France

A selfie in front of City Hall, raincoat keeping me dry

A few weeks ago a friend was visiting and Mark was explaining to her how obsessed he is with our condo project. His dad wanted Mark to go to Paris with him, even if for just a few days, but Mark just didn’t want to be away. I looked at Mark and said “I’ll go to Paris with your dad.” I emailed him the next day and within about 24 hours we had flights booked and hotel rooms reserved.

I had a great time and did not miss daily visits to the construction site one bit. Mark and I have been to Paris at least once a year for probably the last eight or 10 years, and I’d thought I would break my streak this year but that was not meant to be.

The Luxembourg Gardens is always one of my favorite places. I walked down there on Sunday during a brief respite in the weather and found it locked up. Closed. There was a HUGE rally close by – some 70,000 freaks I later read – protesting a new French law that would give single women and lesbians the right to use in vitro fertilization to get pregnant. Obviously a communistic attack on the family. These were, I later learned, the same idiots who held massive protests against marriage equality a few years ago. How pathetic that they would waste a beautiful Sunday to try to interfere with other people’s happiness.

It was a reasonably short visit – out on a Friday night, back the following Thursday – but it was just about perfect. The weather was drizzly as you would expect for October, but it was Paris, right? I was so amused the first couple days: temperature in the upper 50s, drizzling on and off, and the outdoor cafés were packed. Who’s going to let a little damp weather interrupt the espressos, wines, and cigarettes that you’re supposed to enjoy on the weekends.

And visiting with Mark’s dad was great fun. We were both sleeping in a bit due to jet lag, but we’d have breakfast, go our separate ways for a few hours, meet for lunch some days, or just make plans to meet for drinks and dinner. Otherwise it was just walking, exploring all the beautiful neighborhoods that I know so well. Here are the photos.

I wasn’t thinking about the awful fire at Notre Dame when I came around the corner and saw this. Not that I’d forgotten, I just wasn’t thinking of it. My heart sank as I quickly saw that pieces were missing.

Food of course is a big deal in Paris. Here is Lidd at Balzar’s, a Left Bank bistro open on Sundays, with a plate of choucroute.

Lidd was in charge of making dinner reservations, but there was one place I wanted to suggest, a place where I had a great lunch when he just wasn’t hungry. I never got a chance to suggest it because that very night it was the restaurant he’d chosen for dinner. Great minds and all that.

Salad Niçoise the way it’s supposed to be made

An amazing fish dish

The Saturday market at Place Monge

After the awful anti-women protest was over the Luxembourg Gardens eventually opened

More from the Luxembourg Gardens

Parc Monceau, another of my favorites

The entrance to the Promenade Planteé, an old railway bed converted to a beautiful park. The precursor to New York’s Highline.

On a drizzly afternoon I had the gardens along the Champs-Élysées to myself

Rain adds a sheen of beauty to the Petit Palais

And one of the most amazing rainbows ever

The construction site of Notre Dame

Mark & I, along with much of his family, have been staying at the Agora St. Germain on the Left Bank for over 25 years. When I tried to make a reservation this time, though, it was closed – their last night of availability was the night I flew out of New York. We discovered that it was closed for renovation and here they are putting up the scaffolding to start what is supposed to be a six- or seven-month project.

Keith & Nic enjoying Paris

A year ago or so we got an invitation to a wedding. An old great friend of ours from graduate school, Keith, was finally marrying Nic, the guy he’d been dating for the last seven years. We really wanted to go – they’re great friends and great people – but we really didn’t want to fly back from the Middle East, where we would be in November when the wedding would take place. What to do?

Suddenly the answer occurred to us. For the same money we would pay to fly back for the wedding we could fly them to Europe and make it their wedding present. And as a bonus, of course, we would get far more Keith-and-Nic time than if we were just two of the hundred-plus people at their wedding. Perfect! Needless to say, when we suggested that we would bring them to Paris (or somewhere else if they preferred) for their wedding present they liked the plan too.

Four of us enjoying the gardens of Versailles

So fast forward to late summer 2018 and here we are in Paris for a week with Keith & Nic. Still staying at the Agora St. Germain – which gets a little small after two weeks! – and still enjoying Paris. Parks, museums, cafés, long walks; beautiful late summer days in a beautiful city.

And while much of it was the same stuff we always do, Keith & Nic inspired us to enjoy a couple touristy adventures too. One day we took the train out to Versailles to visit the great palace and wander through the spectacular gardens. And on our last evening in Paris they had booked an hour-long river cruise on the Seine. Just the sort of über-touristy thing we would never do on our own … but we loved it. There were nice assigned seats facing the windows, a half bottle of red wine for each couple, and even a light meal served. Such a pleasant way to watch the city flow by (OK, we were flowing by, but whatever) and chat and just enjoy the good life.

On the boat with a little wine, a little food, and great friends

So that was our second week in Paris. From here Keith and Nic are continuing to Barcelona (our second-favorite city after Paris) on their own and we’re passing through Vienna on our way to Cyprus.

