Princess and I had great plans to post on my blog while in France. Despite our best intentions, we found ourselves too distracted by the experience to focus on writing. It was our last day together before we jotted down some ideas and agreed on our highlights. Then I left her to continue her travels with friends while I made my way back to Canada on my own. So now, at last, here are our thoughts and memories.
The Trip From Princess’s Perspective –
The thought of travelling with my parents has always excited me. Growing up hearing their stories about adventures they have had all over the world impressed me. I knew they had an abundance of travel knowledge (among other types) to share and I was eager to learn. So, when Mom asked if she could join me for Rescue 2014 in France, there was zero hesitation. Yes!
On this trip, I’ve learned to always research where you’re going, to always find new experiences off the beaten path and that sometimes all you really need is a glass of wine and some amazing food.
I’ve also learned that Mom and I make beautiful travel companions and a great team. I think we’d be fierce competitors on The Amazing Race. I knew we wouldn’t have any big issues being together, but in fact we complement each other perfectly. If we wanted to, I feel we could take on the world. Whether it is directions, airports, or remembering where our favourite chocolate store is, we’ve got this.
I am sure we’d agree that the only thing that would have made this experience better would be to have The Consultant and Buddy with us.
And My Perspective –
“Oh we’ll get along, we’ll argue and it’ll just be one fabulous time.” Princess’s prediction was right.
We didn’t really argue but we did have a few tense moments, usually brought on by someone’s fatigue or someone’s hunger – easily fixed by a nap under a cozy duvet or with a warm, buttery croissant.
Overall, we make great travelling companions. Each day, we set out with a loose plan that we altered on route if anything along the way caught our eye or tweaked our curiosity. It was fun to stay flexible and see what worked and didn’t work for us.
In the planning stages, I thought our biggest challenge would be our age difference. At 23, Princess is more than half my age. But there is something for everyone in France, especially Paris, so that worry was unfounded. There was plenty to keep this mother/daughter duo happy.
The Highlights of Our French Adventure
(beyond the main attractions of Paris and in the order we experienced them)
1. Our First French Picnic
We came upon the nicest little wine shop in Marseille where the proprietor gave us a personal wine tasting of the reds of Provence. We picked up a bottle and found a little piece of cheese, purchased our mini-baguette and hung out in our hotel room with feet up, oohing and awing over our good fortune.
2. Our Cookie Shop
(La Cure Gourmande – 19 La Canebière, Marsielle)
There are franchise locations in France, Belgium and Spain and we found ours in Marseille. The offering is bulk cookies of every kind imaginable. Sample their newest, apple filled biscuit. That’s all it took to hook us. What more can I say?
3. Our Amazing Hike
(The Calanques of Marseille. Find Castellane Square (Metro Stop) then take bus #21 to the University Campus of Luminy where the hike begins.)
We set off to hike the Calanque du Sugiton but missed the turn down to the sea. Instead we kept hiking at great heights above the Mediterranean with one spectacular view after another. As Princess pointed out, the pictures do not even begin to do this scenery justice. The hike was challenging and, at times, gruelling in the heat but this was our favourite experience of the entire trip. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.
4. Train #4756
(from Marseille St. Charles to Montpellier St. Roch)
I’ve travelled by train in Europe many times and almost forgot this was a first for Princess until we were already on board. I was quickly reminded of the sensation you get as a rocking train pulls away from the station when I saw the look of discomfort on her face. It was through her eyes, that I remembered how cool it is to sit back, relax and watch the scenery go by. In this case, it was the south coast of France through some fog, past apple orchards, vineyards and shuttered country homes with red tile roofs.
5. Rescue 2014 Montpellier and The Grande Motte
This is the event that started the plans for our trip. Princess competed in Lifesaving Sport in both, the Antigone Olympic Pool and at the Grande Motte beach. There is nothing like seeing the determination on your child’s face as she competes on the world stage. I was thrilled to be there and share all the excitement. Six seconds off her personal best in the Super Lifesaver event. Woohoo!
6. Our Apartment
(on Rue Eugene Varlin, Paris)
We took a risk when we booked our accommodation through bookings.com. We decided to go with an apartment offered by Apartments Paris that looked pretty and quaint on the website. In reality, it was musty, rundown, dark and miniscule. At first sight, I wanted to cry. It had no good seating, no good lighting and the tiniest bathroom I’ve ever seen. When I dropped the soap in the shower, it was a start over – turn off the water, get out, pick up the soap, repeat. But, it turned out to be a great source of laughs and the best location – within steps of Canal St. Martin. Would I stay there again? Ah. No. Princess? Maybe.
