a fabulous fall break in paris…

one of the best things about living in istanbul is that europe is basically just a skip and a hop away! and while it may be too far for just a short weekend trip, going to paris is relatively easy for us making it an ideal place to visit for fall break 🙂

although the girls have been to paris before, our previous trips basically revolved around going to eurodisney and then spending a day or two quickly touring around the city, mainly so that i would feel that we had done more than just a trip to visit mickey mouse and the princesses! but this year both asya and alara were extremely interested in visiting paris, “for real”.  they wanted to sit at cafes and drink café au laits; shop in le marais neighborhood; visit museums and even art galleries; and just get a feel for the city itself.  as you can imagine, i was thrilled to hear this and set about to plan a parisian adventure that would be grown up enough to satisfy the big girls while child-friendly enough to keep alegra occupied too!

on our previous trips we had stayed close to the champs elysees and since we really felt as though we had a clear idea of that area of town, we decided to stay in a completely different arrondissement this time around booked our rooms in a sweet little hotel in le marais area.  it turned out to be the perfect choice!  le pavillon de la reine has the feel of a small family-run hotel but is luxurious and efficient enough to satisfy even the pickiest customers.  i loved it, i got up early every morning and went down to the lobby/breakfast room that was filled with comfy couches and chairs and had a fire burning in the fireplace every morning.  it was the most relaxing and lovely way to start each day; planning our route for the day, having a cup of tea and just enjoying a bit of peace and quiet.

the le marais area itself is also lovely.  filled with cool little cafes, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants we made sure to spend at least a couple hours each day just exploring the area around the hotel.  our favorite spots there were fragments café, which had the most delicious organic coffee, gluten free treats, and alegra’s favorite cookies of the trip; café charlot, a mix between a hip café and a real french bistro with delicious smoked salmon, french onion soup, and entrecote- but also with some pretty amazing burgers; and finally le breizh creperie where all the savory crepes are made with naturally gluten-free organic buckwheat flour and they brew their own hard cider in house- delicious!

le marais was also, somewhat unexpectedly, the place where we found some of our favorite children’s shops.  the very first evening there we stumbled into an amazing bookstore called librarie comme un roman.  although most of the books were in french, the colorful children’s section had a perfect selection of books for alegra to look at and enjoy- and we were able to find some english options too in the end.  we also found bibi idea shop and loved looking at all the shelves filled with little gifts and toys and seemingly endless options of water bottles, snack boxes, and lunch bags.  finally, we popped into one of the largest bonton shops i have ever seen and were able to find alegra some wonderful holiday clothes that she desperately needed.

the next day we ventured out a bit from a neighborhood and went to the iconic shakespeare and company bookstore.  we arrived so early that it hadn’t opened yet (it was a sunday though, to be fair) so we had time to sit and chat in the café next door; which, alegra was thrilled to discover, serves “real” cinnamon buns! as ever our venture into the bookstore itself was fantastic! all three girls had forgotten the little seats and cots hidden throughout the space and the new-to-us children’s alcove was the perfect spot for erim and i to hang out with alegra while asya and alara searched for all the books on their lists.  we all emerged with big smiles and big bags of books ready for our next stop at to visit the picasso exhibit at the musee d’orsay.

 although it wasn’t actually on our list, we decided we just couldn’t miss the delicious skinny minny french fries from l’avenue restaurant, so we stopped there on our way up to visit the champs elysees and arc du triophme.  our visit coincided with armistice day, so we weren’t able to get quite as close to the famous arch as we might have liked, but just being at the champs elysees and getting to see the giant boulevard without its usual traffic and hustle and bustle was pretty amazing.  the la duree pastry shop and tea house was open despite the armistice day celebrations so we made a short stop there…teas, coffees, and a tasting of macaroons later we were on our way back to le marais to meet up with aylin and get ready for dinner.

