A Travellerspoint blog

Buffalo Soldier

sunny 68 °F

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About 10 minutes into Saturday night's card playing, we were all belting out "Buffalo Soldier." Coco had been humming the tune. I told her I knew the words to the song she was humming. So the three of us sang, loud and clear. Eventually I admitted I didn't remember ALL the words and we looked them up online. We talked about slavery and who Bob Marley was and why he was so important to Jamaica and music. It was great to talk to them about Bob Marley, someone I've spent a lot of time listening to. I found images of Bob online but no video of him singing the song. I learned that the song was actually released posthumously.

We had spent some time yesterday afternoon talking about the Holocaust. Being here, and knowing that our trip will only present more opportunities to talk about it, I decided to introduce the kids to the holocaust yesterday. We've been spending s lot of time in Le Marais, a historically Jewish neighborhood and I wanted to go to the holocaust memorial but the visit deserved a thoughtful preface. That is, a sit down discussion at home instead of an on-the-side-walk we're-almost-there overview. All news to them. 

I get emotional when I talk to my kids about horrible things, things I wish I could shield them from forever. I remember crying telling them for the first time why we celebrate Memorial Day, why they have a day off school for that, sitting in front of the Post's "faces of the fallen" pages (and pages). I cried a bit yesterday. We went to the "memorial de la Shoah" yesterday afternoon. I suspected it would be closed (it was) but recall being able to see a lot of it from outside. We could see the list of Jews taken from France by the Nazis and talked for a long time about the very long list of French people who've been recognized for helping French Jews avoid persecution. We talked about speaking up when they knew some one was being mistreated. That this is one of our greatest responsibilities. Cried again.

When we were reading the lyrics to Buffalo Soldier (ok, we eventually DID the karaoke on YouTube), we talked about slavery and the holocaust. "fighting on arrival, fighting for survival."

Heavy stuff. It was getting pretty sad at the dining table until Henry played the Chipmunks doing Buffalo Soldier. No, not the Chipmunks covering Bob Marley!!!
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The kids spent about 6 hours today on the zip lines in Luxembourg gardens. The dad sitting next to me on a bench had a City Bikes messenger bag. Turns out he lived in Adams Morgan in the mid-90's and his friend was a City Bikes manager, even introduced him to his now wife. The kids and I walked to the gardens and back, our usual putzy selves. We bought a little painting from an artist sitting on one of the bridges. 

Henry's birthday is next Saturday and I've been collecting little things for them to find on a treasure hunt in the apartment. I got them each a cheap scarf and some trinkets today, knowing Henry is already about to burst not knowing what I've been gathering. When we are in a store here or I'm waiting in line in any crowded spot (ok, everywhere is crowded here...), I often ask both kids to go and wait outside for me. They love that tiny bit of independence and I appreciate some breathing room. And, it gives me a minute to buy a scarf or a keychain. They are young enough where we all hold hands while walking, they put on fashion shows in the apartment,they hold an elaborate wedding ceremony for their two giant balloons, we snuggle at bedtime. But, they are old enough to wait outside for a minute or two! Love those kids. They bicker and fight aplenty, but they love each other so. 
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Posted by Lindacdc 11:22 Archived in France Comments (2)

Circling Back

sunny 69 °F

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Balance was achieved. After a long day at a bottom-rung science museum yesterday, we had an amazing day in Provins, a medieval town about 1.5 hours outside of Paris. 

First, the museum. It stunk. In some places literally. It ended up costing a small fortune, and I can't say we learned much of anything. There were a couple of neat exhibits, but I mostly just kept thinking about wasting an entire day of Paris! The best thing to come of it was playtime with two Australian boys in the only decent part of the museum. This best part at least happened at the end of the day so we left feeling OK about the day. During this time, their dad and I shared lists of negative experiences at the museum. I have no desire to spend more of my energy on the City of Science and Industry so I'll stop here: yuk.

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Today was great. We took a morning train to Provins to see this medieval city. The guidebooks and sites all talk about how poorly marked the route is from the train station in the new, lower town to the old, high city. I thought I'd gathered enough tips to get us to the top. But, no. A walk that should've taken us 30 minutes took more than a hour, by the end of which I was just about to cry from all the circles I'd figured out we walked in. 

