Monday, July 30, 2012

A Little Paris...the first photos..

A few days in Paris....

So we finally did it - took the kids to Paris!  I think it's been almost 2 years now that I have heard the constant - "I want to see the Eiffel Tower".  from my older girls.  As we have always flown in and out of Bordeaux - we don't always go through Paris.  So, in conjunction with my brother and his family visiting, we all went up to Paris on the tail end of their vacation.

It was only a 3 day trip, but we packed it full of the sights of Paris.  My goal was to give my girl's a sense of the city..what it had to offer and how special it can be.  We trained in and out on the TGV and that alone was an adventure for the girls.  They have been on Amtrak trains before in New York - but never on a fast train like the TGV.  They were amazed as we sped by cars on the Auto route and bulleted our way to Paris.

Once, we arrived at Gare Montparnasse, we walked to our hotel and got our bearings.  We could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance from our hotel - it turned out to be a 30 minute walk which of course way the first thing we did that evening!  I'm not sure who was the most mesmerized, the kids or the adults as we stood from afar at one end of the park and looked toward the Eiffel Tower - sparkling in all it's glory!  Paris - we had arrived!!

So after going to bed close to midnight, the next morning, we were off to enjoy our first day in Paris.  We opted to buy a 2 day pass on the L'Open Tour - Hop on Hop Off bus tour.    This company had 5 loops that toured the city and at any stop you could get off and enjoy the area.    We walked to Les Invalides and got on the Grand Tour Route.  This route took us past all the great sights Place de La Concorde, L'Opera, L'eglise Madeleine, Le Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee D'Orsay, Champs Elysees, L'Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.  

I will do another post later with photos from each of the stops we got off...These first photos on this post are taken from my cell phone - (I haven't had time to go through my other camera yet.)
The Cafe in the Musee  D'Orsay

Paris is nothing with out a little souvenir shopping.

View of the Louvre from the bus

Our morning breakfast..croissant, juice, hot chocolate for the kids and coffee for us!

On the second day, we stopped by a street market to pick up lunch for later - it was fun selecting the meats, cheeses and fresh fruits.  Of course choosing dessert I think was the girl's favorite!  Took it all to go, and enjoy later.

One of our first stops of the day was Printemps, the famous Parisian department store.  My mother in law use to work there when my husband was small - so he has fond memories of the store, the restaurant and of course the view from the top!  It was fun to look at all the Paris fashions and the girls enjoyed pointed out styles they liked and didn't on all the mannequins.

There was even a photo booth that took Hollywood glamour shots..a young model's delight!

Restaurant inside Printemps and then the view from the roof.  Such a fun morning!

After our trip to Printemps we were off to Montmartre (via a different bus route which took us by the Opera, up some of the Grand Boulevards and then past the Moulin Rouge and finally to Montmartre).  We stopped for ice cream of course and then headed up the hill!  I think one of the things that surprised me the most, was the number of people!  It was mobbed - It was fun to see but definitely one of the most crowded places we saw.  We decided to let an artist sketch the 3 girls - a wonderful souvenir of our visit!

In my book, no trip to Paris is complete without a trip down the Seine.  We decided on the famous Bateaux Mouches- a scenic trip at twilight.  My youngest wasted no time chatting away with Australians who were on a tour of Europe.

The above photo is my girls intermixed with these fun young people from Australia!  And of course another view of the Eiffel Tower was had from the boat!

We had fun enjoying various food in Paris - each night was a wonderful dining experience!  Tiramisu
Smoked Salmon & avocado salad
Fun chocolate moose for the kids
Grilled duck with hearts of palm salad

After we checked out of the hotel on Sunday, we headed over to Jardins de Trocadero on the other side of the Seine from the Eiffel tower.  It was a hot sunny day, nice enough to put our feet in the fountain.  We also enjoyed meeting up with new friends  - Growing Berries - it was a great afternoon!

So after 3 days, we headed back home...with our fill of Paris - Last night as I was putting the girls to bed, I asked them to tell me their favorite things about Paris - 

Number 1 for each girl was THE EIFFEL TOWER - at night and during the day.

They also loved the Musee D'Orsay, Bateaux Mouches, and our time at Printemps.  Shopping was also a hit - of course I have 3 little fashionistas!

I will share more impressions and photos in another post.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and a fun video....Happy Sunday!

Still enjoying strawberries.....

So the other day, my brother and his sister were arriving and I was reorganizing my refrigerator to make some room (I was also trying to figure out what were having for dessert that night...).  I had bought some wonderful strawberries at the market and remembered that I had some frozen rhubarb in the freezer.  A little confession here - I really don't bake that often, but I love a good pie and cake (most of the time when someone else makes it).  It's not that I can't bake, it's just I don't take the time.  To be honest sometimes it can create too many dirty dishes...and I really don't like to do dishes!  So as far as baking goes, if I can find a good shortcut which still tastes delicious - I'm all for it!!  I am finding that since I have more time, I'm venturing a bit more into the baking realm.

