When I conjured up images of wandering the streets of Paris with my children, we were always resting our weary feet in a beautiful apartment in the 1st Arrondissement. I imagined strolls along the Left Bank after dark, and ice cream under the stars as the Eiffel Tower sparkled.
You can imagine my surprise when my husband came home from some work errands and suggested camping just outside of Paris. It took me less than a second to reply with an emphatic NO! What about my dreams, my vision, my perfect picture?
After some discussion, I was reminded that we have graced many beautiful apartments in many glamorous cities and maybe it was time to try something different. Feeling like I was settling and that Paris wasn’t going to be at all what it could be, I acquiesced.
When we arrived on a little island in the middle of the Seine river, I knew my husband was right about this whole camping thing, but I wasn’t quite ready to say it. To clarify, “camping” in Paris is more like a caravan park with perfectly outfitted “mobile” homes housing people from every corner of the globe.
The café served fresh pain au chocolat every morning and there were sports fields, sports equipment, board games and ping-pong to entertain us when we weren’t in the city. What I noticed immediately was the pleasure of having our own space with no one downstairs or upstairs and no city noise.
We were lounging on the banks of the Seine after hours in the city, and barbecuing. It was all so different than what I ever imagined and the best was yet to come!
Our “campground” was 10 minutes by train to the Arc de Triomphe AND in the most stunning suburb imaginable. Maisons- Laffitte is northwest of Paris and a town of about 30,000.
The sprawling mature yet wild gardens, floating in endless parks, capped off with stunning architectural marvels from days gone captivate even the most skeptical visitor. My definition of “suburb” has been forever altered.
As we jogged by Louis the XIV’s hunting lodge every morning, through the cobbled streets, bike paths were full of people, kids were running to school and the vintage carousel was spinning in the sunlight. I realized it was time to admit that camping in Paris was the perfect idea.
We shopped at the weekly market with local families. We “commuted in” on the train with Parisians heading off into their day.
Over the weekend we stumbled across an incredible Equestrian Horse Show on the grounds of the famed Hippodrome de Maisons-Laffitte.
Bianca and I watched thoroughbred horses sail over jumps for hours as the boys played pick-up “football” with a pack of French boys outside the arena.
It was those moments that made us feel like we really lived in Paris. It was something we never could have experienced in the city.
We were a part of something real, brief yet real, and it felt really extraordinary to return “home” from touring the big city each day. Camping in Paris? Why not!