Photographs of the Past and Present (Paris)

Preface: This is a short story that I wrote many years ago while I was living in Europe. My time living abroad was incredible with many adventures… but they all started with time spent in Paris with a close girlfriend of mine. Enjoy…

I felt a drop in my stomach as the plane fought with the wind. The turbulence had everyone grabbing onto their seats and loved ones. VROOM… another smooth landing; I was only in doubt temporarily. Landing in Philadelphia I was only one flight away from Paris. Now all I had to do was find Lisa who had flown to Philadelphia from Los Angeles. Lisa is a good friend who had vacation time and loved to travel. I had left Los Angeles a month before heading to my parents’ house to pack and relax before the voyage to France where I would be an “au pair” (mother’s helper).

Frantically searching the arrivals screen I saw that Lisa’s flight was about to land. Gliding past others on the horizontal escalator I made my way to her gate. I began jumping up and down when I saw her. After a quick hug we decided to pass the layover time in a restaurant. Sitting at the bar we began drinking beer and eating hot dogs going over our carefully planned itinerary. We had spent hours on the phone and computer checking various train schedules to use with our Europass; we thought we knew it all. I rambled on about how excited I was to return to Paris after being away for a year. I was so excited to show her my favorite European city.

Taking off an hour later we toasted once again with free booze and spent time in our guidebooks, people watching and talking. The realization that we were in Paris finally hit us as our plane landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Clearing customs we headed to the RER, the suburban high-speed rapid transit (subway), that runs through Paris. This was the beginning of my struggle with my bags. Attempting to reach our hotel in the cheapest manner possible we opted not to take a taxi or shuttle bus; subways were the only way to go. Besides I was experienced taking this route – why not do it again?

Looking around us I saw that I was the only one struggling with too much stuff. Attached to my body were two suitcases, a backpack, and a shoulder bag. Almost tumbling down the escalator a stranger offered to help me. I said no about three times before he took my two suitcases, not taking “no” for an answer. Talking on the way to the city we discovered our new friend’s name was Gilbert and that he lived in the outskirts of Paris. Going out of his way he escorted us to our stop and helped me up the escalator to the bustling Boulevard Port Royal above.

The walk to the hotel was hell on earth. Having been in this very spot, just a year ago I knew the way with my eyes closed, but one thing was different on this trip versus the previous one. On the last trip I did not have half of my life neatly packed into four bags. Imagine this scene, dripping with sweat, attempting to lug bags from almost every limb, limping down the street. That was me! To complicate matters I discovered moments after departing the subway that the wheel of my suitcase had broken; we were not even half way to the hotel! A dark black streak from the wheel was left on the sidewalk to mark our path.

As we walked down the street a woman stopped me and pointed at the sidewalk. Knowing what she was going to say I shook my head in agreement that there were indeed markings on the sidewalk from my suitcase, but there was nothing I could do to fix it short of stopping and walking to the hotel by lifting the suitcase for half a mile. I apologized and we continued on. You can not imagine how happy I was the day I threw that suitcase out for a shiny red Parisian one!! Eventually we arrived to our street and hotel. Shelter is just what we needed after our long journey to Paris from the States.

Opening the door to the hotel we were greeted by the scent of fresh baked bread. The hotel’s restaurant was calling us to sit down and eat, but there was no time for that now! We had plans to meet our new friend Gilbert that evening. Storming up five flights of stairs our pace slowed down. By flight three I wanted to be carried the rest of the way. I settled for moving everything to the room in two trips.

After a short break we headed out again and hopped on the metro towards the Champs de Mars. As the Eiffel Tower came into view my eyes welled up with tears. I was very happy to see my beacon of hope. A smile crossed my face as I took a moment to let it sink in that I was really here. I glanced at Lisa and she smiled. Crossing from the Trocadéro walking down a set of stairs and past the fountains we made our way to the base of the Eiffel Tower. I watched people buying ice cream and crepes while others followed tourists attempting to sell them everything from gold plated Eiffel Tower key chains to purses. Lisa spotted Gilbert as he walked towards us with a bag. Inside was a bottle of wine that he brought for us to enjoy at the top of the monument.

Following his lead we went towards the West Pillar, which had the shortest line. Making our way up the first set of elevators we took in a great view of the city below. While they talked I zoned out and daydreamed about my future. Next we made our way to a second elevator that took us to the top. Exiting the elevator Paris was at our feet. The city lights glistened and I could feel the magic. We toasted to friendship as the wind ripped around us. Walking around we skipped and laughed like school children enjoying the moment. After arriving to the bottom we walked to the nearby metro. We said our goodbyes and made plans to see each other the next morning.

Glancing around the metro’s entrance we saw no one. The ticket window was closed. We did not have return tickets and the automatic ticket machine was broken. Taking the first of many chances during our European adventure we crawled under the turn-style and hoped the video cameras were not on us. Thirty minutes later we arrived safely to our station. We stopped for snacks and beer and continued the short walk back to our hotel. After the long voyage sleep was first the first thing on our agenda now.

