Tag: Laura

Santa Baby*

bob.clock_Laura can tell you what nineteen to the power of nineteen is. She can tell you the difference between a tonic note and a dominant note. Laura can tell you what each planet in the solar system is made of, the names of every dinosaur and what they eat, and the number of every hotel room we’ve ever stayed in on any given vacation we’ve ever taken. The other day while riding her scooter, she explained to me why she likes the winter solstice (her birthday is in winter), the summer solstice (a longer day in which to ride her scooter), and equinox (because she gets just as much sleep as she gets energy).

Not a fact that goes into Laura’s brain ever gets lost, but then every now and again she says or does something to remind me that while my ability to understand her math homework declines by the week, tucked around that brain of hers is the innocence and wonder of a sweet, little girl. The following conversation took place last weekend:

Laura: “Mommy, on Christmas Eve, Daddy offered me a choice of three presents that I could give to you.”

Mommy: “Oh, he did?”

Laura: “Yes, he let me choose between a really cool clock, a Pirates of the Caribbean DVD, or surround-sound earbuds.”

Mommy: “Oh.”

Laura: “Yes. And, of course, you know that I picked the clock, which turned out to be a really good thing.”

Mommy: “It was a good thing, because I really like the clock.”

Laura: “It was also a good thing I picked the clock because the next morning Santa brought you the DVD and earbuds. If I’d have picked one of those, then you would have gotten two of them.”

*Originally posted at Blog This Mom!® on February 3, 2007; Laura was seven.

Paris: Denied!

When we vacation and mean it, we’ve typically had our kids keep travel journals. Kristen and Courtney have travel journals from their trip to Paris in 1994. They say that they have enjoyed reading them later, although Kristen said hers reads mostly like a food journal, perhaps foreshadowing her future foodie nature. Laura kept a journal from our 2004 trip to England and France, and before this trip we all enjoyed looking at it (especially the pictures she drew). In that vein, as we were studying Ancient Egypt this year, one of my friends read to us from her travel journal that she kept from a trip to Egypt when she was in high school. A well-done travel journal is great not just for recalling possibly otherwise forgotten details of a trip, but in the case of my friend’s Egypt journal, it made for an accessible learning experience about a region Laura was already studying.

Because we asked Laura to keep a journal of this trip, I did too, here. I dusted off this blog to document, savor, and share some of the things that we did during our trip. We fly home tomorrow, so from there I will get around to writing about our visits to Versailles, Disneyland Paris, over and under Notre Dame, dining at Le Train Bleu, discovering and falling in love with Ile Flottante, and such like. Today’s post (although it won’t be the last about Paris, it will be the final post from Paris) will be about what we didn’t do while here. Maybe because we were here during the holiday season, or maybe because it is Paris and the culture here is a little less, shall we say, customer-service oriented, we would arrive at various venues at days and hours promised by websites or tourist books to be open, only to find our visiting pleasures denied.

On many days, we went around the corner from our apartment to what is obviously Diagon Alley (although the street sign claims it is rue des Rosiers, which happens to be a main drag in the Jewish Quarter of Le Marais) to get a crepe just as delicious as and at a price much below those sold by the vendors on larger streets. Often at the times we’d happen by, the rue des Rosiers crêperie was ferme (shut)!

Although most days we found it closed, as you can see, on this happy occasion it was open for purchasing sweet and circular goodness, warm and folded in paper.

On the day that we headed over to the Centre Georges Pompidou, just a short walk from our apartment, to ride the escalators to the top of the odd building, take in some modern art, and maybe do some people watching while sipping a warm beverage in a café, it was ferme! The escalators were running, but the doors were locked and there was nary a soul in sight inside. I failed to take a photo of the funky building with exposed and color-coded pipes from the outside, and the official website is in French with no apparent photos on the homepage, so here’s the Wikipedia link, which has a photo of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Outside of the Pompidou, are colorful fountains and street performers, so it is possible to stop and take in some modern culture outside.

