it occurred to me the other day (as i was reading through some of my old travel posts) that it could appear as though these trips are idyllic adventures that go off without a hitch. and while they ARE incredible experiences that i am SO grateful to share w wen and the girls, they are not always easy. sitting at brunch with some friends after we left paris, i fondly referred to our trip as “A Meltdown in Paris.” while it certainly was amazing and magical and all of those things, it was also exhausting. and draining. and full of meltdowns (mostly of the 36-year-old variety. truly. wen has the scars to prove it).
i was recapping paris to our new friends, the blossoms (more to come on this in the london recap!) and at one point was commiserating with sam (the blossom husband) about how hard it is to push a stroller through the tuileries gardens. it’s not paved, but instead has this dusty, gravely ground that makes pushing a 5-year-old in a stroller (who yes, should be walking) nearly impossible. at which point amber (the blossom wife) laughed and endearingly teased us about how hard life is … imagine! having to push a stroller through the dusty tuilieries gardens in PARIS?! goodness! i totally giggled and realized that i was in the midst of what my friend tauna calls “fancy problems.” good lord, GET A GRIP, MRS MAXEY! it was a much-needed and welcome humbling moment, and a good reminder of how fortunate we are to have these experiences and opportunities.
that said … paris was amazing. and hard. but mostly amazing. a few highlights … !
we tried something new this trip and stayed in a furnished rental apartment, which i found through one of my favorite travel websites, i-escape.com. the plus side of renting an apartment is that typically, they are cheaper and bigger than a regular hotel room. the downside? as the apartments are independently owned, it’s a bit hit-or-miss in terms of the quality. i would say we were pretty lucky … the apartment we rented was in le marais, which is one of my favorite areas in paris. picture quintessential parisian bistros, amazing little shops, drool-inducing bakeries on every corner. i could (and did) wander for hours through the winding streets of le marais. so location was fantastique! perfection! that said, the apartment itself was a bit … crusty. mostly clean and fine, but a little rough around the edges. i have to say that my crusty-tolerance has improved since we moved to europe. the reality of living in a place where buildings are generally hundreds of years old is that you have to get somewhat comfortable with a certain level of peeling paint and chipping tile. as such, i was mostly fine w the little flaws of our apartment (and again – fancy problems, truly). and it was oh so much fun to have our own little third-floor walk up in paris, and pretend we were a cute little french family living in le marais for a few days!
LA PLACE DES VOSGES:
there’s a little area in le marais called “la place des vosges,” which is essentially one square block of beautiful, arched buildings surrounded a lovely little park. through those arches are little shops, galleries, restaurants. when i was in paris last august with my friend tauna, we stopped here once for our daily 3pm glass of champagne. i sadly didn’t maintain that tradition on this trip (i traded champagne for WAY too many macaroons!), but did manage to come back one afternoon to wander for a couple of hours. it was almost surreal being there – at one point a woman was standing under one of the arches singing the most beautiful opera, and a few feet away a man was hunched over in the midst of painting a gorgeous rendition of the area. i paused and had one of those good lord, i’m really here moments. c’est incroyable.
oh, how i love paris parks. besides just being beautiful and surprising and so fun for the girls, they are truly a lifesaver. a little context …
a large part of what made this trip so difficult was that it’s the biggest city we’ve tackled on our european adventures. to date, we’ve mostly visited smaller cities like amsterdam, salzburg, etc, which you can easily walk end-to-end with little effort. paris, of course, is much more spread out, with “can’t miss” things in each far corner. i was a bit overly ambitious with wanting to walk everywhere – i love taking in all of the amazing architecture and fashion and sites as we wander, and didn’t want to miss a single inch of the city by taking the metro. but the combination of our 2 yummy (but heavy) girls in their strollers, the long distance between sites, PLUS the 80+ degree weather resulted in a sweaty beast of a mommy. seriously, it wasn’t pretty. (you’ll note there are NO pictures of me included from this trip. vain, yes, but necessary. i’ve deleted most, and have only kept 1 or 2 that are limited to immediate family viewing. am only keeping those so that one day i can prove to the girls that i really was there … !).
anyway … the point in sharing this is that the parks of paris were our saving grace. oh, the parks!
there is of course the well-known jardin des tuileries (tucked perfectly and beautifully between the louvre and the famous shopping street, le champs elysees). and the equally beautiful and perfectly landscaped jardin du luxembourg (formerly the private grounds of luxemboug palace). both are just oh-so-perfect and a bit awe-inspiring. the girls LOVED running around and i loved taking a million pictures of the immaculate landscaping (i was obsessed w all of the perfect green lawn chairs – wanted to steal a few!).
but equally appealing and life-saving were the little neighborhood parks hidden behind swirly iron gates and patisseries. a few times we stumbled upon one of these little gems at the perfect time – wen & i desperately needing a little rest and the girls needing a chance to run off some of their gelato and croissants. perfection.
** at the parks i was especially obsessed w the french moms – how are they always so beautifully and perfectly pulled together? even at the park, they are in their lovely little ballet flats and skinny jeans with sassy scarves and hair in immaculate little ponytails – which unfortunately further highlighted my sweaty-beast-ness. oh well.
we hit most of the main ones – eiffel tower, notre dame, etc. one of the best, most amazing and tear-inducing moments was watching piper’s face as she saw the eiffel tower for the first time. we’ve talked about it for so long that seeing it in real life was just the best. i’ll never forget that priceless and amazed look on her face.
oooh, the food. macaroons and more macaroons. there was some pain au chocolat, croissants and more gelato than i care to remember involved as well, but really it was just a macaroon-induced-heaven.
as always, my absolute favorite part of the trip was simply wandering and getting lost in paris. we made our way down saint-honore (amazing shopping street) and meandered through saint-germain (my other favorite neighborhood). we spent our first afternoon wandering through ile de la cite and ile saint louis (supposedly johnny depp lives on ile saint louis, so of course i kept an eye out. no luck). another “first” for me was renting a bicycle for an afternoon. afterwards, i posted the following on facebook: if you haven’t ridden a bicycle in 10 years, may i suggest that you not choose paris as the city where you decide to get back in the saddle? perhaps not my smartest move (the traffic! the crazy winding one-way streets! the PEOPLE!). but aside from the near collisions, it was AMAZING and such a fun way to see the city. i made my way from right bank to left and back again, and had the silliest smile on my face the whole way (at least whenever i wasn’t cringing or praying for my safety).
in spite of its challenges, our paris trip was beautiful and magical and all of the things that paris should be. i of course wish there had been more time for museum visits or nice dinners or evening strolls to see paris lit up at night (we were exhausted and in bed every night before the sun had even officially set). but i was in PARIS. with my girls and with wen and with a beautifully packaged box (or two, or three) of macaroons. c’est fantastique, n’est-ce pas?
we bid au revoir to paris …
and set off to our next adventure …