One of our favorite walks in Paris is along an elevated park, an old abandoned railroad bed. We’ve walked it many times over the years and always love the many little spots to sit and while away the time.

Traveling with Keith & Nic was great. Part of what we all liked was that there was plenty of together time but we also had lots of time on our own. My time on my own pretty much consists of going to Luxembourg Gardens and reading with this view.

Or the Gardens of the Champs-Élysées

Off on our own one morning Mark & I took a walk we’ve never done before. Down river, below the Eiffel Tower, there’s a long and narrow man-made island called the Isle of Swans and at the end of it is a small replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was of course a gift from France in honor of America’s centenary. How cute is that?

While there was plenty of time on our own, in the evenings we always regrouped for drinks and dinner. Here Nic & Keith are savoring our new discovery, the Martini Royale. Equal parts Martini Bianco & Proseco, with lots of ice and a dash of fresh lime juice, it’s wonderfully refreshing and low-carb. We’ll never be quite the same after this discovery.

Lots of reasons to love Paris

Mark loves these bicycle shots

One morning Mark & I were off to the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art museum. There were lots of huge installations, many of them genuinely interesting. This display of 40 clown sculptures was notably eerie.

Place des Vosges, dating from the early 17th century, was the first planned town square in Paris

A view of Paris from the elevated parkway we love so much

At first I thought this was just a random picture from Park Monceau that Mark had taken until I recognized that little figure in the left corner. It’s me!

A couple days after walking the elevated park alone Mark & I took Nic & Keith there so they could enjoy it too

I’ve seen this fountain at the bottom of Luxembourg Gardens a bunch but I don’t think I’d ever noticed the dedication before. It’s dedicated to the great explorers Marco Polo and Robert Cavelier de la Salle. And while everyone has heard of Marco Polo, de la Salle isn’t quite so famous. Unless, of course, you’re from La Salle, MI, as Mark is!

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

Nic, Mark, and Keith out in the gardens of Versailles

And finally, Keith and that big metal tower as we cruised by on our tourist boat

Notre Dame at sunset. Could the world be more beautiful?

Here we are in Paris again, our seventh stop in the last five years. It’s our favorite city in the world and this time we got to share it with my family. We spent the last four days of my great-nephew Mat’s Great European Adventure in Paris because, well, you couldn’t have a great European adventure without seeing Paris, right? And then, after we scheduled it, my sister Rebecca decided to end her 10-day trip with her daughter Lily here with us. So lots of family.

Here I am with my niece Lily and sister Rebecca

Now, after all the times we’ve been to Paris there’s not a lot new or us. But seeing it through the eyes of midwestern teenagers is quite the treat. The Louvre, Arch de Triumph, Sacré Cœur, Eiffel Tower, Pompidou Center, Seine, Notre Dame, macarons, éclairs … we crammed a lot in during those four days. I think the young ones were duly impressed.

Then Mark & I had four days on our own, which largely consisted of doing some errands (I got new glasses and a new purse!) and getting some down time to read and relax. We still have another week here, this time with our friends Keith & Nik. For now, though, here are a bunch of pictures that start to explain why we love Paris so much.

My beautiful and charming niece Lily sitting in the Tuileries

Rebecca hanging out in the bell tower in Sacré Cœur

Mat desperately wanted to see the Mona Lisa. We warned him that the crowds would dwarf the painting but even we were surprised by the mass of people. As Mark put it, each time he’s seen it over the last 30-plus years it’s in a bigger space with even more people. Not a great way to experience great art.

Me, Lily, & Rebecca getting ready to climb the Arch de Triumph

Lily enjoying the view from up there

Mark, Lily, and Rebecca up there. Knowing that in a little while we were going to be climbing the Eiffel Tower, Mat wanted to save his energy so he didn’t make it.

Lily & Rebecca in the Luxembourg Gardens, one of my very favorite places on this whole earth

Walking through the Louvre we came into a room with a bunch of statues. I looked up and immediately recognized two of Michelangelo’s “captives.” Four of these pieces he was working on when he died are in Florence and I’d completely forgotten there were two here. When you see them, though, there’s no doubt what they are and who did them.

Mat wasn’t a great fan of scaling great heights, but riding the Ferris Wheel was right up his alley

He did, though, save the energy to climb the Eiffel Tower with the rest of us

Walking past a random shop we found this book about Rebecca

Paris, as seen from Sacré Cœur

Oh yeah, and Mat’s other great discovery – macarons!

After Rebecca, Lily, and Mat had to go back to Minnesota I got back to my favorite activities like lying in the Luxembourg Gardens reading

Or hanging out in the park Buttes-Chaumont reading. Can you tell, by the way, how perfect the weather was for this week?

And Mark could get back to one of his favorite pastimes, taking artsy pictures like this one of a bridge over the St. Martin Canal

And this very Parisian scene