Parc de la Villette

Sarah choose to visit Parc de la Villette, a fun place we visited two years ago during the summer.  The girls had fond memories of a zip line and hamster wheels for kids.  We arrived to find the park undergoing a major renovation.  Construction fences surrounded the part of the park they enjoyed so much.  The Dragon part of the part was open and lessened the disappointment with the closed section.

While walking around the park we came upon a bicycle art.


Later in the afternoon, we visited the sister of Annesophie, one of our friends in Bloomington.  Caroline, her daughter Charlotte (age 7) and Gaspard (age 3) kindly hosted us for cupcakes and tea. Charlotte showed Sarah and Rachel her room and allowed us to pet her rabbit.  It was fun to visit to a residential neighborhood without tourists in sight. DSCN0558

Holding the globe in my hand behind the La Cite des Sciences et de L’Industrie



Conciergerie and Angelina

Photo credit: Rachel Cummings

Rachel wanted to go to the Palais de la Cité (the current, Palais de Justice).  Apparently upon exiting the metro, we approached the rear of the Palais. Finding only entrances open to employees, we looked for a public entrance.  The entrance we found was to a site that Cheryl Jenkins recommended. The Conciergerie was built in the middle ages and occupied by the kings of France from the 10th to 14th centuries.  Walking into the cavernous hall on the ground level we were impressed with their mastery of the arch.1024px-Salle_des_gens_darmes_conciergerie  Wandering around the hall we saw four massive fireplaces that had been used to heat the space.  We later learned that a staff of 2000 used the space as a dining room. We also read that at other times the palace guards and their horses were quartered in the grand hall.  On the next level we saw the souvenir shop and wondered whether the Hall of Guards was the extent of what we could see at the Conciergerie.  Normally the souvenir shop is at the end of the tour.   We had not read about the Conciergerie before arriving.  It turned out the exit of the souvenir shop was starting point for seeing the Conciergerie.  As we toured about we read details about the palace turned prison.  During the reign of terror it was where prisoners were held before their execution.

Conciergerie viewed from across the Seine.

The most famous of the prisoners was Marie Antoinette, who was 37 when she met her fate with the guillotine.  From a line drawing done immediately prior to her execution and replicas of paintings of her, it was clear she ate her share of cake.  We have read she did not say, “Let them eat cake”.  She was convicted of treason for her alleged loyalties to France’s enemy, Austria (where she was born and spent the first 19 years of her life).  The people also believed she was involved in an attempt to purchase a diamond necklace.

Our next stop was for tea and pastries.  Mrs. Campanella, Sarah’s seventh grade French teacher recommended Angelina‘s.  Wow.  We arrived at peak tea time.  It was worth the wait.

Jack’s tea and Mont Blanc,  Sarah’s strawberry milkshake, Rachel’s chocolate eclair behind the milkshake

The patrons were a mix of well dressed French, and Brits. There were a few Americans too. Animated conversations were  heard at all points of the compass.

Marcia’s Chorlotte Poire-Chocolat and Sarah’s Mona Lisa

Below is a photo taken by Ella of Rachel.  Two artsy photos by the twins in one day!

Mona Lisa a la Monet


A full day

In the morning on the way to the Louvre,

At the louvre, with a focus on the Egyptians . Their sculptures, pictographs, pottery, pyramids document a civilization that brought us papyrus and writing.  I was about to write how the Americans brought communication so much farther with the internet, but is was a Swiss citizen, Tim Berners-Lee who gets credit for the world wide web. Back to the Egyptians, hats off to them to create what they did with fairly primitive tools.

The highlight of the evening was dinner on the Eiffel Tower.

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Arc de Triomphe

DSCN0413A woman working the front door at an Italian restaurant on the Champs-Elysees wanted to know if we were for Trump. From the outset she seemed quite excited about the prospect of Trump in the oval office. She was disappointed when neither Marcia nor I nodded approval of Trump. As we were departing she came up to explain why she thinks Trump would be good. She mentioned the impact of the governmental costs of hosting immigrants. Her bottom line was that immigrants were adding to iDSCN0411ndividuals’ tax burden. When we did not indicate support for Trump, she asked if we were for Bernie. It was interesting that she did not have an opinion on Hillary. Throughout the interaction she was friendly and welcoming, not at all fitting the American stereotype of the cold French.  (Actually she was representative of the positive interactions we have had in France.) She offered to take our picture with Arc de Triomphe in the background.

I asked her if it was Ok to take her picture.  Here’s Marcia with her new friend

We then headed to Arc de Triomphe.  Our stair climbing prowess is growing day by day.  The views from the top impressed even the kids.  To give the kids ownership of what we do each day, we decided to take turns. It was a good decision to have each member of the family to have control of a day.


Below are some shots from the top of the  Arc de Triomphe.


