A Hot Time in Provence

Today we are going on a train to Provence.  I don’t think I’ll miss Paris’s smells. Maybe my mom is right.  Maybe I’m not a city girl anymore.

We went to the train station and stood in a bunch of long lines before we got on the train. It was a loooong ride, but it was better than a car ride or an airplane ride.  At last we arrived at the station.

We got a rental car and drove to Avignon.  Avignon is a very hot city enclosed in walls.  It is extremely old. We ate lunch there and then got ice cream.

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We got back in the car and drove for about 3 hours using horrible directions.  Finally we got to our rental house.  Then we went all the way back to town to order food at one of the few restaurants they have in town.

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Finally, finally we went to bed. I really hope we have pasteries for breakfast again!

 

-La Fille Curieuse (Sierra)

Joining the Mass Exodus South

Paris pretty much empties out in August, as most of the city takes les vacances.  I think at least half of them head to the south of France, and many of them leave the first weekend of August…same day that we chose – oops.

The train station was packed, but we took an uber and arrived early, which was definitely the way to go.  We were on the TGV to Avignon, and it was indeed a tres grand vitesse – the rural French countryside flew by outside the window!  I just love train travel; it’s so relaxing.

When we arrived in Avignon we had to wait in a long line for our rental car — boy is it hot here, so different from Paris!  They are actually having an unusually hot spell this week in Provence; it’s supposed to be in the 90s every day we are here.

After getting our little silver Peugot we made our way into Avignon. Finding parking was a bit of a challenge, as it’s a walled city with no cars inside, and the signage to the parking lots was not so good. But after making several large circles (traversing the ponts), we finally found our way to a lot. We had a yummy lunch on a leafy square in Avignon; I think I’m going to enjoy the food in Provence, everything tastes so fresh and flavorful!

I really liked Avignon, though it’s quite a tourist town this time of year. The papal palace is truly impressive

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and it was cool to see the Pont d’Avignon from above (from the park behind the papal palace).

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The history here is so amazing. Avignon was the seat of the Roman Empire for about 75 years, and then there was a period of ‘schism’ with a pope in both Rome and Avignon.

The girls were troopers, but we decided trying to do the Palace tour would be pushing it, so we just walked around the perimeter and then took them to get gelato!

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Our drive to Bargemon was relatively uneventful until I shut my eyes at a rather critical moment and we missed our exit off the highway.  That set off a google maps disaster as we tried to make our way back to the highway and ended up on a dead end dirt road. We’ve had such good luck with offline maps until now, but I learned my lesson to use google maps as a guide but use my head (vs. their directions) to know which way to go!!

Unfortunately, Marji and Ron had an even harder time, as they were trying to use the rather poor directions from the HomeAway site.  By the time we all got to the house, it was almost 7pm, and everyone was exhausted.  The house is lovely, and the town of Bargemon is a very small, charming medieval village (about a 10 minute drive, 20 minute walk from the house).

It’s extremely dry and hot here, despite being high in the hills.  However, the pool is large and extremely refreshing, so I guess we’ll be spending a lot of time there!

-Linda

Parisian Landmarks

Today we started by going to the bus stop.  We got on the second story of a double decker bus.  It took us to the quais (road along the Seine), Obelisque (Place de la Concorde), around the Arc de Triumph, and finally the Eiffel tower where we got off.  We stood in a long line and eventually we got onto the elevator and went to the second floor.  The view was incredible, but I barely noticed it.  I didn’t want to look down because we were so high. We walked down about 694 steps to ‘solid ground.’ For once I was happy to leave!

 

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Luxembourg Gardens was our next stop.  We went to a pond and sailed boats with different countries’ flags.  I got India and Cassidy got Finland.

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We went to a restaurant near the Pantheon and ate dinner.

We’ve been having pastries like pano chocolat for breakfast, which is a coisant with chocolate inside it.  It is reeeeally good!  So surprisingly I was happy to eat healthy food for dinner.

-La Fille Curieuse (Sierra)

And Today…No Chance of Blending in…

20 years ago I took great pains to blend in as Parisian. I tried not to wear anything that would make me look American (especially dorky shoes), I avoided touristy areas, and I took care to use the correct Parisian expressions at the appropriate moments.  Alas, today I found myself joining the throngs of tourists visiting two of Paris’ top attractions: the Eiffel Tower and the Bateaux Parisiens (boat trip on the Seine).  Worse yet, we arrived on an open air tour bus!!

We had to wait in a ridiculously slow-moving security line to get into the Eiffel Tower, but fortunately we had advance tickets to get up to the 2nd floor.  The lines and security situation are certainly way crazier than I remember from 20 years ago… But when we finally stepped out of the elevator onto the platform, the sun emerged from behind the clouds, and the view was spectacular. I guess the tourist thing isn’t so bad if you fully succumb to it…

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After lunch at a nearby pizzeria, we headed toward the Seine for our boat tour. Following an initial scuffle over the corner seat, Sierra and Cassidy enjoyed the trip, and Sierra was particularly interested in taking photos of the fancy bridges.  My favorite view is of the Palais de Justice on Ile de la Cite:

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Here’s a nice shot of Marji and Ron from the boat trip:

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In the afternoon we visited my all-time favorite Parisian park, the Jardin de Luxembourg. I took many a run through this park back in the day, but it’s funny what different things you notice when you come with kids. The girls had a ball ‘sailing’ the wooden boats you can rent — such good old-fashioned fun!

