l’État, c’est la Bug


Sometimes, in the whirlwind of living the trees at the expense of the forest, I keep these blogs with very little sense of the larger picture. I’ve looked back upon certain entries (since it will be me and maybe a family member who will ever do so) and wondered what the hell I was up to, you know, in general.

So, future self, we’re spending one more day in New York before gathering up little Lucy and flying to Nice, France on Thursday night. Nice the city, not the adjective, although I’m sure it’ll be much more than just nice. My dear old friend (and oft commenter) Jiffer, the beautiful maid from Door County, Wisconsin will be marrying Ingo, the handsome Italian/German lad she met the very last night she was in college.

I’ll try to blog from there, since it will be worth etching in digital stone, and apparently there’s wireless all over the Côte D’Azur. After three days there, we’re scooting up to Paris, where we Craigslisted a sweet little flat in the Marais district for a week. I plan on doing some writing, walking in several gardens with my wife, and dipping meat into a fondue pot. That is, as long as Lucy lets us. Our current refrain is “I woulda seen London, I woulda seen France, if it weren’t for Lucy’s underpants.”

From there, it’s back to NYC for a week of business (and hopefully basketball), and then we hunker down in Los Angeles for the television development season until the fall. It’s a good plan, and we’re sticking to it.

In the meantime, Paris is not a city I know that well, so I’m soliciting advice from those who have been… namely, where do you think we should go, as long as it can accommodate a stroller full of cuteness and the time it takes for me to walk off three shots of espresso? Is there anything you wouldn’t miss for the world? Qu’est-ce qu’on fait?

0 thoughts on “l’État, c’est la Bug

  1. CP

    I don’t know. ride le metro, don’t just eat french food (try moroccan food in the latin quarter, also greek and vietnamese), and (this is important) make sure you ALWAYS have pepto bismol on hand for all the chocolate and cheese you’ll most surely be ingesting. apparently the public toilets are now free. however, that’s still no reason to use them.
    oh, how about this: there’s this little playhouse, which I think is also in the 5th, that’s been running eugene ionesco’s bald soprano for the past 50 years or something. it’s wild, a time warp back to that futile european 1950’s postwar absurdism so different from the american postwar boom.
    I don’t know how it is with a toddler, but I’d say walking and museums (obviously) are a good bet because everything is really interesting. make sure you don’t take pictures of heavyset prostitutes (which tends to piss them off) nor get pickpocketed (backpacks are generally a bad idea and if someone creates a confusing diversion in front of you, often involving a child they’re with, check for your essentials immediately after) and you’ll be fine.
    sounds amazing. I’m jealous.
    ps — when in doubt, act canadian.

  2. Lars

    I recommend going to Pain Poilane on Rue Cherche Midi in St. Germain de Pres. An incredibly old school bakery, but very friendly. Their bread is shipped internationally, and I’ve sent it as presents for the holidays. Quite a popular treat. At a slow moment in their day, they took me downstairs where a small baker moved loaves in and out of an ancient wood hearth. I watched for a while and took pictures, though the only light was the fire coming from the beehive shaped oven.
    Here’s a blog about the place:

  3. Lars

    Oh, another thing. Go to video.google.com and search on Paris Ferrari. The first vids to come up should be this video:
    ” On an August morning in 1978, French filmmaker Claude Lelouch mounted a gyro-stabilized camera to the bumper of a Ferrari 275 GTB (Link: http://tinyurl.com/oyd26) and had a friend, a professional Formula 1 racer, drive at breakneck speed through the heart of Paris. The film was limited for technical reasons to 10 minutes; the course was from Porte Dauphine, through the Louvre, to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur.
    No streets were closed, for Lelouch was unable to obtain a permit.
    The driver completed the course in about 9 minutes, reaching nearly 140 MPH in some stretches. The footage reveals him running real red lights, nearly hitting real pedestrians, and driving the wrong way up real one-way streets.
    Upon showing the film in public for the first time, Lelouch was arrested. He has never revealed the identity of the driver, and the film went underground until a DVD release a few years ago. ”
    There’s an explanation for the breakneck speed at the end of the video.

