Paris with Mom

April 15, 2016 by NJPainter

Mom and I went to Paris last week!
(Here’s a playlist while you read this post)

She has wanted to go for forever and on her last trip to see B & I in NYC, her flight was overbooked and the airline was offering vouchers to anyone who’d take the next flight. She took it and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the trip she’d always wanted to do, together.

I’ve been to Paris a few times before but I had forgotten how good the food is. Really. You think; ‘I can’t wait to stuff my face with croissants and creme brûlée!’ But I had truly forgotten how beautiful and perfect croissants look all stacked up at the boulangerie and the sheer variety of meats, cheeses and sweets that could be stuffed into them. I had totally forgotten that every restaurant has creme brûlée, even when it’s not on the menu, and that is it the perfect temperature (more often than not it’s too cold in the center here) and that it is served in a dish the size of your head. I had totally forgotten about the delicate essence of fleur de sel, the satisfaction a crispy on the outside/soft on the inside baguette can supply you with and that even the smell of smoked sausage there (a combination of butter, truffles and pepper) is better than anything we have here.  And oh my god the cheese.

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Traveling with someone is hard; the hours are weird, your interests and energy levels vary and everyone is at least slightly out of their comfort zone. But this worked really well for us!

For two people who don’t like rain, we really ignored it and got out anyways. And for a New Orleanian who doesn’t necessarily walk 9 miles on an average day, my mom was an all-star.

This trip taught us the importance of sleep-when-you’re-dead, talk to strangers (especially in broken French), manifest good weather, patience (a spot at that very crowded bar will eventually open up) and bringing all that best-self traveling perspective back home to inspire your regular life.

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We rented an Airbnb in the Marais (3rd Arrondissement); it was a beautiful apartment with enormous wooden doors, museum-quality plaster moldings, chevron floors that were creaky in all the right places and windows that opened up onto a lovely courtyard.

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On day one we took a sidecar tour which I cannot recommend highly enough. It was the the perfect activity for jet lag and gave us a lay of the land quickly.

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(Just kidding, I didn’t drive).

We hit all the highlights… (and then some!) Our tour guide was Terri was a UK-born, Australian/Parisian local who also spoke Indonesian…. Suddenly feeling like you don’t get out enough? Me too. While weaving through traffic he would yell things like ‘This is where Marie Antoinette’s head was cut off!’ and ‘Napoleon took his mistresses here!’ It was pretty fantastic.

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Affordable 17th Century Housing (really!) – Place des Vosges

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On day two we set out on foot for the museums. Overwhelmed by the Louvre (fun fact: if you spent 10 seconds looking at every item, it’d take you 3 1/2 days straight to see everything in there), we took a few photos of the square and went over to Musée D’Orsay.

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The D’Orsay building is just as good as the art inside it. It was built in 1900 as a train station and hotel for the World’s Fair but was out of commission by 1939 because it couldn’t accommodate longer rail lines. In was bought in the 1970s by the museum and officially opened after renovations in 1986.

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Then we headed over to Ile de la Cité – the island in the middle of the city.

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And of course, we got a lock! (FYI, They’ve moved the lock bridge from Pont des Arts to Pont du Neuf).

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We swung by Notre Dame to say hello to the gargoyles & light a candle…

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And found the mini-champagne stand before taking a cruise down the Seine (slightly cheesy and full of screaming teenagers but totally worth it):

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Day 3 was one we were both really looking forward to: a bicycle tour of Giverny; a small town in the Normandy region of France about an hour and a half northwest of Paris, famous for Camembert cheese, pear cider and Claude Monet’s gardens.

Could the weather have been better? Yes.
Does mom always come thru with the two ponchos you begged her not to bring? You betcha.

Our first stop was an open air market in Vernon, the next town over, to gather some picnic supplies. It was filled with SO MANY wonderful things:

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Paella!

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The best smoked sausages I have ever had.

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seafood galore!

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The most beautiful radishes you have ever laid eyes upon.

Etc., etc., etc.,
The town of Vernon: adorable.

 

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The bicycle ride into Giverny: even better!

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And finally, the gardens themselves: not even in full bloom and under the guise of a gloomy day — still spectacular.

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You could sniff around the inside of his house as well (not what’s pictured above), which was fine and all until we got to the kitchen which, without warning, was the best part!

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Day four was 60 AND SUNNY and maannnnn did we take advantage!! In the end we walked over 25,000 steps (mom has a pedometer app), starting with Musée Carnavalet; a museum of the history of Paris. Again, it’s a place where the grounds are just as good as what’s inside.

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After that we sniffed around the small boutiques in the Marais and headed over the Luxembourg Gardens (a favorite of mine) to eat a lunch of leftovers from the market the day before.

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And then we zig-zagged all over the city with  the goal landing at the Eiffel Tower for sunset (stopping along the Seine for a sit and at a cafe for for a wine/cheese break in between!)

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Our last morning was spent leisurely enjoying our apartment, getting one last latte at the cafe down the street and a final croissant for the road.

Around every corner, Paris finds a new way to be stunning and charming and romantic and indulgent. Maybe it’s because it’s not my city, maybe it’s because we were just in vacation mode, but it’s a place that encouraged us to stop, sit and enjoy one another’s company. I loved every minute.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

To do:
Sidecar tour: Left Bank Scooters
Boat ride on the Seine: Vedettes du Pont Neuf
(A smaller & less expensive boat than the enormous Bateaux Mouches lines)
Bicycle tour around Giverny/Monet’s Gardens: Fat Tire
Swing Jazz Club: Caveau de la Huchette

To eat:
Dinner (Upper Marais): L’Aller Retour
Dinner (Lower Marais): Le Gorille Blanc
Lunch (Saint Germain): Treize…A Baker’s Dozen
(They serve hot biscuits with honey butter & cherry liqueur jam that compelled mom to say “DIVINE!” ten times. It was true.)

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Breakfast (Upper Marais): Ob-La-Di
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Cocktails (Upper Marais): Little Red Door

To stay:
Curated list of Airbnbs