We are now a mere 2 days from leaving Paris and heading back to the United States, but we have had such fun this last month that I’m dying to document it here so we can re-live every wonderful moment of it when we’re back at
boring old home sweet home. (Can you tell that my feelings about leaving are a little conflicted?)
Anyway, upon the recommendation of friends and all-things-France experts, Gaelle and Nikhil, we decided to get away for a long weekend of upscale camping in the Loire Valley at Huttopia. Things did not start well, for while Chuck was stuck in the line from hell picking up our rental car a few metro stops away, I was still packing and Ruby was lying sprawled on the floor with a fever and a tummy ache. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she said she had to go to the bathroom, and just made it there before throwing up (luckily, mostly in the toilet). So by the time we had made it into the car with our stuff and our sick little angel, we were running a couple of hours behind schedule. It was not a pleasant ride for sweet Ruby (I will spare you the details), but we finally arrived at our campsite 2.5 hours later, after driving through fields of sunflowers and hay bales, and immediately fell in love with our little cabin on the edge of a small lake.
While Ruby rested, Piper and Chuck checked out the campsite, which included a little steam train, a small restaurant with homemade pizza, excellent steak haché (according to Piper), and fresh crepes, as well as an outdoor pool.
Our cabin had a small kitchen inside and even had a dishwasher (my preferred level of camping includes significant amenities and indoor plumbing), along with a little gas grill that we brought out onto the porch the first night to grill hot dogs (kids) and provencale pork and merguez sausages (adults), which we ate with my homemade potato salad. Ruby was feeling better by this point, and was even able to eat a little bit before she and Piper headed up to their little loft area to sleep. With no TV or WiFi, and spotty cell reception, Chuck and I spent our evenings kicking back on the front porch with glasses of wine watching the sunset and trying to decide if the small black creatures swooping over the river and near the trees were bats. One evening, there was even a concert by the pool with a lovely jazz/soul/rock singer. We took the kids with us to listen to a few songs before bed, and then could hear more of the concert wafting onto our porch while they left. Honestly, it was bliss (bats or no).
I think when the girls look back on their time in Paris, one of their highlights will be when their cousin Joaquin and Auntie Shana came to visit. For months, “I miss Cuzzie!!” was a recurring refrain here, and Piper and Ruby talked incessantly about what they would do when Joj came to visit. I’d say we knocked it out of the park. We’ve been here long enough now that we know the ins and outs of tourism with kids here—what sights you have to line up early for, what restaurants are kid-friendly, where the least-busy entrance to the Louvre is, and where the best parks are for just hanging out.
After a devastating start to the trip, when I confused the day they were arriving (forgetting to add the +1 day to the airline arrival time) and sent the girls off to school with promises that their cousin and auntie would be there when they got home (I had to make an emergency trip to the bakery to buy chouquettes in order to console a wailing Piper upon her arriving back home and not finding them waiting for her). But they did arrive the next day, and from then on, life was good.
With Ruby off on her school trip to the farm for two days, Piper got to spend some quality time with Joj, and she loved it. From walking backwards on people-movers together to concocting menu ideas for the craziest restaurant ever (appetizer = slushie on potato chips), they had a great time together. First up was the “Art of the Brick" Lego exhibit by Nathan Sawaya, which was cool for both adults and kids—Sawaya is a real artist who has chosen lego bricks as his medium, so his work is both thoughtful and just plain neat.
Another highlight was a visit to the catacombs, where (as we are old hands at this now), Chuck got up to wait in line for us so we could arrive with only a half hour to wait with the kids instead of 2 hours!