paris: things to do

Happy Things in Paris: Vélib’

I am a huge fan of Vélib’, Paris’ public bicycle system. I think its one of Paris’ best kept secrets. If you are going to be in Paris more than a few days I highly recommend getting yourself a pass. If I could choose anyway to get around Paris I would almost always choose by bike. There is nothing like feeling the wind through your hair riding along the Seine, it automatically puts me in a good mood. It is especially easy to bike with the Vélib’ system. There are stations every few blocks through out the entire city so you can pick up the bike and drop it off wherever you go. If you are planning on biking a lot I would recommend getting a Navigo pass. This allows you to just swipe your card at a station and in about ten seconds you’re off (versus having to type in a million numbers at the Vélib’ station.) To get a Navigo you first have to buy a pass from a Metro station (just ask for the pass itself, without buying the Metro pass.) It costs about 5 Euros. Then buy a Vélib’ pass off the internet (8 Euros for the week) and then go to a Vélib’ bike station to activate your card and your membership.

Here are some tips for using the Vélib’.

-Buy the Vélib’ pass on the internet. American credit cards only work on the consoles about half the time.
-Have a good idea where you are going, and be aware of one way roads. There are great bike lanes all over the city but carry a map handy in case you need to change your route.
-Look at the tires and gears to make sure you are picking one that works.
-Bikes should stop at traffic lights and obey traffic laws.
-Buy a Navigo Pass at a Metro station for 5 Euros so checking a bike out is easy.
-I’ve only seen one Vélib’ user ever use a bike helmet. I’m not saying you shouldn’t I’m just telling you how it is.
-It can sometimes be tricky getting rid of all your bikes at one station if you are with a big group. Biking isn’t ideal if you are with a huge group.
-There are no child seats that work on the Vélib’. (I wish!)
-If you get to a station and it is full, you just swipe your card and it will give you 15 more minutes to get to the next station.

I realized this summer when I was taking friends around Paris that when my blood sugar got low and I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere, that as soon as we got on a bike I would get all this energy. It is a great way to get around. It is a bit of a pain to get set up but once . It is one of my favorite things to do in Paris.

I was riding home with these giant dinner plate dahlias and they were so ridiculously giant and awesome so I called Paul outside to come take a few photos.

Brocantes + Vide Greniers

Besides the glorious Paris flea “Les Puces” the last few months I’ve been following the little Brocantes that set themselves up around the city. It is like a traveling flea market and the prices are much cheaper than at Les Puces. There was one in my neighborhood this weekend where I scored lots of new goodies. (Including a super cheap Cameroon Juju Hat!)  If you are visiting Paris and want to get some deals visiting a Brocante will be your best bet. This site and this site tell you the little sales that will be going on the next few months. Come with cash and ready to bargain.

ps: I’m obsessed with these high waisted jeans from the Gap. An interesting cultural difference here in France is French men tell you when you are looking good, not in a construction-worker-holler-way, but in a flattering way. It’s actually really great to get feedback when you’ve put an effort in to look nice. They seem to be a big fan of these jeans. (And I’ll just say it since someone always asks, this is not an ad! I will always clearly mark when something is a sponsored post.)

Happy Things in Paris: Champ de Mars

When people come visit from out of town (to either San Francisco or Paris) besides the list of things I suggest to do I always include happy little experiences. So I thought it would be nice to document all the “happy” things we like to do in Paris. I’m starting with the Champ de Mars. (Not all of them will be kid friendly but this one is.) In front of the Eiffel Tower there is a giant park called the Champ de Mars. Besides being a nice place to picnic the park has hidden gems all over it. Some of the things we like to do there:

See the Marionette Show. There is an very old Marionette House where they put on live shows. It is so adorable you’ll want to die. It’s usually open on the weekends and once during the week. Our kids love this and beg to go every time we walk by.

Ride on the Carousel. There are carousels all over Paris but this one is particularly  charming because it is cranked by hand by a sweet old French man. There is a game where all the kids hold sticks and try to “catch” the metal rings as they go by on their horses.

Ride the Go Carts. On the weekends there is a little track with go karts set up for kids to race. I didn’t take pictures of this but its just as cute as you might imagine.

Lay on the Grass. Grab a crepe or a cotton candy and hang out in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and watch people taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Just a tip: I usually avoid going under the tower itself. It’s really crowded and will kill the vibe of your pretty day at the park.

ps: A sad little thing happened this morning. Moses fell off a stool and broke his clavicle. He is doing ok now but it was a little scary going to the emergency room at 7am. So far strong pain meds and newly downloaded videos have been the best cure.

Paris Picnic Guide

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. I’ve become a “picnic expert” since we have them almost everyday. If you are visiting Paris here are the ingredients for a picture perfect Paris picnic. (Say that three times fast.)

 

1. Pick Your Poison. Perrier is my personal favorite but you can hit one of the many Nicholas stores to pick up something with a little more punch.

2. | 3. Supplies. My friend Rubi showed up to a picnic a few weeks ago with the best picnic gear. She got it all from Merci. Stop by Merci on your first day in Paris for bamboo plates, utensils, and these awesome reusable napkins that come on a roll.

4. Produce. Try to avoid the supermarket, instead go to the specialty stores. It’s like going to McDonalds when you have the option of an amazing homecooked meal. Find a produce stand and stock up on fruit and veggies (I love radishes and butter on a picnic.)

5. Baguette. Buy this right before you are going to eat it (not two hours before.) Ask for “Baguette Traditional” they are my favorite. Only buy this from a Boulanger. If you are buying it from a supermarket you get a big Paris fail.

6. Cheese! Ah the thrill of walking into a good Fromagerie. They can be intimidating and a little scary (is that mold?) I prefer mild cheeses with interesting flavors. Here are a two of my favorites to start with: Morbier and Comte. Do some research if you are braver and like stinky cheeses so you can ask to try specific kinds. (Little Brown Pen has a nice column on cheeses.)

7. Saucisson sec. Buy this from a deli or a Butcher, If you aren’t familiar with this stuff it is cured meat. They are usually hanging up above the counter and they are SO delicious. I don’t eat a lot of meat but I love me some saucisse.

Other things I like to eat at a picnic: Beignets, coquettes, chocolate eclairs, and ham and butter sandwiches. All of these can be bought from a boulanger. (Even if you don’t see sandwiches displayed most bakeries will make you one on the spot if asked.) What am I missing?

All of Paris is covered with fantastic picnic locations but my favorite locations for picnics are:

The Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower, the right bank of Ile St. Louis, and the point of Ile de la Cite. Do you know of any especially great picnic spots in Paris?

Picnic Season

I’m back! I took an unexpected blogging break. Paul’s parents have been in town and it has been so awesome to have free and willing babysitters around the clock. Paul and I have been running around the city like two little kids. We’ve spent every night walking until the wee hours of the morning. And during the day we’ve been: taking intensive French classes, riding all over Paris on bikes (Paris has an awesome public bike system), and we’ve been having picnics and eating ice cream like crazy. I do not want this to end, it has been paradise! Yesterday after French class we ended up on Ile St Louis. On the right bank of the island it is quiet and serene so we had a picnic. While we were sitting there a little mama duck came by with her babies. Adorable! We followed up the strenuous activity of picnicking with an ice cream cone. (I think its an actual law that you have to purchase an icecream cone while on Ile St Louis. Ha!)

(ps: Watch later this week for how to create the perfect Parisian picnic.)