When we moved to Paris, I made a point of shipping several bins filled with holiday decorations in order to keep our traditions alive. Holidays are kind of a big deal at our house. Over the past decade, I have hosted countless Valentine and Halloween parties, Christmas open houses, Easter brunches and Thanksgiving dinners, and I have corresponding decorations to accompany every occasion. I don’t have to worry my pretty little head if Paris doesn’t make a Hallmark card for it. I came prepared.
look closely: these fancy desserts are perched on beribboned swings
Valentine’s day in Paris is a seriously romantic notion. With its lovey-dovey reputation, one might even proselytize that every day is V-day in the city of love. One might also be on vacation without children; or perhaps proposing with a ring in a champagne flute, atop the Eiffel Tower.
Naud and I know little of the romantic side of Paris. We first came to visit as parents with a three year old in tow. It was dreamy in a jetlagged, toddler-toting stupor sort of way. We had great fun frequenting playgrounds, marionette shows and zoos, taking in shopping and art museums during Annabelle’s lengthy stroller naps. We enjoyed fine dining due to our (generally) well-behaved child and her adventurous palate (not to mention my Mary Poppins-approved tote brimming with crayons and activity books).
Our Paris has always been a family affair and we like it that way. People who don’t know this G-rated take on the city have no idea what they’re missing. The French love children. Kids open doors in ways my rudimentary language skills never will. We get to live vicariously through Annabelle in places where we’d just seem creepy if we didn’t have a child in tow. Take marionette shows, for instance. There is this incredible old puppet theatre in the Jardin du Luxembourg where they ring a bell to announce shows and children sit on wooden benches in front so that they may interact with the puppets. The sets are amazing and the characters, engaging. We love it as much as Annabelle does.
Moving here hasn’t changed our status as parents. We routinely enforce homework, manners and bedtime all while juggling household tasks. The only difference is that we’re doing it in Paris. We manage to counter the mundane with morning coffee dates after dropping Annabelle at school. We’ve also taken a cue from the French and make a point of kissing more often. It’s not just in the movies. I am happy to report that public displays of affection are alive and well in Paris.
When Valentine’s day was on the horizon, I learned that the French view the holiday as solely for grown-ups. This meant no Valentine exchange at school, no conversation hearts, no adorable red-themed attire. In fact, there was so little commercialism, it would have been easy to forget the whole thing. A few pastry shops (patisseries) and chocolatiers got into the spirit and adorned their windows with festive displays, which was enough to keep V-day on my radar.
Despite the lack of hoopla, Naud was sweet enough to make dinner reservations at popular new restaurant, Verjus. In the morning, we exchanged cards and chocolates (Pierre Herme for him, Foucher for me) and I made sure Annabelle felt the love with a few token gifts and candies. After he left for work, Naud deposited roses on our doorstep and texted me to open the door. I am a lucky lady.
foucher chocolates have the sweetest boxes
Our friend visiting from Seattle generously offered to stay with Annabelle, so we had ourselves a built-in sitter for the occasion. It was our big chance to finally shed the family-friendly Paris and savor a night out, sans offspring. I should have been elated, only I wasn’t. I felt a cold coming on, Annabelle was sick and my friend was leaving the next morning. It felt forced and unnatural to go out for the sake of going, so we called off our fancy dinner and instead, I pan seared lamb rib chops with herbes de Provence and honey, tossed tagliatelle pasta with butter and parmesan and oven roasted asparagus. We bought four individual desserts from one of my favorite bakeries and split them four-ways. It was a perfect evening with people I love and I couldn’t have asked for a better Valentine’s day.