Traveling With Teens

Paris by Mouth

 

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Paris by mouth, by eye, by nose,by ear, by index finger and thumb. I visited Paris last summer when it was all and only about magical skyline and charming street level shops, about food and friendlier than expected waiters, about Parisian men all dressed in the exact same summer-blue blazer, button up shirt and jeans and loafers with no socks – paired with their counterpart, the classic Parisian woman with her sensible but beautiful heels and a scarf just so. It was not about terrorism.

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The terrorism that resulted in the world shouting Je suis Charlie Hebdo was six months in the past. The massacres around the city which would again unify the world and became the campaign Je suis Paris had not yet happened; that was four months into the future. Parisians were enjoying an idyllic summer. They needed it. The weather was mild and green, there was a buzzing mix of tourists and locals, whose ambient energy created a delightful hum.

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The excitement that is Paris had eluded me in trips past. Maybe because the first time I ventured there I was backpacking with my friend Nicki and the owners of the youth hostel liked to yell at the young people coming to stay overnight for 42 francs. Nicki and I spent the week eating baguettes and cheese and wine, a crepe here and there. One night we splurged to sit at Le Deux Magot for a glass of wine and a croque monsieur. But we had to return to the hostel by 10:30.

The second time in Paris I was pregnant and all I remember is the smell of the city and how it revolted me. We walked by windows full of pastries or chocolate or cheese and I wanted to heave. Paris was for the gastronomically inclined and I barely survived the trip.

But this time. This time… Paris enchanted, seduced, delighted every sense. I was traveling with Masa, we were on our way home from a longer trip, a trip to Germany and Austria. Masa and I traveled with our blended little family – his son and my two kids; Paris was just a quick stop on our way back home.

Paris came alive for each one of this motley traveling troop. We had such a short time and so much to see. I wanted more than anything to spend two weeks peeking inside each of those charming shops where women of a certain age (about mine I suspect) wore beautiful suits and wagged their finger at anyone touching the clothes before trying them on. (I didn’t really mind the short French reprimand of “No!” ) The galleries and museums beckoned, the bistros and cafes were enchantment itself. Two days, two weeks, two months – none of this would ever be enough.

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Hotel Pont Royal, only blocks away from Musee D’Orsay.

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Our first day, booked a guide through Ultimate Paris. Manuela took us through Le Marais, I’Ile de la Cite Paris and the Latin quarter. Tours and guides are good when you travel with teens and kids. In fact no matter where or with whom you travel, I suggest guides for an overview of the city. Manuela took us around the newly fashionable area of Le Marais. Once home to Parisian and visiting aristocrats (many notable historic hotels here) it is now considered the most intimate neighborhood in Paris, a place for Parisians to come to get away from the crowds visiting St. Germaine, the Latin quarter and other well known tourist spots. Small art galleries, up-and-coming restaurants are open all week, even on Sunday (unlike most of the rest of Paris). In fact, Le Marais is where many cultures mix, with Chinese,and Jewish and LBGT neighborhoods side by side.

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Berthillon, arguably the best ice cream in Paris.

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Artful dragons chase evil away.

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A view of the Seine.

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Bustling Latin Quarter neighborhood.

Stephanie brought us to the Rohan-Guéménée mansion in which Victor Hugo’s apartments overlook Place de Voges, a large and very beautiful garden square. Stepping through Hugo’s chambers was surreal. Hugo sat on that chair to write, took tea in this room with his collected china, slept in that small bed. Victor Hugo really did this. This happens to me sometimes, when traveling – the disconnect of time and space. (It happened once when I toured Charles Dicken’s actual home as well.) The shock to the system, to the mind and heart, that the famed person is not some sort of imagined fairy tale. They lived, breathed, ate, made love, put coal on a fire, used a bed pan, and wrote. In real life. Victor Hugo’s apartment stunned me in this way.

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Hugo’s famed porcelain collection from China.

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A very small bed. Hugo slept sitting up for his health.

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“Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.” –Victor Hugo

On our final day we took a gastronomical tour called Paris by Mouth which took us all over the St. Germaine area tasting local specialties with a knowledgable guide named Diane, former food editor of Vogue Magazine, now married to a Parisian. She took us from specialty shop to specialty shop, explained the history of each food and the awards that had been bestowed upon the chefs. There were only seven of us: our bunch and a couple from Texas.

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The wonderful pastries of Poilâne, St. Germaine.

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Patrick Rogers Chocolatier – the winner of the Meilleur Ourvrier de France award.

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Lovely, award winning fromage.

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Arnaud Lerhar Marcons.

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A rich L’Edel de Cleron on Poilâne bread.

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Our final picnic with wine, cheese, breads, chocolate and macarons.

Why did Paris elude me for so long? Why, on earth had I been so late to the party?Had I been too young? Too pregnant? Too much of an Anglophile? (My love for all things British knows no bounds.) Whatever the reason, that’s in my past. The City of Lights has enchanted me.

