Before we swooped through Seattle and then on to San Francisco in September to start our Senior Internship at Airbnb HQ, we had a month in France that needs to get down on "paper" for posterity. Because someday, in whatever form technology allows, these notes will tell our Senior Nomad story - and our grandchildren may find them interesting. Which leads me easily back to August.
After the Great Summer Road Trip, we left Strasbourg for Paris. And those who follow the blog know that is our second home base after Seattle because our daughter Mary and her husband Gregoire and our youngest grandchildren have lived there for over nine years. But now, all that has changed!
The Bouron’s finally found a house that they could both agree on (and afford) in a village about an hour south of Paris by train. It was just in time because living in the city with three small children in a flat the size of a generous hotel suite was getting out of hand. It started out well…Mary and Greg found their delightful apartment near Sacre Coeur shortly after they were married. It was the perfect home for some carefree years in Paris as newlyweds. But soon after they began their romantic life as young bon vivants, along came Colette. And it was still fine. They became the chic Parisian parents you see in magazines. And then along came Marcel. And they made that work, too. But once little Jacques arrived it was time to admit it was too much for them (and definitely far too little).
After almost two years of searching, they finally landed a cozy stone cottage in Samois Sur Seine - a sleepy village nestled on the tail end of the river near the historic city of Fontainebleau. They even have a back garden with a small shed that Gregoire has turned into a woodworking space. Where he plans to create stylish furniture for the house without power tools! And all three kids are enrolled in a neighborhood school just around the corner. Now, we have a wonderful new home base, still in France, as well as some very happy grandchildren and their parents.
Michael and I landed in Paris in early August and had a week to ourselves before Mary and family returned from spending time at Gregoire's parents home in Quiberon, a beautiful beachside town in Brittany. This gave us the opportunity to explore Paris in a new way since we weren’t dropping right into "Grandparent Mode" with our days filled with school runs and play time at our latest neighborhood Airbnb (referred to by the children as Mooma’s New Fun House!)
Now, we could choose a romantic little flat in a different part of the city for leisurely walks, romantic dinners, and museum visits. Oooh-La-La. The only challenge was it rained almost every day, but in Paris, even the rain can be inviting.
We settled in a neighborhood in the 11th Arrondissement known as Oberkampf - not the most romantic sounding neighborhood, but it was quirky and close to the popular Marais district with all of its shops and small galleries, a big weekly market, and perfect bakeries and bistros. It is also the home of the Bataclan, the music venue that was at the center of the terrorist attack in 2015.
The adorable Airbnb we rented was tucked up in the eaves of the building which meant six flights of stairs with no elevator, as is often the case in Paris. One reason I thought our little love nest would be worth the climb was it came with a fluffy cat to take care of, but unfortunately, the kitty was on vacation along with the host. Just as well - there was barely room for two humans.
Highlights of our time in Paris included a lovely morning learning more about painting with watercolors in the Luxembourg Gardens as an Airbnb Experience, an afternoon at the Musee de l'Orangerie, a gallery designed by Monet himself in 1922 to showcase his series of large Water Lilies murals displayed in a rotunda. And of course, there were works by many other artists including Renoir, so my blog title makes sense! We enjoyed a classic French bistro dinner with our good friends the Fairbanks. A walking tour of the Marias in the pouring rain, and finally Michael chose our time in Paris to grow a very French looking goatee.
At the end of the week, we packed up and headed to Samois sur Seine to our next home. Mary invited us to stay with them, and even though they now have a three-bedroom house, considering we’d be there almost three weeks we thought for everyone’s sanity we’d rent an Airbnb in the village. Fortunately, we found a really nice house just a few blocks away which was the ideal solution. Once again, it proved we could find a way to make this lifestyle work anywhere, and Mooma's Fun House was still just around the corner.
The house was perfect because we could have the kids over for sleep-overs and play-dates, and we could switch family meals between the two houses. That was fun for us - and a nice break for Mary and Gregoire. And it also meant that Michael and I could also catch some rest between activities at our house.
Jacques at 3 is no longer a “baby” and he is quick to tell you he is a “big garçon" like Marcel. And that means he wants to do everything his 5-year-old brother and 7-year-old sister Colette do. That doesn’t always go his way - and it’s usually Jacques who has mysteriously been left behind or dumped on the floor from the bed. But he is such a good natured boy that he doesn’t seem to mind.
We had great walks down to the riverbank for picnics and feeding the swans. But it seemed there were countless opportunities for the kids to fall into the water chasing a leaf down-stream or scrambling down the steep stone sidewalls along the river, so we were on constant alert - but somehow kids down through the ages have reached adulthood despite the worries of their grandparents.
The walk from the center of the village where the Bouron’s live to the water is a picturesque half-mile journey and the cobbled streets pass-by charming cottages that are hundreds of years old with lots of small paths to explore - the rewards include loads of fat, juicy blackberries hanging overhead. The challenge is the walk to the river is all downhill. We could easily get to the river's edge in fifteen minutes, but trying to get tired children back up the hill in under an hour was almost impossible.
Parts of the vast forests surrounding Fontainebleau contain inexplicably large boulders, and many are near the village so we had some great walks through the woods that included some rock climbing - a past time known as "bouldering". It was in stark contrast to the noisy, somewhat dangerous cityscape of Paris. It was a joy to see the kids be able to run and play and climb without fear of traffic (and stepping in dog poo).
Moving out of the city created the need for a car. Mary and Gregoire would need one for work, and the family would need it to get to new activities like soccer practice and grocery shopping outside the village where there are only a handful of shops. Mary had to take very expensive driving lessons and pass a rigorous test to get her French license - but she is now behind the wheel, and can even drive right into the center of Paris (and park!) without too much trepidation.
A house! A yard! A car! For this family, years of accomplishments were crammed into one amazing Summer. Too soon it was time for us to leave all of this newfound bliss and head back to America. As we left, our Airbnb hosts told us their house is ours anytime, so we plan to be back again in early 2018!
Thanks for following along,
Debbie and Michael Campbell
The Senior Nomads
p.s. The Bouron's have safely landed in Los Angeles today to spend their first Halloween with their American cousins.