Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lunch. Lakeside

It's time to show off again I'm afraid. This is the heartbreaking time of year, when people we hadn't even heard of last year, but who are now friends for life, get posted to another assignment in another country. Aside from packing up all their belongings, finding somewhere to live and registering their kids in new schools, they have their Paris bucket lists to get through and what's a good friend to do other than accompany them on trips to see and do all the things they planned on doing while they lived here, but were too busy with the laundry and supervising maths homework to get around to?

Le Chalet des Iles
Checked off the list yesterday was Le Chalet des Iles, a restaurant in the middle of a lake in the Bois de Boulogne.

A ferry takes you out to the restaurant. It's easy - you just show up at the water's edge and the ferryman sails you over to your table.

This was quite a spur of the moment outing for me and my friend. Mostly we wanted to see what it was like to take a ferry to lunch, we hadn't thought that much about what the restaurant would be like when we got there. It turned out to be quite the white table cloth affair - a sign I usually take to mean best avoided when out with Florence, but the waiters weren't phased and as soon as we were seated brought us out a colouring page and crayons for the little girls. Nothing special you might think but it was a first for us in Paris. The menu included a menu enfant which you don't see in that many nice restaurants either. We ordered one for both girls and when it arrived we wished we had ordered one for ourselves. Check out that mini (saignant!) burger and the tomato and mozzarella brochettes. Starter and main course on one plate which kept both girls content while we enjoyed our excellent plats du jour.

There were also sun hats to borrow. Definitely a first for me, although I have seen blankets on the backs of chairs in some Paris cafés. Luckily for us after a week of dismal weather, yesterday was finally a day for hats not blankets.

The nice weather brought out the ducks and their babies too at which point our leisurely lunch was somewhat disrupted as we tag teamed eating dessert whilst watching that the girls didn't fall in the lake feeding their baguette to the ducks!

Ducks & G

I often hear or read that it's impossible to eat out with kids in Paris, but this doesn't have to be the case. This restaurant was especially welcoming to the children, but we haven't particularly sought out kid friendly restaurants since moving to France and we have had lots of enjoyable meals out with the family. Our trick is to arrive early, just as the restaurants are opening for lunch or dinner that way you get served much faster, but you also need to allow time for a leisurely meal if you want it to be a nice one. If you don't have time for a three course lunch grab a sandwich from the boulangerie and take it to a park bench! We check out the atmosphere in the restaurant before we sit down, if it's all white table cloths and fur coats we move on, there's another one at the corner. We've never been put off by the lack of a children's menu, Florence is always happy with a plate of frites and the girls have learnt to love rare steak in France and now choose that wherever they go. There usually aren't highchairs, but we took a portable one that clips to the table while Florence needed one and no one ever objected to us using it. Inspired by this post a long time ago, we taught Florence to drink out of a glass as soon as she started weaning and it had been such a helpful skill for her in France where cups with lids are never brought to the table. Most of the time she drinks her water out of a wine glass and she now insists on drinking Orangina straight out of the bottle. That's right, we're perfect parents, we give our two year old fries and Orangina so we can get a nice meal!

Not every time we eat out with the girls is a raging success, but part of the reason we enjoy life here is that we have been prepared to give it a try. If we had given too much thought to going out to Le Chalet des Iles we might not have gone, but it turned out to be the perfect afternoon out. Good food, friendly service, pretty scenery and perfect company!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Les Grandes Eaux

I have been really enjoying joining in with the Love the Place you Live feature over at Design Mom. The idea is to encourage you to get out and discover something interesting to do in your local area that you might not have realised was there. We are incredibly fortunate to be living just a ten minute drive away from a UNESCO world heritage site, the Château de Versailles, we know it's there, but when real life gets in the way we still need a bit of a reminder to get us out the house and actually explore the riches in our backyard.

Fountains 20
Last weekend most of the world was celebrating Mother's Day, but not France, so no one in this house actually remembered about it until after breakfast! It was a lovely sunny day so we decided to make the most of that and the fact that we really don't have any more Ikea furniture to build to get out and see something interesting. We didn't have a lot of time so the parkland at Versailles seemed like a good choice. For a few euros you can drive your car in through the back gates of the château and once you've wrecked its suspension driving over the seventeenth century cobbles, park and take a walk past horses, sheep and gorgeous countryside.

Fountains 12

Fountains 3
We would have been happy doing this with all the other locals who were out that day, but Georgia and Savannah wanted to go into the palace gardens to see the château up close and as luck would have it we paid our entry fee just ten minutes before the musical fountain show Les Grandes Eaux began.

Fountains 1
Louis XIV built so many fountains at Versailles that it was impossible for them all to be running at the same time. When he was promenading through the gardens he had a team of fountain-tenders to turn on the fountains as he approached them and turn off the ones behind him! Today most of the fountains only run for a few hours a day on summer weekends accompanied by music.

Fountains 2
The fountains are incredible works of art but they are transformed once the water starts spouting.

Fountains 13
These are no subtle water features, Louis intended them to illustrate the grandeur of his rule. They were built to impress!

Fountains 4
Fountains 18
Fountains 19
Fountains 10
Fountains 11
Fountains 9
Fountains 8
Are you impressed yet? There's more...

Fountains 5
Fountains 6
Fountains 7
The Mirror Fountain was our favourite. The fountains spout and spin to the accompaniment of music and the oohs and aahs of everyone watching. Like a watery firework display.

