Road trip!!!!

So the kids and I had a two week holiday in April and we pestered the husband so much that he finally took a week off to spend with us and go on vacation.

However, deciding on a destination is not easy with a family of five strong willed people and the only thing that we could all agree on was that we were sick and tired of the cold, wet, dreary weather here in Paris.

So at the last minute, we jumped in the car and took off for the south of France, in search of the sun and warmer temperatures.

 

First stop – Dijon

Yes, the city of mustard – lol. But it’s much more than that – the city actually dates back to the Roman period. It was an economic and political powerhouse from the early 11th until the late 15th centuries and still is home to the University of Burgundy’s main campus.

The city has wonderful medieval architecture and the streets are charming, narrow and paved with cobblestones.

We were able to stay in a cute apartment that we booked through the Home Away website – it was only a few blocks from the city center and even had private parking for our car.


This house fascinated us – so medieval looking and definitely slanted. Yet it is still occupied. Wonder if they prop it up with beams ….. looks like Nicholas Flamel could live there.

Unfortunately we did not find better weather. This is a definite place to return to when summer finally arrives! We want to go back and explore the city in greater detail – and of course sit on the inviting terraces and people watch.

 

So back in the car we went. And once we passed Lyon the temperature changed, went up 10 degrees (Celsius of course) and the sun came out! Everyone’s mood improved drastically – so much so that we began loudly singing in the car, much to Manu’s dismay. LOL

 

Next stop – Arles

This city was fascinating. It dates back to the Roman times and still has several remnants of that era, such as an amphitheatre similar to the one in Rome. This one too was built for chariot races and hand to hand combat.

Crazy but the small coliseum is smack in the middle of the city – just walk right up the street and there it is!

We were rather awed to be walking where gladiators and ancient Romans trod – and the site is still in use today for special events such as bull fights and concerts.

We spent a couple of hours just in the amphitheatre – exploring and imagining what it must have been like in ancient times.


It was a little creepy, but in a cool sort of way, to walk where gladiators went to their deaths. Hey, we have a little morbid streak ….. sorry.


Even my jaded teenagers were impressed – and agreed that we needed to go see the coliseum in Rome one day. But now they were ready to move on to the next stop.

 

And onward to the Pont du Gard

My husband had visited this site some 30 years ago and couldn’t believe how much and yet how little things had changed. The biggest change is that access to the top tier is no longer available – he once walked along the aquaduct without railings! No thank you for me!!

It was built as part of the Nîmes aqueduct, a 50-kilometer system built in the first century AD to carry water from a spring to a Roman colony. It is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts, and one of the best preserved.

It is an amazing feat of engineering and I am impressed with how the Romans built this without modern technology. And it is still standing, strong and sturdy.

The girls enjoyed splashing in the water and sun bathing on the rocks – a nice break from the car.

We definitely want to return to canoe down the river and swim. The water was a little too cold for that on this trip. But the whole area was so beautiful and peaceful –

 

And then we went to Aix-en-Provence ………

 

Much to be thankful for in Paris

(So sorry this is late, time wise, but my French course is kicking my butt and taking up all of my time!)

It was our third Thanksgiving here and this year had a bit more poignancy – there was of course the awful terrorist attcks but we also found out that some of our dearest friends were moving on for wonderful new adventures. 

So we did what any crazy person would do and celebrated twice!

On actual Thanksgiving day we went to our favorite barbecue joint – The Beast. They made the traditional dinner of smoked turkey, dressing and all of the fixings! Delicious as always. But it was special also because they are located right around the corner from where the terrorist attacks took place and yet they managed to stay safe. So we had much to be thankful there with our friends.  

We started off with one their specialty bourbon cocktails – and that was just the start! 

  
We ate ourselves silly! Our compliments to the chef!

  

And yet there was another reminder to be thankful. The metro stop is Republique and the memorial for those lost on November 13 was incredibly moving

  
  

And then on Saturday we had our own feast at home with our eclectic group of friends!

