At least once and sometimes many times a day I stop and wonder if this is all real. There was so much paperwork and planning and stress before we got here that there was no time to contemplate what was coming. As the plane touched down in Brussels after a long and extremely exhausting flight with a screaming child I had a moment of pure panic. What the hell have we done? My nerves settled quickly but that doesn’t mean those first couple of weeks weren’t stressful. Things that were effortless back home sometimes seemed like insurmountable tasks here. Finding milk that actually tasted like milk (aka “Ellia approved”). Using the oven. Using the washing machine. Finding an apartment. Making a package of noodles. Buying chicken at the meat counter. Continue reading
I always worried that Paris might be a disappointment. There’s a LOT of hype. The fashion. The culture. The food. The art. The archictecture. It’s probably on 80% of the populations bucket list and every travel website will tell you that you must go there at least once in your life. That’s a lot to live up to. Thankfully, the world has not been lying to me all these years. It truly is an incredible, beautiful, must-see city. Ideally, one day we will relax at coffee shops with croissants in hand and enjoy romantic candle-lit dinners in this city for lovers….but this time around was the Paris-with-a-two-year-old version. She’s equal parts adorable and infuriating at this particular stage in her life but we’re getting the hang of the “terrible twos” and we feel pretty lucky to share these experiences with her.
The Eiffel Tower
The view was so good that we ended up having a drink at the bar to soak it all in. E enjoyed some absurdly overpriced fruit and reveled in staying up WAY past her bedtime. All in all it was pretty easy to get around with a kiddo and E thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening.
Saturday morning we got up bright and early (well, we got up at the normal time a person gets up with a 2 year old) and headed to the Louvre. This was the part of the trip I looked forward to most and Dru probably looked forward to least. Well, in reality E would have looked forward to it the least, had she known what was coming- more on that later. After some confusion as to what line we should be in we ended up getting in with no wait (buy tickets online in advance, that was our saving grace). We had pretty meticulously planned out what we wanted to see; I spent a couple hours on this but it was well worth it in the end. You could literally wander around for 5 or 6 hours and that 16th century Flemish engraving you’ve waited your whole life to see may slip right through your fingers. So choose a handful of key pieces you must see and stick to a route. Unless you actually have ALL day. Then go ahead and wander my art-loving friend.
My 3 Tips for The Louvre:
#1 Wear whatever makes your feet the happiest. I don’t care if it’s Bugs Bunny slippers or those weird toe-glove shoes…you do you. You are going to walk A LOT. The floors are hard and there’s a ton of stairs. Which leads me to item #2…
#2 The Louvre is NOT stroller friendly. There were elevators…but 90% of them were mysteriously broken. We hauled that contraption up at least 12 flights of stairs. So get crunchy and wear that baby if it’s small enough or just be prepared to burn some extra calories.
#3 If you own a toddler – you may have envisioned your tiny, cultured little Michelangelo sitting quietly in their stroller and planning their next fingerpaint masterpiece for 3 hours. So I’m just gonna bring you back to earth daydreamer – your kid doesn’t give a shit about art. About an hour in (if you’re lucky), they’re going to want a cookie. Then it’s crackers. Then they’ll holler to get out of the stroller so they can smear their cookie/cracker encrusted fingers on Renoir’s Le Moulin de la Galette. Then they want to be held, but only for 8.37 seconds. Then they throw themselves on the floor. Then we lick said floor for good measure. At this point you will pray that no one is following your trail of cookie crumbs to kick you out before you’ve seen the Mona Lisa. So bring a lot of non-messy snacks, patience, and maybe some Benadryl (I kid, I kid).
Notre Dame Cathedral
Next on the agenda was Notre Dame. I zipped my little purse up tight against the pickpockets and we wove our way through the throngs of people inside the church. It was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but the exterior is honestly more impressive than the interior. If you are short on time I’d skip the loop around the interior and just soak up the Gothic-goodness on the outside.
Sainte-Chapelle is a lesser known church quite close to Notre Dame. We headed there next and we weren’t quite sure what to expect. It’s quite unassuming on the outside, it’s actually tucked inside another building, but this little church was well worth the visit. After winding our way up a very narrow stone staircase (no strollers allowed here but they have a small area to leave them downstairs) we emerged into a small chapel with soaring ceilings and stunning stained glass. Dating back to the 13th century, 6,458 square feet of stained glass completely surrounds you. It depicts over a thousand scenes from both the Old & New Testaments. Well worth the $12 ticket. Another perk here is there was no line when we were there and it really only takes as long as you wish to stay and stare. So we were able to get in and out before E could start screaming about her sudden and desperate need for peaches. Score one for the parents.
Picnic at Luxembourg Gardens
Sunday we did our best to embrace the Parisian lifestyle by having no plans other than a relaxing picnic at the park. We used Paris Picnic (www.parispicnic.com) and would highly recommend it. We made our way to Luxembourg Garden, our food was delivered, and we staked out a nice spot to enjoy lunch. The food was delicious, the wine was refreshing, and the day was beautiful. It was a perfect end to a lovely weekend in the City of Lights.
Animals have an amazing way of weaving themselves into our lives and our hearts. I’m sure most people don’t even realize how deeply they love their animals until they are forced to part ways with them one way or another. Whether it’s a loyal dog, a squawking bird, or in my case – a gorgeous but sometimes wretched little diva of a cat…they all find a way to turn us into a blubbering mess when it comes time to say goodbye.