We ventured over, by Metro and foot, to La Grande Arche de la Défense, which is located in a modern business district in Paris. The Grande Arche was built in the 1980s to be a modern version of the Arc de Triomphe, but a humanitarian rather than military monument. We had previously hoofed it up all 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, from which the other two (larger and smaller) arches could be seen. Laura wished to ride the elevator to the top of the Grande Arche, to see the two smaller ones from there. Guess what? Ferme! Many people were arriving to do just as we had planned, but the ticket office was closed with no explanation as the sign posted with the hours of operation indicated that it should have been open.

So, to amuse ourselves before taking the Metro back, we spent a little time under (over?) the thumb of this modern statue (Le Pouce) in the business district.

Having strolled by Victor Hugo’s house (Maison de Victor Hugo) in Places des Vosges, we decided to later go see his (and other important folks such as Voltaire, Marie Curie, Louis Braille) final resting place, not to mention the large Foucault pendulum and whatnot, in the Panthéon in Paris’ Latin Quarter, near the Sorbonne.

Guess what? Ferme!

Tom and I dined at Tour d’Argent in 1994, and we still have our postcards with the number of the duck we ate. We thought perhaps that we would take Laura, although she, being a vegetarian, would not eat duck. The restaurant was founded in 1582, overlooks the Seine and Notre Dame, and once boasted Henry IV as a regular. Tour d’Argent raises (and numbers) its own ducks for its signature dish of pressed duck. But dining there this visit was not to be as reservations were booked solid throughout our trip. We were told to check back the day of for cancellations, but we really couldn’t be bothered with all of the other great places to eat (including Le Train Bleu, recommended to us by Aunt Snow, more on this place in another post) and the Michelin Guide having reduced the grade from three stars to two in 1996, and in 2006 to one. We thought that on our way to the zoo we might stop in and show Laura the lobby and the little museum shop (from which her grandparents brought us back some kitchen items one year). Guess what? Ferme!

Speaking of the zoo, which I never before knew existed in Paris, guess what we found when we arrived? Ferme? Well, yes, for us it was. But we had only by minutes missed the last entry time. So we went into the Jardin des Plantes, where we expected to find various museums in addition the gardens. Guess what? Ferme!

The gardens were still open and we we able to walk through the labyrinth, which was of great interest to Laura because she likes mazes. As we were leaving the labyrinth, guards began blowing whistles and shouting, as you may have guessed, “Ferme! Ferme!” And we were kicked out along with everyone else.

Most of our days here were capped off with delicious meals, which were then capped off with delicious desserts. But on a few occasions we opted to stay in, rest our feet, and eat simply. It is our intention that our home and our hearts, wherever they may be, always be open.

Bonne Année 2012!

Christmas Day in the City of Light

Signs of the holiday season were all over Paris in the days before Christmas. Laura was particularly delighted with these “recycled” trees made with Sprite (green), Badoit (red), and Coke (clear) bottles, just behind Hôtel de Ville, which is near our apartment.

We needed our own tree, of course, and we found a tiny one in an odd little discount shop in Le Marais. There were larger (and much more expensive) trees at the Monoprix, which is something like Target. The Monoprix is your one stop shop for groceries (alimentation, in the basement), sundries, household items, and clothing.

We woke up on Christmas morning and found cadeaux under our tree. Voilà! Santa came to Paris!

Our plan was to take a walk, which turned out to be a trek spanning many an arrondissement, and then spend a quiet day at home. We started our journey by hoofing it along rue de Rivoli to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel just outside of the Louvre.

We strolled about and took some photos in le Jardin des Tuileries, which is located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde.

Laura managed to capture a photo of a bird in flight over the grass.



After some sky gazing at Tuilieries, we headed over to Place Vendome to check out the holiday decorations and whatnot over there. We also walked into a fancy hotel there and feigned guest-like expressions in order to use the, ahem, facilities located across the lobby and opposite the main doors. Place Vendome is beautiful even by day, and I imagine it would be quite spectacular when lit up at night.

Next we strolled over to Palais Royal to do some window shopping. How on Earth would I have resisted this red Yeti outfit had the shop been open?

We stopped to rest our feet and have some hot chocolate. I love this picture of Laura and a random French woman sitting on either side of the café window. Laura is immersed in her thoughts and game inside, contrasted by the woman immersed in her thoughts and cigarette outside.

We made another brief stop on Pont Neuf to rest our feet and take in the view along the Seine.

Here we paused for a photo in front of the Christmas tree outside of Notre Dame.