  
We have so much to be thankful for and we enjoy sharing our American traditions with our friends. 

Now it’s almost Christmas – yikes!

I am not afraid – vive la France!

It’s not exactly “la vie en rose” around here right now – the atmosphere is tense and uncertain – and yet, today everyone went about their business, despite the tragedy of yesterday. The supermarket was as packed as ever, lines long and shoppers pushy. Nothing has changed and yet, everything has, again.

I have friends who are scared, nervous to go out and all I can think of is the Battle of Britain and the blitzkrieg during World War II. No one stopped what they were doing then to be afraid; no one stopped living. They refused to give in to the fear and from that defiance, gained strength. I’m of the same mind – “fuck ’em” (excuse the “french”).

I told my girls that these terrorists are cowards – they cannot really fight the greatest militaries on earth – really, what are you going to do with your little machine gun when you are facing an Abrams tank? I have told my children to not be afraid, to not let these “punk-ass chumps” (I was a little upset at the time) steal their joy of life. Because that is what they are truly after – our joy. And I will be damned if I let them take that – I am living in the city of my dreams – I get to go to the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay any time I want – I get to have long, wine filled lunches at sidewalk cafes – and they cannot take that away from me.

I had dear friends around the areas of the attacks last night – we are the lucky ones because everyone made it home safely. And I have a candle burning in my window tonight to honor the ones who didn’t get home. But when there is a march – and trust me, the French will march – I will be there, this time with signs. And I will not be afraid.

Eiffel at night

A Secret garden

For November it has been incredibly mild, weatherwise – no need for heavy winter coats or scarves – so we went exploring, taking advantage of the sun and soft air. 
Today we discovered a little jewel box just outside of Paris – Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil. It’s one of the four annexes of the Jardins Botanique of the city of Paris.


Loved seeing these artists at work – trying to capture the glorious fall colors. I know it’s such a Parisian cliche, the artist, but it’s still cool to see.


The glass and iron structure reminds me of the Grand Palais – turns out this building is from the same era and the same style!


The architecture is gorgeous. The top 5 greenhouses date back to the late 1890s.The architect was of the same caliber as Eiffel – unfortunately, no one really remembers that now.


Some of these plants have never been planted outside of their native lands. The collections are diverse and interesting – there’s even a giant aviary full of chirping birds.

Cacti in Paris?!


It is like walking in a different world. So cozy and intimate – there are even a couple of cute wrought iron bistro sets where you could have a picnic or a nice aperitif! The temperature difference amazed me – this explains so much about those conservatories that the Victorians had – I was always skeptical about how they were able to have such varied plants.

Here’s the tragic part of this whole adventure – we do not know how much longer this will be here – the French Federation of Tennis  is going to tear it down to expand the tennis complex Roland Garros! That means these lovely structures built by Jean-Camille Formige will be lost! So until then, every time we need a little tropical warmth, we will be visiting the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil.

(any errors are all mine – it’s been a crazy weekend – trying to finalize a walking tour and baking cupcakes and making buttercream frosting – my words and my info might be off but the place was amazing! Mea culpa)

Back at school after too many years

I have been MIA lately because life got crazy again. Kids went back to school in September, then it seems like wham, October arrived and I started school.


Yes, I am taking 20 hours of French at the Sorbonne – ACK! In some ways it’s a dream come true – to study at the Sorbonne – but dear God is it hard to go back to the classroom as a student!

The other people in the class are either babies (meaning they just graduated from high school or the equivalent in whatever country they hail from – 18/19 years old) or are full-fledged adults (LOL) in their 30s and 40s. It’s strange to be one of the oldest students and yet I still feel like one of the babies!

A lot has changed since the 90s when I was at university – these new fangled Smart Boards are pretty cool and the Translate app on my phone is a godsend! (How on earth did we ever make it through college before the internet?) But the smell of a university stairwell hasn’t changed nor has the difficulty of learning French. And conjugations are STILL evil! Most of the time the struggle to understand what the professor is saying and asking gives me a major headache – but I am getting there, I think. Ask me again after our 3rd conjugation test on Monday – sigh.

