Where to spend a week in February with your parents? What a lovely dilemma.
It took more than three days of continuous conversation to pick Paris as our destination. A Spanish-speaking, warm country was our initial thought, but then … Zika! Once Dad remembered Zika and the perhaps unknown long-term effects on his potential grandchildren, we broadened our search outside South America. Paris was an obvious option because, well, it’s Paris. And surprisingly, Dad has never been.
Of course, because we can always find something to worry about, Paris conjured up fears of terrorist attacks. Zika or terrorists? Terrorists or Zika? Pick your poison. Of course, statistically speaking mosquitoes are much more dangerous than terrorists, so I’d like to think we came to a very rational conclusion with the city of lights.
We booked tickets a month before departure and Mom found the most charming AirBnB with exposed, original wooden beams and a cozy kitchen, located in Le Marais district.
Sadly, Anna and Katie couldn’t take off from work, so one of the twin beds went empty.
Apparently the beams are more than 300 years old, which I loved … until I turned off the lights at night and thought about how many Parisian souls had lived here before me during those 300 years.
I wouldn’t have changed a single detail in the apartment. Look at that bathroom with a floor to ceiling bookcase — it’s like they built it with our family in mind!
An initial idea was to spend half the week in Paris and half traveling to the south of France. But we were so, so happy to spend the entire trip in Paris. It was so much more relaxing to fully unpack and settle in for a week without the stress of catching trains in the cold and checking in to new hotels each day. The flight over was a true dream as the plane was extremely empty. Everyone had three to four seats to themselves and a flight attendant literally tucked a woman into a bed she had made out of four seats. Everyone was in a cheery mood and the flight attendants kept “complaining” that they didn’t have enough to do. Flying in February: the best-kept secret.
On our first day, Mom napped while Dad and I took a quick amble around the neighborhood, walked through Notre Dame and shared our first crepe. Above, Dad determines that “crepes really are a great snack.” That night we had falafels and fries at L’As du Fallafel and even scored a table right away (usually the line is down the block). As we would discover, there are many perks to Paris in February. Though the skies were grey much of the time, the misty weather gave us the perfect excuse to buy four-day museum passes and milk them for all they were worth. On our first full day we started at the d’Orsay and caught our first glance of the Eiffel Tower from the top floor. With most museums we’d pick a time and place to meet so that we could each enjoy the exhibits at our own pace, which worked out well for us. Some in the family take a drive-by approach to museum-ing and others are a bit more in depth. Next up, for a strikingly different museum experience, mom guided us to the Paris Sewer Museum, which is of course underground. Egouts means sewers in French. The more you know … Thankfully, no living rats were spotted, or Mom would not be so smiley. At many sections of the museum you had to literally walk over the running sewer or alongside of it. We carefully tiptoed, one by one over the grates. There are few things that I can imagine would be worse than falling into that black river. Personally, I didn’t retain much from the exhibits as it’s a bit hard to concentrate on sewer history and ancient sewer cleaning techniques when water is dripping on your head. And perhaps it did cross my mind at one point: why were we in the sewer when we could be having macaroons and hot chocolate at a sidewalk cafe?OK, here, I remember one thing. This giant ball was used to clear debris from the sewers. I also learned how appreciative I am of the people — not I — who are willing to spend their days underground in the sewer. Never so happy to see the light of day, we headed for the Eiffel Tower.
While the line for the stairs was short, the elevator line was prohibitively long — can’t imagine how long it gets in July.
We were quite content to admire from below. Before dinner in the Latin Quarter, we had wine and hot chocolate in the windows of Les Deux Magots. One of my favorite moments of the trip was stumbling across this group of performers. It was magical to stand on a street corner in St. Germain and listen to truly great music in the cool night. Mostly though, it made me want to be old in Paris. The woman in their group had the sole job of performing a charming, albeit choppy, little dance of sorts. She had to be in her 80s, but was impeccably dressed in a dress, tights and heels with a flower adorning her hat. They garnered quite the crowd, but not in a condescending, “oh cute, old people can have fun too” sort of way. For some reason, older people seem to be integrated much better in Parisian society.
While walking home that night, we braved the cold and waited for ten minutes on the bridge to catch the Eiffel Tower sparkle at the change of the hour. It was the cherry on top of a wonderfully packed day.