  4. KTS

    After reading your post, and having just bought a new TV, I turned on Encore. “Sweet Lies” was on. Few shots of Paris, though that is where Treat Williams takes place. Actually, Carmella from the Sopranos knows where’s it at! She has a sense of beauty, and loves walking along the Seine. Lucy in the Sky would love the stroll. P.S. CP’s right. Wear a maple leaf, and speak of your love of curling. P.P.S. Lars, that’s one cool racing scene. P.P.P.S. If all else fails, blame the Medicis.

  5. Brian from the Spanish House

    All writers with a flair for the historic simply must stop by Shakespeare & Co. book store near Notre Dame. I bought my own bug some children’s book which I will use to lecture her about how much cooler the Lost Generation was than her generation.

  6. Beth

    My husband and I were in Paris last month, and I was a little surprised to detect not a whiff of anti-American sentiment. Everyone was unfailingly kind, right down to the random people we asked directions of on the street.
    My favorite thing to do in Paris, as CP said, is simply walking. My favorite sight is the Musee d’Orsay. I love the museum itself, and I love the Impressionists up on the top floor.
    A wonderful book to have along is Adam Gopnik’s “Paris to the Moon.”

  7. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Congratulations to Jiffer and Ingo! Paris is interesting and all I am sure (I’ve never been), but I would love to know a little more about Jiffer and Ingo’s romance! Has it been flourishing since Jiff’s last day of college? Or, did the reunite years later at some exotic locale? Was he in Afghanistan too? Where will they settle down, or are they the type to NOT settle down and travel instead? Do tell!
    Please take lots of photos of the beautiful couple, the wedding, Nice. . . the photos would be much appreciated here in Cubicle World.
    I love to hear about good things happening to good people!

  8. chip

    Mazel Tov to Jiffer and Ingo…I still remember singing “There’a a boy that Jiffer likes and Ingo is his name-o” with Ian.

  9. ducky

    Does Lucy like ice cream? I can’t remember if kids are supposed to eat such things so young (mainly because I have not gestated yet) – but there’s an ice cream parlor in the old section of town in Nice called Finocchio, where you can get ice cream in flavors like violet, or tomato – it’s sort of an interesting experience.
    Paris – I know it’s probably considered cheesy to most people, but I’ve really enjoyed the Bateaux Mouches (or other boat ride brands) around sunset, when you can see all the buildings and the beautiful bridges. And the boat might be entertaining for Lucy.
    I also love the Musee d’Orsay, although I don’t know how much children in strollers enjoy museums. My only model is my own brother, who was not so good in public for a long while :) I like the Victor Hugo house/museum as well, and the Arc de Triomphe is a good compromise as far as interesting panoramic views go if you’re not feeling up to packing in line for the Eiffel Tower with a million other people.
    But, yes, as everyone else has said, just walking around is the best. Plus, the more you walk, the more you’ll encounter the men with the crepe stands, and the more you can eat the greatest food known to mankind – the crepe Nutella. (Crepes and ice cream…I sound like a hog!)

  10. Betsy

    How I envy you! I went to Nice and Paris two years ago and loved it. My favorite thing in Paris was simply walking around the Latin Quarter. Also, there is a medieval village outside of Nice called Eze, which overlooks the Mediterranean that is magical. I ate the most incredible food in Paris–even the coffee in the train station vending machines was delicious. Enjoy!!!

  11. CL

    Door County is a real place? Far out.
    Craigslist as a verb – you are such a trendsetter.
    Have fun, and congrats, Ms. Jiffer & Mr. Ingo! (Trying to be polite since I don’t know them except by blog.)

