April 22, 2012

Vacationing in Paris with my daughter Gabi and her godmother — my childhood pal Judy — was a once-in-a-lifetime bonding adventure. So marvelous and memorable. In a million ways, I’ve been transformed.

This was a first visit to the City of Lights for both of them. While I’d been to Paris twice in my un-evolved youth, doing this girlie vaca tops both trips because there’s nothing like traveling with compatible good friends. And yes, I do believe our nine-day spring break getaway has laid the groundwork for a budding adult relationship with my baby girl.

Of course, we had to hit all the usual tourist spots, including Musee du Louvre. The mob scene surrounding the Mona Lisa painting was ridiculous. The first photo shows what we saw of her:

There were other museums that we liked more. Unfortunately, I can’t show you photos because picture taking was not allowed. What a novel idea — going to an exhibition just to look at the art. Our favorites were Musee d’Orsay, which was created out of the former Gare d’Orsay train station. And Musee de l’Orangerie is a quiet jewel bursting with Impressionist paintings.

Musee d’Orsay is on the left bank of the Seine. After our visit, we took a stroll across one of the little walking bridges that span the river. We got a kick out of one section of the railings, where lovers had penned their names on the locks that they left behind. Did they throw away the keys?  Ah, romance!

Moving on from museums, we spent an obligatory day at Palais de Versailles, where France’s misogynistic monarchs openly cavorted with their mistresses. Bleh. Still, worth seeing. And we liked lunch. With several eateries on site, we picked Angelina’s, a Parisian tearoom chain. Delish — especially the famous hot chocolate, which goes down like a decadent, dark chocolate soup, served with a swirl of super-rich whipped cream. Burp.

Gabi turned 17 during our trip. To celebrate, we had dinner upstairs inside the Eiffel Tower, followed by an evening, hour-long cruise along the Seine. I highly recommend our tour,, which I booked online in advance. These folks provided excellent, door-to-door transport  to and from our apartment. The price included both the dinner reservations and boat tickets: 165 Euros or $218 per person. (Note: When you make dinner reservations at one of the tower’s restaurants, you can jump the long lines and head straight to the shorter express queue to the elevator.)

There is one more tour that I MUST mention. Black Paris Tours is run by Ricki Stevenson who offered great information and photo opps.  We learned about France’s historically warm relationship with black Americans as they faced outrageous racism in the U.S. Paris has deep black roots too. Did you know that Alexandre Dumas, author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” was black? Or “mulatto,” as they used to say. (And yes, mixed race folks do count as being black — or anything they want, actually. It all depends on the discussion at hand.)

Ricki, a California native who is a former NYC TV journalist, has a reporter’s obsession for facts and an ex-pat’s passion for Paris. By the end of the trip, we also learned how to take the bus and how to NOT act like ugly Americans. And dinner in Little Africa was the best Senegalese food I’ve ever had. Her day-long tour costs 100 Euros ($132) per person.

I know this post is getting long but I want to show you everything! Here are some final shots….

Here’s a look at the front door of our apartment building. Our two-bedroom rental from Parler Paris Apartments cost us $2,950 for nine nights. That’s about $109 a night per person. The kitchen and both bathrooms were all new. So were the windows. Some of the decor was a bit kitschy (blue shag rug, a music theme complete with violin-shaped living room lamps and musical note-patterned curtains), but that was okay. I found this rental company through one of its listings on, a major vacation rental website.

On some level, I hate to end this post because it means that our Paris trip is over! It was fun; I didn’t go looking for my dad or work on my heavy-duty to-do list after all. But since he was a university student in Paris and my mom studied in Brussels, our travels brought me closer to them anyway. I could see why my father loved cafes and French women (that’s another story). Now I also know why my mother had so many scarves (all the French women wear scarves, all the time).

Even though I had my share of tourist mishaps, the vacation was wonderful, priceless , a total joy.

Okay — maybe not priceless. If we throw in the airfare ($1,345 per person), I’m going to guess our excursion cost me $8,500 to $9,000. But it was money well spent, n’est-ce pas?   :)

And I’m going to let Ricki have the last word. One of the things she said during her tour:

“We want to move through this life as travelers, not tourists.”