“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway To A Friend, 1950.
Sitting on the Eurostar next to my six year old son Jaden , we just left Belgium a few hours ago and I was looking through the window of the train at the beautiful landscape dotted with these breath-taking fields of bright yellow flowers. Fields with quaint cottages, churches and farms. I thought to myself excitedly, this must be France. Not even in Paris yet and here I was falling instantly in love. As the train pulls into the Gare du Nord I literally was jumping out of my seat. My adorable husband Joe proceeded to tell me ” Naims please calm down.” Actually , I could not calm down. For almost two years I had been steadily planning this trip to Paris . Last year due to last minute family obligations we were not able to see Paris, I was determined to have my Parisian adventure this April.
In February I purchased a book called A Moveable Feast, written by Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest American writers. The book is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920′s. I was captivated from the very first word, and was drawn into Hemingway’s recollections of his times in Paris. He captured the mood of Paris after World War 1. The beauty and magic of the City then, in a nostalgic and haunting way. “This is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy,” he concluded. Of course I was romanticizing Paris through Hemingway’s eyes and quickly started plotting away , as many places he mentioned in the book , this would be on our list to see once we were in Paris. I even booked us on the ” Hemingway’s Paris” walk with the wonderful company Paris Walks.
It had been quite rainy in Belgium, a bit cold in London. The minute we walked out the train station in Paris, the sun was shinning and I looked up at the buildings, it was exactly how I imagined they would look , with their perfect wrought iron terraces. In a taxi driving towards our hotel, all I could think was ” Wow we are actually in Paris.” Four days, three nights in The City of Lights, we had to be strategic , not overwhelmed by visiting all the major attractions. After all it was Spring in Paris. I had a plan and it would also mean living in the moments and going with the flow like the locals. My Aunty Leilia in London also told me to be free ,go with our hearts and walk along the Seine, eat a baguette , visit the older neighborhoods. Our Parisian Adventure went exactly like this :
Wednesday the day of our Arrival.
Joe, Jaden and I settled into the gorgeous boutique Hotel Tremoille, the first of the two hotels we stayed at in Paris, the second hotel was the five star luxury Hotel Le Meurice. We checked emails and then headed down to the concierge to get a map of Paris. It was a late start 4pm . We decided to head to the Eiffel Tower and then take Jaden to a carousel , then walk along the Seine river as the sun sets and end the day with a yummy dinner at one of the fabulous French brasserie. Map in hand we walked from the hotel towards the Eiffel Tower. I just remembered thinking how everything, the streets, buildings, people looked exactly how I imagined it would all look… so very French, well Parisian. As we crossed one of the many lovely bridges that day, we turned a corner and there it was…. the Eiffel Tower. My mouth dropped !!! It was simply magnificent. Not very crowded , we walked around the grounds taking photographs. Suddenly I heard someone shout out my name ” Naima.” Only in our crazy world would we run into our neighbors back in Brooklyn NY, my good friend Helen , her hubby and son Zoe. A quick hello, I took a photo of them, what a wonderful surprise. After the Eiffel Tower we headed to the carousel a few yards away for Jaden to have a little fun.
The sun was setting and everything turned even more magical. Joe, Jaden and I walked down the stairs towards the Seine river and I took more photographs. Everything looked and felt so romantic, magical ( I will be using this word over and over) and we were so happy. We were told Chez Andre was the perfect brasserie, located in the right bank, for our first meal in Paris. After all the walking , we were happy to see how lively, chic, and yummy the food looked. Steak and frites, loads of red wine. This ended our perfect first day in Paris.
Thursday – day 2 of our Parisian Adventure
We awoke to another beautiful sunny day in Paris. I ordered us a simple breakfast, croissants, pastries, coffee and orange juice, it was brought up to our hotel room. Happy and full, we were ready for day two in Paris. Our adventure would entail us walking down the most famous avenue in the world- The Champs Elysees, where you can walk from the L’Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde through the Jardin de Tuileries and then to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. I must note, what a perfect little traveling companion my six year old son Jaden was. Joe and I were so proud of our son, he rarely complained, walked miles and miles, and was equally intrigued and excited as Joe and I were in exploring Paris.
The L’Arc de Triomphe was spectacular. I almost got killed by fast moving cars getting that ” money shot’ of the Arc, hope you like the photograph. Walking past all the high end stores mixed in with stands selling vintage postcards was a sight indeed. Joe was not too impressed with Jaden and my decision to stop into Mc Donalds, after all we had see the difference between the French and American Big Mac. They also had evian water and potato wedges . Yum !!! The Place de la Concorde, with beautiful grand fountains at the entrance to the Jardin de Tuileries is a place of great contrasts as it was here that Marie Antoinette and thousands of others met a grueling fate, yet it is the most splendid area in all of Paris. It took us straight through the Tuileries ( I took some lovely photos of Jaden there) to the Louvre- one of the world’s largest museums, and a historic monument. Jaden was the most excited to see the Mona Lisa. He was very impressed with all the magnificent art, especially the Medieval and Renaissance period ( thanks to his past school teacher Sister Pat.)