We went inside because I felt the need to go to church on Christmas, and where better to do it in Paris than Notre Dame? Also, we had seen the lovely crèche minus the baby Jesus before Christmas. I wanted to see him nestled in his tiny manger bed.
While we were there, we happened upon an organ recital that was just beginning, and we managed to find three seats. We did not stay until the end of the recital because we were all in need of the “toilette,” water, and food, although it was tempting to me to gut it out to be able to experience the mass that was to follow the recital.

Thinking that everything in Paris would be closed for the holiday, we laid in a few simple supplies for our Christmas dinner. Much to our surprise, however, when we were out walking we found many cafés and shops open for business. Once home we had a meal of quiche (Lorraine for Tom and me, fromage for Laura), fingerling potatoes roasted in butter and salt, a simple lettuce and tomato salad, and a crusty baguette, of course. For dessert we heated individual chocolate souffles that we had purchased on Christmas Eve from a local patisserie, which we ate with a boule de glace chocolat (scoop of chocolate ice cream) on the side. Christmas in Paris will always hold a special place in our hearts for many reasons, not the least of which is because we topped it off with French chocolate.

Dining with Cats and Dogs in Paris

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is nicknamed “La Plus Belle Avenue du Monde” (the most beautiful avenue in the world). It is home to many exclusive stores, although in recent years the likes of H&M have been allowed a place on the block. Also, along with Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Hugo Boss, and Cartier, you will find a Disney Store, Gap, and Nike.

As we strolled along the avenue, we stopped for an impromptu meal at Café George V, and were offered the table by the cat. Yes, indeed, there was a nook above a corner table, upon which was a cat all nestled in her bed. She lazily lifted her head as though she could barely be bothered to see who would deign to decline dining near her. But for me, an alternate table meant that I didn’t have to sneeze my way through grilled steak and frites. Apparently the French take their pets seriously because a few nights later we dined in a very nice restaurant next to a woman who had her little white poodle at the table with her.

For the holiday season, from the end of November through early January, the Champs-Élysées is famous for its lights. On one of our earlier trips (I think in 1994, with Kristen and Courtney), the trees were filled with white lights. This year the lights are in tubes and change color throughout the evening.

Also during the holidays, street merchants are set up in temporary huts or kiosks, selling food, drinks, souvenirs, and all manner of cadeaux (gifts) from kitchen items to clothing. Not just during the holidays, in the center of the Place de la Concorde, stands an Egyptian obelisk that once was at the entrance of the Luxor Temple, with hieroglyphics praising Ramses II. It is stunning at night when lit. Near the obelisk is a Ferris wheel set up for holiday visitors and Parisians alike, the view from which is amazing. The cost to ride it probably accounts for the short queue we encountered.

Apparently the Champs-Élysées is a favored spot for French celebrations and parades, impromptu and planned. I read somewhere that German troops marched down it in 1940 to celebrate France’s fall, and, similarly, American troops marched down it some four years later to celebrate France’s liberation. The Tour de France has ended on the Champs-Élysées every year since 1975. Fewer and fewer residents live on the avenue due to high real estate prices, although the president of France lives there in Palais de l’Élysée. Today it is mostly comprised of luxury retail, dining, and office space.

From various spots along the Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower can be seen, and it is particularly lovely at night. On the hour, the Tower sparkles and twinkles for about five minutes. Here is a thirty second or so video of the Eiffel Tower aglitter taken from the Place de la Concorde:

The Champs-Élysées is over a mile long and stretches from Place de la Concorde at the Louvre, home of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (the smallest of the three arches), to Place Charles de Gaulle, where the more well-known Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile sits. It is possible to purchase a billet (ticket) and climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to take in the view. This means climbing a total of 284 steps, most of which are spiral and in a very narrow well. Holy claustrophobia and aerobic exercise! On the particular day that we did this, the reward at the top was wind, rain, and clouds. But still. I thought it was pretty awesome once I’d been resuscitated.

The smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the larger (and modern) La Grande Arche de La Défense can be seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, by looking one way and then the opposite. In other words, the three arches line up in size across the city. During our 2004 visit, Laura wanted to start at the small one and work her way up, which we did. This trip, having already visited the first two arches in size, Laura wants to go see the Grande Arche and take the elevator to the top. Shout out for elevators! More on this, Christmas Day in Paris, and our trip to Disneyland Paris to come.