I didn’t realize how much of my time this class would take – but I am glad I am doing this. I have met some really interesting people – some from Syria, some from Iraq and one even from the Ukraine! It’s fun and every once in a while I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something scary or intimidating or challenging. And this is all 3 to me! And I think that I am showing my girls that you are never too old to learn or go back to school. They of course are loving the fact that I have homework and tests and all of those platitudes are coming right back at me!

Not sure how much my French will improve but I am trying – if nothing else, I will know how to conjugate “être” and “aller” – don’t think you can ever truly forget those!

My Shoe Addiction

At my old blog I wrote about this adventure I had involving shoes, champagne and a wonderfully old hotel particular (town mansion) during my first experience of Fashion Week here in Paris – it’s how I discovered my lovely friends at Chatelles (if you want to read the story, please go to http://teresalutz.weebly.com/-paris-blog/previous/2). And ever since then I have been a major fan. I just love these shoes – they are stylish and comfortable and unique!

Well that was two years ago – which is hard to believe – and since then they have opened up a cute boutique on the chichi rue de Bac and various fashion magazines, such as Vogue and Elle,  have written up articles about them. How cool is that? I am so excited about Chatelles success!

Well it’s fashion week again and started thinking about my first experience here during that crazy time. Now it’s another cocktail and shoe event for Chatelles and this time they have partnered with La Maison du Chocolat – now what could be better than champagne, chocolate and shoes?!

I really like the design and concept behind these “smoking slippers” – and to those who would scoff or think that I am just “advertising” for some sort of angle, nope – I own 20 pairs of Chatelles! Don’t judge – they are super cute and super comfortable and super stylish – and I am supporting a local, small French entrepreneur. So there! (and yes, I did just stick my tongue out at you who are sniffing at my shoe count!)

these are just a few of my favorites!

Go check out their website at http://www.mychatelles.com – they ship worldwide! And if you ever come to Paris go visit their cute shop – it’s just down the street from Bon Marché (another must check out shopping experience).

And check out those new sparkly blue ones – they have my name all over ’em – size 36 please!

Our two year Parisian Anniversary

It’s hard to believe but two years ago today we arrived in Paris, exhausted with 5 massive suitcases, 3 kids and a small Yorkie in tow. And then a boatload of furniture and stuff from the US arrived, four weeks to the day that they packed us!

moving chaos
Our stuff readied for the ocean voyage!

What an amazing adventure we have had so far. We have made wonderful friends with whom we have had so much fun and they have truly made our life here richer – the chocolate icing on the eclair, so to speak. Or the cheese to the wine – I could go on but you get the idea. We are so blessed with them!

We moved twice, had a kitchen installed, navigated the healthcare system, visited countless museums and exhibits, got a driver’s license and have attempted to assimilate. It has not been easy – there have been times we wanted to quit or give up – but we persevered. And there might have been a few times where the phrase “effing French” was muttered, out of sheer frustration or aggravation.

kitchen in progress!

Thankfully the folks at Castorama were so helpful and patient with this crazy woman who wanted her kitchen within the promised timeframe. I know they really didn’t know what to make of me!
I am so proud of my family, especially the girls. They arrived speaking no French and now are chattering away with their French friends and reading their French novels as if it is no big deal! They are amazing. They even text in French, when they haven’t lost or broken their cell phones. Some things transcend nationalities – haha.

girls in metro
1st day of school – Sept 2013
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girls July 2015  – laughing

I am also proud of my husband – he works hard and has a long commute. While I am out galavanting around Paris, seeing exhibits and having grand adventures he is slaving away in his office. And he is happy to do so because he sees how his four women have blossomed and grown here – plus the champagne helps take the sting away!

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Castorama, champagne picnics, the Metro, museum and walking tours, chateus and costumes, bureaucratic red tape, fondue and raclette, homework, chaos – all words that come to mind when I think over the last two years. I cannot wait to see what the next year has in store for us!

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Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte June 2015