france for kids
“I smell chocolate!” I‘m excited to share this news with my sister, who is trying hard not to trip on the cobblestones beneath our feet. As we walk down the street, the air becomes increasingly sweeter. We’re on our way to a pâtisserie in the Marais, one of the most famous neighborhoods, or arrondissements, in Paris. A pâtisserie is a special kind of French bakery that makes fancy and delicious pastries, like macarons, madeleines, and pain au chocolat. Our parents have been visiting this same pâtisserie for years! They are friends with the pâtissier (pastry baker) Pierre. This is our first family trip to Paris, and I can’t wait to meet Pierre. My mom told me he promised to teach us how to make some French sweets!
At the end of the street stands the pâtisserie. It has tall wooden doors painted a pastel blue. On either side are two large windows, filled to the brim with flaky croissants, colorful macarons, and fruit tarts displayed like a work of art. Everything is carefully arranged on dainty white trays. My mouth begins to water and I can’t wait to try something!
Together, my sister and I push open the heavy blue door. Out pours a wave of sugary sweet air. Yum! We step through the doors and onto a shiny black and white tile floor. I skip across the tiles to the counter. The bottom is blue, like the doors, but the top is a sparkling white marble. Apart from the register, the entire counter is covered in pastries. I can see stacks of them through the shiny panes of glass, the name of each one written in delicate cursive on a tiny folded notecard.
france for kids
“Can we order?” my sister asks, but at that moment, I realize we are only people in the pâtisserie. A few blue tables sit vacant near the door. No one is waiting behind the counter to take our order.
“Bonjour,” my mom calls out. “Is anyone here?” When there’s no reply, my parents lean over the counter and peer into the back kitchen. Pierre’s apron is draped over a stool, but the baker himself is nowhere to be found. “Pierre is missing!” my mom exclaims.
“We’ve got to find him,” says my dad, determined. “We fly home tomorrow.”
“Where could he have gone?” my mom wonders aloud.
I look down and see a thin trail of chocolate leading from the kitchen across the tile to the front door. A clue! I point to it, “We can follow the clues to find Pierre!”
“Great idea!” my mom says. We start by following the trail of chocolate out the door and back onto the cobblestone street. It’s busy, but not so crowded that our trail has been trampled by passersby. We pass little cafés with carefree diners and charming shops peddling flowers and perfume. Every house along the winding road is one of a kind. Some are painted in pale shades of red, yellow, and blue. while others remain hidden behind a thick coat of ivy. Between the sweet perfume and fragrant flowers, it becomes hard to follow the scent of the chocolate.
Suddenly, we reach the end of the street at the banks of the Seine River. We can see the Île de la Cité, an island in the middle of the Seine—home to Notre Dame cathedral. Large boats filled with carefree sightseers glide by while pigeons coo softly. In spite of the crowds, there’s no trace of Pierre or his chocolate trail.
“What do we do now?” I ask my mom. “Maybe we can spot him from the Eiffel Tower,” my little sister offers. “It might be a bit hard to see him from all the way up there,” my dad replies.
“Does Pierre have a favorite place in Paris?” I ask. “Maybe we can look for him there!”
france for kids
“Hmm,” my mom thinks for a moment. “He loves walking along the Seine. The boats remind him of sailing, something he loves to do in the summer.” When my mom says this, my mind jumps back to the bakery. In the window display, there was a beautifully decorated tarte with a chocolate sail boat floating atop a creamy wave. Instantly, I know where Pierre has disappeared to. “Mom,” I say, “I think I can find Pierre, but we need to get to the Luxembourg Gardens.”
To reach the gardens, we have to cross the Seine. We walk along a bridge decorated in elegantly carved stone statues, lantern lights hanging from tall pillars for night time travelers. As the sun begins to set, the soft glow becomes brighter against the darkening sky.
We see a red metro sign and descend down the stairs to an underground train. The ride is only a few minutes. When we emerge from the station, we are greeted by the most magnificent gardens. A few days ago we came here for a picnic, but the night sky overhead makes it even more breathtaking. Impressive fountains shoot water into the sky and a wall of mist hits my face. Children are running to and fro as their parents walk hand in hand down the tree-lined lanes. A gentle accordion hums a happy tune and, as we approach a great pond, I smell the faintest hint of chocolate in the air.
At first, I don’t see Pierre. Instead, I am overwhelmed by the enormous palace that towers overhead. All around the pond, families are gathered with tiny sailboats, cheering as they race from one shore to the other.
Just then I see a flock of ducks near the water’s edge. Someone is tossing them breadcrumbs. “It’s Pierre!” I say. We race through the crowds toward a gray-haired man holding half a baguette.
“Pierre, bonsoir!” my dad exclaims. “I knew we’d find you!”
Pierre smiles and checks his watch, “Ah, oui, it is much later than I thought. I hope you didn’t have to look too hard for me.”
“Nope,” I say. “We just followed the chocolate trail!”
“You must be hungry,” says Pierre. “Let’s go back and enjoy some sweets!”
“Oui chef!” we all cheer, happy to have solved the case of the missing Parisian baker.