August is not the best time to visit Paris. This I know, but with two students in the family, both with summer jobs and vastly differing school start dates, it was the only time for us to make the pilgrimage to Spain. I also find it hard to schlep all the way to Europe and NOT visit France. So a few days in Paris to visit a close friend was a must. It was predictably hot, smelly and chock full o’ tourists. My friend asked what I wanted to do. I have all my favorite haunts, and I try to explore a few new spots each time I visit, but I said I really wanted to swim in public pools. I had read about some Art Deco renovations, and she was game. It was scorching hot, so it also was a really great midday pause between touring and a late afternoon siesta.

Jenny — my American in Paris bff — had researched a few pools and we settled on Piscine Pailleron, in the19th, an arrondissement I didn’t know that well. She chose this pool because it was hosting a public art exhibit called ‘Museum of the Moon’, an installation by Luke Jerram. The sculpture was suspended above the pool and I got to take a few pictures before the guard came to tell me photos were not allowed — NOT to respect bathers’ privacy, but some nonsense about historical buildings. We swam for about half an hour, comically maneuvering amidst the less than orderly crowd. We chuckled, because the French notion of lap swimming is hazardous — something we are both very familiar with. As she said, ‘you have an amalgam of folks of different cultures and varying degrees of body/ space awareness’. Suffice to say that there was not one lap without a collision or perhaps a kid cannon balling on my head; all part of the experience. I also got reprimanded for wearing my teva sandals, which I had brought precisely to use in water situations. I get that they don’t want street shoes in the pool area, but the fact that everyone was barefoot kinda freaked me out. They make you shamble through a couple inches of disinfectant, which seemed ineffective, but hey, I was a visitor to this fabulous city and was so happy to get into water after a 12 hour flight and 17 hour journey. I always try to swim or submerge in water after a long flight with a big time change, so this was a terrific way to start our epic trip.

The way the light sparkled through the windows and swimming under the giant moon sculpture was really magical. The showers were quite feeble and I didn’t want to linger barefoot, but all in all it was a great cooling off and sensory experience. Jam packed on a hot day, I got to people watch preening teens, struggling aged swimmers and local families.

A few days later — the heat had still not broken — my husband and youngest son had joined me. They were jetlagged, so I proposed another swim to Jenny. This time, early morning, at a different pool nearby. We walked to Piscine Amiraux (Pool of Admirals) early on a sleepy August Sunday morning, the familiar Paris smells filling the air. It was before 8am, so the oppressive heat was still bearable. We assumed we would only encounter diehard swimmers at this hour, but being a public bath, there were many in line who perhaps didn’t have showers at home. Once again, the no shoes policy piqued my subtle yet bothersome fear of foot fungus or worse. This time we got our own little cabinets to change that lined the pool deck in three stories. Visions of Esther Williams or some kind of Indie movie danced in my head. I’m not quite sure why I find this all so enchanting, but once more, the cool water and the light bouncing off the recently renovated roof and ceiling, charmed me in a deep way. Again, the lane etiquette was amusing, and this time a few Anglo-Saxons seemed to share our difficulties. Another diverse neighborhood, I took a moment to watch an adult swim class in a far lane and admired the French commitment to a socialized life. Imperfect perhaps, but the crowd mix was heartening. The instructor, a barrel chested classically French guy, seemed to be using a pole to drag a reluctant student. I marveled and giggled at the very un-American scene. At my local pool, the guard blows the whistle if a kid runs, and the lifeguards take their jobs very seriously. At the first pool there was a huge neon sign that said Poseidon. Curious, I asked the guard– who had chastised me for my tevas and taking pics — wondering if it was some code term for the pool. He explained it was an underwater sensory system that detects if someone sinks to the bottom, a sort of e-lifeguard. I’m not sure that excuses the laissez-faire attitude of pool safety, but it was interesting.

Freshly bathed, my core cooled down and with a spring in my step (there is nothing like a pre-breakfast swim) we headed out for the day. I only had a few days in Paris this time, but had I stayed longer, I would have tried to hit another pool. If you are at all interested in swimming in Paris, I highly recommend it as an antidote for jetlag, a window into Parisian life, a chance to appreciate some pretty cool under-the-radar architecture and public works and a chance to get a little exercise, even though you do walk miles and miles when visiting Paris.

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One of the many benefits to having our son in college at UC Santa Cruz, is we now have an excuse to explore the surrounding area. A Spring getaway to Monterey and Carmel was an opportunity to take in the natural, historical and seafood bounty of California’s Central Coast. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cycling, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Fishing, Hike/Backpack, Monterey, Northern California, Restaurants, Santa Cruz, Tide Pools, wildlife

Urban street art is omnipresent in San Francisco, where I live. I love living surrounded by colorful creations. The Mission mural tours are a must see on a visit to the city by the Bay, but it was great to see so much public art in Paris. On a recent trip, I logged nearly 20,000 steps a day, crisscrossing the city with my cousin’s toddlers in a double stroller. Murals, graffiti and inventive art pieces — some built into the edifices –  were a constant source of conversation and joy. Some political and others whimsical, I only snapped pictures of a few. This one of a balloon afro was along the canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement. The gorgeous mural by Vinie went up days before our visit. We stopped at a little playground park nearby, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off it whilst trying to keep track of the kiddos. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cafe, Europe, Farmer's Markets, Fashion, Food, France, Markets, Paris, Restaurants, Traveling with babies

I thought traveling to Paris — a city I know well and a language I speak fluently — would be easy compared to my trips to Bangkok and Guadalajara with my cousin’s twins. Surprisingly it was more challenging. The other two destinations were more affordable and, yes more foreign to me, so I had no expectations. The babies, toddlers now, are 22-months-old and each have a mind of their own, sleep less and are talking up a storm.