while completely different from one another, our dinners in paris were both equally noteworthy!  on the night of our arrival we tried out an amazing italian restaurant called daroco (funny eating italian in paris, i know, but it came so highly recommended we just didn’t want to pass it up!). the restaurant itself was amazing, with super high ceilings and a huge pizza oven in the center of the space, as soon as we walked in, i knew we were in for a treat.  we had walked all the way there from our hotel too, so everyone was a bit cold and definitely hungry.  we tried some of the aged parmesan cheese and warm olives to start and then ordered a bunch of different pizzas.  vegan for aylin, margherita for the girls, and a parma ham and mozzarella delight named “parma show” for erim… sadly no gluten-free pizza at daroco but they had some of the most amazing octopus i’d ever tasted.

since we had never visited it before we planned to spend one of our evenings in the montmartre neighborhood.  for dinner we tried a restaurant recommended rerecommended by the hotel, le coq de rico, and it surpassed all our expectations!  located in a small cozy building just a couple of blocks from the sacre coeur basilica the interior reminded me of modern farm house with a giant table to share.  the menu revolves around poultry dishes and the whole roasted chicken the girls shared with erim really did look delicious; served with a generous serving of french fries and a huge green salad it was just about the most perfect spot for us.

on our last full day in paris the weather was absolutely beautiful, and we passed a good part of our day walking from one neighborhood to the next.  we began the day at the louvre museum, cleverly beating the lines with our pre-purchased tickets. (i cannot emphasize enough the ease that comes with buying tickets in advance for museums in europe.  even at off peak times these museums have become popular enough and travel has become easy enough that it seems to me there is almost always a long line for tickets.  especially if you are travelling with children being able to skip ahead in the ticket line makes all the difference). because the louvre itself is so huge we decided to focus our time on the ancient egypt section and the mona lisa.  alegra’s class had studied the mona lisa last spring so she was particularly excited to see da vinci’s famous painting up close and in person.

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even with our focused viewing plan our visit to the louvre lasted about two hours and by the time we arrived at girafe restaurant in the trocadero area we were ready to eat!  girafe restaurant overlooks the jardins du trocadero and has an almost clear line of sight to the eiffel tower, making it an ideal spot for panoramic pictures (good luck getting three hungry kids to pose though!).  crisp white tablecloths, fancy champagne glasses and stunning seafood platters meant this was one of the fancier and more grown-up meals that enjoyed on our trip and it was a great end to our three full parisian days.

after lunch, and after we decided we just had to try all of their dessert specials we were really ready to move a bit and although it was a long walk, we walked all the way to saint-germain.  being outside, enjoying the fall weather, watching the sky go from blue to pink to purple as we walked, the afternoon was calm and quiet, a needed break from the mild chaos of our previous museum and shopping days.  our saint-germain destination was none other than the quintessential parisian café; café de flore.  founded in 1880 café de flore has been a hub for artists and writers ever since it opened its doors.  just sitting at the little outdoor tables and watching people walk by is enough to inspire me, and to make me feel like i am really in paris.  the girls tried the famous chocolat chaud, erim and i enjoyed one last glass of champagne, and then we were off, back to the hotel to pack and get ready to leave the beautiful city of lights.

i can’t say that the whole trip was without it’s hiccups… the weather was wet and cold on more than one occasion, even with our pre-purchased tickets we ended up having to wait in a couple of crowded lines, some of our shopping went awry (alara ended up with two of the same sweater and the store wouldn’t take one back), asya got terrible blisters all over her feet from walking, and alegra had a couple of serious bouts with boredom.  but overall, i am a firm believer in the idea that this, travelling, experiencing, and getting through some of these less than perfect moments, is how children grow and become real global citizens.  helping my child to learn about new places, appreciate new cultures and traditions, and come to grasp that no matter what each human is a human deserving the same respect lies at the crux of my idea of child-rearing.  so, regardless of the hiccups, i have to say, paris is always a good idea and i am so grateful that living in istanbul means we were lucky enough to get to spend four magical days there this fall.

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