Every summer, palm trees, deck chairs and tons of sand descend upon Paris to transform parts of the city into Paris Plages (Paris Beaches), a month-long event originally created in 2002 to relieve Parisians from the sweltering August heat and to satisfy their seaside cravings. This free event has since expanded beyond its beginnings around Pont Neuf and become so popular that other European cities (like Berlin, Brussels and Madrid) have adopted a similar event.
My boys have been itching to go to the beach, so before we head to the ocean ourselves, they got a little taste last Sunday right here in the city. With plenty of activities and lots of options for refreshments, overall it's a wonderful way to spend a summer day. My favorite section was the Louvre à la plage installation set up under the Tunnel des Tuileries - it was basically a mini art gallery where you're invited to discover pieces from the Louvre's vast collection. There's even a table set up for little ones to color and draw their own masterpieces.
Ice cream by the river with seagulls overhead pacified my boys' yearning for the ocean,... for now :)
Official Site: Paris Plages Dates: 19 Jul - 17 Aug 2014 Hours: Everyday, 9am - midnight
As part of my family's little break in the Netherlands, we took a day trip to Amsterdam. An afternoon wasn't nearly enough time to visit museums and explore the city, but we soaked in what we could... we went on a canal cruise and strolled through the narrow streets, tried some local fare and visited Bloemenmarkt (flower market)... it was a cloudy day, but the city was so pretty we hardly noticed the gray and drizzle.
We loved Amsterdam's gabled architecture, 17th century canals and relaxed energy. But I think what impressed me most (despite being nearly run over twice) was how smoothly and efficiently the compact city runs - cars, scooters, trams, buses and bicycles (oh so many bicycles!...hauling everyone from mothers with their babies to businessmen on their way to work to teenagers on the go) - all zooming by in cooperative harmony on narrow streets filled with pedestrians of every age and size. And that's just above ground! The canals have their own traffic and rhythm, and again still, it glides along fluidly.
We'd love to go back... it's roughly a 5 1/2 hour drive from Paris (3 1/3 hours by train)...
I hope you're having a lovely summer so far... my boys' school year ended just two weeks ago, so for me, it feels like just the beginning. It's only July right?... there's still time to take it easy and savor the fruits of this slippery sweet season :)
I'll be taking to the road with my family for a little holiday... come join me on Instagram. Be well friends...
Pushing about the wooden sailboats in the Grand Basin at Jardin du Luxembourg has become a favorite pastime for my boys. I've mentioned to them how generations of children played with the same 1920's boats... and realize it may not mean much to them now, but hopefully one day their memories of these times will be marvelous and fond.
The gliding toy boats, the backdrop of the French Senate and the Medici gardens are images I used to see in my French classes in the US - in short films with silly characters illustrating a new concept or vocabulary word. It was always hard to catch the lesson because the scene behind them was much more captivating. So for a long time these enchanting boats have been engrained in my mind... they've always been magical, and even more so now...
Someone recently asked me if my family was all settled into Paris... and before I could answer he asked whether we had found our boulanger, which I'm now certain, according to the French, is pretty much the same question...
We live within one block of three boulangeries. And if I go one block further, another three (confirming what I read about Paris which I thought at first was surely an exaggeration!). And so knowing this now, his question was apt and relevant. I used to go to the most convenient boulanger to pick up bread, but over time discovered the different nuances and types of breads. And as my family's tastes evolved and matured, we learned there isn't one bread maker that meets everyone's criteria simply because depending on our needs and tastes, one boulanger is better than another.
It's great to have choices... but it gets tricky when routing your way home and having to pick up your pain quotidien. For example, our dinner baguettes are best further up Rue Mouffetard for their not too hard crust; my new favorite dessert bread, the baguette viennoise chocolat *, is best across the street to the left for being soft and packed with chocolate (though the place leaves a bad taste in my mouth - no pun intended - because the owner yelled at me for taking a photograph). The boulangerie I first loved one block south, which happened to also be the one I conveniently passed every day on the way to and from my son's schools, unfortunately is too light with the chocolate in their viennoise chocolat. It all boils down to personal taste...and enjoying the gift of having choices.
So to answer the gentleman's question... I was able to say yes, we're definitely getting there, thank you :)
* When visiting Paris, do compare different boulangeries (not only the ones highly recommended) and if you haven't already had a viennoise chocolat, pick up this wonderful treat for the afternoon - it's a lightly sweet bread peppered with nibs of chocolate, perfect for breakfast or le goûter (afternoon snack). Because the bread is not as sweet as brioche and the chocolate is a semi-sweet dark, you won't feel overindulgent when eating it.