The kids kept going, not knowing how much longer we were taking than we should have. The new (what, 1700?) and the medieval cities were so pretty, we were enthralled. After we finally got to our destination, a tourism office, got a map and were off to our first official attraction, we were jazzed up. The sun was shining, the weather warm, and everything so new to us. 

We spent a long time in the tower of the old medieval city. You pay a couple of dollars and then it's self-guided from there. It was great to explore, stairwells, skinny passages, the bell tower. Gorgeous views. Such a clear day, you could easily see why the tower was well-positioned. We actually got lost in there, even tough it was not very big. We kept trying to leave and kept ending up in the same internal spot. It was pretty funny. 

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We also went to a Medieval Times type of knight show. It was us, four or five other tourists and two elementary school groups. The "spectacle" was really impressive, when you looked past the cheese factor. Insane stunts, terrific athleticism, a particularly creepy bunch of antagonists and beautiful horses. Kids loved it and so did I. 

We putzed around the old, high city more and went to the town square for lunch. That's also where the kids saw a completely out of place carousel and I gave in to one ride. Henry convinced Coco to sit with him in the hot air balloon, which also had a spin wheel you could tug on if you wanted to spin around while you spun around. Two games for the price of one, Coco declared. I took several,paces back to take pictures and the owner tried to be playful and gave the air ballon LOTS of hard spins before I realized what was happening. Henry does not like to spin, and he certainly does not like to spin quickly. The man stopped the ride (Coco and Henry were the only two on board) and Henry was crying, slumping into me, heaving. A nice apology from the operator and off we went, Poor Henry, he's only eight! 

With our map, we were at the train station in no time. A sleek European train with lots of glass and clean features. Some reading, some postcards, some journal writing. 

Seems we have a leak in our shower, which I noticed when water was half way down the hallway during Coco's shower. I'm waiting until tomorrow to call the landlord, not wanting to make the place presentable to him tonight!

Felt we hit a little milestone today. Sure, kids still get whiny and upset over seemingly nothing but we are acquiring the skills of laughing at ourselves, of laughing things off, and of using laughter as the best medicine. 

Let me end by thanking the French people for chocolate. I got a cappuccino this morning at the train station and what did I get with it at

Posted by Lindacdc 14:34 Archived in France Comments (0)

Grey Skies

rain 60 °F

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After two very long school days, we really hit the marble today. We were at the Louvre this morning before opening time and got in quickly. We were hurried along to the museum by rain showers - thank you rain! Good tourists, we made a bee line for the Mona Lisa. I had hyped the kids up for it (and for making a bee line to it) and we were not disappointed. It really is a nice painting. If I were to line up all the Louvre's paintings, would I choose the Mona Lisa as its mascot? Probably not. But, these iconic  things bring the world together, it seems. Gobs of folks poured into room 6 to gaze at the painting. all for one, one for all.

We got the audio guides. At the Louvre, they are on Nintendo 3Ds's- isn't that cool? It took us a few rooms to get the hang of the guides (we were each ready to hand them back in at one point). But, turned out they were great. 

We saw the highlights according to Linda. An amazingly preserved mummy from 4000-5000 years ago. All the Egyptian art was fascinating. The Venus de Milo (wow). A winged, headless, armless sculpture recommended by all the books, which the kids loved. Other de Vincis. 

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We spent a lot of time with Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Dutch paintings. Man, I love those. So sweet. The museum was once a fort, and then used as a palace by a string of kings, all who "collected" art or received it as "gifts" from other countries (really? Shouldn't I be suspicious of that?). After the French revolution, the palace became the people's palace, the art became the people's art, then I paid eleven euros to get in today (kids free!). Part of the museum is "Napoleon's apartment," a series of Napoleon III's living areas from his time living there. Even more ostentatious than Versailles. Henry kept saying things like, "if we owned that (chair), would we be really, really rich???" Ah, but Henry, we are rich!

Henry was very sweet in the museum. Whenever we came upon a staircase he would walk beside me, holding my hand and making sure I wasn't scared going down the stairs. Coco took 1001 pictures and was very into her audio guide. 

