Day 23 – Paris (Bread, Chocolate and The Ferris Wheel)

samothraceOur first full day in Paris was an experiment in family travel – specifically how to squeeze in what the adults want to do yet placate the kids.  We hit a pretty good balance.  We started out on the Metro with our 3-day passes and headed for the Louvre.  Unfortunately the weather was unseasonably cool and threatening rain but better too cool than too hot I think.  Besides, a legitimate reason to shop in Paris is always a good thing.

We walked down the Rue de Rivoli and entered the Louvre through the courtyard towards the pyramid.  The girls immediately spotted the Ferris wheel in the Tuileries and that became the perfect bribe to get them to stay in the Louvre long enough to feel like we’d taken in some substantial art viewing.  We descended through the pyramid into the Louvre with barely any line and got our serious cool multimedia audio/video tours.  The Louvre tour kicks every other tour’s butt.  There are a series of different tours to choose from, all of varying lengths, and then a video accompaniment of what you’re looking at from all angles and perspectives.  There is a separate kids tour but the woman at the desk told us it was only for the Egyptian room, and when she saw how disappointed the girls were she gave them each the full multimedia tour for the price of the kids’ tour.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve encountered this kind of generosity at the art institutions we’ve visited in Italy and France.  Plus, in Paris kids under 18 are free at all the museums.

We decided to do the “masterpiece tour.”  This was basically a 45-minute greatest hits of The Louvre, and that seemed to fit our needs exactly.  We followed along, getting off track a few times, and ultimately covered all the biggies including Venus de Milo and of course the Mona Lisa.  The room with the Mona Lisa was such a zoo that Corey put the girls on his shoulders to see the painting and they were thrilled to have seen it having read about it in Monday With a Mad Genius, the Magic Treehouse book about Da Vinci and Florence.  Also, the audio tour was full of great gossip and myth busting about the painting that the girls loved.

After that long art filled morning we headed to Les Tuileries and the Ferris wheel.  There is an entire mini amusement park in the Tuileries and we had to promise a quick return after lunch.  So, up on the Ferris wheel they went and then off to lunch – Asian Food finally!  All of us were craving Asian food and we found a cheap (for Paris) and easy place that was by weight and plate and got our fill of shrimp, dumplings, rice and tea.  Then we wandered around the neighborhood a bit, taking the long way back to the Tuileries and stumbled upon an incredible chocolate shop, Michel Cluizel. There was no way we could resist the slabs of dark chocolate almond bark and myriads of truffles and various chocolates in the window.  We went in and bought a sampling of about 8 different chocolates, which made everybody happy.

We then returned to the Tulleries so the girls could go bungee jumping on the giant trampolines and spin around high in the air on the giant swings that look like they’re as high as the Eiffel Tower when you’re the mom watching from the ground.   After the chocolate and games we adults felt like we had earned another turn at deciding the itinerary and started our walk up the Champs-Elysee figuring we’d get as far as we could until the girls dropped.  The entire stretch of the Champs-Elysee up until the main stores begin were being set up for the end of the Tour De France.  Bleachers stood along the boulevard, French flags hung from the poles every 4 feet and the trees were being pruned.  When we finally reached the main shopping area it began to rain.  Luckily we were right in front of a Monoprix.  We ran in and bought sweaters for each of the girls and then went downstairs and bought groceries for breakfast and snacks.

A lot has been made about how thin French women are.  I think people actually mean Parisian woman when they talk about this because it is not the case countrywide.  Regardless, I have found the real reason.  Food is just incredibly expensive.  The grocery store prices were easily 50% more than in Italy.  Now maybe this was because we were in Paris, a major city much like Manhattan is much more expensive than Queens or Brooklyn.  But, still it was startling how expensive basic things like milk and yogurt were.  Not to mention eating out.  So I think people in Paris just eat a lot less.  Totally unscientific observation but I stick by it.

The rain eventually ended and we took the Metro back to our apartment where we took a break before heading back out for dinner.  After all of these weeks with riposo it was hard to have a day that was go-go-go all the time.  Makes me wonder what will happen when we’re back in NYC.  For dinner we continued to sate our Asian cravings and went to a local fusion place and got huge bowls of soup and seafood.  After dinner we found an adorable macaroon shop with about 20 different flavors of mini macaroons.  Our new gelato.  The girls got mango/bourbon, nutella, framboise and vanille.  These are not like maneshevitz lump of coconut macaroons.  These are French macaroons, a cookie sandwich where the two cookies are made of crunchy thin almond based dough and the fillings are a myriad of different creams.  They are amazingly light and gooey at the same time.

The macaroons were the ideal ending for our first full day in Paris.  Delicious, interesting, unexpected and full of variety.

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