Parc de Sceaux

As you know, France practically shuts down in August. All the Parisians are gone, all off on 2, 3, or 4-week vacations. Even Berthillon, the ice cream shop on Ile St. Louis – i.e. the tourist center of the city – closes in August. The only people left in Paris in August are tourists… and me, getting pitying stares from those dashing to and from exotic locations.

September, however, is essentially a second New Year’s. La rentrée, or the return, marks the restart of school, work, and life as we know it. It also marks the start of “autumn” whether it feels like it outside or not. I’ve been giggling for a week watching people dressed in dark colors, fall boots, and actual coats while it’s still hitting 75* out. Parisians don’t dress for weather, they dress for ideas. La rentrée means fall, so we dress for fall.

It may be September and la rentrée may be in full swing, but I like to hold onto summer as long as I can.

Parc de Sceaux

All that to say, as part of our Do More Stuff mission, Frenchman and I recently have been making a point to find places in and around Paris to explore on the weekends. While we used to pick new parks and places to visit pretty regularly, we had gotten a bit lazy since moving to Saint Germain en Laye and hadn’t gone on many adventures in a while.

This summer, we decided to get back to it. One of our earliest Fun Things was, of course, Disneyland Paris for my 30th birthday. Next we wanted to go to Fontainebleau, the magnificent castle and massive forest, but we needed to take the time to prepare and plan our day, so as not to get lost in the woods and miss limited train service, etc.

So instead, Frenchman had the lovely idea to go to the Parc de Sceaux. Conveniently on the RER B, one sunny Sunday we took a ride through Paris and out to the town of Sceaux to visit the gorgeous chateau gardens.

parc_de_sceaux_chateau

A Walk in the Park (de Sceaux)

Just south of Paris, the Parc de Sceaux features a beautiful chateau and (the real destination) gorgeous gardens that are essentially like Versailles in miniature. In fact, the gardens were designed by the same landscape architect, André Le Nôtre.

We got off the RER in Sceaux and wandered through the town, making a stop at a boulangerie for sandwiches to carry to the park. We wandered through the side gardens surrounding the small chateau, because there are two, apparently, purchased for castle guests to stay in, until we found a nice bench with an excellent view for our lunch:

parc_de_sceaux_gardens

Once finished, we made our way through the grounds to explore as much of it as possible. We strolled up around the (main) chateau, down the center alley to the edge overlooking the full length of the grand canal. Then we adventured through the woods and down along the canal, following it as it takes a left turn and around to a big fountain overlooked by massive hunting statues. There is, apparently, also a massive waterfall, but it was not running when we visited.

We decided to look for a place to sit a while, but we were definitely not the only ones with this idea. The park was absolutely chock full of families and couples, having picnics or birthday parties or just lounging in the grass. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed a little break half-dozing in the summer heat. We eventually moved on, and finished our tour around the rest of the grounds, taking a detour through the woods, before making our way back through Sceaux to the train station.

It was a simple, peaceful day, and I loved it. We visited a lot of parks when I first moved to Paris, waking up on a Saturday and deciding to pick a garden or park in the city to check out and the wander home. This little lazy summer excursion was a nice reminder of exactly that type of activity. Parc de Sceaux: highly recommended.

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A weekend in Marseille

This year, for Round 3 of Parents in Paris, we needed to find a new destination.

The first year, we stuck around Paris because there was plenty to see for my Dad’s first time in France and of course there was that little business of my wedding. The second year, we covered a few more of Paris’ Greatest Hits including a visit to Versailles, and then hit the road up to Normandy for a tour of the north’s amazing WWII history.

For this trip, we decided to head south, to Provence.

marseille_oldport_boats Continue reading

Disneyland Paris

I had long joked that for my impending 30th birthday, I wanted to gather a bunch of my friends and go to Disneyland. I thought, what’s more ridiculous and silly than for a bunch of adults to go to Disney? And while it did start as a joke, over time, I really came to love the idea 1) because it is silly to celebrate your 30th birthday in a children’s theme park, and 2) because I love Disney and why the hell not.

So when my 30th actually rolled around, Frenchman and I thought… let’s do it!

disney_paris_euro Continue reading

Provins

Having visited nearly all of the major sites that Paris has to offer on their first and second trips to France, when my parents came to visit this spring, we were looking for something to do outside of the city. We had visited Versailles last year, so that was out. We discussed Fontainebleau or Chantilly or Vaux le Vicomte but my dad just wasn’t interested in more chateaux, no matter how impressive.

What he wanted was something not too museum-y. Something old. Something village-y.

The village of Provins

We settled on Provins, a medieval walled city located just an hour from Paris. Not to be confused with Provence, this village is a World Heritage Site known for the 13th century walls surrounding it and its 12th century tower. It’s also a very easy train ride from Gare de l’Est for a few euro (or included in your Navigo!)

We arrived at the station in Provins, which is located down in the modern part of town, and hopped on the little shuttle bus that takes you up to the old city. In theory, this bus makes several stops, and we had planned to get off in the lower city for lunch, but the bus never stopped and never gave any indication that getting off was an option. SO directly to the old city we went.

The shuttle drops you off at the tourist center, where you can buy tickets to the various activities, including falconry shows and jousts. We skipped that and walked up to the gates of the walled city.

provins_wall_gate Continue reading

Getting a haircut in Paris

I did it. I finally got my hair cut in France.