Jet lag horrors aside, it was a great trip, the weather in late September was glorious and our trip (a UN Climate Change conference my cousin was covering) coincided with Paris Fashion week. We quickly discovered the metro with a double stroller was a miserable option, so multiple days of hoofing it through the streets and occasional bus rides ensued. We were intrepid and covered a lot of ground, visiting classic spots like the Sacre Coeur, Jardin Luxembourg, Notre Dame, Centre Pompidou and the Eiffel Tower, as well as a quick tour of the Musée D’Orsay and my favorite small museum, the Musée Rodin. We spent time in the Marais District, walking the quays and sitting in cafes, but much of our time was spent discovering small playgrounds in the many manicured parks dotted around the city.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cafe, Culture, Europe, Family Travel, Fashion, Food, France, Museum, Paris, Traveling with babies, Urban Parks

College tours and visiting family and friends brought us to the East Coast in steamy summertime, a dose of the dog days of summer for my children of the fog.

New York City was our first stop, to visit my mom and show the kids more of my childhood haunts. Urban campus tours, museums, a day at Coney Island, a New York Yankees game, Citibikes jaunts and a touristy trek to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; all really just interludes between pizza slices for my teen boys.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Connecticut, Cycling, Driving Trips, Massachusetts, New England, Northampton, Uncategorized

Canadian pelicans winter here and retirees flock to the area. Real estate is cheap, medical care good and the weather is unbeatable. The largest lake in Mexico, Lake Chapala is less than an hour’s drive from Guadalajara and we decided to head there for four days rather than schlep four hours to the coast and Sayulita, a beachside/surf community highly recommended by many of my friends. I was accompanying my cousin and her 16-month old twins — to provide childcare — while she covered a UN Climate Change conference in Guadalajara, and this was our little getaway before the conference. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Family Travel, Fishing, Guadalajara, Markets, Mexico, Restaurants, Traveling with babies

I’ve always loved the ring of the name “Guadalajara,” but I’ve never thought much about this teeming, second-largest Mexican city. When a conference in Chile fell through I agreed to accompany my cousin and her now 16-month old twins for another UN Climate Change Conference. Once again, I did very little research and just figured I’d wing it again in my Mary Poppins kinda way.

I speak some Spanish, although it is my third language, and I thought with jet lag as a minor issue, this would be easier than our wonderful Thailand trek last fall. I had no illusions of a restful getaway, and truth be told very few expectations beyond some sun, mezcal/tequila and mariachi music. I thought churches, parks and plazas would be my hangouts with the kids, while mom helped protect the earth. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Culture, Family Travel, Food, Guadalajara, Markets, Museums, Music, Traveling with babies, UNESCO World Heritage Site, aquarium, art, zoo

Grover Hot Springs is one of those places I kind of don’t want to publicize. It’s so “old skool” and perfect as is, and we have enjoyed delightful hot mineral water soaks and plunges in every season. In the scorching summer sun, the cold pool is divine. In autumn, the changing colors encircle the complex and it feels nice to warm up in the hot pool. In springtime, the meadow is often wet and boggy, but wildflowers dot the landscape and snow can still be seen on the peaks in the distance. In winter, it’s just the best after a day on the slopes or cross country/snowshoe trails.

Set on a plateau in the High Sierra near the Nevada border in Alpine County, just outside of Markleeville, CA, this campground, swimming pool and hot spring public facility is popular already; particularly with cultures that cherish a good soak. Russian and Japanese conversations often waft through the air, mingling with with steam, and this visit was no different. Rosy faced corpulent men—each with their own perrier bottle—kibitzed in one corner; families frolicked—alternating between hot and cold—and others just gave in to feeling like cooked spaghetti.

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1 Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Camping, Family Travel, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Skiing, Spa/ Resort, Swimming, Winter Fun

After eight days in Bangkok, wrangling my cousin’s twins and exploring temples and markets, we were excited to to head to the beach. The journey to Thailand had been so arduous with the babies, my cousin’s Climate Change Conference hectic, so we opted not to fly and found a local getaway where we could unwind.

Hua Hin was a popular seaside resort for Thai elite and the King’s summer residence, and now it is popular with Scandinavian and Baltic package tours. It is about a three-hour drive from Bangkok and our hotel organized a van and driver—no car seats of course. The roads were in good shape and traffic not too horrendous, but keeping the babes occupied was certainly hard. We had a giant bag of toys and board books, cheerio type snacks and all the bottle accoutrements and tried to hold them tight, but you can imagine the gymnastics involved.

We stayed at a small friendly, family resort I would highly recommend called Anantasila Villa by the Sea. The pool, rooms and public areas were beautifully appointed and inviting, and the outdoor eating area was dreamy. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Asia, Bangkok, Family Travel, Food, Markets, Spa/ Resort, Swimming, Thailand, Thailand, Traveling with babies, shopping, temples

I recently returned from what I would call a mission, helping my cousin—a single mother of twin 11-month-olds—while she covered a UN Climate Change Conference in Bangkok.

Her initial request was for a conference in Slovenia—that sounded doable—l envisioned lovely stroller walks along the Adriatic. Then quickly the interest shifted to Bogota or Quito. I thought the altitude might be an issue, but was up for the adventure. Ultimately, my cousin’s passion lay in Climate Change, and she really wanted to cover the Bangkok conference, despite the distance and topsy turvy time change effects I warned her about.

Despite my many travels and confidence with babies, before leaving I was suddenly panicked that I wouldn’t have the stamina. What had I gotten myself into? Continue reading »

3 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Culture, Family Travel, temples