Monday, 28 July 2008

Paris plage pleasure

The kids and I headed out in this heat to where else? The beach, of course. Paris turns into a tropical sandy destination for four weeks this Summer, ending on August 21st. It's all happening along the quai of the Seine just below Hotel de Ville. Along with stretching out on lounge chairs at various points, there were activities including fencing, ping pong, petanque and the largest foosball table I've ever seen, enabling 20-24 people to play at a time. We ended up playing on a traditional four person table, and it was quite fun to play on the banks of the Seine.

Of course we were scorching hot, but we didn't melt due to the many sprinklers and misting stations. If you check the schedule, you might even be able to take a dip in the temporary public pool just to the East of Hotel de Ville.

My favorite part of our day was, of course, enjoying a light lunch overlooking the Seine in the shade of the gorgeous trees that line the quais. There was a cool breeze, we were right next to the Seine looking at the lovely view of Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis. As my friend Denise said about her recent trip to Paris, "they do everything right here." Indeed, it's nice to spend a day amid palm trees and sand, and have a cool refreshing drink on the banks of the Seine.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Last Hurrah

"All good things come to an end." Well, I don't know who said or wrote that or if it is necessarily true, but that expressions seems to fit as our good thing here in Paris is coming to an end. It was truly a wonderful year that we were fortunate enough to be able to do. I mean, how lucky we have been to just pick up and move ourselves and our children to Paris to live for a year sheerly for the enjoyment and experience of it all?

Mais alors, the time has come to pack our bags (and bags) and head home. This week while our kids were in pony camp, we had our last hurrahs in the city of Paris. My brother was in town, as was Denise, my Irish friend. We tried to pack as much in as we could. This was my brother's first time in Paris, so he wanted to see the usual sights, and Denise and I just wanted to hang out in the city that brought us together.

During our time together, we drove through Pigalle at night as well as down the Champs-Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe (woo hoo!) We pondered the name 'le chat noir' and saw up close the new EU look of the Eiffel Tower with its blue lights and circle of stars. During the day, we Velib'ed along the Seine and then through the Louvre to see the "new" pyramid, and then on toward Pompidou where Denise and I reminisced about our youth. We had a good time eating at cafes and people watching. We had a great visit, and now it's back to packing.

I'm truly going to miss Paris and its polite citizenry, the great transportation, especially bus 92, the beauty every where you look, the light through the chestnut trees, the balcons with the black wrought iron, the cobblestoned streets, the Seine, and the velibs, of course the velibs.

But what I think I'm going to miss most is who I am when I am here. I feel so free, alive. I have hope in the future and feel like Paris brings out the best in me. It may not make a lot of sense to anyone else, but that's the best way I can explain it. Sure, I'm happy and free back in my hometown as well, but I just feel lighter here somehow. I'm quite tearful right now, so I'm going to leave on this note, "Paris is everywhere, Paris is everywhere, Paris is everywhere".

Un gros bisou.

Tour de France

The final leg of the Tour de France finished today on the Champs-Elysees. After we spent a couple hours watching the pack approach Paris, we decided to finally pick ourselves up and walk to the Champs-Elysees to catch the ending live. The avenue was packed and the sun was scorching, but we scrambled toward the front of the crowd to see the "maillot jaune", the leader wearing the yellow jersey in the middle of the pack. Spanish cyclist Sastre won the race which was becoming evident as the days went on as he held a good margin in front of the other cyclists.

It was fun to be swept up in the enthousiasm of the finish.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


We popped over to Ireland for five days while we are still in the region. I went to visit my friend Denise, a friend I had met over twenty years ago at the Sorbonne. Back in the day you would find us hanging out in front of the Pompidou eating patisseries and listening to the street performers who became our friends.

Denise is now living again in Ireland after living over ten years in Denver, Colorado. It was a great trip seeing her and her husband "Gerd", and their four fun, happy boys. Our kids had a great time playing together by day, and by night, the four adults had a great time telling stories, watching movies, and having a bit of a feast.

Wicklow is very scenic with beautiful parks, coastlines and even a great beach! Sure, the coldness of the water rivaled a glacial lake we once swam in, but what a perfect afternoon we had there. A great trip altogether with a couple of humorous hosts. Thanks guys!

Monday, 14 July 2008

le 14 juillet

We followed the crowds and headed for the big parade down the Champs-Elysees. It was a flotilla of army tanks, fire trucks and even U.N. vehicles. We must have missed Sarkozy and Ingrid Betancourt who was joining the parade. But we did catch an air show including a jet streaming blue white and red smoke as well as parachuters.

NOw for a little boules in the park followed by some fireworks. Vive la France!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

St. Jean de Luz

We were told we had to see the Basque countryside before leaving France, and so that's why we ended up in St. Jean de Luz. It's not in the countryside, but on the coast, and this way we could tour the country and enjoy the beach. And indeed, it was a green, lush mountainous region with sheep and horses grazing on the hillsides.

This is a train we took to the top of La Rhune mountain which offered a spectacular view.

At la ferme Ostalapia where we had a great dinner (thanks Alain).

Maggie had some friends also vacationing in the area.

There are Irish in basque country.

Sean enjoys a pot of "moules".

The promenade along the St. Jean de Luz beach.

Quinn had a week of surf lessons which he really enjoyed and was able to ride some ways the last few days. Here,surfer dude at rest, and earlier, piling into the cool van.

View of Biarritz

The view from our apartment in St. JEan de Luz, and nature girl at work.

Typical basque church interior.

