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Paris Paris with the Boys - Taking Teens to Paris


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April 2007 - Amy and her husband spend a week in Paris with their teen boys.

Back to Paris, Teens Included

I often tell my eldest son Dan that he really was in Paris once. I was newly pregnant, and tagged along with my husband Larry on a business trip to Paris. The morning sickness, dietary restrictions, and first trimester exhaustion made for a somewhat different Paris experience. I recall lots of resting on park benches, seeking out bathrooms, and the occasional frantic dash for a basin. But if you're going to mix wretchedness with sweet new beginnings, Paris is the place for it.

This will be Larry and my sixth trip to Paris, but the first time for Dan and Evan. They're excited to go to the Eiffel Tower, to ride the Batobus, get some gruesome Revolution stories from guide Michael Ozman, and eat a lot of chocolate. We just want to let them experience Paris on their terms, and hope to ignite in them some of our love for the city.

We're staying in what looks to be a very comfortable apartment in the eastern border of the Marais.

Flying on Iceland Air tomorrow night, arriving in Paris in the early afternoon. We'll have the laptop and a WiFi connection, so I'll try to blog every now and then. I also have a paper to work on, so I'm making no promises!


Top of Notre Dame
Chowderheads in Paris

We've arrived! The flights were very easy, and we all actually slept. The less said about Iceland Air's food, the better. We're still discussing what was in the tofu-textured brown things that were dinner.

The apartment is wonderful, very spacious and light, with two comfortable bedrooms, kitchen, living room and dining room. We're overlooking the Arsenal Basin, a five minute walk from Bastille.

The Chowderheads earned their name yesterday with a little Parisian adventure. I dunno--"They" say they're bright, but my offspring could have proved them wrong yesterday. It started when we ventured out for a walk. As in most Paris buildings, the elevator here is the size of a phone booth. The boys got in to go downstairs, and Larry and I took the stairs. We got down, and the elevator didn't. Pushing the button a few times didn't get results. We walked up a flight, and heard the boys arguing inside the elevator shaft. The elevator was stuck between floors.

After some discussion, the boys pressed the Alarm button. The nice young man giving recorded directions in French, which we couldn't hear clearly wasn't much help. A neighbor came in, and we explained the situation to him as best we could. He started to laugh -- did they jump in the elevator, perchance. We asked the boys through the door, and after some whispered discussion, Dan asked if I was going to yell at him. I replied that the consequence seemed to be punishment enough, so no. The neighbor confided that he did the same thing last year.

Anyway, our new best friend called the Pompieres on his cell. Since the boys weren't young children the fire department didn't deem it an emergency, so told us to call the elevator company. The elevator company said they'd have someone here in half an hour.

We waited. I hung out outside the elevator door, listening to the boys argue over whose turn it was to sit down. After a while, they began to sing rude camp songs. Larry meanwhile had met the guy who works in the garage next door, who called the elevator company two more times. More than an hour after the initial call, a repairman arrived. Within five minutes he had the door open, Dan boosted Evan up and the guys lifted Dan up and out.

They were pretty mortified. They went to say thanks to the neighbor and the garage guy, and then we took pity on them and went to forage for food. We bought warm baguettes, and introduced the boys to snacking on the "nose." They got samples and made selections at the nice cheese shop on rue Saint Antoine, and were thrilled by the feathered poultry at the butcher's where we got pates and sliced meats. We got fruit and vegetables at the greengrocer next door, and dove into the Monoprix for other essentials.

Dinner at home was salad, cheeses, meats, and huge strawberries. The boys also had a thimbleful of wine and a little dessert.

Early to bed.


Bridge over Arsenale Boat Basin, near bastille
Lazy Sunday

Have I mentioned the weather yet? After the cold, damp, and still more cold of early April in Boston, we arrived to find Paris exploding into summer. With the temperature in the low 80's, it was a bit of a shock to our systems. But it's insanely wonderful to be able to eat outside, sit on the banks of the Seine, and see flowers blooming.

We slept in on Sunday, and finally pried Dan out of bed at 10:30. Teenage boys are like newborn babies. They need to eat every two hours, demand excessive amounts of sleep at all the wrong times, wake up cranky, and stare at breasts.