Pieds non Joyeux!

I am back at my post in the kitchen of our Paris apartment, drinking coffee while Tom and Laura sleep. In the past couple of days we’ve covered a lot of ground here in the City of Light. Laura says she loves Paris, but her feet do not.

We have had a nice time visiting the family of one of Laura’s friends from her former school. They are living an adventure in Paris for a year, the children attending schools here as Tom once did when he was a little boy. We met them for ice skating at Hôtel de Ville, followed by a lunch of crepes, grilled steak, frites, and whatnot in a nearby café. Hôtel de Ville is the City Hall of Paris. Across rue de Rivoli from Hôtel de Ville is a large department store called BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville), part of the Lafayette chain.

The animated window displays at BHV are lively to say the least, modeled after those at Printemps, which we visited yesterday. Printemps is a very grand department store in the Opera-Haussmann District, comprised of eleven levels including the roof terrace (although numbered as nine because the French call the first floor zero and the basement -1). There are three buildings across the street from one another and connected by bridges on the second and third levels (which would be our third and fourth, because we count the first and not the basement; oui?). The expansive city view from the roof terrace is amazing.

We did some shopping at Printemps yesterday amidst the throngs of bustling Parisians who seemed to pause only outside of the doors to puff away on cigarettes. There is no smoking indoors in public places these days, which does not please the French, but I can assure you that we like it a lot. When we were here in 2004 with Laura, Christian Lacroix had designed the Printemps window displays, and Laura was so captivated by them that we got her one of the featured plush animals, which she still has. This year the windows are Chanel themed, and one of them has a dozen or so miniature Karl Lagerfelds dancing about. Dashing though he may be, none of us wanted to take home a mini Karl. Rather than me fiddling with uploading the video that I took, you can see the animated Lagerfeld window by clicking here, if you like.

In addition to shopping and eating, we have taken in more sights. We visited the Louvre, which is so vast in size, rich in lore, and brimming with famous works of art that it requires a post of its own. The day after we visited the Louvre, we headed over to Montparnasse, where Laura’s friend Lauren lives to pick her up so the girls could spend some time together. We strolled by lovely shops such as Louis Vuitton and Dior, and then ducked inside Saint Germain des Prés, which we’re told is the oldest church in the city. We grabbed lunch in a crowded café and then took a boat ride along the Seine. We stopped for crepes and then headed back to our apartment so the girls could rest while Tom and I explored our neighborhood some more. Later we met Lauren’s family for dinner in an Italian restaurant in Le Marais that we remembered from our prior visits for its wonderful service. The owners fussed over Lauren’s littlest sister the way that only an angel-faced child with blonde hair gets fussed over by Europeans who have different boundaries than Americans and don’t take hints. Lauren’s little sister held up pretty well.

Yesterday, we visited the Musée d’Orsay, which happens to be my favorite, especially for the Impressionist paintings and Degas’ ballerinas. There are no photographs allowed inside of the museum, but I snapped a picture of Laura outside on the steps in the same spot I photographed her in 2004.

We have no grand adventures planned for today and tomorrow, Christmas Eve and Day. But it is our simple and unplanned adventures that often turn out to be the most memorable. We obtained a small Christmas tree for our apartment. No doubt Père Noël will visit us here. We gathered from several vendors in Saint-Paul fresh produce, baked goods, pâté, cheeses, and such like for our Christmas meals. We think that we may take it slowly for the next day or two so that Laura’s feet can rest up and then enjoy Paris as much as she has been.

Joyeux Noël!

Then and Now

Laura in “the Cave” (the cellar) at Pain Vin Fromage in 1994 2004 (with her grandparents) and in 2011.

Laura at Sacre Coeur in Montmartre in 1994 2004 and in 2011.

Laura at the Arc du Carrousel near the Louvre in 1994 2004 and at the Arc de Triomphe on Champs-Élysées in 2011.

Edited: Laura was here in 2004 and 2011! Kristen and Courtney were here with us in 1994. (Cheri needs to get more sleep before captioning pictures.)

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