 

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-Linda

 

Has it really been 20 years?

We just spent the last 3 days in Paris.  I lived in Paris from August 1996 to December 1997…yep, almost 20 years ago.  I’ve been back a few times for short work trips here and there, but it was so special to bring my family to visit this city that still feels like a second home to me.  Everything is so familiar.. in a place so steeped in history, 20 years is a blip on the radar.  Not that much has changed, and I so appreciate that timelessness.

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I loved seeing the awe on the girls’ faces as we visited Notre Dame on the afternoon of our first (somewhat drizzly) afternoon in Paris.

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Cassidy unexpectedly charged us into the pews for a full-blown 5pm Saturday evening mass (from which it was subsequently hard to escape…)  And Sierra marveled at the history – it is mind-boggling to imagine how they managed to build a structure this imposing nearly 1,000 years ago.  After this we were exhausted, so we took a bike cab back to the Marais – ridiculously touristy, but definitely fun!

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On Day 2, while Cassidy sprinted around the Musee d’Orsay wanting to check famous works of art off of her ‘checklist’ (thanks, Musee d’Orsay!), Sierra took her time, sticking with me (and YaYa and Da!) for a whirlwind, self-guided tour of the French impressionists. She was fascinated by pointalism – scooting in close to see the blur of dots, and then backing up to see the dots form a colorful landscape.

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The Musee d’Orsay has a great model of the Paris Opera House; Sierra got interested and decided that should be the next stop on our itinerary.  So we made our way north, walking through the Jardin de Tuileries, where we had a lovely picnic and then rode on the swings (thanks to a summer amusement park they set up in the Tuileries.) What a fun experience to sail through the air and look down on the Louvre!!

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Sierra, Cassidy and I then went into the Palais Garnier Opera – the girls were quite impressed by the lavish (Italian Renaissance) interior and the ceiling by Chagall.  Funny, I never would have thought to bring the girls here, but they were adamant that we go inside!

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Our last stop of Day 2 was a trip to Montmartre. The escalator at Abbesses metro stop was out of service, so we hoofed it up at least 5 flights of stairs, before then climbing another 5+ flights to get to Sacre-Coeur.  Wow – I was pretty impressed with our crew (us 4 plus Noah’s parents) for sticking it out.  [Full disclosure: we had a much-needed gelato stop about halfway up!]

 

That evening we came back to the Marais to meet my friend Aurelie for dinner. We went to a lovely little bistrot on the Place Saint-Catherine (Bistrot de la Place), which may have actually been the restaurant I went to with Aurelie on my last night in Paris in December 1997. We couldn’t recall, but we both remembered eating on the Place Saint-Catherine shortly before I left…and of course enjoyed reminiscing over many other memories as well.  Oh how I’ve missed you, Aurelie!!  And how could we have forgotten to take a photo???

 

Exploring Paris

Today we went to a museum called Musee d’Orsay. It had statues and a lot of paintings by really famous artists.  If you are really emotional you might not want to read this. Van Gogh committed suicide when he was 37. (!)  I think we took to many pictures.  I am afraid that if my mom takes 2 more pictures, her phone will burst!

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Musee d’Orsay was actually a train station, but the platforms were to low.  So they made it into a museum.  It’s amazing that they built a train station like a huge fancy movie theatre!  At the museum I saw a model of the Paris opera, which made me really want to go.

The opera has a huge painted ceiling with a giant chandelier and fancy cushioned chairs.  They put carvings into the walls.  It was amazing!

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After that we went up 5 or 6 flights of stairs to Sacre Coeur, which means sacred heart. The view was nice from there, but we couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower.  Cassidy and I got a model Eiffel Tower as a souvenir.  Sacre Coeur is a white church that looks like a castle. It has domes and is in a neighborhood with lots of touristy stores and people!

  • La Fille Curieuse

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First Day in Paris

Today we went to Notre Dame Cathedral.  It is 1,000 years old!  It has stainglass windows and incredible designs on the walls and ceilings.  It was amazing!

 

 

Cassidy has a stuffed chick that she thinks is a duckling, and it came to Notre Dame with us. She put it on the chair in front of her so she could watch the priest singing.

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Paris doesn’t smell very good.  Dad says I just need to get used to it, and Mom says I’m not a city girl anymore but I barely noticed them.  I was too busy holding my nose.

Later…Crepes are amazing! (not that I didn’t like them before!)  The line was soooo long we had to make a reservation.

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We saw my grandparents tonight.  It was almost surprising to find someone who speaks english without an accent.

– La Fille Curieuse