California girls

I’ll never forget the day when my sister Maureen told me she was moving to Los Angeles. She, her husband, Nathaniel and their 2 little girls had been living in New York City for years and, while it had been a possibility for a long time, this was a big opportunity to move closer to where Nathaniel’s work was centered. I remember being so excited for them and sad at the same time, knowing that it would distance us and the frequency of our visits.

I never imagined that we would be any farther apart. Yet, life is full of surprises and, nearly 2 years into our life here in France, we have figured out a way to talk fairly regularly on the phone- even though it’s typically a different day and date between us. I will wake up early in the morning, 6:30 and call her in CA, where it is 9:30 the night before. Kinda cool that we can be living on different dates!

As far apart as we were, 3 years is too long to go without 2 sisters seeing each other.

Maureen and Violet bravely tackled 24 hours of travel including, 3 flights and with a 9 hour time difference with some nasty jet lag to come see us and our little French city.

When they arrived, poor Mo was beyond exhausted. Knowing how much sleep my poor sis needs, I encouraged her to sleep, we would make plans for the next day. Violet wanted to come along with Charlie and I to pick the boys up from school.

This sweet girl came prepared. She had not one, but 2 cameras, one of which was a Polaroid and was able to print pics out quickly. She got to work snapping photos of all the sites. She definitely didn’t want to miss a thing!

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Showing Violet Place de Jaude, our city square

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She rallied until 9:00 that night! It was marvelous seeing her with the boys, snuggled up on the couch with Wells playing Minecraft and even getting Charlie and Owen to teach her how to play Fortnite 🙂

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None of us could believe how wide awake she was! But after dinner and a few rounds of family Trivial Pursuit (in which she kicked Wells and my butts!) she was exhausted. We brought her back to the hotel where she and her Mommy caught up on all the sleep they’d missed!

The next day, we walked all over Clermont- starting with lunch at Le 1513, our favorite crêpe restaurant. Anyone who has visited us knows that this is our favorite place to take our friends and family. It’s housed in a cavernous dungeon-like building (built in 1513 actually!) and feels very French.

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Obviously, French people in the 1500’s weren’t very tall….

Next, we walked to around the city, into the cathedral, in and out of shops…

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too bad these weren’t our size!

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I warned her before visiting, while Clermont has it’s own charm. It is DEFINITELY not Paris. But, over the last few years it has become a very special place to us and it was so fun to show them around.

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That night, Mo, Chuck and I had dinner at Lard et Maniere, one of our favorite restaurants here in CF.

The next day it was time to fly to Paris!

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France has been a special part of Maureen’s story. During the fall semester of her junior year of college at Wake Forest, Maureen studied in Paris. An art-lover minoring in French, I remember thinking how lucky she was to be able to live in Paris.

And even though it was 20 years later and we weren’t planning to visit many of the museums while we were there, it was still cool to be able to show her daughter some of what she got to experience when she lived there!

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We got to Paris without any problems other than my suitcase going missing temporarily. Thankful for an baggage terminal employee who was patient enough to put up with my French, he went on a search and found that my suitcase had ended up in a terminal at the far end of the airport. And CDG is one big airport, so we sat for an hour or so and ate snacks instead of lunch.

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In my excitement to finally get my suitcase, the baggage guy told me to wait with everyone and he’d go hail us a cab. Off he went and next thing I know, a man came up to us and asked us if we were 6, to which of course I answered yes, and he waived us out the door and to his Volkswagen minivan. He kinda seemed to be rushing us, as if he was in a hurry. Mo and I didn’t notice, we were in a hurry too… to get into Paris and start the fun! It wasn’t until he had squeezed all of our bags into the car including Owen in the very back squashed between some bags that the rest of us piled into the middle row and realized that there were only 3 seatbelts for 4 of us. I protested, to which he stopped and suggested that we take Charlie out of the front row and put him in the back and me up front, in order to give them more room. As we were speedily driving towards the highway, whipping around roundabouts, etc he tells me that because of construction on the peripherique (the giant loop highway that encircles Paris), a detour would take us an hour and a half…. ughhhhh. Poor Charlie, I”m not sure he’s ever felt so yuck. After moving to the front seat, a few stops and some travel gum, he finally fell asleep and we made into the city late afternoon. Definitely not one of my proudest decisions.

The sun was starting to set when we got into the city and the moon over the old Haussman style buildings was beautiful.

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After lugging ALLLL our bags (and I’m specifically talking about my little man, Wells here) several blocks, we found our Air B&B without any problems.

This guy likes to be prepared at all times. He often feels a need to bring every.thing.he.own. And so he does. A desk calendar, some writing journals, several stuffed friends, a first aid kit, sleep mask, flashlight, his Nintendo, his camera, etc etc etc. I”m pretty sure that if we were living back home, he’d be a boyscout.

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The location was great- the Marais district- but the apartment itself was just OK. But it had enough beds for all of us and that was all we really needed.

We did get a kick out of these flourescent club style lighting shining into our windows from the hotel next door.

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Maureen found a great Italian restaurant near our apartment for dinner. Having a bunch of pizza and pasta lovers in the group made it an easy choice.

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The next morning, Wells and Vi were up early.

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Jetlag hit Vi pretty hard that next day… poor kiddo. Thank goodness for the metro!

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During our time in Paris, Charlie assumed the role of map reader and tour guide, which Mo and I were happy to hand over. Not an easy task in this city! Especially when it comes to navigating the metro…

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Our tour guide…

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We got to the Eiffel tower without a hitch! Everyone was so excited to see it and it was SUCH a beautiful sunny day!!!

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We climbed up to the second level to get a better view..

