Friday, August 28, 2015

0 Jack's Top Ten: Paris

10.  Korean BBQ at Garden

"We could cook the meat....that's so cool."

9.  Chez Janou

"The mousse au chocolat was yummy but I didn't like the snail meatballs."

8.  Striky Bowling

"I was pretty good."

7.  Vaux-le-Vicomte

"The fountains were so nice and smooth.  I wish I could touch it."

6.  Rooftop Terrace at Gallerias Lafayette

"We were so high and we saw all of Paris."

5.  Luxembourg Gardens

"Lots of fun things in a beautiful garden."

4.  Grand Mosque of Paris

"The ceilings were so could see the sky but you were inside."

3.  Clocks at Musee D'Orsay

"They were big."

2.  Eiffel Tower

"The holes were like windows."

1.  Monument Mini Golf

"It's just so fun."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

0 A Perfect Provencal Lunch

It began with Charlie falling asleep as we searched for a restaurant. We had just spent the morning hiking up, down, and around Nimes' spectacular Jardins de la Fontaine, a large park built around Roman bath ruins. Jack got to climb up the Tour Magne watchtower at the top; Charlie got to climb over ruins rubble in a hermit crab crawl. Everyone was a winner.

But now we were hungry, and all we could find open on an August Sunday were tourist-trappy restaurants, suspicions confirmed on TripAdvisor to serve awful food. But just as Charlie's eyelids fell, we turned onto another empty street...almost empty, but for two older French ladies gossiping over a bottle of rose. There were just three small tables outside Le Menestrel and the proprietress warmly welcomed us to settle in for lunch. Patrick wedged himself into a seat with a limp, snoozing Charlie still strapped to his chest.

This was our chance: we ordered up three courses from their formule du midi. And maybe because he is just such a stellar kid, or maybe because he knew mousse au chocolat was coming at the end of the meal, Jack was being a total charmer. Emboldened, we mimicked our neighboring table and ordered up our own bottle of rose. It was crisp, refreshing, and most of all totally luxurious to sip as we enjoyed the quiet afternoon together as a family.

Oh, and the food! I've never been one for vegetable "pasta" (spaghetti squash spaghetti...what a bait and switch!) but their tagliatelle aux courgettes wasn't trying to hide anything. A celebration of zucchini, it was a delightful al dente perfectly seasoned and drizzled with balsamic and roasted pine nuts. A hit with all ages. We had a super tender, red wine bull stew (a provencal specialty) and a steak that was exactly the right side of rare served with a roquefort sauce I slurrped up like a soup. At some point in this food parade Charlie woke up, bright-eyed and happy to join our leisurely meal. He was a big fan of the table bread.

Jack was barely able to stay in his seat as the mousse au chocolat was brought to the table. Silky, chocolatey, and served in one of those spherical dessert dishes they use in France that makes everything look that much more elegant. We made it all the way to Jack's last scrape of the bowl before Charlie began to squirm and had to be walked around as I paid the bill.

90 glorious minutes of lunch. Sometimes, the stars align.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

0 France, Part 3: Deja Vu in Paris

Patrick and I knew that with two kids in tow, there weren't going to be a lot of leisurely brasserie meals on this Paris trip. So we wanted to thoroughly research in order to prioritize one for lunch in the Marais (my favorite Paris neighborhood). Hundreds of reviews and four stars each on Yelp and TripAdvisor, Chez Janou was standing out among the pack. As we read the raves about their tagliatelle aux escargots and mousse au chocolat, our mouths began to water. And then I started to have this strange deja I'd been anticipating this mousse before. We realized that this had been our first choice six years ago, when we were choosing a brasserie for our singular Parisian restaurant excursion on our honeymoon. (On that trip, dining was strictly limited by our travel budget.) The previous plans had been foiled by Chez Janou's July month-long vacation closure. Six years and one month later, my dreams of being romantically spoon-fed the famed mousse by my husband were fulfilled...if only because I had a baby in one arm and was wrangling a four-year-old with the other. Victory nonetheless! The food really was fantastic, the waiter ever so charming, and the ambiance perfectly Parisian.

I thought that recreating our most popular dining mode would be much simpler: the Paris picnic! On our honeymoon we subsisted on cheese, baguette, and cheap wine al fresco. What is more kid-friendly than lunch in a park? So we gathered supplies at the market and headed to the beautiful Tuileries. What became immediately apparent, and we had never fully appreciated when childless, was that the lounging at Tuileries is all done in lawn chairs. The grass areas are 100% roped off and there is nowhere other than dirt paths littered with cigarette butts and bottle caps (from the lawn chair loungers) for a one-year-old to crawl around. And Charlie is not a lounging kind of baby. There was struggling, there was chasing, there were tears, and there were dirty dirty children. Nostalgia fail. 

Jack, too, was interested in some intentional re-creation. There is this picture of Patrick from our honeymoon: 

We'd found ourselves at Les Invalides, exhausted after a red-eye flight and non-stop Paris sightseeing all day (seriously, looking back at these pictures: what were we thinking?!). Patrick pretended to take a little nap. And Jack thinks that this picture is just about the funniest thing ever. He was determined to visit those cannons. And so...we couldn't resist:

Deja vu!

More pictures from our Paris travels can be found here.
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