Paris in three days: Day three (plus)

The itinerary for our last day in Paris was pretty simple:  visit the Palais-Royal and Galerie Vivienne, meet a friend for lunch, and visit a museum. Thankfully, it was that simple because I had no idea what a hit the Palais-Royal was going to be with my daughter. If you ask her, riding the carousel was her favorite part about visiting Paris, but I know it actually was running around the Colonnes de Buren in the courtyard of the Palais-Royal.

I could hardly blame her, because what child doesn't like a playground that isn't actually a playground? While the striking black and white columns and beautiful surrounding facades might make for a photographer's dream (and whoa, were there a lot of photoshoots going on), the varied heights of the columns and wide open space are a dream-come-true for a kid. We couldn't get her to stop running the lengths of the rows, climbing up and jumping down from each column. If someone was in her way (e.g. a photographer waiting for everyone else to get out of his way), she stood and stared and politely shouted "Excuse me!" There was no stopping her. So while she had her fun, I had some fun of my own with the beautiful symmetry.

When we were finally able drag my daughter away with the promise of chocolate, we explored the rest of the gardens and the beautiful arcades, on our way to Galerie Vivienne. We paused along the way to watch a man play boules.

Galerie Vivienne. How this was my first visit to this beautiful place is beyond me. It is sublime. The shops and restaurants are impeccable. The tiled floors, beautiful. And at Christmas, the decor was my favorite in all of Paris:  simple and classy. This place is a dream.

And after a lovely lunch with an old friend of ours from America, we made one last stop:  Le musée de Gustave Moreau.  While the entire museum is a fascinating tour through one man's art, home, and studio, I came to see one piece and one piece only.

The staircase that links the two floors of the atelier is a cast-iron spiral piece of art. Go to see Moreau's fascinating take on biblical symbolism, stay to stare at this masterpiece.

It had been a simple day, but after a delicious dinner at Marcel, we were exhausted and called it an early night. I rose early the next morning to head out for one last peak at the city before we hopped on the EuroStar for home.

Montmartre did not disappoint me, showing off with a gorgeous sunrise and near-empty streets on an early Sunday morning. It's my favorite time to get out and explore a city - just as it is waking up.

We leave Europe in two months, and I don't know when I'll be back to Paris again. I'm hoping it's not too long. It has been a part of my travel diary since I was a teenager, and I hope my adventures in this special city continue to fill the pages of journals (and my camera's memory card) long into the future.

Paris in three days: Day two

I know there is this thing with Paris in the Springtime, and, yes, traveling to the city in early December meant that we would miss out on the gardens in bloom and the warm sunshine on our faces, but there are many reasons to love Paris in the early winter. For one, the late sunrises meant that we didn't have to be up at an ungodly hour to catch that magical morning light. So on our second day in Paris, we took advantage of this with a walk through Le Jardin des Tuileries to soak up the gorgeous winter's morning.

While my husband and daughter played Superman and Spiderman, I enjoyed the spectacular scenery.

A friend recently asked how we manage our days while traveling with a toddler, and while we don't plan our itinerary for her, we do plan our outings with her in mind (an ever-so-slight difference, but an important one). We always ensure that there is balance to our days - for every museum or church that we stop at, we visit a garden or public square where she can run freely and get some energy out. And (selfishly), these kid-friendly stops are chosen because they have something that keeps us interested, too. A place like the Tuileries garden easily meets these standards - a space that allows her to run around like a madwoman (or superhero) but also a space that surrounds us with so much beauty.

We then set off for the Île de la Cité, with a lovely, albeit very slow, walk along the Seine.

Our destination was the beautiful Place Dauphine.  It doesn't get much prettier than this square, with its elegant facades and cobbled streets.

And after a quick stop for a nutella crepe, we crossed the Seine for a peak at some picture-perfect spots on the left bank.  (Pictured below:  Le Petit Chatelet, Shakespeare and Company, and Odette)

We were starting to get hungry, so we hopped on the metro and headed to Cafe Oberkampf - a tiny cafe with food that packs a lot of punch.  My husband and I both grinned when the individual pans of shakshuka were placed in front of us. My daughter ate a piece of banana bread that has a reputation for being delicious, but we wouldn't know because she wouldn't let us come near it. And the coffee? My cortado was the best cup of coffee I had in Paris. This place is an absolute gem.

From there, we wandered down into the Marais, stopping at Merci along the way to see that instafamous car for my daughter and for me to drool over all of their homewares. (Their colored glass collection is my version of heaven, and there was a pair of houndstooth chairs that we would have really liked to take back on the EuroStar with us.) And then, on to our afternoon kid-friendly stop:  La Place des Vosges, where the afternoon was warm and the light and shadows were beautiful.

We made our way through the Marais, low on energy after a big day, but with enough gas left in us to sneak down a few alleys and capture a few more scenes of that iconic Parisian street life.  A day well spent.

Next up, our third and final day (plus a bonus morning photo walk through Montmartre).