Almost two years ago my father floated the idea of family trip to visit his family's ancestral homelands. He turned 60 this year and wanted to take us all to see the towns our family emigrated from. I became the family travel agent, researching hundreds of rental apartments, flight options, and car rentals. Nine of us were coming, a ages ranging from 60 to 7. Over months of email/chat conversations we hammered out a itinerary and we contacted our Corsican family about visiting them. A wonderful friend from Church translated a dozen emails for me as we decided on when to go, and whether it would be possible for us to visit the family home in Corsica. By March of this year we had most of the essential details set and booked, and we could just sit and wait for our departure date to arrive.
As our departure date approached people kept asking me if I was excited and all I could muster was apprehension. The last trip I had fully planned for my family had been a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver 5 years ago, and while it was enjoyable trip, I took personally my family's tendency to like to gripe about details. So this time I made sure everyone had a opportunity to chime in on the planning, and I planned on letting the little gripes (which is gives my family so much joy) fly right past me. Still as they day approached I was concerned about how much responsibility I had taken on and really hoped things didn't fall flat. Mercifully they didn't. It was a wonderful trip. There were odd hiccups here and there, but everyone pitched in to make things work,
from conferring on trains about what to do if we needed to jump the turnstiles at our destination, or everyone speed walking to the Eiffel Tower once again so we could get a group shot, or respecting the need of others to stay behind once in a while or finding a cab driver willing to cram the 9 of us into their taxi so we could get to the train station or being willing to make the grocery run or simply taking the hand of one my girls as we crossed busy road. My family is still on the trip, they had a extra week, but our trip together was wonderful.
My family is scattered, so we discarded our original plan of meeting at central airport and flying over to Paris together. Instead we found the best fares we could from our various airports. We flew from Rochester, to NYC to Dublin then onto Paris. It was a long trip, but our girls are awesome, and they dealt with it like the traveling pros they are.
Our arrivals were staggered and we each found our way to the apartment of A and D, our awesome Paris hosts. Despite the threats of a rail strike we all got there safely. They live in the 16th Arrondissement just a quick walk from the Metro. The apartment was comfortable accommodating 9 extra people without too much extra effort and a couple of air mattresses. The Apartment has large comfortable bathrooms (a luxury on this trip we would later realize) and beautiful french doors and balconies overlooking a quiet street.
A and D's neighborhood was wonderful, restaurants, several bakeries, cheese shops and green markets within effortless walking distance. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc of Triomphe were less than 15 minutes of shaded sidewalks away. We settled in easily with little jet lag discomfort.
The girls got a huge thrill out of it. Honestly I think they could have turned around and gone home then and there. We walk down the steps of the Torcadero and did the line to ascend to the middle section of the tower. We were treated to fantastic views and our first ice cream cones of the trip. The girls eyed souvenir Eiffel Towers and their Papi Jean haggled with the vendors till he scored them handfuls of Eiffel Tower key chains.
In Paris we ate in mostly, A is a great cook, and between her meals and the meats, cheese, bread and fruit from neighboring shops we ate really well. In Paris we also ventured to the Louvre (where the girls hunted for Egyptian artifacts, inspired by their most recent reading obsession, Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles), Arc de Triomphe (where Aay and I saw two scammers try the very same ring trick on a pair of tourists), Versailles (where are girls were completely captivated by audio guides and would refuse to move on till they had hear each and every entry), and the Centre Georges Pompidou, a collection of modern art museums in a striking building in Central Paris.
Chris and I enjoyed one evening away, dinner for two at small parisian restaurant. Chris had his first Foie Gras and we loved every minute of it. We came home to find the girls enjoying their second movie of the evening and the rest of the family giggling over many bottles of wine and plates of cheese.
Paris was a fantastic time. We could have easily spent twice as long as we did there. The City was so easy to navigate, with great signage, easy to access Metro system and the weather was fantastic. It was a bit overcast when arrived and there several small downpours, but nothing that dampened our spirits and temperatures lent themselves perfectly for walking. Were it not for the ever present smokers, the city would be perfect.
Were blessed on numerous occasions by running into Spanish speaking Parisian residents, transplanted Spaniards and Dominicans who gave us advice or encouragement. And on our last day when Chris and I ventured off on our own to see the Musee du Orsay, a kind museum official had us skip the several hundred people long queue after spotting Zee falling asleep on Chris's shoulder. It really saved that outing, as it allowed us to see our favorite Impressionist painters and still make it back to the apartment in time to pack up to head off to Corsica.
It was a huge treat to visit Paris this way and I am incredibly thankful that I got to share with my family. Below you can find a slideshow of some of my pictures from the Paris leg and a link to some of my awesome Brother-in-Law Kendall pictures from the trip.