The Paris Marathon was running right past Bastille, so after breakfast, we headed up the street. The leaders had already gone past, but there were plenty of people to cheer on. As we crossed to the Richard Lenoir market we had to run the gauntlet of presidential campaigners with leaflets competing for our nonexistent votes. With 16 candidates, it was quite the scene. The market was busy and lively, and the boys loved the man juggling while keeping a bowl of fish on his head. We got clementines, strawberries, more fresh chevre, a nut bread, a tiny melon, salad greens, and tomatoes. I so wish I could have my salad greens custom-mixed at home.

After unloading our shopping cart at home, we walked over to the Viaduc des Arts where we figured there would be an open cafe for lunch. Found a cute place, where we sat outside and the boys ordered their first meal in French. It's amazing to be a kid, and to be so unselfconscious about using words you've learned five minutes beforehand. I wish I could do that.

We crossed the Seine across the Pont de Austerlitz and headed into the Jardin des Plants. Cherry and apple trees were flowering, and spring bulbs were in peak bloom. The grownups appreciated it, and the kids sneezed a lot. After walking a bit, we went down to the quai, through the sculpture garden. This is one of my favorite places. We got onto the Batobus, and managed to get seats on the shaded side. With that glass roof, things can get steamy on a warm day like this.

Everyone in Paris seemed to be sunning themselves along the Seine. We ended up going all the way to the Eiffel tower and back again. We walked back to the apartment and hung out for a while, and then made the boys some dinner.

Larry and I headed out to meet some friends for dinner at a little Italian place in the 11th. Very good pizzas, even better company.


Notre Dame from the Batobus
Monday with Michael

Monday was another hot and sunny day. I had arranged a tour with guide Michael Osman, who came to the apartment to pick us up. We began by walking along the Seine toward Notre Dame, Michael telling the boys some of the early history of Paris. We walked through Ile Saint-Louis to look at the back of Notre Dame and hear about its construction, then went inside. From there we went to the Conciergerie, where Michael had lots of gruesome stories to tell about the Revolution. Onward next door to Saint-Chapelle, where our Museum Passes enabled us to skip the long line. When we emerged into the upper chapel, I heard Dan the Unimpressed Teenager quietly say "Woah" as he saw the room full of soaring stained glass.

By this time it was lunchtime. Michael suggested a good crepe place in Montparnasse. We hopped on the bus, and got off near the Cemetery. After a short walk through the cemetery and the streets of Montparnasse, we arrived at a tiny, busy crepe restaurant. Excellent crepes and (slightly hard) cider. Josselin, 30 rue Delambre, Metro Edgar Quinet. Good place.

Dan had one request for the day--Les Egouts, the Sewers. We hopped onto the Metro, got off at Alma, and walked over the Pont. This was actually far more interesting than I had anticipated, with many good historical displays of Paris' physical history. Larry the engineer and the boys were fascinated. Yes, it was a bit ripe down there. The boys really enjoyed this, although they were disappointed to not see turds in the water. I got over it.

We continued by walking through the 7th, since Larry needed an ATM. Michael stopped into a chocolate shop on Rue Cler to get just a piece for each boy, and the woman behind the counter gave him a whole bag as a gift. Very nice, on many levels.

We were all feeling our feet by now, so we headed over by bus to the Marais to get home. We walked through the Marais, Michael telling the history of that area. We stopped at Amorino to get the boys gelato, then walked home.

A very full day. Dinner at home.


Up and Down and All Around

Tuesday morning we pried the boys out of bed so we could go climb the towers at Notre Dame. Since they only let groups of 20 inside at once, there's generally a long line. We arrived before 10, and waited about 20 minutes. As we were in line, Larry spotted a familiar profile -- my sister Laura, who had arrived that morning and was walking off her jetlag.

Since I am no fan of tiny twisting stairways (been there, done that, and last time with morning sickness to boot) I went to the park to read while they went up. I eventually met up with them inside, and we went down to the Crypt, where I've never been. Lots to look at here, with ruins of the Roman and Medieval layers of Paris under Notre Dame.

Next on the agenda was the Musee des Arts et Metiers in the 3rd. The boys love cous-cous, so we went over to Chez Omar, near the musee. Larry was laughing, because we saw some of the same people eating there that we had seen lunching last summer. They must work nearby and use their lunch tickets. Very good food, as usual. The waiter was joking with Evan that the harissa was ketchup. Chez Omar, 47 rue de Bretagne, Metro Arts et Metiers.

