Sunday, March 24, 2013

Latin Quarter

We did not have a set plan as we set out Friday morning to the Latin Quarter.  The weather was nice so we enjoyed walking and seeing wherever our feet led us.  We walked by Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company's Bookstore, and many beautiful gardens.  

Standing in a garden that will soon be filled with roses with Notre Dame behind us. 
Amelie and Liam running around on a playground while Bobby and I enjoyed drinking a coffee.
Amelie in timeout.  Yes, she still has to do timeouts even if they are in unconventional places.
Famous Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
We grabbed Kebas to eat for lunch.  We ate our lunch in front of St. Michael's Fountain.  Amelie enjoyed watching a man painted in all gold being a statue, and the crowd of people he attracted.

We walked to into a couple of churches and through the university.

Amelie enjoying a Go-Go Squeeze outside of one of the University buildings.
We ended our day walking through Luxembourg Gardens.  The garden was full of people enjoying the beautiful weather.  One of my favorite things in the park was the Medici Fountain, built in 1630.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  It really was breathtaking.  As we were enjoying the fountain, an Asian tour group noticed Liam and began taking turns having their picture taken with him.  It was hilarious!  We spent a long time weaving our way through the park.  There is an amazing playground that you have to pay to enter and we were running out of daylight so we didn't go in, but we plan on going back!

Medici Fountain

Watching the ducks.  Amelie reported that this was her favorite part of the day in Luxembourg Gardens.
We ended our day accidentally walking by Saint Sulpice.  You can imagine our surprise to turn the corner and find this. The kids had fallen asleep in the stroller so Bobby and I got to have a second to sit and talk and enjoy the view.  
Both kids asleep. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Père Lachaise Cemetery

We had a slow start to our morning on Thursday so that we could have rest time at the house and not in the stroller.  This was a good decision so that we could be well rested for visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery.  We sandwiched the cemetery visit between two different playground stops to make the outing more kid friendly.

Liam taking a break from keeping up with Amelie.

Amelie loved the maze aspect of the cemetery.  She and Bobby would set off in between the tombs and weave in and out looking at the different architecture of the tombstones.  Bobby definitely enjoyed the cemetery more than I did as he is the history buff.  It was amazing to see the dates on some of the graves as they were from before our country was even founded.  

The playground that we ended our day at was packed.  There were a lot of nannies at this playground which means we were in an affluent area.  I love that there are areas specifically for younger children and other areas for older children.  Younger children can happily play without being shoved out of the way or knocked down by an older child.  Older children can run and climb happily without being slowed down by a smaller child.  It makes sense.  We had a picnic dinner on the park bench before heading home.  Bobby found us bread, cheese, chicken (poulet), caprese salad, and dessert (beignet framboise).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

American Library

We successfully made it to story time at the library on Wednesday.  We had to go to the 2:30 time instead of the 10:30 time to make this happen! ;)  Story hour was crowded, but it's always enjoyable.  Amelie's highlight has been making the crafts.  On this day, she made a basket with flowers on the side in honor of spring.  We picked out more books and DVDs.  Since the library is right under the Eiffel Tower, we walked over to a playground.  Why is the Eiffel Tower so beautiful?  I love seeing it and finding it as we walk around the city.  My favorite game:  I spy the Eiffel Tower.  After the kids were able to play for awhile, since the weather was nice and the sun was shining we walked along the Seine to a different Metro stop.  
Love seeing the blooms around town!  Spring is here!!

