Monday, November 8, 2010

Week 24: I Love Paris in the Fall

Our family visit continued into a new week. Betsy's daughter Abby, her husband Terry and their baby (9 month old) Pippin joined us as well. Emily and Quinn also arrived, so we had a full house. We even had a couple of clients on one of the nights. The two babies, almost exactly a year apart, were really adorable together.

The family enjoyed some walks in the woods. Terry is a fairly serious birder and it was another golden opportunity for me to try to get a handle on a few of the bird species we share our lives with over here. Terry said that our birds seem particularly shy. He did agree that one of the species that seems to spend a great deal of time among the vines that grow on our house is the little brown European wren. I think they'll be staying with us all winter.

Before they flew back to Oregon, where the family live far from the big city, we accompanied them to Paris for a couple of days. As we were driving through our local forest en route to the freeway we came upon a most amazing sight, a parade of about 15 wild boar scampering across the road in single file. I have only once seen a sanglier (as they are called in French), and that was in the south. If I ever doubted that we had them here (and I did), I was proven very wrong. They seem almost prehistoric to me, so hairy, lumpy and wild looking. I didn't have my wits about me in time to take a photo, so I've borrowed this image.


I am more of a country girl myself, but I can't help feeling a real thrill whenever I go to Paris. Betsy, Terry and Abby had never been, so it seemed essential to introduce them to what I think of as the most beautiful city in the world. Such a perfect time of the year to visit! I keep thinking the fall is over, but then there seems to be just one more week in full glory. Paris had on its most beautiful colors!

Betsy's family lodged at a hotel in the heart of Saint Germain des Prés, on the left bank. We stayed with Emily and Quinn. Jos has been in Amsterdam for several weeks directing a circus performance, so Emily and Quinn were glad for the company.

We met one another at the Louvre in the morning. The weather was Paris gray, but it didn't rain and was not cold. I love the I.M. Pei pyramid, which looks so majestic in the courtyard of the ancient palace. Here is a short online video which describes its conception. The Parisians at first had some difficulty in accepting it. But then, the Eiffel Tower had few supporters in the city when it was first constructed either. One thing I love about Paris is the harmony achieved between protecting the past and embracing the future.

Terry fed the pigeons while the babies looked on with real interest. Quinn, with coaxing, offered bits of bread too, but he didn't like having those beaks come so close to his little fingers.


It's not entirely necessary to visit the Eiffel Tower when you come to Paris, but it is quite spectacular, being considerably bigger than one would imagine. It's also a beautiful brown color, rather than black. Le Champ de Mars is the park that stretches between the Tower and the Ecole Militaire It is also very lovely and used all year round by the locals for strolling, running, walking the dog, picnicking, or just sitting. And even if the Eiffel Tower is the most visited place in the world, the neighborhood around it, is residential and authentically French, unlike some of the neighborhoods closer to the center of town. Few of the tourists even walk through the park, let alone wander into the streets adjacent. We lived just two blocks from the Eiffel Tower for a few years, so we have a great sense of nostalgia about most everything in this area of Paris. I had a French teacher who told me once that the Eiffel Tower is the Parisian's favorite monument and Montmartre is the one most scorned by the locals.

This time of year the park is particularly charming.

One of the main reasons we took Betsy and family to the Eiffel Tower neighborhood was to see the beautiful vertical garden at the Musée Branly. This building is covered with a membrane which holds a little bit of earth and plants of different sizes, textures and colors are planted right on the walls. There is a watering system built in. This gardening style was developed by Patrick Blanc, a French gardener.

Another site we wanted to visit in the neighborhood was the Art Nouveau facade on the Avenue Rapp.


At the end of the last afternoon in Paris, we visited the Jardin du Luxembourg, the largest public park in Paris. The French senate meets in the Luxembourg Palace. The park itself offers a huge variety of activities, the favorite of which has got to be simply sitting and watching the world go by. There is even a special style of chair designed just for this garden.

The flowers, planted in large stone pots, are extravagant, and this time of year match the colors of the trees.

There is a large pond where children can launch their sailing vessels.

The sailboat vendor was just closing up shop when we passed.

There are stands throughout the park where one can buy snacks, cups of hot chocolate and crepes.

And in all weathers there are numerous pairs of chess players who challenge one another.

John got into the act and looked right at home reading his paper amongst the fallen leaves.

Pony rides for the children are popular.


Before the family left we went out to our favorite Parisian restaurant, located not far from where Emily lives, in the extreme north of the city. Le Baratin is located far away from the center of town. It is in Belleville (as in The Triplets of...). One on-line review says:

A secret blown by every food writer in the past year, Le Baratin’s location still keeps tourists away. Local place that draws cross-town chefs on their day off. 

The food is simple and unpretentious, but delicious. The atmosphere is friendly. I couldn't resist taking a photo of this couple at the table next to us under the beautiful painting. They looked so attractive.

We enjoyed a really memorable last evening together. Pippin is one of the most pacific babies I've ever met. He rarely cries. Quinn slept through out the meal and Pippin feel asleep as well.

As we walked back to the car we were able to look out over Paris spread below us.


  1. A very lively visit, thanks a lot Nancy !

    On another note, yes there are millions of boars in France ! I lived in Lozère in 1996-97 and at the time we had 7 times more boars than people there !

  2. You are making it harder and harder not to hop on a plane!!! Wonderful photos and info...thanks for sharing .

    Janet xox