The Musee is filled with room after room after room of old machines and examples of technology. Clocks, measures, building materials, looms, typewriters, lights, measurement tools...It goes on and on. Larry could have stayed all day and gone back the next, Evan was almost as besotted, Dan was interested in spite of himself (Laura commented that he's a secret geek) and Laura and I could have done simply with the last room, the old church filled with antique cars and airplanes.

We headed home to rest, and after a light dinner of cheese and wine for the grownups and incredibly bad Chinese takeout for the boys we headed over to the Batobus stop at dusk. Dan really wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower at nighttime. The Batobus ride was even more fun this time, as there were hardly any people on it and the "announcer" was obviously getting very punchy. He had us in hysterics in three languages.

Amazingly, we only waited in line at the Tower for 10 minutes. I have never seen the line this short. By the time we got upstairs it was dark, and all of Paris was twinkling below us. When we came down, the lights on the tower exploded in short bursts, making the Tower look like it was glittering. Amazing. We were told that this is done every hour on the hour at night.

You know Larry is tired if he agrees to a cab. No walking, ten euros. Home in 10 minutes, priceless.


Eiffel Tower at Night
Bijoux, Segways, et Vin

The boys had been looking forward to Wednesday and their Segway tour. Even so, it was rough going getting them out the door by 9:00. I split off to meet up with Laura and head over to see the Lalique exhibit at the Musee du Luxembourg.

The Lalique exhibit was wonderful, filled with gorgeous art nouveau jewelry, some glassware, and lots of drawings and designs. Getting a good look at some of the display cases meant using some of the techniques I've seen exhibited by the ladies at the markets. Don't give up an inch, and the famous Shoulder Edge and Block. We walked around a bit afterward, popping into shops, getting a cafe, and looking at restaurant menus. We ended up backtracking and eating at Au Gourmand, 22 rue Vaugirard. Laura fulfilled one of her Paris obligations with foie gras, and I started with tiny artichoke ravioli in a chive sauce. Both were excellent. Laura followed with roasted lapin, I had dorade over vegetables. She liked her bunny, I found my fish a bit dull. Ah, well.

On the way back, I managed to steer us going in the wrong direction not once, but twice. And we hadn't even had wine with lunch, since we'd be doing a tasting later. I suspect I'll be hearing about this for a long time.

I met up with Larry and the boys at the apartment. They had a blast on their Segway tour. Larry agreed with the statement that it was more about the Segway than Paris, but that's OK. After a brief training session, they were zipping around on "turtle mode" through Paris. They stopped for lunch in the Tuilleries, and the whole thing lasted over four hours. They rode the Batobus back, making it the boys' third time. Those five-day passes were worth it.

After a rest, the adults headed up to the Oberkampf area for a wine tasting at O-Chateau. http://www.o-chateau.com/en/main/ We climbed up to the fourth floor loft, where we were joined by a few other tourists and a group from Microsoft's Dublin office. Olivier Magny is young, cute, and puts on a good show. We did learn a lot about tasting and French regions, and even Laura the ex-winestore worker learned a few things. Olivier had a good time joshing the Irish, Californians, and people who sniff corks and use silly terms to describe wines. He chose moderate to inexpensive wines to taste, and there were some we really liked.

Back at the apartment, the boys were hungry for dinner after snacking on fruit and a baguette. We didn't want to go far, so chose a little place around the corner from the apartment. It turned out to be a great choice, as the food was very good and fairly priced. It was casual, with artwork on the walls and no non-French speakers. Actually, someone would have to work hard to find the place, since it’s on a side street and not near any Paris “destination.” The kids loved their entrecote, I had duck breast with mango and sweet potato that was better than my more expensive lunch, and Larry had an excellent dish of pork cooked with honey, served with quinoa, of all things. If you're in the Bastille neighborhood and want a good, simple but interesting meal, try it. I've since discovered they even have a website, since they present music and art shows. La Canille, 4 rue Crillon, Metro Sully Morland or Quai de la Rapee.


Segway Tour
Mona and Chocolate

Thursday (again warm and sunny, ho hum) we trooped off to the Louvre. It was fairly crowded, but except for a brief line at Security, we breezed in with our museum passes. Before leaving home I had printed out two of the Louvre's Thematic Walks from their website. Dan really wanted to do the DaVinci Code one, Evan voted for Daily Life in Ancient Egypt. We started with the DaVinci Code. The walk was very interesting, as the writer wanted to show not only the sites and artworks from the book, but how Brown had juggled facts into fiction, and how art historians over the years have spun stories from mis- and over- interpreting artwork. Busted quite a few "facts" from the novel, which was eye-opening for Dan. The guard let the kids get closer to the Mona Lisa, which was nice. Afterward, we walked for what seemed like miles to the Egyptian galleries and did some of that walk before we admitted defeat, and went outside to eat our sandwiches.

