Thursday, August 22, 2019


I think most people have heard about the two big heat waves that percolated through France this summer. Record breaking temperatures settled over this unairconditioned city. I believe 108.6F (that's 42.6C) was registered here in July.

We're not anywhere near those highs now, but we are slowly climbing and I do think this will be thought of as a kind of small after shock: by Sunday, the city will be at a toasty 92F (33C). We will be leaving Sunday, but still, many Parisians will be returning from their summer vacations on that day. They will be greeted by very hot apartments. One has to remember that anything over 90F here has been extremely rare. Up to now.

The one significant difference in this mini heatwave is that we are close enough to fall that the evening temperatures do go down to very comfortable levels. When I went out breakfast shopping this morning, people were wearing sweaters.

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My morning saunter was to Bon Marche's Grande Epicerie (the food halls of the big department store). It's only a 7 minute walk and I can pick up fruit and yogurts as well.

What perhaps stands out this morning is the lateness of the hour when I do my shopping. Both kids slept until after 9 -- certainly unheard of for Sparrow and I think for Snowdrop too. We tuckered them out good and solid yesterday! (I of course got up early, expecting everyone else to follow suit. They didn't.)

(Leaving our building for breakfast shopping...)


On this morning walk, I get a full view of the Hotel Lutecia. It's the Left Bank's only luxury grand hotel and it recently underwent a complete face lift. Can you tell?


I cut through the park where Snowdrop played yesterday. Today, I pay attention to the flowers...


At the food halls, I stop first at the macaron counter.


Here's anecdotal proof that these delicate cookies are really superior here: back home, any number of places now sell macarons. But they're all too sweet. All I ever taste is the sugar. Here, if you buy a cherry-chocolate macaron, you'll appreciate the dark fondant and you'll really taste the fruit! The slight tartness of a cherry comes through. Snowdrop can't stop at one macaron. She begs for a second and then a third. At home, she'll nibble around just one and push it away. (She does not have a strong sweet tooth.)

I of course mainly pick up bread products. And those cute little jars of yogurt. And fruit.


Were I to live here, I would not buy these berries for daily consumption: they are insanely expensive. The raspberries and strawberries are exquisite, but who can afford them at nearly 6 Euros for a tiny container?

As with all foods here -- the French eat them in small quantities. Definitely the berries are not something I would throw over my bowl of oatmeal every the morning!

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When Ed first came to Paris with me, he was astonished at how quiet a street can be. He'd tell me that in all the childhood years he spent in New York City, he never found a block where you could hear a pin drop.

Get off the beaten track in Paris and you'll be surprised at the pin-drop quietness of some of the streets.


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*   *   *

This morning, my son-in-law has stuff to do and so the four of us -- the two kids, along with my daughter, and the old gogs -- set out for the Luxembourg Gardens. We take the long way there, stopping at shops where I tell them I have so often shopped for them. Today, I'm not looking to stuff my suitcase. Still, I can better anticipate their needs and preferences in the future, listening to their comments and exclamations of delight (or tepid indifference!) today.

*   *   *

Finally, the park that I love so much!


Hey, the old merry-go-round, which had been closed the last two times I was here with someone who would want to ride it, is up and running once again!


Sparrow isn't particularly in love with this kind of ride (I believe he rejected the "offer" to ride an animal on a Madison merry-go-round), but still, we thought we could coax him into it.

It's a no go. On this particular merry-go-round, the horses are suspended over the ground. There is no platform for an adult to stand on and he is obviously too young to manage on his own. He watches as his sister whizzes by repeatedly.


Because today's high is just 80F (26.6C), it's a good time to go to the kids' big playground. I was impressed how the older kids accommodated Snowdrop's less daring see-saw technique. Playground behavior I can live with!


Sparrow is a bit too young for all this and Snowdrop is at an age where a lot of the structures are either too easy or too tough for her, nonetheless, the girl finds exciting balancing and climbing opportunities. This is what she loves to do most.


(Sparrow practices walking. It's a challenge for him, but he tries his utmost today.)


The whole visit to this oasis of shade, sunshine and blooms (delightful, despite the drought this year) is one slice of heaven.


(I tell Snowdrop that I always manage a picture by the pond... She strikes a pose...)


Afterwards, we walk through the park toward the exit that is right by my usual hotel. In other words, there isn't much that I don't know about these set of blocks, including where to get an outstanding buckwheat crepe for lunch. The Breizh Cafe, on rue de l'Odeon!

Snowdrop digs into her art ('I'm drawing an outdoor restaurant" -- she tells us)


Sparrow eats his crepe with cheese enthusiastically!


(oh, these kids!)


Everyone is tired now. Sparrow is long overdue for his nap. The rest of us could use a nap too, I'm sure.

But we do not nap. We pick up a pastry to split many ways back home. (I remember taking this very picture at this very pastry shop three years ago. Back then, I didn't ask which one looks best. This time, the girl has strong preferences!)


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In the later afternoon, we go out as a threesome. Sparrow is finally napping, his daddy is watching him. My two girls want to visit the department store. And why not. It's pretty to look at, if a bit expensive for significant shopping purposes.



And it gives Snowdrop the opportunity to practice her few French words and phrases. I am surprised how willing she is to give it a go. At home, I can't get her to plunge into this language. Here, she is eager to use it to the max, reinforced always but the appreciative comments that follow.


(waiting for one thing or another...)


*   *   *

Our evening meal is at La Pie Noir. I'd never tried it and it's a bit of a walk, but people spoke highly of its food and friendly atmosphere. Was it wise to listen to their collective approbation?


Oh, yes, it was! In general, I have found wait staff in Paris to be very nice to families eating out. We always eat as early as is possible at a given establishment -- typically 7, tho today, we were able to show up as early as 6:30. Few French people dine then, but it hardly matters. We have other targets for these evening eating adventures: I want to get peacefully get through a good meal, typically a long one, with now two very young kids. That's a tall order, but doable! I look for places that are informal and jovial rather than romantic and serene. But food quality is important (as is the cost!), so there are many factors to balance. La Pie Noir was pretty much perfect for us. The kids were a tad fragile at first, but the owner won them over, one by one.

(asking our one year old Sparrow if he'd be drinking wine ...)


And it wasn't fake: the man had a real curiosity about us (and all the other customers there). By the time we were done, he knew exactly where we were from and where we were heading next. He said he remembered well traveling with his own kids when they were little. By evening's end, Snowdrop was asking him for "l'addition" (the check) and we were full of the warmth you want to feel after an evening out.

The food? Oh, superb! Razor clams from Brittany, and for me -- scallops on a bed of perfectly cooked risotto, and then to share, the biggest and yummiest eclair pastry with ice cream and chocolate sauce I'd ever seen.

(not fragile at all!)


(The long walk home begins with a lively sprint by one of us -- a little girl feeling comfortable in the city that has been really kind to her.)


[Tomorrow's post will be tricky, as I will have no free time at all. The young parents have stuff to do and so I will be on my own with the kids from morning til way past their bedtime. A new set of adventures awaits us, that's for sure!]