Nous avons eu un grand week-end

Dave and I got away for a whole weekend, to Paris, without children. Our wonderful nanny graciously and bravely spent Friday afternoon through Sunday night at our house, with our two rowdy, dirty, and loveable boys. I’ll get to their weekend in a moment; but now, on to Paris…

We took the train from London’s St. Pancras station to Gare de Nord in Paris. The train ride was 2 ½ hours long. There was a very chatty blond student from California who talked non-stop to the British chap seated next to her. She covered her entire life story, which, at the age of 19, isn’t much to cover. But she was excited about it all, and the chap pretended to be.

I’m not sure what I was expecting for the underground portion of the trip, but it was anticlimactic. I was hoping it would be like an aquarium, with fish and treasure chests and scuba divers whizzing by. Okay, not really. But, it was just like an extra long tunnel. That’s it.

We managed to find our way to the hotel – Hotel Jardin de l’Odean  – via a crowded metro ride and short walk. Our hotel was in an ideal location right near Luxembourg Gardens. Our room was small but quaint with $4 Toblerone and $5 bottled water.

Dave was grumpy because he was starving by this point (I still wonder when he’ll learn to take along snacks for occasions like these?) so we wandered a bit, without reservations for dinner or any idea on where we wanted to go. There are many fabulous looking restaurants around the Latin Quarter. We ended up at a Moroccan restaurant called Au Méchoui du Prince. Dave ate a pound of couscous and complained of a full belly all night and until the next morning. I think, even after couscous is cooked, it still expands to 3xs the size once in your stomach.

After an uninterrupted night’s sleep, we got out of bed at the lazy hour of 7:30am. We went for a 3-loop run around Luxembourg Gardens, showered, and headed out for a quick salmon baguette for breakfast.

I talked Dave into joining a formal Paris Walks tour of the Marais area. He originally made some comment under his breath about how his life had changed since his visit to Paris 20 years earlier. Way back when, he said his two lasting memories were visiting Jim Morrisson’s grave and sitting on the steps of Sacre Coeur drinking warm beer and listening to the locals playing guitar. Now, here he is going on a walking tour. “Aren’t walking tours for old people?” he says.  And, I suppose he’s right. But we really enjoyed it. Our tour guide, Chris, was a funny fellow and we were entertained by his stories and information for 2 hours.

After our old-people tour, we meandered without a plan for a while, in and out of cafes and in and out of pouring rain. We walked by the Notre Dame and did some window shopping on the Isle St. Louis. We got on a mission to get a massage, so looked down every narrow alleyway for an available massage parlour. We were delighted to find a place around the corner from our hotel. It was fancy shmancy, and only one woman spoke any English. We started with foot massages (really, I think they just want to clean tourists’ feet after walking all day, they must stink!) and then had massages followed by a steam room. It was incredibly relaxing and well worth the time.

I had researched a place for dinner – asking friends and looking online. We decided on Le Procope – a short walk from our hotel. It served traditional French cuisine and was famous for the Calf’s Head (which Dave ordered). I checked it closely, and can confirm that the eyelashes and other odd head parts had boiled off in the cooking process. I stuck with something more tame – duck breast and vegetables. The restaurant was loud and bistro-like, but we enjoyed the company of a North Carolina couple seated next to us.

Another night’s sleep and we headed out to devote the day to the Tour de France. We met some friends of Dave’s and headed to the Westin – our designated viewing spot. It was right on the 1K banner mark and by 10am already had a good crowd gathering to hold their spots on the fence. We wandered a bit to look at all the Tour hype and then defended our position on the fence over 2 hours before the racers came through.

The cyclists didn’t come zooming through until about 4pm, so we had a long wait. It was sunny and hot, compared to the previous day’s rain. We chatted with Tour die-hards from all over the world. It is interesting to hear how many people join bike tours this time of year to ride some of the stages and follow the race every day. Dave’s friends that we joined were Tour experts – they knew which vehicles would be in the parade, what colour the lead cars were, which motorcycles to look for, etc.

The final stage in the Tour runs 8 laps around the Champs-Elysees, so it is the best viewing spot for the entire 3-week race. Dave and I have been watching the Tour on television for years, so it was exhilarating to be there in person. The cyclists came through on the first lap and the crowd went crazy.

1st lap of Tour De France final day in Paris.


We captured some fantastic pictures of the winners and the sprinters.

We potentially missed the best part of the finishing stage – where all the racers head to their team vans and buses and mingle with fans. We made train reservations back to London for later that evening and ended up in a time crunch to get there. Naturally, the train station temporarily shut down due to an unattended package and our train delayed over 1 hour. Sigh.

The ride home was otherwise uneventful and we were delighted to hear our nanny say that she loved our boys more than ever before. She and the boys spent Saturday “working the locks” at an all-day exhibition for kids and families. Kevin bragged about pulling open the heavy locks to let the water in and out. Ryan spent the day climbing on dangerous structures and flirting with all females in sight. They spent Sunday at our nanny’s house, running naked in the front yard picking apples that had fallen from their tree. (Which turned out to be a fantastic idea, since they made an apple pie together later in the week!)  Here is a picture of Kevin and Ryan and our nanny, Maria.  They made binoculars out of blocks and were reading Super Duck for the 100th time.

Funny, we looked forward to getting away for the weekend without our children and then spent most of the time talking about them. Family is good.

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