Friday was the start of my two week vacation, and it couldn’t have come sooner! I just spend a beautiful weekend on the French coast at Cap Gris Nez and will be heading to Krakow, Poland on Thursday.
Just over three weeks ago, I was lucky to have a sort of mini-vacation when my parents came to see me over on this side of the pond. I hadn’t seen them since September! Even though I had to work a few days while they were here, we made the most of our time by spending some time in Paris and some time in good ol’ Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
They arrived in Paris before I did, but they successfully made it to the hotel in spite of heavy luggage and metro stairs. Proud daughter moment. During our first two days in Paris, we stayed near Republique. When Grant and Matt were here in December, we stayed in the same area and it worked out really nicely. I decided to try to reenact the tour (…paid tour) that the boys and I took of Montmartre for my parents. We started by arriving at the Blanche metro station and stopping at Starbucks so that my parents could survive the day. (Tiny French espresso just didn’t cut it.) I led us around the neighborhood, passing by the ever famous Moulin Rouge, typical cafes, and small hilly streets until we eventually arrived at the Sacre Coeur Basilica. We definitely missed out on some parts of the tour that the boys and I did, but my inner compass was failing me and it was freezing outside. Lucky for us, it was clear enough for my parents to catch their first view of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the hill. After exploring the inside of the basilica, we warmed up in a restaurant next to the artist’s square and indulged in Boeuf Bourguignon and more tiny French coffee. Yes, it’s still tiny even if you ask for a “grande.” :)
The next day, it was still frigidly cold, but we persevered and made it to the Eiffel Tower, or that “big iron pointy thing” as my Dad likes to call it. Unfortunately the only option to go up was with the stairs, and unfortunately it was freezing outside, so we decided to appreciate the grandeur for a moment and took some pictures before fortunately returning to the warmth of the underground metro.
Next up, we headed north, where my parents were bienvenue’d chez les ch’tis. (Frenchies: please forgive my Franglais, although I think it is awesome.) They were welcomed to my town Douai by Mayou, the lovely host of the B&B where they stayed. She is an elderly lady who has had quite a full life of traveling, but after her husband passed away, she decided to turn their home into a B&B so that she could continue to experience world culture by welcoming travelers into her home.
Nothing made me happier than seeing my parents eating northern cuisine. We had galettes for lunch at one of my favorite cafes in Douai, l’Equitable. Of course we had dessert: delectable delicacies like macaroons and napoleons from a local bakery. Later that night, we dined at a typical northern restaurant called le Prevert, where the food is good and the owners are characters. Cheese, fries, carbonnade, creme brulee, Belgian beer… my parents experienced it all!
The next evening, we headed to Hazebrouck to have a meal with Michel and his family in yet another typical northern restaurant, or an estaminet. (Before that, we obviously headed to the now world-famous Shaka Laka Mon Pote for a little apero.) It was fabulous to have all of these people together, and I was so happy that my parents could spend some more time with my guy. The evening was filled with everything from the normal cheese/beer/red meat, to playing a traditional Flemish board game, to the pipes being frozen in the restaurant’s bathroom, to me speaking with Michel’s parents in French and him translating into English for my parents… and I loved every second of it. When we had arrived earlier that evening, snow had started to fall, and our plan of Michel driving us back to Douai that night melted away rather quickly. We stayed in Hazebrouck for the night and took the train back to Douai the next morning, with a quick stop in Lille to do some shopping. We spent our last day in Douai just being together, inside where it was warm, enjoying Domino’s pizza (French style) with a “Mayou” cocktail.
The time was already going by way too quickly – couldn’t they stay longer?! – but we headed back to Paris for a few days before they flew out. This time around, we explored the Centre Pompidou, spent hours in the Louvre, stood in awe inside the Notre Dame, walked along the Seine (taking many cafe breaks to warm up… more tiny French coffee!), experienced a Korean barbecue dinner, went to a French McDonald’s (don’t worry, they ate wraps with fried goat cheese and drank a beer… you can’t do that in America), and locked a lock on the Love Lock bridge to signify my parents’ upcoming 25th wedding anniversary. We even became “regulars” at a little bistro near our hotel called Chez Jean, stopping by often for a little pastry or a big refillable cup of coffee.
I feel extremely lucky to have had my brother and my parents come here to see me. No matter how good life is here – and it is pretty awesome – one thing that can’t be replaced is time with my family. I miss them like crazy, and am so happy that I got to share what I do, where I live, and what I love with them.