Travels with children in Europe – Part 2
My husband very quickly recovered from his tummy bug but seemed to need a day of rest and our son definitely did because he brought a yucky cold with him from childcare, so on Monday the boys stayed at home to rest while my daughter and I went on an adventure. We caught the train out to Provins, a UNESCO world heritage, remarkably well-preserved medieval town just 90 mins from Paris.
Provins split from Paris (politically) in the 12th Century and introduced passports to allow entry into the town, subsequently it became very popular with traders from as far away as the orient and became a thriving ‘fair’ town. The abundance of rivers meant that trades such as tanning, butchering etc could be performed there and it prospered. Suddenly, within a couple of decades due to war, plague etc it became very unpopular and has subsequently been preserved in its medieval state with most building dating from 12th and 13th centuries. Some of the buildings are in wonderfully restored condition, some are being restored and others are decrepit. It’s quite a large area of the town that’s heritage listed and it was amazing to walk around it.
We walked at least 8km that day and my daughter never once complained about being weary. At one point she said that even her eyeballs were cold and it certainly was a chilly day but a quick lunch in a brasserie warmed us up. Meanwhile, our boys enjoyed a quiet day with Petit Dejeneur Francaise at a nearby cafe, a play at a playground we didn’t previously know about, and a visit to a nearby park with a big hill and waterfall in it . All 4 of us had a good day and enjoyed the different pace.
We started Tuesday with a cruise on the River Seine and it was nice to see many of the important buildings from the water without needing to walk around. Afterwards we walked over to Luxembourg gardens and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sunshine of baguette, cheese and marinated olives, yum! We had gone there specifically on the tip that it has the best playground in Paris and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The small entry fee was well worth it because everything was a in great condition and clean. It is the size of a basketball court or maybe two, with a wide variety of playing stations and different activities for all ages from toddler to 12 year olds. I enjoyed it even more for the nap that I had in the sunshine while the kids played.
On Wednesday we went to a flea market on the NW edge of the city (rated one of the best in the world) but it was closed so we moved on to Sacre Couer basilica for the view and walked down from there through colourful and slightly run-down Montmartre. We fortuitously found a playground on the way to the Metro stop and the kids had fun while we soaked up the warm sunshine on a bench. I fell into easy conversation with a psychologist in training from Germany who is doing her internship in Paris and does nannying as well. From there we caught the metro to some supposedly great food markets on the banks of the Seine that were also closed so we walked on with baguette sandwiches to the park at the base of the Eiffel Tower to use the toilets, eat our lunch and for our son to have a luxuriously long 2 hour nap on my lap in the warm sunshine.
From there we walked across the river to the Trocadero for another Metro. I found the contents of someone’s wallet while helping our daughter to squat in the bushes. My husband handed in all of the contents (photos, cards etc) to the nearby Police who said thanks, shrugged their shoulders and said something about tourists. As I approached the spot with my daughter a frustrated looking man called out to his mate and later we saw a man running fast with a handbag, so perhaps one can make a good living out of pickpocketing and bag snatching. We next caught the Metro out to the Eastern edge of the city to see the medieval Vincennes Castle. The kids were very excited about seeing a king’s bedroom and showed a lot of enthusiasm for exploring the castle. It was used as a prison during Napoleon’s time so there are no furnishings and I wonder if the kids were disappointed but they didn’t show it. We tried to catch the Metro back afterwards but it was stopped because a package was found at another stop on the line so we went back up to the street and had a great dinner at a brasserie with a view of the beautiful watchtower at the castle and brought the kids back, full, warm and happy.
I think that we are all in sync with the Parisian timezone now. The tooth fairy brought our daughter 3.76 Euros for her prematurely dislodged tooth and that morning as we walked past a woman who was begging, she gave her most of the coins. It made my heart ache to see such generosity. Each morning our daughter writes in her travel diary about her adventures the day before. I type up her intended text and leave it visible to her on the laptop while she carefully writes it into her book. On the facing page she makes drawings of the things she saw. This was her teacher’s suggestion to do because she is missing school and I think that it’s a fabulous idea and that it will be a very interesting reminder from the trip. We’ve also been diligently writing postcards together to each of her loved ones. Each evening I sort through that day’s photos and upload the best ones rather than being plagued by 1000’s of photos when we get home. I’m glad that my high school French has returned and I’ve enjoyed extending it and improving my pronunciation while here. Our son is able to beautifully mimic French and on the train this afternoon, when someone moved so that we could sit down, he said Merci Beaucoup in his gorgeous voice which made many passengers smile and my heart smile too.