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and have a soft pretzel snack….

We were having so much fun that we quickly were running out of time to get to our Eclair making class all the way on the other side of town! Uber got us to L’Atelier des Sens in plenty of time.

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We arrived to meet Jean, our cooking instructor for the afternoon and were joined by another family of siblings who were going to be baking along with the boys and Vi. We had a whole giant kitchen to ourselves!

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After all the sugar we’d eaten, noone was really hungry for dinner at a normal time, so we made our way back to our hotel to crash. I decided that Maureen had to pay a visit to Monoprix (a super awesome store with groceries, home goods, clothes, beauty products and everything else you can pretty much imagine) before leaving France and there just happened to be one across the street, closing in 30 minutes! When we got back, our delivery still hadn’t come and so, after waiting awhile, I called the restaurant and they told me it had been picked up by Deliveroo, the delivery service we use here in France. I tried calling Deliveroo only to be told that the driver tried to call me but since I didn’t answer, he left. The phone number he had called was different than the correct one in my account, so he hadn’t called the right number, but she refused to acknowledge that it was an error on their part. After lots of back and forth and me trying to convince her in French that 4 hungry kids waiting for 40Euros worth of pasta for 2 hours was a problem, I was getting nowhere. After telling her I’d never use Deliveroo again and hanging up, we gave the kids money to go to McDo’s. In the end, it all worked out but I admit, I was pretty ticked.

The next morning, we went to our MOST favorite breakfast spot in all of Paris (maybe even France!), Twinkies.

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We pretty much stuffed ourselves to the hilt in prep for a walk up to Sacre Cœur.

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On the way up, we walked past this cute house with purple violet shutters and the number 8, the exact same color and number as our sweet girl!

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They had loads of fun climbing up these ledges on the side of the staircases and sliding all the way down. I had to let the probalility of ripped pants go.

At first, it seemed that only crazy American parents let their kids do unruly stuff like slide down several flights on their butts, but before we knew it, several other French kids were joining in, their Moms rolling their eyes but giving in. It did look pretty fun, we had to admit.

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Sacre-Cœur Basilica

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It wasn’t until I went back and looked at my photos that I noticed this one… the sun must have been shining in through the top at just the right angle to make the altar appear to be glowing… kinda neat!

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After visiting the basilica, we wandered back through the streets and into the village of Montmartre. As I’ve written in previous posts, this is one of my most favorite areas of Paris. With its little cafes, amazing views, street music and artists dotted around the little main square, to me, it is the most charming tiny corner of one of the biggest cities in the world.

It is so fun to walk around the square and see all the different artists’ work, some already completed, some still in progress. It feels like a treasure hunt.

This time, it seemed that there were many more portrait artists than I remember on previous visits. Ever since our first trip after moving to France, Owen has been asking if he have a portrait done and this seemed like the perfect day! After carefully studying each of the different artists’ drawing styles and their fees, Wells and Owen both chose the ones they liked and settled in for awhile.

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Wells was so determined to have his portrait done that he sat more still than I’ve ever seen him sit in his whole life.

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He took “still” to a whole new level…

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He sat like this for 1 entire hour. He would barely even shift his eyes toward me.

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After sitting so still for so long, everyone was ready for a nap!

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The final products were so great. All of our kids are so used to having the pictures taken with a camera, it was a cool experience for the kids to have a portrait drawn instead!

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Even though it was hazy, the view from up this high is still something special… especially from this little bend in the road below the church…

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We ended up spending most of the day day up in Montmartre. After standing out in the cold for a few hours, it was time to eat lunch and warm up with some vin chaud! We had a late lunch and then metro’d back over to Rue Tivoli to visit the English bookstore. As I’ve mentioned in the past, to walk into a store and be surrounded by books in your own language has really become such a treat for us when we travel.

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We bought lots and lots of books. I don’t want annnnny excuses when I tell the boys it’s time to turn off the TV and read. And, being an English bookstore, they had tons of British candy, like Cadbury! We found Cadbury eggs!

After we stopped and bought some macarons and chocolate from a place recommended to us, Owen asked if they could go jump on the trampolines in the Tuileries Garden.

After all the traveling we’ve done, we have definitely become accustomed to being ripped off, just because we are tourists. But this was a new one.

There was a man sitting in a little wood hut in front of a bunch of in-ground trampolines. For 5 Euros each (around $6), he gave them 10 minutes to jump and he just sat there and watched his timer…..

When 10 minutes was up, he “dinged” his bell and it was time to hop off.

 

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This might have been their most favorite 10 minutes of the trip! And who knew there were palm trees in Paris?

The next day, the boys and I didn’t fly out until 5:00, so we had the morning to walk around Le Marais district a bit and find a good coffee/breakfast spot.

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We found Blackburn Coffee and everyone found a warm mug full of something good, fresh pastries and OJ.

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Mo and Owen both had the most beautiful granola bowl and I had what might be the best platter of warm scrambled eggs ever.

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The kids all got a good laugh out of this framed photo sitting next to our table…

And the uncanny similarities between them! Now we can all picture exactly what Wells is going to look like when he is 50! And yes, he tells us he will also have a cigarette in HIS mouth. He might be serious!

Poor Vi… after several days of this-

I’d look like this too…

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She has been such a trooper, running with these 3!

Our incredibly fun week together with our Cali girls was coming to an end and it was just too sad to face. They wouldn’t fly out until the next day. Something about knowing that Mo and Vi would have one more afternoon and night together in Paris, just the two of them, was super sweet and made it a little easier to get in our taxi knowing that we would all still be sleeping on France soil together one last night…..

 

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