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

After a weekend spent around our neighborhood, we planned a full day of exploring for Monday.  Starting the day off with visiting the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur was almost disastrous.  Not really, but before we left we checked the rain forecast.  There was a 40% chance of rain prescribed for the entire day, but we decided that since it was sunny out it was probably not very accurate.  It seems that most days there is a chance of rain so 40% did not seem too dismal.  Walking to the Metro in Montreuil was pleasant and sunny.  Exiting the Metro in Sacre Coeur was rainy and cloudy.  Our new stroller has a rain protective cover that can be attached, but being the prepared parent that I am we did not have it with us.  We made it through the crowded streets, up the big cobblestone street hill.  Once to the top, I realized that Liam only had one of his gloves on his hand.  In the process of walking through the crowd, rain, and bumpy road; we had lost a glove.  Since his coat is so fluffy and big, I just tried to shove his hand inside the arm of his jacket.  To not hold you in suspense too long, on the way back to the Metro I found his glove on the side of the sidewalk untouched! Yay!
Liam in front of the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. 
Near the Basilica is an artist market.  Even in the rain, artists were out painting portraits of tourists and showcasing beautiful paintings of scenes around Paris.  We are planning on going back on a prettier day so we can stroll the area more thoroughly.  The Basilica is beautiful on the inside.  You cannot take any pictures so I'm sorry that I can't share the inside with you.  It was nice walking around and getting warm.

The view of Paris cannot be beat from this viewpoint high above the city.

Afterwards, we headed for the Auchan which is like Walmart.  We purchased a couple of fun things that were small enough to carry home with us like kid scissors, construction paper, play dough, etc. :)  On our way home we stopped by a park that is just north of our house,  Parc Jean Moulin.  We have not explored the area north of us yet, but we were excited to find a huge park only about 10 minutes from our house.  The park is about 635 acres.  It had two different amazing playground areas.  We walked past lots of soccer fields and open green spaces.  The trails were very nice and gave beautiful views of the city as some of the trails were high on a hill.

It was dusk and we decided to head for home because the area of town was a little on the rougher side.  I had a strange feeling about the park because there were no kids anywhere.  This was such an awesome playground to be totally empty.  Anyways, we walked down a very large steep hill.  So steep, in fact, that it had to zig zag around to reach the bottom.  Once we reached the very bottom, we realized that the gate had a padlock on the exit.  I was a little distraught that the sun was going down and we were stuck.  We had to walk back up this really steep hill to get to another exit.  So instead of traveling on the paved path, we decided to take the muddy trail because it was a more direct route.  Outside of the fence were run down buildings with lots of graffiti and teenagers roaming around.  My anxiety was mounting.  Once at the top of the hill, we continued to walk the perimeter of the park hoping the next exit would not be locked.  The entire park was enclosed by a 12 foot tall black iron gate.  We were stuck and it was not a fun feeling.  The next exit and the exit after that were all locked.  We realized there was no way out except to jump the fence.  We found an area of the fence that half was rocks and the other half was a smaller iron gate.  We used our rock climbing skills to climb up and over.  I went first and then Bobby handed me the kids and the strollers and then followed.  Once home we were able to laugh about the situation, but in the moment I was scared out of my mind!  Good times........

Friday, March 15, 2013

Museum Carnavalet

Life stays busy no matter where you live.  We usually wake up in the morning, and make our plans for the day.  Although I would like to plan ahead a little, Thursday was no different.  We made plans to ride the metro to the Bastille stop, and then walk to 2 nearby museums (Museum Carnavalet and Maison de Victor Hugo).  In addition to a little planning, our morning routine also includes getting everyone ready and out the door. This means grabbing "go-go-squeezes" and pears; bundling up in our scarves, hats, and gloves; and hitting the streets.  We have one decent stroller (a Maclaren Bobby found on Craigslist here) and then a really old cheap umbrella stroller.  It is so worn out that the frame has bent and actually makes an A.  So, the child cannot sit back in the stroller as their shoulders are being pinched together.  It is sad.  The good news is this was the last day it has to be used.  Bobby has found another fancy stroller (for cheap on Craigslist) that we will begin using tomorrow.  It has a feature that allows a second older child to stand on the back, if needed.  It's REALLY nice!  I can't wait to use it!  I now understand why people pay thousands of dollars on nice strollers.  These are our vehicles and they are getting A LOT of wear.

