Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vive Les Vacances

It’s August and any Frenchman in his right mind has officially started his summer vacation. Many of the French take several weeks off in August every year—for the Parisians, this means getting the hell out of Dodge. Yesterday, Jon and I learned how fantastic this “absence” is going to be for us as we noticed the incredible lack of crowds out on the streets. Instead of Parisians and tourists jostling for space on the sidewalks and metro cars, there are now just tourists. It’s lovely.

Since Jon starts work on Monday, we decided to spend yesterday exploring a bit of the city that we’ve yet to see. To begin with we made a visit to Paris Plage (Paris Beach). Every year since 2002, the city closes off a stretch of the riverbank in the heart of the city and creates a summery spot for people to enjoy the outdoors and be able to escape the heat of their apartments. I have to admit that I was skeptical of what we would find. I mean, making a beach along the banks of the Seine conjured up images of the Seinfeld episode where Kraemer takes up swimming in the East River—terrifying. What we saw (and enjoyed) however, completely changed my mind.

Paris Plage has everything! There's sandy spots for the kids to build sandcastles, a free pool with activities for adults and kids, shady spots and sunny spots to relax in, a gym area (hilarious!), a book store, science and art workshops for the kids, and even giant inflatable mattresses for grown-ups to jump on. We wandered the whole length of the plage and then found a cozy spot to have lunch- right on the river. It was a great start to the day!

Kids and 'rents enjoying the sand.

These little ones were all lined up eating their lunches.

The workout area of the plage.

A group playing Pétanque (Boules).

The little bookshop on the beach. The number 1 seller? Crime Novels.

Crepes, Perrier, and a great view for lunch.

After walking the plage, we decided to head down to Chinatown to check it out. We'd heard that Paris had a Chinatown, but it is off the beaten path so we'd never been. We took the metro to the 13th arrondisement and wandered around until we ended up on a street where we saw more signs in Chinese than French! This was an interesting walk. We stopped into a bakery where I bought a lotus moon cake (these often figure highly in the books I've read with Chinese subjects), visited a tea shop where I got some delicious smelling tea called The Red Pagodoa, and went into a kitchen supply store that Jon proclaimed was heavenly (I thought otherwise-- the place was so stocked full I thought a pile of crap would fall on me at any moment. Oh, and some of the things had been there for so long, they still had price tags in FRANCS on them!). It wasn't meal time, which made us sad because we saw so many good looking (and smelling) restaurants; we decided we'll be heading back to Chinatown soon for another exploration, this time with a more culinary bent.

A lotus moon cake-- not as good as I expected.

Cooked ducks, waiting to be eaten.

This one's for Durkin-- a whole tub of foul-smelling Durian fruit, which Tim once had to eat with unfortunate consequences.

The last stop on our tour of Houston-Uncharted Paris was a walk to Bercy. The Bercy area of Paris is a really hip spot on the east of town that until about 20 years ago was a real shit-hole. The city basically gave developers and architects free reign on fixing the place up, which they've done quite nicely. This is where the huge national library is (four giant glass buildings in the shape of open books) and where one can visit Bercy Village-- a very cute little strip of shops and restaurants that were once the wine warehouses of the Paris. We really liked this area and plan to visit it often.

A shot of the walk down Bercy Village-- very pretty.

By the time we finished our explorations, it was really late and we were starved. A visit to our favorite restaurant and a chat with Guillaume was in order. Good food, good wine, and good conversation were the perfect endings to a great day.

Le Restaurant 24 really thrills me!


In "Kate, A Broad" news... you'll probably notice some changes to the look of my blog. I also intend to blog much more often than I have been in the past. I need a project, and this is it! So, please stop by often, or better yet, sign up to be a follower. I love knowing who's reading my posts. Next up, the low-down on our fantastic trip to the Cote d'Azur.


  1. I love the new look!! Looking forward to more posts. You know I've got nothing else to do besides peruse my blogs all day!

  2. Katie your blogs always take me away for a bit. It's very nice until I get to the end and I'm not in Paris! But I still love reading them and I'm glad to hear you'll be writing more often!