  12. Chuck B

    I just got back from Paris as well, and I agree with the earlier poster that I found no anti-American sentiment at all. Everyone one incredibly nice. Of course, it was the first warm and sunny weekend they had had all year, so that might have helped everyone’s moods.
    For walking around, go to the Place des Vosges (all my spellings in this e-mail are from memory, and therefore highly flawed, I’m sure), which is very close to your apartment in Marais. There’s also a very cool and under-visited war memorial behind Notre Dame that I like, which takes you close the Ile de St. Louis, where you have to pick up an ice cream cone at Bertillion’s.
    For fancy drinks, try the bar ar the Hotel Costes or the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz, both right around the Place Vendome. Both are really expensive, but great great people watching. Lucy might be a roadblock, though.
    For old school tea/coffee and pastries, try La Duree on Rue Royal. Unbelieveably good tarts, macaroons and the like and a million teas to choose from. Upstairs is non-smoking, but downstairs is more Parisian.
    For museums, I prefer the small ones, especially the Picasso and Rodin museums. Again, I don’t know what the policy on strollers is, but they’re worth a shot.
    Have fun!

  13. Kevin from Philadelphia

    Notre Dame Cathedral is amazing, especially if you try to imagine how the hell the builders got it stand without our modern egineering knowledge. Plus, who doesn’t giggle when they say “flying butresses” . . hehehe

  14. Bozoette Mary

    I agree with the previous poster — as tacky and touristy as they are, I loved the Bateaux Mouches. I also loved the catacombs — they are eerie and spooky with their piles of bones and precisely placed skulls, but it may not be the place for a Lucyboots.
    My favorite ice cream parlor in Paris is Berthillon, on Ile St. Louis. Homemade ice cream in lucious flavors (like pear!), and an easy walk from Notre Dame. (Don’t miss Notre Dame!)

  15. Claverack Weekender

    Marche aux puces @ St.Ouen. Falafel @ Chez Marianne. Assuming you’ve already done the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay, the musee Rodin and gardens is quite lovely. If you are there 6/21–longest day festivities. Buy a corkscrew and pick up nice wine on the cheap for after the baby goes to sleep. Pick up a copy of Time Out Paris for listings.

  16. mcf

    what a fabulous, relaxing trip you have upcoming!
    we were just in paris in january, and as others have said, walking is truly KEY!! [bringing a stroller for lucy is a given, no?]
    this said, my recommendation would be: when your feet get tired, hop on the ever-so-cheesy hop-on, hop-off bus [or a local bus is fine, too, as long as you know where it is going.]
    i know it is SO cliche, but it is a great time of year to be there, so sit on the top, enjoy the breeze, let la luz snooze, and take in the sights from above that you might otherwise not have seen!
    latin quarter is [as mentioned above] fantastic, and my fave museum is also musee d’orsay… make sure you visit an outdoor market and grab some brie and a baguette and chomp on it right there… well… there are really SO many wonderful sites to see… ! enjoy!

  17. shelby

    We took our 4 year old to Paris last year. An apartment is the way to go. We ate every lunch out in a nice restaurant and cooked in at night. The French are generally very tolerant of children out in public, although they tend to be stricter than Americans. Luxembourg Gardens (Jardins du Luxembourg) is a must to visit with a child as is a ride on the Bateaux Mouches. Our 4 year old dug the Musee d’Orsay, especially the big, modernist sculptures. We also went to a traditional continental circus, although I doubt the Cirque D’Hiver (Winter Circus) is in town at this point in the season. The best falafel in le Marais is L’As du Falafel.
    The Metro in Paris is fabulous. You are just blocks from a stop anywhere in Paris, and there are lots of transfer points. Just be prepared to carry your stroller up and down stairs.

  18. John

    Hey Ian – It’s John Bland here, first time posting, long time reader. I just got back from Paris yesterday and have a couple of suggestions: There’s a great restaurant called Fish on the Rue de Seine; another great one called Les Deux Magots on Rue de Vielle Temple; and if you can get to Laduree (either on the Champs Elysee or on Rue Bonaparte on the Left Bank) and have a chocolate macaroon you will die a happy man. Also the gelato at Berthillon on the Ile St. Louis. Yes, I ate my ass off. Also, if you’re near there, the Place de Vosges is a great place for kids on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

  19. cullen

    Have fun over the ocean, happy wedding to the betrothed, and yes, Door County is a real and real beautiful place (I’ve only camped there.)
    Bon voyage.

  20. xuxE

    well, i have never been to france, but i did live in canada for awhile, sort of, so please be sure to tell all about your canadian impersonations, eh. bon voyage!

