Thursday, September 12, 2013

Paris: Everything Else!

Chateau de Vincennes
Our month in Paris ended 24 days ago, and we've had lots of fun doings on the English portion of our adventure since then, so I'll quickly sum up the remainder of our Paris stay.
  • Markets: We had fun going to several outdoor markets and especially liked the organic Sunday market at Raspail.  We passed through Les Halles several times and discussed the history of this market area; it was redeveloped in the 1970s and is being renovated again.  We explored a couple of the covered-passage shopping lanes, such as Passage du Grand Cerf.  We walked by some o the grand art nouveau department stores (N. loved these buildings!), including Printemps and Samaritain.  We walked through the textile district at Montmartre (I was looking for a yarn store) passing stacks of fabric bolts crowding the sidewalks.  
  •  Train stations:  Over the course of the month we went to see all the major train stations in Paris because N. loves trains -- Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Montmarnasse.  We peeked through the windows of le Train Bleu at Gare de Lyon and had glacee in the much less fancy "express" outpost of the restaurant at the head of the train platforms, where we watched travelers bustling through the station and trains arriving and departing.
  • Opera Garnier:  N. was thrilled to tour this gilded palace of ballet and music.  He loves the belle epoque style!  I loved the contrasting Chagall ceiling painting.  In addition to admiring the building, we enjoyed the exhibit on the history of ballet at the Opera.  Since it was August, there were no performances scheduled, which was unfortunate for us, but we knew that would be one of the costs of traveling at that time.
  • Chateau de Vincennes: We spent a gorgeous sunny afternoon touring the castle and chapel at Vincennes, learning much more about royal French history from Charles V through the Revolution along the way.  The interior of Sainte-Chapelle here was luminous.  There was something ineffable about the light shimmering off all the buildings that felt especially magical.
  • Food!  We enjoyed daily grocery shopping and learning lots of food-related words.  We didn't eat out a lot, and never at any truly fancy French restaurants.  N. is an adventurous eater and appreciator of food, but we just didn't feel that an expensive late-night (for Americans -- the French evening meal doesn't start until after 7:30 p.m.) supper was going to be something we would all enjoy.  We did eat some absolutely lovely lunches in cafes, and we loved trying different kinds of bread nearly daily at the many boulangeries.  We swooned over galette-style crepes.  N. and I were in cheese heaven and tried almost as many different kinds of raw-milk cheeses as there days in our visit.  Tim and I couldn't believe how good the cheapest of wines were, not to mention the pricier bottles.  What a surprise!  The bread, cheese, and wine in Paris are indeed as perfect as everyone says!
  • Learning French: N. picked up a lot of vocabulary and probably the most important element of the trip for his language learning was his vastly improved accent.  He constantly repeated all the station announcements and warnings on the Metro, and he was very attentive to what people were saying around us even though he couldn't understand most of it.  I bought a new French curriculum on the advice of a native-French-speaking employee in the children's section of a dual-language bookstore and am hoping to build on N.'s experience of the language.  It was his choice to learn French a couple years ago, but his interest in it had flagged a bit before this trip.  Now he's very motivated to learn more (as am I!)
  • French history:  Tim read an account of French history while we were in Paris, and shared a lot of it with N. and me.  Between that and what we picked up from the sites we visited, we all learned a lot more about French history than we had known before.
Opera Garnier

Chagall ceiling, Opera Garnier

Gare de Lyon

Chateau de Vincennes

Gare de L'Est


CMR said...


Adrienne Pilon ("A") said...

How fabulous! And those crepes! I once ate a crepe in a market stall that made me weep.