Summertime in Paris

We are back now from a glorious trip to Paris. It felt exactly as I wanted it to – long weeks of ponderous enjoyment with the occasional burst of creative expression.

I will admit that I had a few days of total anxiety because my brain and I are always concerned that we aren’t doing enough productive things. GOD FORBID I should relax. Anyway I kicked that to the curb fairly early on in the trip and was pretty much able to do some total relaxation.

When we arrived at the beautiful artist’s apartment we stay in, Theo squealed ‘It feels like home!’ I was so delighted and relieved. When we began this adventure in March, taking him from school and immediately jumping on a train to Paris I thought we would spend most of our time in the beautiful French city. But I soon realised that Theo was unsettled and we needed to replace the anchor that was school with something else – and Paris was not it. So we have spent a lot of time in London building up a ‘home schooling life’ of friends and groups and classes so he can feel like he’s not missing out on the friendships and he feels part of something. Our favourite things are a weekly group that meets somewhere full of nature for an afternoon of wild adventuring and a weekly football class for home schoolers.

It’s been hard to keep up with old friends from school partly I think because some parents are rather opposed to our choice, and partly there is a ‘out of sight, out of mind’ situation now he’s not there every day. But our efforts to make him feel connected have paid off and he’s now happy to come to Paris.  And to even make a few Parisian friends too…

I love Paris in summertime. From the middle of July the city starts its drain of residents venturing out on holiday. If you avoid the busy tourist filled centre and venture to the (I would say more) interesting outer arrondissements there is a wonderful relaxing vibe. The busy Arab market (Barbes Market) near us that is surrounded by shops selling delicious spiced roast chickens, flat breads and achingly sweet pastries. Or the slightly worn down area of Belleville filled with amazing restaurants, shops over flowing with Chinese food and an unpolished version of the beautiful Parisian architecture. Or the market at Place D’Aligre over the weekends that is better value than most, yet sells beautiful fresh veg and has cute little cafes where locals stop for hours to drink bitter coffee, talk and smoke endlessly. That’s a Paris I would recommend on seeing.

During this trip we only went into the centre once – to fulfil a very important mission, to purchase an éclair from Maison du Chocolat, which according to the foodie blogosphere has the best éclairs in Paris. After much éclair sampling we agreed. Theo reviewed it for his blog and gave it 21/20, saying it was ‘better than pizza which is amazing because pizza is the best food in the world.”

Although Anthony continues to struggle to create a new, interesting vision of Paris for his work, he discovered some interesting new things to photograph, like an abandoned railway line near Pere Lachaise Cemetery. The tracks were over grown and lined with fruit trees. He came home with a big bag full of small juicy plums, which we gorged on for days.

After a week of rain at the beginning of our trip in which we were more than happy to hang around in the apartment playing badminton, reading and eating, when the sun started shining we started to wander the streets once again. We visited the lovely area Canal St Martin and then walked along the canal north to Parc Villette – a strange new-ish park where the excellent but pricey Science Museum is. It’s weird to visit when it’s not busy – Anthony said at dawn it looks abandoned, like a nuclear explosion has cleared the place of its people. But when it’s sunny it’s a wonderful place to be. There was live music on the afternoon we went and people bathing gratefully in the sun. Theo befriended some men playing football and they kindly adapted their game to include him. He was delighted in that gorgeous way that kids are when big people take an interest in them. (Parc Villette has lots of good free cultural events going on. They host a month of free open air cinema from mid-July to mid-August)

As is expected in Paris we ate a lot. But this time partly because of our area but mainly because we are on a tight budget, we stuck mainly to ethnic food. And by god we feasted. A particular favourite of ours was the Indian/Sri Lankan food in La Chapelle area. I am thinking of writing up some of our foodie experiences as for once I was really impressed by what we ate there. I hate that Paris is so hit-and-miss with food now. France inspired me so much as a child because it felt like everything you ate there was magnificent.

It was a very good trip.