Okay, back to our day. We got off the Metro at the Bastille, and walk around the plaza taking pictures.  The kids loved running around, as they always do.  We then started walking to the Maison de Victor Hugo.  Somehow, we got turned around. We were not too far away from our goal, but we did end up by Museum Carnavalet instead.  At this point, it was lunch time and we had to search frantically for somewhere to eat as the natives were beyond restless.  We couldn't find anything but expensive places.  As we were walking we realized there were a ton of clothing shops.  It finally hit us that we were walking through the Marais District.  It was fancy and beautiful. We are definitely going to come back to this area and explore more.  It was fun happening on this iconic part of the city.
Cars did not travel through very often but I didn't get many pictures of the area...another reason to go back!
We got hustled into a falafel restaurant only to realize once we sat down and disassembled all of our winter gear that it was way more expensive than what was advertised on the sign.  We hastily exited to find a patisserie nearby. The tables were VERY close together. We were eating in a small room with around 20ish people.  Our two servers were older women who immediately adored Liam.  Being the ham that he is turning into be, he politely said "bonjour" over and over again.  In walking past our table, they would occasionally stop to feed him a bite of his food or ruffle his hair.  A couple that was sitting next to us was also talking and having fun with him.  I'm beginning to think he knows what they are saying and we have no clue.  We just smile and nod.  Right now he can say as many words in French as he can in English, does that make him bilingual? Haha!  The waitresses also talked to us in broken English about how Liam likes to eat and is a big boy.  It was a fun experience.  As we were leaving, Liam said "au revoir."  He didn't just say it to the waitresses.  As I was holding him walking through the room he was holding up his had saying "au revoir" to every single guest...and loudly.  Thankfully, everyone loved this and was saying "au revoir" back to him and laughing.  Since it takes us a couple minutes to get all wintered up again, the waitresses kept making their way by us continuing to talk and play with Liam.  Once we were outside, one even opened the door to say "au revoir" one last time.  This was such a funny experience!
This is where we ate our lunch.
The Museum Carnavalet was a short walk from where we ate lunch.  For a free museum, we were pleasantly surprised by the large number significant artifacts.  This museum showcases the history of France.  The museum itself is two neighboring mansions so the inside was stunning.  Amelie liked to look at the paintings and talk about who lived here.  I couldn't read the information so I just agreed with her. ;)  Bobby had the most fun in the French Revolution area since he teaches this topic in his World History Course.  By the end of the museum experience, we were ready for home.  With a stop by a patisserie for some sweets, we all made it home in good spirits.

Replica of the Bastille.
Bobby was very excited about seeing this...The Declaration of Rights of Man.
Amelie sitting waiting for us in one of the rooms.
She is playing a game of don't step on the crack that she came up with on her own.
Liam is asleep in Bobby's arms on the right side of the picture.