Fountains 21
Another fountain appears around every hedge...

Fountains 14 definitely need a map to find your way around!

Fountains 15
Fountains 16
The grove of Apollo's bath, stumbled upon just as we were getting fountain fatigue. We could have done with some nymphs massaging our feet by that point!

Fountains 17
If you've staggered to the end of this post then thank you! Like Louis XIV it's hard not to show off when writing about how we spend our weekends, but I truly appreciate how lucky we are to be living here. As I sit in traffic on our exit from the autoroute it is not lost on me that the coach in front is taking tourists to see Versailles, possibly for the only time in their lives. The girls on the other hand are less easily impressed. Georgia did say that she was glad we had gone to see the fountains but Savannah said it was boring (although she liked it really) and when India got back from her class' field trip to the gardens at Versailles on Friday she said it was 'nothing special'! Sigh, this is why I write the blog to remind us that it is special!

Right, back to the laundry. I've just read that after the Revolution, people used to wash their clothes in the fountains and dry them on the shrubbery. Mundanity amongst grandeur, that just about sums up our life here!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The view from here: Sunshine yellow

Not yellow
We've not been having the best weather recently. This is a pretty typical scene from the week, but on Monday it was sunny and warm. Perfect for a walk down to the bakery to pick up the lunchtime baguette. I was on my own so I grabbed my camera and took the long way round with the intention of capturing some of the charming French features of our neighbourhood for you.

Yellow 1
The first thing I saw as I walked out the gate though was this bright yellow hunk of America parked outside my neighbour's house! Never seen it before and quite a step up from the beat up scooters we usually see around here.

Having been dazzled by that I found myself seeing yellow wherever I looked.

Yellow 3
Yellow 2
Yellow 4
Flowers, of course. Dandelions and buttercups are everywhere at the moment.

Yellow 10
House signs. Love the old tile peeking out behind the new numbers.

Yellow 13
Bonus Berry Blog points if you know what Chevrefeuille is!

Yellow 5
A flash of yellow decoration on this house in the trees.

Yellow 8
This cheerful chap is a a well known local but I'd never noticed the yellow fleur de lis decorating his wall before.

Yellow 7
Yellow 6
Yellow 9

Yellow 11
Past the post office...

...and municipal planting in full golden bloom...

Yellow 12
...I reached my destination. Our favourite bakery that just happens to have a yellow sign! I knew that but only really saw it once I started looking out for yellow.

Yellow 14
And what did I buy? A tarte aux poires. A yellow dessert to finish off my yellow walk! Yum.

I hope you had a sunny day today!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hunting animals at the Louvre

It's been a while since I posted about anything remotely French and if you come here for the French life, I apologize.

To make up for it today I bring you the big one.

The Louvre.

We were there on Saturday with 10 other families from the girls' school for THATLou a Treasure Hunt At The Louvre. Quite possibly the most fun you can have at the Louvre with kids, THATLou treasure hunts have you chasing all over the museum looking for art and artefacts from the vast collection with only a photograph, a brief description and the official Louvre map as your guide. Discovered for us by my friend Laura, the treasure hunts are a relatively new Paris activity run by THATLou founder Daisy de Plume. She and Laura worked together to customize the experience for our vast collection of kids and I believe with 40 participants, this may have been the biggest hunt Daisy has ever planned!

On arrival the parents were assigned teams of kids and handed out the game manual. The rules are simple, find as many items on the list in the manual in two hours, photograph your team in front of each one you find and never get more than three metres away from your team mates. The harder the items are to find, the more points you get. Easy!

Get your Converse on because you will be covering all those miles of corridors at a furious pace.

I had Georgia & Savannah, three of their friends and two other parents in my team. A quick look at the map and we were off, searching for art containing animals which was the theme for the day.

We had our first success within minutes Louis XIV on his horse by Francois Girardon. The girls were thrilled and rushed off enthusiastically to find another treasure.

The European sculpture galleries proved to be a good hunting ground for us and we quickly added more finds to our list. This was my favourite, Cupid playing with a Butterfly by Antoine-Denis Chaudet. Love those cherubic hands although the fingernails could do with a good scrub!

I believe we covered every inch of the never ending Egyptian galleries to find the Apis Bull hiding at the end of a corridor.

THATLou 10
And then we ran round them one more time to find King Nectanebo II's falcon. Our eighth and final find, he was worth 40 points so we really wanted him, but as you can see exhaustion had set in by this point! One final nerve wracking sprint ensured we were the first team back to the meeting point with just one minute to spare.

And if that has you feeling exhausted, spare a thought for Keith who did the whole thing carrying Florence in the baby carrier. Despite that handicap, his team still beat us, but this really was one of those times when taking part was just as much fun as winning. Either that or all of our feet ached too much for us to care!

In two hours we saw more than we could have ever hoped to have persuaded the girls to see without the incentive of the treasure hunt and while of course, they didn't spend long looking at anything, they had their eyes peeled the whole time for their treasures and noticed plenty of other things to interest them along the way. Enough that they have asked to go back.

Although Keith took the girls to the Louvre at Christmas, this was my first visit since moving to Paris. I've put it off partly because there is so much to see it's difficult to know where to start. THATLou was a great way to get familiar with the museum. I left feeling like I knew it but with plenty to go back and explore.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...