff out or that's how a lot of huge parks like that work here. Regardless, the park had a great zip line and other cool equipment. It was packed but that didn't matter a bit, the more kids the better it seems. We began our walk home after 6 and, after seemingly endless stops (more postcards, picture taking, watching chess players, some macaroons (!), groceries for the apartment, and a bunch of flowers I'd promised Coco) we were home by 8 (or so).
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We each forgot our pedometers but we google mapped our day's adventure. We think we walked about 4.7 miles.  That does not include the hour plus of playground running. Tres bien, mes enfants!

A quick dinner. OK, I will admit that it was eggs again. In my defense, it was the quickest thing I could come up with that involved protein. With baguette aux raisins from our favorite bakery. Delicious.  

Skyped with Don after dinner.  Odd to see him in the house so far away. We all miss him and kiss his (and Addison's) photo on our fridge regularly. But, I try not to talk about how much I miss him with the kids. I'm worried they'll obsess over us all not being together. Each have cried over him already, for sure.  My tears were at the airport, when Don dropped us off. That was every hard. Henry has also cried over missing Ben and Hugh, his two closest friends from home. I am not exaggerating when I say that the Respress and Delens families should be expecting a lot of postcards. Clear your mailboxes, here they come! 
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Unclear what we will do tomorrow, or that we'll do anything at all. Shaping up to be another great day. 

Posted by Lindacdc 14:38 Archived in France Comments (0)

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