Anyway, the frozen rhubarb - saw it at Picard (a frozen food store here in France - with freshly frozen foods - most of their items are really tasty and excellent quality to begin with.) and figured I could save it until I was ready to make a pie.  I also often by organic all ready made pie crust....(less work and time saved here too.)  So with a pie crust on hand, the frozen rhubarb, I decided to mix it with my fresh strawberries and make a pie for dessert.  The only problem that I realized was that I had only one pie crust - so I opted for a crumb topping.  The following is the recipe that I used...(one more substitution was I didn't have rolled oats in the house - so used  the oat clusters from my favorite breakfast cereal...these also contained some pieces of roasted coconut...made for a delicious topping!)  I have included it in both US and metric measurements.

Strawberry /Rhubarb Crumb Pie - Metric


  • 1 egg
  • 200 g sugar
  • 15 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 340 g fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used frozen)
  • 355 g fresh strawberries, halved
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell -  feuilletées (sweeter crust)

  • 95 g all-purpose flour
  • 110 g packed brown sugar
  • 40 g quick-cooking or rolled oats (substituted oat clusters from cereal)
  • 115 g cold butter


  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla; mix well. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into pastry shell.
  2. For topping, combine flour, brown sugar and oats in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 205 degrees C for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180 degrees C bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie - US


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used frozen)
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell -   feuilletées (sweeter crust)

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or rolled oats (substituted oat clusters from cereal)
  • 1/2 cup cold butter


  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla; mix well. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into pastry shell.
  2. For topping, combine flour, brown sugar and oats in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Have to say - it came out delicious!!  The frozen rhubarb worked great and  the pie crust and crumble were also very tasty!  By the way, in France I used the pie crust for pastries -  feuilletées (sweeter crust) as opposed to the brisse used for more savory tarts.

Here's a photo of the creation!  (Do remember to place tarte or pie plate on a cookie sheet when cooking - it will bubble over a bit...hence, why on one side - the crumb topping slid was a pretty tasty sample too!!)

So Happy Sunday!!  My girls came home from a week of sailing camp last night in great spirits and absolutely dying to return next year!!  I will post more later about their camp experience...both like their mother took cameras and used them.  I'm also piecing together all the stories as they come out.  Their first cousins are also visiting so we are busy enjoying the area with them....I will end this post with a video that I a fellow blogger shared from the web - thank you Chez Loulou! - fun and entertaining!  Just recently done in Paris.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day Camp-French Style - Centre de Loisirs - Pessac - Romainville

Summer Day Camp

Pessac - Centre de Loisirs de Romainville

So this week has been a bit busy as we got ready for my brother and his family to arrive.  We timed their visit to coincide with the return of my 2 older daughters who are away at sailing camp for the week and return tomorrow evening.  My youngest at 4 years old wanted to know what camp she would be going knowing she would need some peer entertainment while her sisters were away - I looked to our town to see what day camp options were available.

I have to say excited to find that they offered a day camp - Available for all children ages 4-11.  The town has a couple of different sites available but we chose the one closest to our home.

The camp runs 8:30 am to 5 pm but also has an extended day option until 6:30 pm for extra cost.  This like day camps in the States is a working parents solution to childcare in the summer.  We use to use our local town park day camp for our older girls back in Saratoga  - in many ways this was similar but there were some striking differences.

First included in the cost of the camp was transportation from centralized stops if you wished to use the bus.  We only live a 12 minute drive from the camp and the closest centralized stop was halfway to camp so we opted not to use the bus - but it's a nice feature.

Second, lunch is included as part of the program.  Yes, it's a bit like school lunch - but here in France, school lunches are better than I have found in the States.  They use a mix of certified organic food and farm fresh local produce as a part of their program.  I have to say that even though my kids don't like every meal they are offered - they find the food better here than it was at home.  (As my oldest daughter said was either greasy, breaded or both in the States).  Anyway, each day when I walked my daughter into her camp building, we could see what was being served for lunch that day.

The ratio of kids to adults was super - my daughter's age group of 4/5 year olds were divided into 4 groups - each group had about 15 kids in it and they had one main adult leader and 2 younger helpers.  It broke down to a 5 to 1 ratio.  Not bad!

Similar to other day camps, their day was broken down into morning activities, lunch, afternoon activities and then wind down for the day.  Activities varied from riding bikes (tricycles & 2 wheelers - provided by the camp), taking a nature walk through the woods, playing games, art & crafts and even swimming/cooling off in the wading pool.  Once a week they even do a field trip - this week they took the kids to the Pessac Zoo. Again, all of these activities are included in the daily cost.

I was also impressed as I watched an older group of 10/11 year olds get ready to go off on a day trip - they all had day packs and were loading onto a bus - with a truck that was following them full of bikes!  All the bikes were provided by the park/town.  I think I'm just impressed with all the little details that this town thinks about.  An aside here, my oldest daughter spent a week during school at this site learning bike riding safety when riding out on the roads or in a city.  Again, all she had to do was to go there with her class - the town provided the bikes and helmets!