I woke up to car horns on the busy street below. Looking around I remembered that I was no longer home. I was in Paris. I began thinking of what a busy day we had planned. Gilbert and I wanted to give Lisa a taste of the city and had planned on showing her some of our favorite highlights around town: including the Champs-Elysees and the ever so famous Arc de Triomphe. I have always enjoyed visiting this landmark, and this visit was going to be extra special.

Back during World War II (sometime between 1943-1945) Lisa’s grandfather had spent time in Paris. Spending holidays with her family I had loved sitting at her grandparents’ kitchen table hearing him tell stories about riding a bike with a baguette in tow around the French streets of a small village not speaking a word of French, yet having everyone smile and give a friendly wave to him. At Gabriel and Mary Ellen’s house there was a black and white photograph in the hallway with him and two friends in front of the Arc de Triomphe after the war. Every time I had viewed that picture I was mesmerized thinking about what Paris must have been like back then.

Lisa was determined to take a photo with two people in front of that very monument one day. When she had first mentioned it to me I saw no difficulty in doing just that, even though we needed to seek out a third individual to join us. Having met Gilbert the day before we knew he would be glad to join us for this ever so important photo.

To say the least the highlight of the afternoon was taking that photo in the same spot that her grandfather had stood in so many decades before. Lisa had realized a dream and would have that picture to share with her grandparents. That day I enjoyed showing her many of the famous landmarks around Paris – but we had time to stop along the Champs-Elysee too for an ice cream. There is always time to relax and people watch. We spent the rest of the afternoon unwinding in the Jardin du Luxembourg and exploring the neighborhood stores before having a home cooked meal at another friend’s apartment.

The next day we awoke knowing it was time to pack up and continue on. Our time in Paris was short, but nice. We would return a month later and see more of the city so we were not sad to go. I would also continue to stay in Paris after Lisa’s departure until I had a work assignment as an “au pair” somewhere in Europe. In less than two days we had accomplished so much. We met a new friend, visited with an old one, and saw a few of Paris’ famous landmarks. I learned that the Eiffel Tower still brought tears to my eyes, and that the Arc de Triomphe’s history continues to live on in photos linking the past with the present.

(day 363)


The City of Nîmes

Having visited France so many times I have to admit that I have spent the majority of my time in Paris. I have traveled through the country by train seeing many other cities- but have only had overnight stays in three other towns – one of which is Nîmes. This town is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France.

My first trip here was not planned to say the least. At the time I was visiting Paris for the first time alone and ended up taking a side trip here with a friend who was visiting family for the weekend. It was a very sporadic decision to hop on a train to a town that I knew nothing about. To be truthful I had no clue of the geography of France at the time and went on a complete whim not knowing exactly where I was going. I only knew that I had to be back in Paris in two days to meet up with another friend who was visiting me from Germany.

It was a bit of a surprise to see how far Nîmes was from Paris as I glanced at a map on the train (I was on one of those slow regional trains) – but I must tell you I loved this town from my first moments there. My friend showed me around his hometown, and by chance there was a big fête (festival) going on that weekend. People were everywhere, there were floats all around, and it was a very festive atmosphere. Although I would have loved to stay longer I had to return to Paris and left a day later. That train ride back to Paris was the one where I overslept, missed my transfer, and ended up at the border of Germany before I realized exactly where I was. Don’t worry– I made it back to Paris in time to shower and meet my friend at the train station.

Having had a taste of Nîmes I was excited to return a few years later with another friend. Highlights of that trip included visiting the famous Roman amphitheater that is still nearly perfectly intact, relaxing in cafes and restaurants eating excellent French cuisine, and meeting new friends. It would be great to return here again – I can’t say that it will happen – but it would be nice to see this wonderful city again.

the fete

a float

The great fête of Nimes!

the roman amphitheater

inside the amphitheater

The Roman amphitheater

(day 356)

A Few Photos of Paris

la tour eiffel

I have been to Paris quite a few times – long trips, weekend trips, with my parents, with my husband and kids, and I can never forget that first trip with my tour group which introduced me to this beautiful city. I can’t actually recall how many times I have been here, but I fell in love with Paris that first trip and have enjoyed returning here for 20 years now- oh my I am slowly aging– but having been able to visit here in my younger years I have only learned to appreciate Paris even more as I become older.