To explain how serious this situation was, let me explain. It had been a full 2 years since I’d had a real haircut (before I moved to France).

Now, I’m already pretty bad at scheduling haircuts at home, in English. I wait ages until we’re way past acceptable length to actually make the call because it can just be such a hassle. It took me years to find a salon in Boston that I liked and would regularly schedule appointments with because my requirements are, apparently, complex. They are as follows: 1) good with curly hair, 2) open late enough on weekdays to go after work, 3) online appointment booking.

Online appointment scheduling should be standard for every salon. There. I said it.

It just makes sense! Who has the time to call, and then when they inevitably offer you a day or time that fits none of the original availability you’ve given them, you have to go back and forth wasting everyone’s time. Why not just provide a calendar that we can all check at our leisure and click on the timeslot that matches up with our own schedules? But I digress…

Since this is Paris, I knew there was no way I would find online booking in a salon here. The bigger hurdle was getting up the courage to actually go for the cut with a language barrier of unknown proportions. (What’s the lingo for layers and low-maintenance, no I don’t own a blow dryer that works here, and no I don’t style it, well, ever, in French?) It’s hard enough to explain to a stylist exactly what you want in your own language. Doing it in French is a real risk. Continue reading

Cabourg

Cabourg is my new favorite place and the future location of my (imaginary) vacation home.

This summer, with the weather suddenly gorgeous, hot and sunny, Frenchman and I were itching to get out of Paris for a weekend. Train ticket prices, however, had other ideas. Everywhere we tried to go, the prices were exorbitant, or if we could swing the train costs, there wasn’t a hotel or airb&b to be found. I had pretty much given up, but Frenchman, who this past spring started his own business and is therefore home by himself all day every day, was not ready to let the idea go.

Finally, we had a stroke of genius, in two parts. First, the destination: Cabourg. Second: the time. A beach town in Normandy just west of Deauville, Cabourg offers all the charm and beachiness and none of the overpriced drama of it’s neighbor. And if we left Thursday night, we could get both a hotel room and train tickets for cheap and already be on-location bright and early the next morning for the beach, beating the weekend rush. It was perfect! Tickets bought, Friday off requested. Continue reading

Catching up: A year in bullets

It was about this time last year that I unceremoniously and without warning just…. stopped posting. I got a little burned out and was feeling generally uncreative, so the blog took a backseat to enjoying my summer and digging into job hunting.

Now that I’ve resurrected the blog, I thought I’d give you a quick recap of what’s been going on in the last 12 months (backdating slightly to include July): Continue reading

A Dublin Getaway!

Back by popular demand….. me!
After a few comments from various friends and family, I’m picking back up where I left off last fall with various (mis)adventures, some partially written. 


Another day another long weekend where I ditch my husband to go visit my friends.

While poor Frenchman has some projects that are keeping him chained to his desk, I on the other hand happen to have free time and some friends located in interesting places. A good friend recently [September 2017] moved to Dublin for grad school and, never having made it to Ireland before, I decided to be such a good friend and visit her to help her get settled into her new home.

On the Must Do list:

  • Guinness – drink some, visit the brewery
  • Scones – eat some, preferably with delicious Irish butter
  • Tea – to go with the scones, naturally
  • Fish & Chips – eat some, probably with Guinness
  • Oh and I guess visit some of the city…

Clearly I have my priorities straight. Continue reading

A weekend in Munich

I’m back! I took a bit of an impromptu break from blogging over the summer, but now I’m back and have plenty of things to tell you about! Better late than never…


One of the biggest perks of living in Paris is the proximity to – and ability to visit – tons of interesting places across Europe. It’s a perk that I haven’t taken advantage of nearly enough. So when I found myself with a bit of spare time, summer weather, and a German friend repeatedly asking me when I might visit, I finally went for it!

A long weekend in Munich, Germany

I have long been interested in visiting Germany, especially Munich and Bavaria, for all its castles and beer and schnitzel and beer… Frenchman, on the other hand, doesn’t like beer and is generally less drawn to destinations in his own backyard. He prefers his vacations to be long, super far, and more exotic than one little border away. I, however, remain resolutely American in my obsession with all things European.

So while he was busy with work and time-consuming side projects, I hopped a flight to visit my friend Franzi, who has been suggesting I come to Munich ever since we finished grad school (where we met) 6 years ago. Continue reading

Visiting Monet’s Waterlilies at Giverny

I have been kind of obsessed with Impressionism since, well, since I learned what Impressionism was. Monet, Degas, Renoir… I was hooked. Something about the colors and blurred perspectives and, I’m sure, the French aesthetic just drew me in in a way no other genre or period of art ever had.

I was lucky Boston’s Museum of Fine Art has a nice collection, but the very first time I went to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and walked into the dedicated Impressionist gallery, I nearly cried. It was overwhelming to be surrounded by the magnificent paintings I had only ever seen in books, and to see them up close, down to every brush stroke. To this day, the d’Orsay holds the title as my favorite museum in Paris.

However, this is not about the Musée d’Orsay. All this is just to set the scene for how excited I was for a visit to Monet’s home and gardens – including the infamous waterlily pond, in Giverny, France. Continue reading