After many hours exploring the Louvre, on a whim, I decided we should head over to the Left bank, the St Germain area to have lunch. Clearly it would have to be at one of the cafes that Ernest Hemingway frequented in the 1920′s of course. Les Deux Magots cafe in the Saint -Germain-des-Pres area of Paris. Its historical reputation is derived from the patronage of Surrealist artists, intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sarte, and young writers, such as Ernest Hemingway . Other patrons included Pablo Picasso . If it was good for them , it would be perfect for Joe, Jaden and I. We ate the yummiest croque madam and loads of red wine at Les Deux Magots.
After an adventurous and cultural adventure, we headed back to the hotel to get some much needed rest. I also had to plan dinner for that night. Again I chose one of Hemingway’s favorite brasserie to go have cocktails and dinner, as he mentioned in his book. ” The only decent cafe in our neighborhood was la Closerie des Lilas, and it was one of the best cafes in Paris. It was warm in the winter and the terrace was lovely in the spring and fall….” ( Hemingway) . Located on the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard St. Michel, La Closerie des Lilas appears to keep more of a Parisian crowd while most of the tourists seem to flock around the cafés located down the street at the carrefour. Walking into La Closerie, one word to describe it… Stunning !!!! I felt like I was transported to the 1920′s and that one of the ex-pats would be sitting by the bar, smoking, drinking. It is very expensive but all so worth the experience. Dinner was so delicious. Jaden enjoyed his steak and frites, his second in two days.
Friday – day 3 of our Parisian Adventure !!!
I woke up Friday morning excited to head out to the pre-planned Hemingway’s Paris walk with the reputable company Paris Walks. Joe and Jaden opted to sit out on this adventure and stay in the hotel to get a few more hours of rest. Yikes !!!! I was both excited and scared to be off on my own in Paris. Then again I am the Adventurista after all, I knew I would have a blast. French phrase book in hand, I was off to the location everyone was to meet for the walk- The metro Cardinal Lemoine. I met some die-hard Hemingway enthusiasts like myself on the walk.
Our guide took us to explore the charming district in the Latin Quarter with the old houses of the Mouffetard market street, an impressive fragment of the medieval city wall and the lovely historic church of St Etienne-du- Mont ( where a scene from the Woody Allen movie , Midnight in Paris was filmed) and the Pantheon. It was everything I expected and was so happy to have done the walk. I felt so bad Joe and Jaden missed the walk earlier, I decided to take them back to the same area later that afternoon. After all they had to see the Pantheon. We also took the loveliest walk around St Germain, down to the gorgeous Notre- Dame Church where we had the pleasure of sitting in on an actual service.
A few of my friends before our trip insisted if we had time, to visit this neighborhood called the Marais. The Marais is where old and new Paris mix together, as it is both the old Jewish Quarter and a popular gay area, side by side. The 17th century buildings are beautiful, and the cobble stone streets remind you this is old Paris, mixed in with some of the hottest fashion boutiques in the city. After the service at the Notre-Dame church we took a taxi over to the Marias. We walked along the quaint streets and stopped into a wine shop to buy a bottle of wine, then a cheese and sausage shop to get some goodies and finally a bakery for bread. We headed back to our hotel room at the Le Meurice and ate and drank it all.
Saturday – day 4 and our last day of our Parisian Adventure !!!
It eventually had to come to an end , our magical Parisian adventure. I knew I had to plan out a short but epic adventure before our 5 pm train ride back to London. It was difficult getting out of our comfy beds at the Le Meurice , but it had to be done and around 10 am we packed our belongings so it could be stored with the front desk at the hotel , until it was time to leave Paris. I decided our last adventure in Paris will be in Montmartre, steep with cobbled streets it is one of the most historic and interesting neighborhoods in Paris. The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur (the big white church) sits on the crest of the hill, and there is exactly where were Joe, Jaden and I were going to start our last day in Paris.
Before leaving the hotel, Jaden and I walked next door to the fabulous Angelina’s for macaroons, an historic restaurant on the Rue de Rivoli, I have heard that Coco Chanel used to drop by for tea, since it was just down the street from her shop on Rue Cambon. Jaden devoured his macaroons. After we hopped into a taxi and we were off to Montmartre . How perfect I thought, as we ascended the hill and first glimpsed the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur. The whole of Paris was before us from the top of the hill. We settled in with the hundred or so people, basking in the beautiful Paris sunshine. There was a futbol ( soccer) player showcasing his amazing skills on this small ledge, I was intrigued. Jaden also saw a group of French kids playing futbol to the side of the Basilica, he longed to join in, alas we did not have the time for him to do so.
I took so many beautiful pictures, then I suddenly realized that I did not get a chance to eat a crepe in Paris. I quickly googled where near the Basilica prepares the best crepes. It just so happened to be a few blocks down the hill. Au Relais for the most delicious crepes. I sat there looking at my six year old son Jaden , who was gazing out the window at Paris. My husband Joe , happily sipping on his glass of wine. I felt nostalgic already about the amazing experiences the three of us had together as a family. We just traveled to three countries- London, Belgium and France in ten days. I look forward to writing about and sharing my photographs about the wonderful time we had in London and Belgium with my cousins. In the meanwhile I hope you enjoyed my photo-dairy of our Parisian adventure. I leave you with these few words – “Paris était au-delà magnifique et je n’oublierai jamais mon temps magique dansla Ville des Lumières.”- Naima