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La belle ville de Paris, a little boy’s wish come true

19 Oct


Emile and Filou go to a nice French school in Toronto (George Etienne Cartier –; a deliberate choice on our part to raise bilingual kids and open their minds to a different culture and way of education.  Over the years, they have learned a lot about “La Francophonie” and French culture in Canada and other parts of the world.   It is for that reason that Emile requested we go to Paris, as it was his dream to see the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa.  So great… and why not?  We changed our plans to fly from Holland to China, and took the Eurostar Train to Paris (a smooth 2.5 hour ride from Rotterdam, although I do not suggest paying extra for Wifi on board as it didn’t work).

France is also Anthony’s second home (due to his years of French literary studies) – he a real Francophile and adores Paris, a city he once lived in! Therefore, he was eager to share his love for this exciting city with the boys.


Anthony enjoying the French book stalls in Paris – one of his favorite activities

Our Paris apartment was located in the 13th arrondissement – Place d’Italie – a perfect little place we found on AirBnB ( – it was close to the METRO, and located in a non-touristy area with lots of amazing bakeries, outdoor markets and local shops. This area gave Emile the opportunity to feel independent, as each morning he loved walking by himself to the local bakery to get us a delicious, fresh baguette and some croissants.

On one of our firsts walks through the picturesque streets of Paris, we ended up at Le Jardin de Luxembourg – one of the city’s beautiful gardens, a spot that quickly became Filou’s favorite (mainly, because there was a fun play park within, where he and Emile had a blast with a large group of Parisian boys their age).  It surprised me that we had to pay 2.50 euros per child to enter this play park – given that in Canada we are blessed with so many free play structures & parks everywhere.  However, on the flip side, the museums we visited were always free for the children.  I guess it is clear where the French put their emphasis (and probably their tax dollars!).

The cultural institutions that received our attention this week, were Le Centre Pompidou and Le Louvre. We spent a sunny afternoon at Beaubourg – the wonderful artsy district surrounding Pompidou – where many fun and talented street artists kept the kids’ attention. (and even engaged them in helping with their act).  Filou was also drawn to the various sellers of jewelry and knick knacks and spent half an hour negotiating with them to sell him something for the 1 Euro he had in his pocket. Although 5 euros was the minimum price for the smallest piece, he did walk away with a bracelet and a sense of negotiating satisfaction. It must have been his smile or cool look that day!


Filou in Beaubourg, negotiating with his 1 Euro


Emile at the cool floating structures at Pompidou

At Le Centre Pompidou, we visited an exhibition of the American pop culture artist Lichtenstein and visited a fun’s children’s exhibit (where the kids made cool structures out of clay). At Le Louvre – the main objective was to see the Mona Lisa, the world famous painting that was on Emile’s wish list.


Anthony at one of Lichtenstein’s famous paintings


Emile with the airplane he made at Le Centre Pompidou

But the highlight of our week and the reason why we went to Paris was of course our visit to the Eiffel Tower.  The structure quickly impressed the boys, who decided they wanted to climb up. So we bought the tickets and started the 600 steps upwards.  I quickly realized that I am afraid of heights (especially open stair cases) and after about 200 steps or so, I chickened out and returned back down.  But the boys were happy to take in the Parisian view from the first level of this magnificent structure (not afraid one bit, even though it was Friday the 13th!).


One happy boy, seeing his dream structure, La Tour Eiffel


And his brother was pretty excited too!

While they were up on the first level, I sneakily joined an English tour group and learned a few interesting facts about the Eiffel Tower such as:

  1. That it was built for a world fair (and that the other ideas floating around for a Paris structure were a large Guillotine (a device designed for carrying out executions by decapitation) – perhaps not so welcoming! – and a large fountain).
  2. That it took about 2 years to build and that even though there was no protective gear for the workers, no one died (except for one Italian worker who sat down on the first level while taking in the sunset – he however, loved his glass of wine a little too much and fell down)!
  3. That it cost about 30 million Euros (in today’s money) to build the tower- and that it took Mr. Eiffel and his investors only 3 months (of charging fees) to recover their investment.
  4. That it actually wasn’t Mr. Eiffel who drew the tower but two of his engineer students
  5. And that it is still one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world today!

From the Eiffel Tower, we walked through the adjacent park to take some memorable pictures – when we heard drums. We followed the sound and ended up at a Japanese cultural Festival – where they were promoting Japanese culture, design and food  – with a focus on healthy living.  The boys were excited to sign up for a small Japanese cooking class – which was both informative and fun. A delightful and knowledgeable French nutritionist guided the boys and 5 other Parisian women how to make onigiri (rice balls – but French style with blueberries in them!), miso soup (but a much darker then the kind we eat at home), and stir-fry vegetables.  With their Japanese heritage, the boys knew the dishes already (and had eaten them!) but it was still a fun experience.



Emile, Filou & I taking a Japanese cooking class

Then on a very large, outdoor stage next to the cooking demonstration, appeared 5 youngsters leading a fun (and fast) exercise class – to the beat of some loud, funky music.  As I hadn’t exercised in ages and was eager to move, I joined the 30 or so Parisian women in this class. It was thrilling… as dancing in front of the Eiffel Tower is not something you do every day! Emile quickly realized too – it was pretty special, so he joined in and was left with a very unique Eiffel Tower experience!


Emile & I dancing on a stage near the Eiffel Tower

And dancing was necessary after all the amazing food we consumed in Paris – we devoured all our favorites; the Pommes Noisettes (potato balls that Anthony and I were crazy about when living in France), the Epinards a la crème fraiche (creamed spinach) and of course the many baguettes and croissants with that butter that melts in your mouth!  And of course, not to forget the many delicious cheeses and desserts.

So we happily said good-bye to La Belle Ville de Paris – a city that gave us the “dreams-come-true” for our big boy and tied pants for us all!