Paris, Now and Forever (Even With Kids it’s Pretty Wonderful)


We arrive!

The airport transitions at Charles de Gaulle are easy and in no time we are standing in front of the entrance to the apartment we’ve rented in the 11th Arrondisement.

Home sweet home, in Paris!

The kids snack (always time for more snacks) and press their faces against the elegant windows of a floral shop next door. Inside, hundreds of red roses lie on a large wooden table, their heads unbelievably overblown, their stems leggy like models. Seriously, I have never seen such gorgeous roses. Who is the lucky person who will enjoy them? Just as I’m beginning to imagine receiving them myself, a woman in an apron comes out of the shop. Uh-oh, here we go. She is—no doubt—going to scold the kids for leaning against the glass of the shop (a scolding worse if delivered in French). Instead, she invites the them inside her flower harem. It’s a Willy Wonka moment as far as I’m concerned (self-diagnosed flower junkie), but alas, I stay outside with the luggage, resigning myself to pressing my own face against the glass later. The kids return, smiling, and holding perfect, single fuschia orchids. They are delighted, as are we.

There’s so many ways, and times, the kids hear “no.” And yet, here was a perfect “yes.”

Our little apartment on rue Amelot is as cute as the pictures promised, sunny and whimsical. The beds beckon, but we resist and head out to lunch. As we walk to place de la République, I’m struck again by how beautiful so many things are here. It’s not just the roses that are more lush than they are at home, it’s the tiny grocer’s displays, the boulangerie windows, the patisseries. All done with such care.

Paris is spectacular this time of year: the balconies are teeming with cheerful bright flowers, and everything that can be green, is, contrasting nicely with the sandy-colored stone of the old buildings. It’s a bit cooler than we expected, mid-70’s, cool enough that in the shade you want a light cardigan. Nothing like the steamy heat we left behind.

On the square we find a typical cafe that fulfills our requirements (looks cute, seems busy, has something on the menu for the kids to eat) and sit down. I know we’re all running on empty at this point, but the kids are showing remarkable resilience in the face of jet lag. They color, they people-watch, they sip their lait froid (cold milk), while Melisa and I sip our rosé.

After lunch we head to one of the main events of the trip: the metro. Those of you who know Jasper are not surprised that this is a highlight of the journey for him. For those of you who don’t: my son is almost seven and the love of trains that began with Thomas has not waned. He is beside himself with joy, one of those moments with kids where I start thinking I need to channel some of that kind of happiness more often. Pure, unselfconscious; pretty great.


The metro lives up to the hype. First, there are the billets (tickets), a fun word to say. They are a whole process unto themselves: everyone needs a ticket (unlike in New York where the kids slip under the turnstile). You put the ticket in the slot, push through the turnstile, and then take the ticket back, before you can get through the final gate and into the metro. And you have to hold onto your ticket for the duration of your ride, on the off-chance that the metro police ask you for it. For Magnolia the hoarder, this is the best part.

The Paris metro is less gritty than our own subway. It’s clean, actually. And the tracks aren’t very deep, so it seems much closer. The first train that pulls up is an older one where you have to open the car doors yourself or they don’t open at all. Jasper is thrilled. I admit that this is rather thrilling for me, too.

The train takes us to one of my favorite places in Paris: the Jardin du Luxembourg. I always try to make it here when I’m in town. We stop first for ice cream: Melisa means to order caramel au beurre salé (caramel with salted butter) for M, but instead orders canelle (cinnamon). She orders praline for us. Both are good, but the canelle isn’t sweet enough for M so we trade her.

I scream, you scream

Here is one of the best things about Paris: sitting in the sun and watching the world go by. And at the Luxembourg Gardens, this pastime is high art. It’s Saturday, and the garden is strewn with people lounging about on pretty green metal chairs, there for exactly this purpose, and shady park benches. It’s beautiful. Kids, adults, elegant French seniors, tourists, all mingle. The picturesque pool in the center is crowded with children using long sticks to push colorful sailboats. The pool is surrounded by a low stone wall topped with pots pink geraniums. At one end of the park is the palace, and at the other, large trees trimmed just so that have the shape of rectangles standing on one end. The effect is casual, sophisticated, and very welcoming. I could stay here a long time.

How often do I take the time at home to just sit and turn my face to the sun, soak in one of our own pretty parks? I have been better about it of late, but not often enough. I resolve, as I do every time I’m in Paris, to try to do it more, and in good company.

We spend the afternoon in the Park, discovering a side of it that Melisa and I have never explored before: the playgrounds, carousel, swings.

Language is no barrier to kids playing. They wade in and communicate through looks and gestures. We wait until it’s about six before walking back to the metro and heading home, and, despite their evident exhaustion, the kids are still reluctant to leave. By that time, the day has become warmer, and the sun is making all the building glow gold, the blue roofs shining, flags flapping brightly in the breeze.

As we walk out, I’m struck by the number of parents teaching their kids how to play tennis, kids who are about as young as Magnolia, whom I’d be afraid to hand a racquet. Seems to work here. Maybe we should try it. Hmmm.

Late dinner, bed for all around 10 p.m. And still, I hear the kids talking in the other room. But at last it’s quiet, for all of us. Thirty-six hours later and finally, sleep.

Our courtyard

1 Response to “Paris, Now and Forever (Even With Kids it’s Pretty Wonderful)”

  1. 1 PAT PARKINSON July 3, 2011 at 9:42 pm


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