Playing by the fountain in front of the Centre Pompidou.

The kids had a fall break last week, so we rented an apartment in Paris. Originally we had planned to do a bit more travel, but Eli & Nell were compelled by Paris and had a strong preference for spending most of the vacation there. They made a good call; we got a feel for the city and became familiar with our neighborhood in the Marais (which we loved). Although the adults had been to Paris in the past, we had always avoided the kitchy touristy sites. But much like Rome, the famous “monuments” turned out to be really fun and we were glad the kids motivated us to go. For example, the kids were very eager to see the iconic Eiffel Tower… and it was tremendously fun.

From the bottom...

Below are snapshots from our conversations about the trip, captured by Jenny trying to type as fast as we talked.

Eli: The Eiffel Tower was very cool at night, and had a light show every hour.

Nell: One evening we went on a cruise to see the city lit up from the Seine. We sat up on the top deck . It was very pretty. Paris is sometimes called the City of Lights and now I know why.

Eli: We had a surprise climbing Notre Dame Cathedral, and we actually got to see the bell that Quasimodo rang in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

. . .and from the top!

Seth: We almost gave up waiting to climb the tower at Notre Dame because it started raining, but the view of Paris from the top was truly amazing and even more spectacular with the rain falling…and it was awesome when Eli found the huge bell on top.

Nell: We went to the Louvre museum. We saw the Mona Lisa. I liked the Venus de Milo. We got a tour guide for the Louvre. She was very nice.

Seth: And we learned the origins of the Nike “swoosh” symbol, and saw a wing of the Louvre that wasn’t open the last time I went, with Babylonian artifacts.

At the Louvre. Wow. Eli loved the Lamassu (above), which protected the entrances to palaces and cities in ancient Mesopotamia. Nell also really liked The Code of Hammurabi, a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to 1780 BC.

Eli: We went to a bunch of very good French bistros, and now I really want to learn to speak French.

Nell: When I first went into the neighborhood patisserie, I said “Oh my god, it smells so good here I might faint.” My favorites were the pain au chocolate and their special cinnamon croissant, and the apple was very good too.

Eli: In a playground next to Notre Dame, there was a spinny slanted wheel that Nell and I liked to play on (like the ones we played on in San Sebastian), and I met an Italian kid who I became friends with.

Looking nose-to-nose at the gargoyles atop Notre Dame was spectacular!

Nell: Paris is so stylish, even the subway stations and signs are fancy.

Eli: One more thing about the Eiffel Tower is that even if you take the elevator from the second floor to the top (which everyone has to do), it’s still like a 3 minute ride to the highest point of the Eiffel tower. We walked up 720 steps to get to the second floor.

Nell: The crepes here are amazing. They have very creative flavors, like caramel with banana or caramel with sea salt or chocolate with pear.

We missed our Italian coffee. . .the coffee in Paris is surprisingly bad. But we found a passable cup at Cafe Hugo at Place de Vosges.

Seth: But Nell’s favorite crepe was Nutella and Eli’s was classic lemon.

Eli: And we went to a sushi place that we liked so much that we actually went back there again for lunch on our last day in Paris.

Nell: It was a lovely visit.

Eli: I would love to go back to Paris.

Seth: Other crowd pleasers were the Jardin Luxembourg, Ste Chapelle, and a Gospel Concert.

Our Favorite Food Spots on This Trip:

L’as du Fallafel (34, rue des Rosiers) – every bit as good as Jenny remembered it, the best falafel ever, and a fun scene.

And the chocolat chaud was fantastique!

Tsukizi (2 bis Rue des Ciseaux) – Paris is filled with mediocre Japanese restaurants, but as much as we love Italian food, we were all feeling the effects of sushi deprivation and needed a serious fix. This was it. We all put ourselves in their capable hands and had the chef’s choices, felt fortunate to get one of their three tables, and had such an amazing food experience that we returned two days later for more. The second time Seth had a bowl of raw fish served over rice that was incredible. We wish we could remember what it was called. . . (UPDATE: my friend Sumie confirms that I ate chirashi zushi) .

Izakaya Isse (45 rue de Richelieu) – great eel near the Louvre with a multi-page sake menu of offerings by the glass.

Breizh (109 rue Vielle du Temple) – our favorite of the many creperies we sampled.

Chez Janou (2, rue Roger Verlomme) – neighborhood bistrot extrordinaire. . .try the chocolate mousse.