We then hopped on the Metro to the left bank for our tour of the kitchen at Gérard Mulot, pastry and chocolate maker!

This I had arranged through the website Meeting the French.

We were met at the shop by our interpreter. It was a fascinating visit, seeing Patrick the macaroon baker and his assistants in one kitchen, and the very focused chief chocolate maker and his group of assistants in the chocolate "laboratory." We were there for a good hour, and there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions and see just why really good pastry and chocolates are so labor intensive and so expensive. And yes, there were lots of samples! My favorite was a lemon and dark chocolate, and an orange and cinnamon macaroon.

Back home, and a nice wander, then dinner.


Chocolate-Making at Gérard Mulot
Last Day

We had planned on a daytrip to Chantilly to see the Chateau and the Musée Vivant du Cheval. But my goodness, it feels like we've been running all week. We decided instead to just have a low key day, with no plans.

So of course, we ended up running all over the city.

Dan really wanted to use his birthday money from Grandma to get a football shirt, since he's become quite the fan of European soccer. We began by sleeping in. The boys were finally up and ready to leave at 11, and we were literally heading through the door when Dan threw back his arm, rotating for a faked baseball pitch. I was standing just behind him, and his elbow smacked right into the bridge of my nose. I now know what the expression about seeing stars feels like. I spent the next half hour with an icepack on my face, and Dan being once again mortified.

We finally got going, and went up to a football store outside Republique. Lots of shirts, but none that appealed. By this time it was lunchtime, so we decided to head to a restaurant that Dave had recommended at 269 Faubourg St Antoine, pretty close to the next sports shop on my list. Chez Ramulaud was small, with tasty and inexpensive food. Only two choices for each course, so the boys got to stretch their horizons a bit with a tomato and parmesean gratin, a boudin with potatoes, and a very tasty lamb casserole. Evan didn't even complain about the olives, though he did pick out each microscopic black fleck.

On to the next store, the giant Go Sports just down from the Viaduc des Arts. We love the overhead Promenade Plante that's above the Viaduc's trendy art stores. The boys hit Go Sports, I hit the Promenade. We reconnected, with no success on the shirt. Dan had decided what he really wanted was a shirt from Manchester United, and each store so far only had it in extra large, which was enormous on him, even given the enormous shirts the kids are wearing now. The staff at the store had called around, and recommended a store near Chatelet.

So, off we went. A bit of time around that area reminded me why I don't like the area--too much like the seedy end of 34th street in NYC. The boys were fascinated by the uber-punk looking crowds, and we ventured in a bit to show them the Pompidou building, which they also got a big kick out of. And finally success -- A Manchester United shirt, size Medium. And priced so high Dan put it back, since it was far more than what he had. Larry and I whispered a bit, and doubled back to get it ourselves, and gave it to Dan for his birthday so he could use his Grandma money for something else.

Next, we caught the bus over to the 6th, and got some chocolates to bring home. Then back to the apartment, where I got a big surprise when I took off my sunglasses. My bumped nose had produced two black eyes.

No, you are not getting a photo.

We got the boys a beautiful roasted chicken and some salads for dinner, and Larry and I headed out to meet C and F for dinner at La Maison du Jardin, near the Louxembourg. We had an excellent meal, and a really fun time. Everyone enjoyed their food. I adore liver, (yes I know, I'm odd) and this place has a really delicious version. 27 Vaugirard, in the 6th ( )

Saturday we got packed, got the last croissants, and did some light housekeeping. My bruises had deepened and spread, making me wonder if I was going to be handed leaflets about spousal abuse over the next few days. My sunglasses didn't hide the entirety, and my makeup wasn't much help.

Easy flights home, and more wretched food from Iceland Air.

The boys are talking about going back.


Boys in Paris
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Thank you for your delightful trip report. We plan to take our granddaughter (13) next summer, and you gave me some great ideas. She was there when she was 2, and remembers little except the ducks in the Louvre pond and the many carousel rides.
I searched Meeting the French and didn't see the Mulot tour, which sounds wonderful. Do you recall what the tour was titled?

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