7. Our French Cooking Class
(La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de L’Hotel de Ville, Paris – prices dependent on the class subject matter and length)
How excited were we to be taking part in a French cooking class on our first day in Paris? Chef Emily took us shopping at Marché Maubert where, along with six other students, we made our food choices – Rouget Barbet (fish), langoustine, artichoke, pumpkin squash, strawberries, a variety of cheeses and more. Then back to the kitchen to learn, cook and, best of all, eat our creations accompanied by white wine. Yum! There is no better activity for a mother/daughter travel team.
8. Our Chocolate Shop
(Chocolaterie Georges Larnicol – 132 Blvd Saint-Germain, Paris)
We stumbled upon this great spot after veering off our self-directed Hemmingway walk. Try the praline eggs. They are to die for. A week later, we were pretty excited that we could find this shop again since we had to restock.
9. Musée d’Orsay
(1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, Paris)
I would take this museum over the Louvre any day. It’s my favourite in Paris. To stand within a few inches of the impressionist painters’ work – VanGogh, Renoir, Monet and Sisley to name a few – and view the detail of each brush stroke is awe inspiring. And the old train station setting makes it all that more charming.
10. Boating on the Seine
(Bateaux Parisiens – Port de la Bourdonnais)
We are water people. Any time we can hop on a boat to see the world from a new perspective, we do. Picture us enjoying views of the right and left banks from the water, while cruising under Paris’s gorgeous and unique bridges with a welcome breeze. It was perfect.
One note about this company – they have no commentary on their top deck so if you’d like to be out in the sun there are others that offer it in multiple languages.
11. Montmartre Lunch
(Pepone Café – 10 Rue Lepic, Montmartre, Paris)
A small restaurant with a big heart and the best pizza I’ve had anywhere. The Consultant and I ate there in 2012 and the return visit didn’t disappoint me or more importantly, Princess.
12. The Soul Singing Competition
(Bizz’Art – 167 Quai de Valmy, Paris)
We set out one evening to find Point Ephemere (200 Quai de Valmy) and discovered it hosted a 20’s crowd. I’m sure Princess would have gone in had I not been with her but we decided to keep wandering and see what we could find. We heard live music coming from Bizz’Art and at 10 euros each we were in. It turned out we’d discovered a soul singing competition. We sipped Heineken, danced to the talented musicians and voted with our cell phones. The winning contestant sang so emotionally that I had tears in my eyes. It was our big night out and we had a blast.
13. Our Best Dinner Out
(Le Robinet D’or – 17 Rue Robert Blache, Paris)
A block from our tiny apartment was this gem. One of the best meals we had while in Paris and reasonably priced since we were away from the main tourist area. Try the lamb shank, the homemade pommes frites and the crème brûllé.
14. The Opera
(L’Opéra Bastille – Place de la Bastille, Paris)
Opera fans can’t go wrong. We are, so we dolled ourselves up to enjoy La Traviata by Verdi. There was no bad seat in the house and we experienced the longest show of appreciation applause ever. Bravo!
15. Our Final Refreshment Stop
(French Beer Factory – 176 Rue Montmartre, Paris)
We were enjoying our French wine but, being Canadian, we do like our beer. This brewpub was the perfect find at happy hour one evening, on our walk back from the shores of the Seine. We sat in the window, enjoying our pints and laughing that we were enticing others in by the enjoyment that showed on our faces.
And just a few more words from me –
All along this trip, I was impressed by my daughter’s strength and bravery.
She tackled her swim competition with both, determination and grace.
She took to finding her way around France, collaborating with me when unsure.
Her encouragement during our hike was reassuring and welcomed – she being so fit and me thinking I was.
She supported me during times of uncertainty when on the move from place to place or during our sightseeing within Paris.
She challenged herself with the French language. Nothing was more exciting to her than when she’d interact with a shop owner without resorting to English at all.
For me, this trip was another lesson in letting go. My little girl has grown into a beautiful and competent young lady. She is going to be all right in the world.
I couldn’t be more proud.
Now, bring on The Amazing Race, Princess.