Ah! The City of Light. In 2011 we put all of our things in a storage unit and flew to Paris France. It was one of the scariest decisions we've ever made but has proven to also be one of the most rewarding! Here is a Paris Guide a friend wrote for us when we came to Paris on our Honeymoon. I'm putting together my own recommendations as I get to know the city better. In the meantime you can read about Things to Do in Paris and Things to Eat in Paris. Thinking about making the move abroad yourself? Read about my experience moving and living in France right here.
We feel really lucky to have met the people we did in Paris. For the short amount of time we were there we met some good friends that we’ll have our whole life. A few days before we left Rubi put together a going away party for us. It was a picnic at the tip of Ile de la Cité, one of my favorite picnic spots in Paris. We stayed until it got dark then took a long walk home next to the Seine. It was the perfect Paris going away party. We are going to miss these people.
I had thought at some point I would take nice photos of our Paris apartment so I could remember it but of course that was low on the priority list in the midst of moving so here are some pictures I took of our living room last summer. These photos weren’t taken on the same day which is why the art is in different places in some of the photos.
We’ve loved living in this apartment. It is located in the 7th arrondissement with great food streets like Rue Cler and Rue Grenelle nearby and and six bakeries within two blocks of us! It is located across the street from the Eiffel Tower and you can even see it out our window (just a tiny bit.) When it sparkles in the evening it catches my eye while I’m working or reading to my kids on the couch. It always makes me smile and reminds me that I’m living in Paris.
When we rented it in February 2011 it was partially furnished. This was a blessing and a curse. It meant that we didn’t have to buy beds or a refrigerator (in France unfurnished apartments don’t come with appliances!) But it also meant we had to live with some funny old lamps I didn’t love. In fact the sofa it came with wasn’t very comfortable and I was dreading living with it for the year so we decided to have it taken to storage and bought the navy blue velvet one you see below. (Which by the way we are selling the sofa this week. If you are interested and can come pick it up by Thursday email me and I’ll make you a great deal.) We had to make due with some things but a lot of the pieces in the apartment were antiques and were nice and sturdy. It was a challenge to decorate it when it was temporary–for things like art we made some of our own and I think the biggest trick is to try to have lots of plants around to make things feel homey. Live plants make everything feel better. For all my sources see the list at the end of the post.
Click through for more pictures and sources.
Some people still don’t know that my awesome big sister is also Design Mom. When I was younger I used to steal her clothes (she aways had the best clothes.) And she was the one who taught me even when I was in middle school to care about design. I remember her telling me “Never buy anything ugly. If you have to buy a trash can, make sure it is the most beautiful trash can you can find.” Here are three things you might not know about Gabrielle. 1. She is one of the best stylists I know. Every shelf in her house is casually and beautifully arranged. She doesn’t show it off very much but her house looks like a photoshoot in real life. She doesn’t even have to try hard and things look beautiful. 2. Her and Ben are really the best parents. Their kids are happy and passionate about lots of things (because they are encouraged by their parents.) You really have to see it to believe it. 3. She is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and she means it. I’m super lucky to have her as an older sister! It has been so fun to move here to France at the same time. We can go up and visit them in Normandy and they can come visit us in Paris. Last Friday she took the train to Paris so we could spend the day together without kids. I thought it might be fun to list our itinerary here. Here is how to spend 8 hours in Paris. This is perfect if you don’t really want to site see and just want to get some good shopping and exploring in.
8 HOURS IN PARIS
11:00 am We meet for an early lunch at the trendy Pause Cafe, 41 Rue Charonne, in the Bastille (we got the poached eggs.)
11:45 am Finally flag the waiter down and pay our bill. Walk around and explore the shops in the Bastille.
12:15 pm Try on lots of awesome clothes at a vintage store Adom, 56 Rue de la Roquette. They have the cutest boots there!
12:30 pm Rent some Velib bikes and ride to BHV
12:40 pm Explore BHV, 55 rue de la Glassware, the famous French department store. We check out every floor and make sure to stop at the craft and stationery sections, the lighting department, and the toy department.
1:45 pm We get on bikes and head up to the famous market street Rue Montorgueil and Les Halles.
2:00 pm We park and start in at E. Dellherin, 20 Rue Coquillière, an industrial cooking supply store and G. Detou, 58 Rue Tiquetonne, a specialty cooking store. We stop at Stohler, 51 Rue de Montorgueil, one of Paris’ oldest bakeries to try one of their famous pastry: Puit d’Amour. SO GOOD! We walk down Rue Montorgueil and check out bakeries and stores. (If you want to spend more time on Rue Montorgueil follow David Liebowitz’s guide.)
3:00 pm We head to COS, 68 Rue Monmartre, an awesome Swedish brand. They make beautiful quality clothing with really interesting designs. We try on clothes for a long time! G buys me a fluorescent bracelet I was admiring (thanks sister!) We also stop by La Drogerie, 11 Rue du Jour, an amazing ribbon and trimmings shop and a quick stop at HEMA, 118 Rue Rambuteau, a great Dutch brand that has cheap knick knacks.