Saturday, 5 July 2008


From St. Sebastian we headed to Bilbao for a quick run through the Guggenheim. It was a great museum and no complaints from the little people. On they way, the kids were plotting how they'd trick their friends with their new wigs.

Jim Dine, a fellow Cincinnatian's work at the Guggenheim. I later found out you're not supposed to take photos.

The big floral bear.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Basque country July 3-12th

The first thing I remarked about the Basque region, was the prominence of the Basque language or Euskara. The major highway signs from Biarritz, France to San Sebastian, Spain were written first in Basque, and then in Spanish or French, depending. This was my first time seeing the language and when looked at, the Basque language had it's own font or typeface if you will, sort of Hawaiianish if you can imagine. The French or Spanish that followed was in "normal" print. And the Basque words were not at all recognizable. You know how you can kind of figure out Spanish, French, Italian and even German if you had to? Well there was no figuring out this Euskara. It was full of mysterious letters like x's, k's and z's.

Later research (internet browse) revealed that the Basque language, Euskara is considered a language isolate, meaning it has no language relatives, and it is the only pre-indo european language. Well, well. No wonder it was so FOREIGN to me, "kaixo" meaning "hello" and "zer modez?" meaning "how are you?"

A few days after arriving, I met a Basque man named Pierrot and he spoke a few words to me. It's like nothing I've heard. It doesn't sound French or Spanish which is weird because it's been surrounded by these languages for centuries. And isn't that kind of cool, to actually meet someone named Pierrot (who was in fact wearing a black beret)? Before this encounter, Pierrot was the clown all in white who is mentioned in the French folk song, Au Clair de la Lune. I never suspected that anyone would have the name, not that it can't be a serious name, too.

So, my first impressions of Basque country, in addition to the lush green hills decorated with timbered frames houses, were of the interesting highway signs, of which I wish I had a picture to show. Actual pictures of the area to follow.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Last days of school!

The last scooter ride to school.

I've been rather emotional this week, knowing that the school year has come to an end, and this is it for us. The kids won't be returning next year. We will be returning to our hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

It's not because we haven't had a fabulous year. It couldn't have been any better. Seriously, it's been like a dream. From the beginning, Parisians have been so kind to us. We found a great apartment within scootering (and walking) distance to the kids' school. Our location allowed us to take buses almost everywhere we needed to go which was just wonderful. The metro is efficient, but the buses are more humane. I have totally enjoyed the feeling of safety of riding the metro until midnight and walking alone along the quais of the Seine alone in the early evening. And dare I even begin (again) to sing the praises of the easy and fun velibs?

Despite my daughter's teacher's cold exterior, she has been a wonderful teacher and M has learned to read in French and later, in English. The first report cards home encouraged M to speak more French. I checked with her teacher after they recently presented a play for us, and her teacher said "are you kidding? she speaks nonstop now!" Q and M have even taken to speaking French at home. Of course, they speak it with a very silly invented southern American accent which is hilarious to listen to.

Q has quite enjoyed his year of year-round soccer and swimming, increased reading proficiency, becoming a spelling bee champ and challenging chess player. He enjoyed computer class and became proficient at reciting poems by Jaques Prevert. He especially enjoyed making friends with Mason, Parker, Takaki, Will, Sasha and Pierre Louis, a very nice group of boys who really made the transition to living in France and attending a French bilingual school so much fun.

I am sad to leave, and yet am grateful to have had such a wonderful year. We are returning for various reasons. It wasn't an easy decision. Family and friends are a strong pull home, as is our home in a great neighborhood with friendly neighbors. My husband will be happy to walk down the street and speak his language to friends and strangers alike. Our kids will be thrilled to see our little dog Pearl again as well as play outside in the yard and down the street with friends.

Our departure date is July 31st, so there will be several posts before we bid adieu to this amazing city. We are off to the Basque area tomorrow, so stay tuned for some entries from Southwest France, and perhaps Spain.

Until then, enjoy these end of the school year shots of kids enjoying themselves.

Recommended Reading

For those of you interested in following the adventures of a family traveling around the world, I recommend the following site:
Their adventure has already begun in Haarlem, Netherlands and they have just moved on to Poland. My hats are off (I wear many hats) to them- a husband, wife and 9 year old twins traveling the far reaches of the world.

Monday, 30 June 2008

School days - Q

Every now and again, Q had to copy down and memorize verses or a poem in French. I especially liked the poem "Les hiboux" by Robert Desnos that he would recite at top speed with all of it's "oo" rhymes. He can still recite most of it in a pinch. I've appreciated that they learned through reciting poetry.

It cracks me up to see our boy doing these conjugating activities. It's like what I did in high school, and here he is understanding the concepts very well.

In English class, the students in Q's class have written various poems based on the work of Blake, Whitman and Stevens. They presented their work to the parents with pride and seemed to really get into the style of the author.

But when all is said and done, this is probably what Q will remember most:

Picking teams for after school dodgeball.

Playing at recess in Parc Monceau.

School days - M

A few weeks ago, M brought home a folder of work she had recently done. She picked up this paper and began reading this whole passage to me in French. It is amazing to hear her sound out the words and pronounce them with such a great accent. This was a reading and comprehension measurement, and I was pleased that she could not only read the sentences, but she knew very well what it was about. It's awesome!

This little piece is a dictation in which the teacher reads a paragraph and the students have to spell the words and use correct punctuation. I'm amazed at how much she has learned after only one year.

These little pieces go together. M has a whole book of songs to which she has created pictures. Very cute.

But after all is said and done, this is what M will remember:

An Eiffel Tower confection.

Thursday singing group.

Playing with A and L at Parc Monceau.