I have always enjoyed visiting Paris with others too – showing them around my favorite spots and always finding new places along the way. It has been particularly fun visiting Paris with Max as we both visited here separately in our 20’s and have fun showing each other some of our favorite spots around town. But when we visit here now it is all about the kids so we spend more time in parks than anywhere else. The kids know I love Paris and they too are fans of the city.. I could so see Malina living here one day when she is older. As my blogging year slowly comes to a close I had to go back in my archives one last time to revisit my favorite city.

visiting the eiffel tower

le jardin du luxembourg

le sacre coeur (church)

pizza hut!

le pont alex III (bridge)

le pere lachaise (cemetery)

les bateaux mouches

(day 355)

My Favorite Open Market- “Rue Mouffetard” (Paris)

Rue Mouffetard

I stumbled upon the Rue Moffetard’s Open Market by accident. Visiting Paris for the first time I stayed in the 5th arrondissement (administrative district). I would spend hours walking around taking in the sights making my way to the Seine and the Latin Quarter. One day I ran into an outdoor marker on Rue Mouffetard (Mouffetard Street). The narrow street is closed off to cars during the hours of the market so you can walk freely from the outdoor stalls and indoor stores that line the street.

Outdoor markets are the best! I love all the colors, the scents, and interacting with the people. I also like when the food is already prepared! I am a big fan of the rotisserie chicken and potatoes prepared here. Not knowing how to cook well (and usually not having access to a kitchen) fruit is also a great option. The flowers are wonderful too… there are so many beautiful varieties. Visiting this street when the open market is not going on is fun too- many cute shops, restaurants, and a great crepiere.

Rue Mouffetard-flowers

Rue Mouffetard 2

Rue Mouffetard 3

(day 302)- All photos are by my dad, George, in this post. I was soo lucky to travel with my parents to Paris one time during my 20’s.

Views from a Bateaux Parisien (Paris)

matteo listening

**Matteo listening to the tour guide in two languages at the same time**

On our second family trip to Paris, this time with two kids, we had a more kid oriented trip to the “City of Lights”. One morning we started out with a visit to the Tour Eiffel. Somehow we made our way down the 328 stairs with two strollers, a diaper bag, and the kids. Next we walked across the street and hopped on a boat, a Bateaux Parisien to be more specific. I had not been on one of these boats in many years; it is a big tourist attraction. With our two kids it was the perfect decision.

Why a Bateaux Parisien instead of a Bateau Mouche? The answer is simple- location! We had no interest in walking any further than necessary. There are a number of boats that run up and down the Seine giving information about the different monuments that you can see from the river.

Taking a boat ride along the Seine was a perfect way to spend time in Paris before we visited a few more sights and met up with an old friend and his wife for dinner.

Musee D'Orsay

bateaux mouche dock

View along the Seine

View along the Seine

(day 301)

Our First Family Trip to Paris

arc de triomphe

Back in the days of when I had just one kid Max and I took the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. We spent a couple of weeks in Italy visiting family in the regions of Emilia Romagna and Toscana before heading to the Piedmont region of the country by train to visit more family. I was four months pregnant at the time and napping quiet frequently since I was always tired.

paris train

We took the train trip from Torino to Paris arriving at the Gare du Lyon in “the City of Light”. I love taking the train though Northern Italy and Switzerland leading into France. It is beyond beautiful. The mountains, the lakes, the countryside – seeing them always brings back great memories. Even little Malina was pretty calm on the train ride so we could all enjoy.

My camera died on that vacation so all I had was a cheap throw away camera, but I kept taking photos anyways; so do excuse the poor quality of photos in this post- but now you know why.

Here are a few memorable moments from our time in Paris.


We went to a café for breakfast and Max ordered a parboiled egg for 4 Euros. Let’s see that was about $6.50 US at the time. We had to laugh as Malina and I enjoyed fresh croissants and I enjoyed my favorite , hot tea, which I usually only drink on vacation when we are on slow mode. And then there was Max with his egg; we still joke about that egg sometimes so many years later!

That same day we had a little scare. We had a piece of paper with something written on it, I will assume our schedule for the day. I was looking for it at as we went underground to catch the métro and we noticed it was missing. Malina had somehow taken the paper and shoved it up her nose. I don’t know how Max figured it out- but he did. He bolted up the stairs to the subway to run back to the hotel and get his tweezers. Fifteen minutes later Malina’s nose was cleared out and we were off for a day of exploring my favorite city. Traveling with kids is definitely different- you have to be prepared for everything!

We managed to visit a few spots that I usually find time to see whenever I am in Paris: the Tour Eiffel, the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Sacre Coeur and the Jardin des Tuileries. I could not manage much more – too much walking!!

family dinner

Max’s dad, who we call JC for short, met us in Paris for the day. It was a big day. Max had not seen his father in a long time – that is another story. That day was also the first time that JC met his first grandchild Malina. After meeting at our hotel we took a taxi to the Champs-Élysees and walked from the end to the Arc de Triomphe. It was nice to meet Max’s dad in person and good for him to have time to catch up with his dad. We ended our time with him in the evening with a fancy dinner near Tour Montparnasse.

Visiting Paris is always a pleasure for me. I would say that trip we did quite a lot considering that we had minimal time and I was pregnant. Our family trips abroad are always fun and only become smoother each time as the kids grow and are easier to manage. We have returned to Paris one time after that trip and it was like always a good time for our family in “the City of Lights”.

sacre coeur

champs elysees

(day 300)