Our first Saturday

No homework for the girls today.  It was a break for their parents, too.  It was Sarah’s day to pick what we did.  Sarah selected the Aquarium, which is close to our apartment.  The entrance was not very impressive, but the aquarium turned out to be quite entertaining.  We had never seen Mediterranean moray eels.  They aren’t green, they are more black and yellow.  At the Mote Aquarium in Florida there is an exhibit where kids pet small rays, but in Paris they pet colorful carp.

Although it was 37 degrees, the sun made it seem warmer.  Marcia and I wore gloves but the kids went with bare hands.  Since they did not complain about it being cold, I guess they were OK. It turned out to be a good day for the family.

Our home for 5 weeks

We are on the fifth floor.  There is an elevator, but we have been walking up. 


Today was a lazy day.  Ella asked why we would go sightseeing when it is much easier to use the internet. It was clear that her sisters shared her perception.  My thought was, “oh no, more than four months to go.”  I imagined tourist fatigue would set in at some point, but not on the third full day.

The girls wanted to stay in today.  A good chunk of the morning was devoted to homework. Sarah did French, Rachel and Ella read and solved math problems.  Ella and Sarah also took advantage of Khan Academy.

Sacre Coeur and Montmartre


In the early afternoon the sky was a beautiful blue, but the wind was blowing at least 20-25 mph. The wind brought rain, which was followed by snow. It apparently does not snow often.

Despite the snow, Sarah was pressing for ice cream. Rachel asked for a sample and she was informed samples were not an option. After seeing the options, only Marcia could resist.


Marcia and Ella are too small to see, but they are there between the planters on the sidewalk.  Rachel is dressed in black and you can only see her face next to Marcia.  Sarah is apparently hiding behind one of the planters.  She has developed an aversion to being on camera.

Super Tuesday in Paris

We got a late start today. I slept till 10:30, but Sarah set the record finally getting out of bed at 1:30 in the afternoon. It was a lazy day, with rain most of the day.

We did get out and walk past the Eiffel Tower to arrive at the American Library of Paris. This is no free library, membership fee plus a deposit of 60 Euro to encourage books to be returned. The kids were able to checkout four books, which should keep them happy for several days. They appear to have competition going in terms of who can read the most books quickest.

After the library, we sat in a corner bistro and had an early dinner. We had a window table and were able to watch the Parisians passing by.   Marcia ordered French onion soup and it was wonderful, more texture than the typical soup stateside. There were little bits of onion and cheese in the soup. It was topped with melted cheese on the pieces of baguette.

What a treat it is to be able to walk across the street each morning and get a warm baguette.

Here it is 11:33 pm. Looks like we will have to wait till the morning to learn the outcome of Super Tuesday. We talked to one French woman about the election and she mentioned they have their share of outrageous politicians. We all smiled. I forgot Trump is not a politician…

Happy leap year day!

You don’t get many leap year days.  For us it was the first full day in Paris.  The girls were up late last night, so they were slow to get out of bed.  It took us till 11:30 to head to the metro. The girls learned how to read a metro map and in short order we arrived at the Louvre.  Since we plan to return to the Louvre multiple times over the next month, we bought the annual pass.  We are now members of the Societe des AMIS du Louvre.

Sarah’s observations from this morning.

People dress differently in Paris. Many of the men wear trench coats. I have not seen a man wear something like that in Bloomington. The money is different, it has rainbow colors and is not green. Paris has smaller shops than the United States. In the United States there are department stores like, Kroger and Target, while in Paris there are small independent shops, cheese shops, butchers, and family owned grocery stores.

Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful getting today’s photos off the camera.  I did take one photo on my cell phone of a Coke bottle. Something about a green Coke seemed off.   According the sign, it has 30 percent fewer calories than classic Coke.  Coke for life, something else that is different in Paris.


Bienvenue a Paris

AirCanadaIt was a smooth 7 hour flight from Toronto. Taking a minivan from Charles de Gaulle to the apartment on 100bis, avenue Kleber, Paris was the right choice because if we would have taken the train there would have needed to change at two different metro stops. The added bonus was that traffic was moving along swiftly. Getting situated in the apartment was seamless. We are quite pleased with our apartment for the next five weeks.

Our trip coincides nicely with the fact that last year Sarah had an excellent Western Civilization class in sixth grade. Next year, Rachel and Ella will have the same teacher for Western Civilization. Ella and Rachel will an opportunity to see the present day incarnation of Greek and Roman city-states they will subsequently study in sixth grade. Marcia and I hope the trip will be an opportunity to fully immerse the girls in Western Civilizations.

Since we will be homeschooling the kids, they will be exposed to various empires and the resulting works of art. Hopefully this will help the kids appreciate the meaning behind the various sites. The goal is to avoid the kids saying, “great another museum” or Roman ruins that look the same as the previous Roman ruins.

We walked around the neighborhood taking in the atmosphere. We stocked up on groceries and found some outstanding strawberries. Each one was perfect and tasted like locally grown summer strawberries full of flavor.   We picked up some tasty pears, cheese, and a bottle of wine to celebrate the arrival.  Can’t wait till tomorrow…