  21. Bliss

    okay, time to leap from lurker to poster… Here are my favorite things to do in Paris from our fall there.
    1. Buy croissants at Au Levain du Marais at 32 Rue de Turenne (in the 4eme) and then take them to Place des Vosges, a little further down Turenne, and eat them while Lucy plays in sand box.
    2. Visit Jardin des Plantes in the 5eme. And then walk back West along the Seine and stop off at the Institut de Monde Arabe (right at intersection of Pont du Sully), take the glass elevators up to top floor and have a coffee/orangina on their terrace overlooking all of Paris and the Seine. Gorgeous view and very cool building architecturally. The windows are calibrated to open with the movement of the sun. There is also a cafeteria on the top floor that serves a very tasty, cheap middle eastern lunch and is quite kid friendly.
    3. I also love the Bateaux Mouche, just make sure you get one that is open air. We discovered after we had already purchased our tickets that ours was not. Big bummer on a beautiful day. Some people also recommended taking a boat up the canals in the 10eme. We never did it, but it looked fun.
    4. If you like Japanese noodles, the best I have ever had, hands down, is a little place on Rue St. Anne, in the 1eme, down the street from the Louvre. The street is a bit of a Japanese district, but the best place is on the left if you are walking north and it looks kind of like a diner, with a counter facing the stove and then a couple of seats at more counters in the window. There is more seating downstairs. It’s not charming, maybe it’s even dreary, but you won’t be looking at the surroundings when they bring you your udon noodles with the quail egg and the chopped scallions and the most delicately fried tempura ever. Yummy.
    5. I thought the big flea market in St. Ouen was depressing, because the prices were so jacked up for the tourists. There’s a smaller African one in the 12eme just East of Bastille that is open every day and has lots of cool stuff. Stretching west of Bastille there is also an excellent food market on Thursday and Sunday mornings along Blvd. Richard Lenoir. It’s great people watching–lots of dogs and protesters and people with kids. It’s a short walk from the Marais, and a great place to get cheese, olives, and fruit, or really anything to make a delicious meal. It took me a while to figure out how much to order, but I eventually discovered that cinq cents grams (500 grams) for a wedge of cheese, quantity of fruit, or hunk of meat was a safe bet for two. Also, lots of people speak English.
    6. I second getting ice cream on the Ile St. Louis. Our favorite place was right across from Notre Dame.
    Thanks for the chance to stroll down my Paris memory lane. Can you tell I’m dying to go back?

  22. Rebecca

    Ahhh… Paris in the spring. How wonderful! The last time we were there we stayed with some Kellogg friends who took us to a restaurant called Le Souffle, which was fabulous if you like souffle. We then went to a place called the Buddha Bar, which had great decor and techno music. It was tres chere, (my French is horrible these days – is that spelled correctly?) but fun to people watch.
    Little Lucy will love it! We traveled a lot when we only had one child and it was really fun. Now, Ethan is my most flexible child, willing to eat anything and he can sleep anywhere. I think it’s because we took him so many places when he was little. It’s partially personality too, but he was always fun to travel with.
    John Bland, were you a cartoonist for the DTH? Your name is familiar…
    Congratulations to Jiffer. I agree with Laurie, please post pictures if possible.
    One more thing! The weather here in SoCal is suddenly AMAZING. Mid 70’s to low 80’s with a perfectly clear, Carolina blue sky.
    Anyway, have a fantastic time on your trip. Maybe we’ll see you when you return to LA.

  23. oliver

    I second the Jardin des Plantes, in particular the hall of evolution (dedicated seemingly to Lamarck and pretending Darwin never existed). Also it must be said that it is not at all needless to be said that one must visit and go up the Eiffel Tower. Also the Samaritaine roof, perhaps for lunch. There’s great chocolate to be had at Cacao et Chocolat, which has a few locations, including rue St Louis on the island (they seem to make their own and sort them by the beans’ regions of origin, like coffee). Do show Lucy the giant Babylonian stuff in the Louvre. The outside of the Pompidous and the fountain. Also that place way out on the Champs with another arch in line and echoing the Triumph one.