4:30 pm We jump on bikes and head to the Marais.
4:45 pm We stop at Merci and Bonton. And afterwards head down to Rue des Rossiers to check the famous Falefel.
6:00 pm We head to the park Place des Vosges and get some macarons and a lemon tart at Carette Cafe, 25 Place des Vosges, before we hail a cab and Gabrielle goes to the train station to catch her train.
7:00 pm I get on my bike and meet my friend Valerie before I ride along the Seine back to my home in the 7th.
I just had someone ask me for recommendations on things to do in Paris with kids again so I thought it would be good to get it online on one place. So, here goes.
1. Pizza Picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Does visiting French restaurants with kids make you nervous? Avoid the whole thing by picking up a pizza at Gusto Italia (their veggie pizza is really good) then take it across the street to the park for a picnic right in front of the Eiffel Tower.
2. Bike Rides. Velib, Paris’ public bike system is amazing, the only problem is there is no way to bring the kids along. Paris’ bicycle path system is extensive and biking is one of my favorite ways to get around especially when tourist season hits. If you are nervous about biking in a big city stick to park paths and some of the bike paths along the Seine. You can rent bikes with kids seats right here.
3. Le 104. This is one of the most special places in Paris. It is part art installation, part interactive museum. The installations are made to play in and “experience” and are perfect for both children and adults. In addition to the changing exhibitions Le 104 is also home to my favorite carousel in the world.
4. Seine Boat Tour. Pick up a ride at Ile St. Louis for an hour long cruise through the center of Paris at sunset. The kids love the boats and you can see the big sites in one fell swoop.
5. Puppet Show. Some of the bigger parks like Jardin de Luxembourg and Champ de Mars have the classic old marionette shows. They are in French but have a lot of physical comedy that any 3 year old will think is hilarious. Check for exact times but they are usually in the afternoons on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
6. Carousels. There are as many carousels in Paris as there are Starbucks in Manhattan. That might be a slight exaggeration but really, they are everywhere. It is so great to be able to stop throughout the day and treat your kids to a carousel ride.
7. Toy Sailboats. Some of the parks like Jardin de Luxembourg and the Tuileries have adorable toy boat rentals run by equally adorable old men. You choose your boat and send it off into the little pond with a stick to guide it. It is surprisingly entertaining and makes for great photos.
8. Parc Floral. A friend introduced me to this impressive park last year. It is enormous and has the best toys of any park I’ve been to (they are really awesome!) If Disneyland were a public park it would be Parc Floral. Mountains of slides, ziplines, fields of flowers, and snack bars aplenty.
9. The Cité des Enfants is one of our favorite kids museums. It’s especially great for younger kids and toddlers. Lots of science related toys to play with. A really well done children’s museum.
10. Ferris Wheel. In the winter the Ferris Wheel sits prominently at the bottom of the Champs Elysees (and during the summer months there is one in the Tuileries.) Hop on for a ride and a 360 degree view of the city.
all photos by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day
One year! It’s been one year since we moved to Paris. I can’t believe it. Moving here was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I’m SO glad we did it. People always ask what it is like to live here and honestly, it is better than I imagined. Not to say there aren’t hard things. Neither Paul or I speak French (we’ve picked up a little since we moved here) so that has made some things a lot more difficult. In general I’m an optimist who tends to brush over the bad parts of things so I made a list of my 10 things I love and don’t love about living in Paris. (You know, to be fair and balanced.)
10 Awesome things about Living in Paris
-Cheese. There is nothing like the quality and the variety of choices.
-Bread. Fresh warm bread is available on most streets to the average person for about 1 Euro.
-People Dress Well. Wearing yoga pants in public isn’t acceptable. You put on lipstick just to go around the corner to get bread.
-The city is beautiful. Light reflects off the white stone buildings in the most amazing ways.
-The French expect things from their government (in a good way.)
-Have you a had a croissant from the bakery first thing in the morning? It is life changing.
-People are well trained for their jobs. Even a vocation like a florist has years of training before they work.
-The French average 10 weeks of vacation a year. Americans average 3. (They got us on this one guys.)
-The Eiffel Tower sparkles. It sparkles!!!
-I feel much more supported as a mother. (There are places on the buses for moms with strollers, people will always stop to help you carry a stroller up and down the metro steps. Preschools are excellent and are state supported so they are free or cheap.)
10 Hard things about Living in Paris
-Washers and Dryers take forever. Really, all day.
-Dryers don’t really dry, so you have to iron everything.
-Customer Service involves power struggles and pouring out your heart about a personal drama.
-Moses’ teacher gave him a frowny face on an assignment. He’s three. (ha!)
-People feel a need to conform or “fit in” here.
-I have a hard time drinking milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
-They don’t let you sit on the grass at parks. (It’s so pretty and green and you can’t touch it.)
-Efficiency isn’t a thing, it takes all day to run just a few errands.
-Stores close early and have inconsistent hours.
-I have a renewed compassion for anyone who moves to a new country without speaking the language. You feel powerless.
photos by Paul Ferney