Paris is widely acknowledged as a city for lovers, but this September I visited with my mom. She flew in from San Francisco, and I flew down from Oslo for the rendezvous . Experiencing Paris with a gal pal is vastly different from visiting the same city on the arm of your husband/boyfriend/lover anyway, but we had an added bonus. Mom and I are very much alike. (Heredity, you see.) We love architecture and landscape paintings and striped shirts and ice cream and river walks and accordion music, so you might even say we are lovers of a good French time! And when we were at our leisure to choose activities or prioritize the sights, our list immediately took on a rose-colored hue. Here are a few of the delightful things we did in Paris between the usual list of tourist check boxes:

Taking a spin on le carousel de la Tour Eiffel ...

When it's hotter than Hades in Paris, you've got to make your own breeze. It didn't take much coaxing to get Mom to ride Le Carousel de la Tour Eiffel with me. I'm sure we looked a little silly, posing for photos and hanging onto our pony-and-zebra combo for dear life, but it did the trick.


Cruising the Seine and sipping vin blanc ...


Another ploy to escape the scorching weather in the City of Light, we purchased tickets on one of the many, many, many river cruises and spent an hour on the water. As part of the package, we sipped white wine and listened to the pre-recorded tourist history of each bridge we passed beneath.

Tasting gelato in the Jardin des Tuileries ...


Slick with sweat and giddy with delight, we walked through the gardens, trying to stay in the shade. When we saw the gelato cart, we almost broke into a run. The lemon gelato I enjoyed that day, served in the shape of a rose, was only one of the many delicious desserts sampled on our Paris trip. Others included crème brûlée and chocolate éclair .

Exploring the gardens of Versailles in a deluxe golf cart...


After elbowing our way through the sweaty crowds inside the Palace of Versailles, Mom and I were surprised to find the expansive estate open free to the public. (When Jonathan and I visited in 2009, the gardens required a whole second ticket with Marie-Antoinette-worthy price tag!) It would have been impossible to see the far corners of the gardens on foot, and it was, again, so hot we were panting and slurping water by the bottle-full. So, when we saw a booth where we could rent a private golf cart to tour the grounds, we jumped at the chance. A little radio played tourist info and classical music as we drove. Too cool. Too cute!

Returning to the Louvre for a night visit and finding it almost empty...


An empty Louvre? Unheard of! And a perfect chance to be a little goofy without worrying about the passing disgust of French snobs. Afterwards, we revisited the famous courtyard and took photos in the lovely, golden summerlight for which Paris is so famous. (Why can't my hair curl like that?!)

Learning to bake French pastries...


Possibly the girliest thing we did on our Mom & Daughter trip: a French pastry cooking lesson at Cook'n with Class ! Everyone in the class was American, with the exception of our animated, patient cooking instructor. We spent three hours learning how to appropriately fold and roll out the dough, prepare fillings, and shape several kinds of pastry. It was decadent!

Shopping at E. Dehillerin...


I'd never heard of this place before Julia & Julia was released a few years ago. (Mom and I agree that every scene with Meryl Streep is a gem, while every bit with Amy Adams is essentially a waste of film.) So, we had to visit E. Dehillerin on this trip because it was a favorite haunt of Julia Child when she lived in Paris, and there's nothing Mom adores more than a good cooking equipment store. I was surprised at E. Dehillerin's warehouse-chic vibe. I'd been expecting something more William-Sonoma. But Mom was in heaven! If she'd had a suitcase big enough for the giant vat, I'm sure it would have gone back to California with her. As it was, she settled for a small copper sauce pan.

Browsing the fabled bookshelves at Shakespeare & Co...


As E. Dehillerin was for Mom, Shakespeare & Co. was for me. The center of 1920s literary life and culture. A shop frequented by Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce! Technically, photos weren't allowed inside, but Mom broke the rules for me because I was floating between the stacks wearing a beret . I picked up several books, got all of them stamped, and promised myself I would visit again soon.

Drinking beer and eating waffles at Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium...


Okay, so this wasn't technically something we did in Paris, but we did hop the express train between the two European capitals and spent a day in Belgium on a whim. Beer, chocolate, and waffles. And then we returned to Paris, writing postcards on the train ride "home". The possibility for these quick, spontaneous adventures are what I love most about life in Europe, and I'm so happy I got to share that, in particular, with Mom.

People have told me a million times how much my mom and I look alike, sound alike, and act alike. I think it's a combination of the Campagna nose and the confidence that comes with being women who are well-loved by our husbands and well-liked by our friends. It was our good fortune to work side-by-side for six years before I moved to Oslo, and now I know we can travel well together, too. Looking back on this trip we shared, I keep thinking about that line in Sabrina, when Audrey Hepburn is writing a letter to her father on her last night in Paris:

It is late at night, and someone across the way is playing "La Vie En Rose". It is the French way of saying, "I am looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses," and it says everything I feel.

Mom and I are lucky girls, and now, we'll always have Paris!