Snow In Paris

By Tuesday, the snow had rolled into Paris.  I am still very protective of Liam so being super cold walking around all day makes me nervous he will get sick.  I have also been battling a cold since we arrived a month ago (wow! a MONTH ago!).  Bobby and Amelie are not as easily hindered. They decided set off inspire of the snowy cold weather to the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie (Science Museum with the fun hands-on kid play area).  The metro entrance is right by the museum so they did not have to be out in the cold for very long.  However, instead of going straight to the museum, they detoured to get a fun picture in front of the Eiffel Tower while it was snowing.  Once finally at the museum, they got to explore areas that we didn't get to see as a family when we were there the previous week in addition to allowing Amelie to burn some energy in the kids area (which was a lot less crowded on this day...go figure!).  They went into the Planetarium and the da Vinci exhibit.  They had an entire day of fun daddy/daughter time.  Liam and I stayed home. I was able to do schoolwork and work around the house...don't worry...I like being able to check things off my todo list!
This looks like a lot of fun, right?!
On Wednesday, the snow was still around, but we all needed to get out of the house.  We went to story time at the American Library.  We often run late to events, but we were actually out of the house on time.  What we did not factor in was that the sidewalks (and streets but we don't travel on those any more) were covered in ice and snow.  Pushing a stroller (both of us have one mind you) through the snow is very difficult work.  I must have had cabin fever as I could not hold it together.  I laughed almost the entire 1.5 hour walk to the library. At the last minute, we decided to change our route because we thought it would save time.  However, the metro line that we rode had a bazillion stops and was fairly crowded.  The benefit was that it let us out near the Eiffel Tower at the Trocadero Garderns.  The American library is a block away from the Eiffel Tower on a little side street.  I love that every week we will definitely be seeing and walking under the Tower.  I also love walking in the neighborhood and seeing the Tower peeking around the buildings as we walk.  The drawback for today's walk was that the marble tiles and steps through Trocadero gardens were covered with snow/ice sludge.  I wore black boots that have absolutely no traction.  There was actually a point on an inclined plane that I could not walk up...Bobby had to come pull the front of the stroller so that I could skate up behind it.  Luckily, this is a highly touristy area so we fit right in as silly Americans!  Liam had not been out in the snow the previous day like Amelie so he wanted out of the stroller in the worst way.  We finally gave in and allowed them both to play for a while.  The sun was shining and although it was cold it was not bone chilling cold.  Isn't the sun an amazing thing?!  Amelie and Liam squealed and played while I snapped as many photos as I could.  Amelie and Bobby threw snowballs at each other as this was one of Amelie's greatest desires for the make a snowball.  

Making snowballs from the snow on the bench and lobbing them at each other.
He likes posing for pictures...for a second.
See how beautiful the sky is?  The sun is out and it makes all the difference!

We did make it to the library for the last 5 minutes of story time.  At this point, they were working on the craft activity. The craft was making a leprechaun hat.  We stuck around for an hour or so longer, after everyone left, and read books and played games. Another family with children close to Amelie and Liam's age came in, and we had a fun conversation with them.  (Any conversation that is more than a sentence with another adult other than each other is fun for us at this point! Haha!)  We are glad that we have become members of the library.
Amelie picking out the books for the coming week. 
Liam contentedly reading in a chair.  They also have a little nook under the stairs with a little chair and stuffed animals in it.  He likes to go in the cubby and read there too.
It's a blurry picture, but they would not stand still and it was too cute not to share.

Saint Mande Market

On Sunday, we went to the local street market a couple of blocks from our house.   We tried to do as much of our “grocery shopping” for the next couple of days here.  I successful communicated and then purchased 1 kilo of pears and 1 kilo of apples.  Keep in mind that the vendors arrive early and set up under a temporary canopy that lines the sidewalk for blocks.  This creates a very narrow walking space in a bustling city.  People know what they want and they like to be efficient…get it and go!  So, to say that I didn’t cause a back up in the procession was a relieving feeling.  Bobby did the rest of the purchasing.  He bought different meats (probably a technical term…sausages…?), different cheeses, vegetables, and our lunch.  There were TONS of choices and, excluding the vegetables, we had little knowledge of what we were getting.  In the couple of hours that we were out, it also got really cold.  We had plans of going to the castle nearby, but headed for home for warmth instead.   That evening, we had a delicious cheese, meat, and bread plate.  :)
We didn't buy any seafood, but Liam loved seeing the "FISH!"
We are going to the market again this weekend for more.  Everything was so delicious.   In addition to trying out the local market, we also shopped for the first time this week at a Picard.  The Picard is a small grocery store that only sells frozen items.  One of the moms at the library recommended we try it because she loves it.  The prices were very reasonable and there were some already prepared meals that we are trying.  The things that we have tried so far have been delicious.  So, we have gotten super fresh stuff and frozen stuff...we like extremes! ;)