Last March, I took an unforgettable 40th birthday trip to Paris with my husband, Ted. I dreamed of traveling to the city ever since I started studying the French language in 7th grade. But, tant pis, life got in the way. It was hard to justify a European vacation during the rigors of graduate school, or when we moved to Maine from New Jersey, or after experiencing back-to-back pregnancies. However, as I approached 40, a trip to Paris made sense. What better way to celebrate, than to go on a trip I’d been wishing for since age 13?
We rented a studio apartment in the Marais—a stunning section of the city not unlike the Village in New York—with shops, restaurants, galleries, and fashionable young Parisians strolling the streets. We spent our days biking the city using the Velib rental service, which had a station right around the corner from our studio.
For parents of two young children, the trip was like une rêve. We enjoyed long, leisurely bistro lunches with bottles of Cotes du Rhone, sat in Le Jardin des Tuileries and people watched, experienced an avant-garde exhibit on dancing at The Pompidou, and browsed neighborhood shops—like the wonderful Mariage Freres tea emporium and Puyricard artisan chocolates—without rushing (a luxury for a mom if there ever was one). After reading My Life in France, I lived out my Julia Child fantasies and signed Ted and I up for an afternoon class at La Cuisine Paris, where we learned to make French tarts. The week made me feel as if I’d entered a time warp, before kids and school schedules became the focus of my days.
Still, even with this gift of time, I found myself missing my children. Whenever I spotted a little one on the street, I’d think of L and W, and wonder what they were doing at home with their grandparents. While I snapped photos of the expected—the façade of Notre Dame, my husband posing near Pont Neuf, colorful flowers at the Marché Place Baudoyer Farmers’ market— I also found myself taking pictures of French children during our travels.
Seeing these children at play made me long for my duo. While I was filled up with the sights and sounds of the city, I couldn’t wait to see L and W again. The thought of our happy reunion made leaving Paris a little easier…. that, and enjoying a gorgeous, Amorino gelato on our last full day.
There’s no turning back the clock when you go on vacation, but Paris certainly made this mom feel like a kid again!