Anyway, I have to say my youngest daughter loved her week at camp!  She came home tired but happy each day.  She made new friends and was anxious to go back each day.  The other thing I love about this camp is beginning next week - she can go on a day by day basis and we only have to pay for the day she is there.

The system is interesting here - for the first 3 weeks of July - as many parents are still working - you must register and reserve for a full week.  You are charged for the full week.  After July 20 up until the week before school begins - you pay only day by day...It's a nice system - I don't feel like I'm paying for something that I'm not using as our experience in the States was often a 2 week block or summer block that you needed to pay for.  This is nice and flexible.

Finally, I'm finding children's activities here in France to be much less expensive than in New York state.  Just to do a brief comparison - In Saratoga we used our local town park camp - but it was a full 6 week program that you were required to pay for - It was extremely reasonable as far as camp prices go - but 6 weeks of camp plus swimming ran $550 for the session - if you added the other field trip was $650 or roughly $92 to $108/week.  Other camps ran between $200-250/week for day camps.  Even the YMCA which you had to be a member  - camp was $160-$220/week.    All camps you also had to provide lunch.

So here - the cost is on a sliding scale based on each family's financial situation.  Some families pay as little as 4 euros/day up to 10.50 euros per day.  (Based on the current exchange rate - that $5 to $13 a day or $25 to $65-week).  A real deal in my book!

Our town is not the only town that offers day camps - many other towns do too and the costs are somewhat similar - I just wanted to share this special place - and I'm so happy that my youngest had a wonderful week.  Now we wait for her older sisters to return home from Sailing camp...I'm sure there will be many stories to share.  Happy weekend!

Walking back out to the car after dropping my daughter off..

The Pre-school or Maternelle building and wading pool.

This was the Welcome area for the 6-10 year olds...Each age group has announcements and updates for the parents as you drop off.

All the bike paths - to help teach kids rules of bike riding..both on paths and streets..

Basketball court, building where they store all the bikes, and do you see the zip line behind?  Fun!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Pessac Market, Friends & Sailing Camp

Those lazy days of Summer

So now that the summer is in full's been busier for us - or maybe more for me.  The girls are having a different kind of summer than ones that they have previously had....What I mean here is that in the States since my husband & I were both working..the girls spent the majority of their time in day camps or we were on vacation.  Their days were pretty scheduled and routine.  Fast forward to this summer - since I'm not working, we are more flexible with the summer schedule.  It's more spontaneous, more flexible and maybe..just maybe more relaxed.  We love to explore, enjoy typically French things...and just have fun with friends.

At the beginning of this week, my oldest daughter and I went to the Pessac Sunday market.  Now we often go there a couple of times a month, but this time we decided to enjoy the Arcachon oysters with a local vendor.  He sold them to take home but also had "Degustations" or tastings you could enjoy.  It was lots of fun and oh, so delicious!  They were so fresh and it was such a great treat!  Oyster season in France is December through Spring - but the season has gone longer this year.

I love this photo of the Oyster reflected in her sunglasses and just looking at her mouth, you can see how much she loved them!

So after the morning at the market, since it was one of our first sunny warm days, all the girls invited friends for the afternoon.   6 girls had a wonderful time playing in the pool (which was still only around 72 degrees.)  and just hanging out.  Reminds me of some of my favorite childhood summer memories, just relaxing outside hanging near water and being with friends.

Yes, even in France, they have French hand songs...

Sunday afternoon was the last hurrah before my two oldest girls went off to 6 days of Nautical Sailing camp in Sanguinet, near the Atlantic Ocean.  This overnight camp is sponsored by our town.  The girls are spending the week learning how to sail, enjoying the beach and other fun outdoor activities.  They are sleeping in large canvas platform tents.  (Sounds a lot like girl scout camp to me!).  For my oldest daughter, this is her second time away in 3 months (remember Class Verte?) and for my 8 and half year old, it's her first time away from home.  She asked to go and was very excited but a bit nervous.  I think most of her nerves disappeared when she saw a friend from school was also going to be there.  As the 2 waited for the bus to load, they were full of smiles and excitement. 

As I write this post, it's Wednesday evening, they have been gone since Monday.  We have no communication with them - so no news is good news!  I know in these days of cell phones, most parents send them with their children.  The camp highly discouraged them and hey, when I was young, we didn't have cell phones and got along fine.  As a parent, it's different not hearing from your child, but  I just know they will both have loads of fun and I'm just so thrilled that they have this opportunity.  

Sending them off...My husband and our girls!

Rare photo of me and my girls...I'm usually behind the camera!  Don't they look happy?

On the bus and ready to go....

So it's been a quiet week in our house.  I also have my youngest daughter (almost 5) attending day camp this week.  This has allowed me time to organize and clean the house for extended family who are arriving on Friday. 

I have decided that this summer may be different than other summers, but truthfully no less busy - between camps, friends, visitors, and vacation.  We are looking forward to having lots of fun and finding new adventures...Happy summer!

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