Je suis Paris. Paris je’ t’aime, at long last.

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Check these out! 

Maison de Victor Hugo

Paris By Mouth

Ultimate Paris Guide

Poilâne Bakery

Patrick Rogers Chocolatier

Arnaud Larher Marcons

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The First Post – London


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As a quick fix for my need to write, I’ve created this travelog.  I suppose about half the blogs out there have a theme or angle (I have another couple that do).  This one however is merely the account of one single-woman’s journeys through various geographies.  Definitely not a travel guide, and hopefully not just a boring journal.  I am sometimes alone, sometimes with my kids.

 At present, WordPress is new for me, and I haven’t really figured out how to make it look Whiz-Bang yet.  I had a great picture set to post as background and it came out about an inch square, no way to resize it easily.  As time goes on, I will either figure it out myself or have to make someone a really nice dinner for getting this blog up to speed graphics wise…for now, WP stock backgrounds and colors will have to do…

For now, a couple of longer entries to start, since we’ve been on the road for over a week…I’m traveling with my 14 year old son and 12 year old daughter – we spent a week in London before heading to where we are now, Dublin.

London, July 1-7.

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Perhaps I’ve been to London too many times.  It was charming, as ever.  But that “zing” of travel wasn’t there for me this time. London felt  like an old boyfriend.  Still handsome, still winning – but not enough chemistry between us to sleep with him again. I remembered the old love affair, my Mod days, traveling all over England on a Vespa with my friend Nicki  – showing up at dance halls in Brighton, drinking hard cider, wearing our Beatle Boots in the rain. Later, on other trips, Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, King Henry VIII, every manner of study and sight seeing about the Plantagenets, Tudors, Stewarts, Yorks and Windsors. All things British, up to and including Colin Firth, were beloved.

But last week when the kids and I rented a flat overlooking the Seven Dials in Covent Garden, I felt jaded and wondered if I had been to London too many times.  Or was it that I had been too many places;  if cities didn’t all just melt into one big cosmo-opolis, if the world hadn’t  become just too damn small for me to ever really be excited by travel again.   Everyone on cell phones.  A Subway and a Starbucks and a Five Guys and a Banana Republic everywhere we looked.  We went through the paces of tourist sights (photos to follow) and all had their own delight to be sure, but my relationship with London had changed.  A comfortable, well worn friendship had been established long ago but this time without the electricity of novelty.

Though there were still things I’d never seen before (oddly, the Tower of London – and the Warner Brother’s  World of Harry Potter in Leavsdon)  the “Here Comes Christmas” feeling in my bones I get when on the road didn’t rise up,  but a certain sadness did.  I wanted to always have London to go to – this was my 5th trip (in oodles of years). Would it be my last?

It could be that I wasn’t traveling with a partner.  How fun it might have been to pop down to a pub for a Pimms or a Half and Half, or to have a romantic dinner.  Or even to spend time really perusing the Galleries and Shops – which neither of my kids wanted to do much.  (I guess I can feel lucky in a  way that they aren’t shoppers.)

It could be that my son and daughter had just arrived at the very moment of their  teen and tweenage lives when they realized together (and with precision teamwork) that Mom is the Other and that not only is she hopeless in things like technology, but that she actually knows Nothing of the World.

There was a moment when my daughter and I had it out in front of the National Gallerie.  It wasn’t over something big.  In fact it had to do with reading a map.  There are moments, as a traveler, that one is as certain of which way to go as if one’s body was an actual magnetic needle on a compass.  But there are also times that a companion is just as certain that the opposite direction is true.  As she and I  tried to convince each other about the validity of our routes, while thousands of other tourists milled around us, while men who were spray painted copper patina created the illusion of being statues, while school children clambered deftly atop bronze lions, my daughter grabbed the map out of my hands, thrust her finger at the place on the map like I had never seen a map before, and shrilled, “You don’t know what you’re TALKING ABOUT!”  When did this happen?  When did she stop trusting me?  At what point did she decide that it was OK to scream at me?

I stopped speaking. A fiery  chill ran up my body.  I gave her a cold-blooded stare, one that said “Don’t Mess With Me. Ever.”   I knew that the way I was glaring at her was a look that she would never forget. And I instantly felt guilty.

She glared right back at me.  She held my gaze. Her look said, “Don’t Mess With Me. Ever.”  I imagined a slap-fight right in the middle of Trafalger Square.

Jetlag?  Tween-hood?  Daughter vs. Mother?   All I know is that as we stood there, while the rest of the National Gallery  loving world stood still,  it dawned on me that this trip would be different  than all the others.  That the “kids” were going to assert their Selves with a capital S, and that any chance of my trying to pull off “my way or the highway” parenting was not going to work.  I would have to find a new way to helm the ship.  And that was going to be a new journey indeed.

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