Easter in Paris

Back home in the States, my girls absolutely love Easter. We have a neighborhood egg hunt every year in the park near our house, we dye Easter eggs with my mom, sister, and nephew, and we always have a family get-together where we eat great food and hunt for eggs in my sister’s backyard. Come to think of it, I love it too. So when Easter season rolled around here in Paris, the girls got very excited, and also very concerned that Easter might not be celebrated here (they were a little scarred by the almost total ignoring of Valentine’s Day here). I assured them that the Easter Bunny would find them, just as the Tooth Fairy had, and that we would find an egg hunt somewhere. In the weeks leading up to the big day, the bakeries suddenly exploded with the most gorgeous chocolate eggs and animals, their windows a delight of bright and pastel-colored ribbons and cookies. 

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This is one of the things I love about France. While there is junky candy to be found, the French do not assume that children should only be given the worst of the worst. High-quality chocolate, from candy to ice cream to hot cocoa, is not an adults-only prospect. So while the Easter Bunny brought some atrocious things called Kinder eggs (junky chocolate with a little toy inside) because the girls are obsessed with them, he also brought some beautiful chocolates (a small dark chocolate hen stuffed with smaller chocolates and a large milk chocolate egg in a basket with a white chocolate ribbon). I would happily eat any of it (and have). We did miss certain Easter goodies though: I didn’t see jelly beans anywhere, and we paid a ridiculous amount of money for two small bags of Cadbury mini eggs when we saw them at the English bookstore across town (worth it). 

Egg decorating is not big here, so I could not find a single PAAS egg dye kit. No matter! I had tried last year to dye an egg using tea (it failed miserably, but in retrospect I didn’t use quite the right tea and may not have exactly followed the directions...), so this year I was determined to do better. I found an article describing how to dye eggs using beets and red cabbage, and we gave it a go. The beet-dyed eggs didn’t look that great—just a couple of shades darker than the normal brown egg color, but I am encouraged to try again next year with white eggs. But the red cabbage eggs were really lovely. They sat overnight in the dye and turned this beautiful dark purple color. So at least we had some dyed eggs to make our own little mini apartment egg hunt! 

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We then spent part of Easter morning at a huge egg hunt extravaganza, which took up much of the Champs de Mars park beside the Eiffel Tower. In truth, the egg hunt wasn’t all that much fun, but there were some little games nearby where the kids could win prizes, as well as bubble-blowers and trampoline play. 

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Despite my continued exclamations of “Can you believe we’re hunting eggs at the EIFFEL TOWER?,” the girls were giving me their best not-impressed faces, and I got an earful about how much more fun it was back at home where they got to find plastic eggs with candy in them. Children. Honestly. But I did feel like we had to up our Easter game a little. Luckily, I had reserved spots for a second egg hunt the next day, at the Musée de Montmartre, which sits near the top of the hill heading towards the Sacré-Coeur. 

When we headed out, the sun was shining and the temperature had risen 10 degrees or so since the day before. The Musée de Montmartre is famous as a residence, studio, and meeting place for several well-known artists in the late 19th century, including Renoir. The gardens there are the setting for his famous picture, La Balancoire (The Swing), and he also painted one of my favorite paintings of all time Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette while living there. When we arrived, the girls were given paper sacs and told to find eggs in six different colors (real eggs, dyed in beautiful vibrant shades). Each color was hidden in a different area in one of the three gardens, so we had to wander through each of them to find a full set. 

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Beautiful, and when they had found their six eggs, they turned them in to be hidden again, and received a big bag full of pretty, wrapped chocolates. We sat in the grass to snack on them, took a turn on Renoir’s swing (again, my cries of “Can you believe you’re standing on THE swing in Renoir’s painting?” mostly ignored), and wandered through the museum for a while. Suddenly, behind a poorly marked door, we happened upon a small apartment and painting studio that belonged to Suzanne Valadon in the early 20th century (just recently restored). We were alone in this room with beautiful skylights, all the palettes and canvas left just as if the artist had gone out for the day. I could see Piper’s eyes light up as she imagined herself a painter in that very room. 

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From there, we headed up to visit the Sacré-Coeur. It was packed, as you might imagine on Easter Monday, but we walked quietly around the inside listening to a church service with a chorus of about 25 nuns—I have no idea what they were singing, but it was lovely. 

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Afterwards, there were a couple of people outside blowing huge bubbles using ropes. Piper and Ruby joined a group of kids happily jumping, shouting, and running to pop the bubbles as the wind carried them off. A combination of expected and unexpected joys—Paris is a master of both, as long as you’re open to finding them. 

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e© Molly Pisula 2015