  24. Cris

    Seems like most people who talk about paella are usually referring to Spain and its cuisine. But I’ve always had absolutely fantastic paella in Nice. It’s everywhere. Don’t leave the Riviera without trying it.
    Bon voyage!

  25. Emily B

    Life doesn’t get much better than Paris in springtime. You have so many suggestions I hesitate to offer one more – but I don’t believe anyone has mentioned Sainte-Chapelle. This chapel is almost entirely stained glass, removed for safekeeping during the Revolution (go when the sun is shining). Also the Tarte Citron at Polidor on the Left Bank, and the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny are truly unforgettable. Have a wonderful time. Martin loved Paris at 9 months so I’m sure Lucy will have a ball. It’s a great city for kids.

  26. suzanne

    Ian, How fun!!!! I love Paris! Near the Marais (which is so great of course–so many bistros, etc. )you’ll find Place de Vosges. And the Picasso Museum! An easy walk and such a great little museum. And then towards the 11th district, maybe within the 11th?? near the Opera, on weekends there’s an amazing flea market/street market to stroll through. I remember it being to the east of Boulevard Beaumarchais. Anyway, have a great time!

  27. cd

    check out the cheap chamber concerts at l’eglise de la madeleine. they’re kid-friendly too — parents frequently lay their sleeping children across the chairs. it’s in the 8th, near the madeleine metro, and the acoustics are heart-stopping. the luxembourg gardens are lovely, and do spend a day at versailles, but don’t just stay at the palace. the town there is a wonderful stroll all the way around. for your amelie experience, eat at cafes in pigalle, and hike up to sacre-coeur for some of the best (free) views of the city. shakespeare & co., in the latin quarter, is a great english bookstore and somewhat of an institution. buy a book, get it stamped there, and crack it on the banks of the seine. have a gorgeous time!

  28. Flory... Lucas' girlfriend from that one time at Christmas

    Hey, Ian
    I just went to France in March, and I’d say if you are in Paris you should definitely hit le FNAC, this giant three-floor,underground record store/book store. It’s in this underground mall called the Forum Des Halles. I’d also check out the Centre Pompidou, which is pretty near the Forum des Halles. It’s an amazing building, and great museum with lots of crazy musicians from all over the place playing in front of it. Have fun, and try not to get your wallet jacked on the metro!

  29. Le fan

    Maybe you should consider going to Versailles. Don’t even bother going inside. When facing the house and seeing the long line on the right, go to the left side instead and go through the short line for a “Grounds Only” ticket. You and the family can spend the whole day letting Lucy run (or stumble) around in the gardens. Flowers will be everywhere and if you stay late enough on the right night you can see the fountain/light show called the “Grandes Eaux Musicales” or something like that. Go to http://www.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr/ I go to Paris twice a year for work and at least once a year I go to Versailles just to walk around on the grounds. You can walk the length of the Grand Canal, go to the gardens at the Grand Trianon, which are always the most fragrant, you can go to the “secret” grotto of Apollo (my favorite site which I actually wrote a paper on while at UNC) or just sit in the grass with a picnic and enjoy the view. Your grounds ticket will also allow you to go to the Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet and Lucy can see all the cool farm animals that are kept there. I think that this would be a great stop considering Lucy’s age, etc.

  30. ken

    We tried to make the France trip for Jif and Ingo’s wedding this summer but couldn’t manage the time off. We feel especially bad since they made it to our wedding but we just couldn’t do it. I feel the need to correct you however, Ian. Jif is from Green Bay, WI, not Door County. A small difference to be sure but enough of one for it to be pointed out. Someone from Nantucket wouldn’t claim to be from Boston, nor would someone from Green Bay claim to be from Door County.
    Have fun and give Jif and Ingo our best.

  31. tregen

    The view from la Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre. Also, stop at Wepler for shellfish. This place has been around from the late 1800’s….Henry Miller played here. The service, the food, the whole enchilada.. 14 Place de Clichy. If you need a babysitter just say. My wife is from Paris and has family and friends. (English speaking…generally)


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