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We were there from 9am until just before 5, including one snack break, one lunch break, two bathroom breaks, and about 20 minutes in the gift shop. Kids did very well and were sufficiently interested in various pieces. They each picked a piece and will do another report for school on that piece.

Today, we stopped at the small grocery store two blocks down the street that has become our go-to store. On our 20 minute walk home we'd gotten slammed by rain but still needed to get a few things. Got salad fixings, some milk, and the biggest compliment ever: the check out lady told me, in French, that I was so lucky to speak both English and French! If she only knew my serious language limitations!! But, I took the compliment, yes I did! 

Late afternoon yesterday we ventured out to got to a restaurant I'd read about about a 1/2 hour walk from our apartment, in a neighborhood we'd never been to. Well, the neighborhood was awesome but the restaurant closed (or perhaps not yet open for the evening). BUT, we did find an amazing thrift store across the street. I got a necklace, Coco got yarn for hand-knitting, I found some embroidered linens, Henry got Coco a watch, all for 7 euros. We had fun in there, poking around, and think we'll try and go back. 

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We walked home the long way, stopping at Place des Vosges (so pretty) for 15 minutes on the playground and then our first time into Picard, a frozen foods store. There was one tiny shelf of non-frozen stuff. All else in freezers. We brought home a pizza, a bag of carrot and potato soup, broccoli, and tabouli, all frozen solid. Turned into a nice dinner. Oh, and mango sorbet of course!

We have another 11 days in Paris. Next stop is to see my good friend from college Barbara and her family in Rotterdam. Can't wait to meet them all! Then, onto Denmark where Don finally joins us. We are so excited to all be together! I have been mapping out our next 11 days, trying to do what we need to do and what we want to do. 

I have vacation-level sense that the world is in turmoil. The paper's front pages are all Madrid in combat. Greece. The anti-Islam film and it's myriad horrors. No words for what the people of Syria are going through. At home, a dear friend's mother has passed away. My heart breaks for her.

Posted by Lindacdc 13:13 Archived in France Comments (0)

Today is Wow

sunny 70 °F

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Since it's Sunday, I thought I'd walk the kids ragged! Every step is progress, especially when any one of us is talking. If one kid doesn't hear every syllable it's repeat central, then a brief game of operator, then I end up enunciating each word until we're all clear that Henry saw a pigeon. 

On the way to the river, around 10am,  we saw two sets of people obviously still on their way home from last night's festivities. Those were the days, then. Today is now and wow and Shasta (I've had that jingle stuck in my head). I loved my then, and I super love my now. 

We started off going to the bird market near Notre Dame Cathedral. Lots of little, caged beauties. So colorful. Mostly pets but a goose here and there, some chickens. We were all pointing, taking pictures, an outdoor Petsmart. Then to an ice cream shop on the tinier, adjacent island for, well, lunch. The timing was right, really! Cafe creme pour moi, Merci! Henry got caramel ice cream. Caramel flavored things here are not dulce de leche as much as burnt and salted. Wow. 

Just like we did at Place des Vosges a couple of days ago, our second visit to the garden behind Notre Dame Cathedral revealed a small, terrific playground. You really only need one awesome device to make a playground awesome, and this one had a flying saucer type of thing the kids loved. And, flowers still in crazy bloom. Yes, Lynnie, dahlias everywhere, probably some zinnias in there too. But this town loves its dahlias, even having a dahlia festival coming up if I read a poster correctly. 

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A walk across the river to tourist heavy Place St Michel. A gigantic fountain for Saint Michael, for sure. Slowly meandered our way further west to the Musee Rodin, a place we've been taking about for some time. Sunny day and no lines, we opted for the one euro version of the museum. That is, a ticket just the gardens. Al fresco! Kids are free so that was one euro total! The exchange rate is so bad that I try not to even convert prices, just think of the amounts in dollars. That helps a bit with some sticker shock. Big bonus: no one said a word about me bringing my cappuccino in! (We stopped in a Le Pain Quotidian two blocks away just on my hope I could sit in the Rodin garden with hot caffeine and it worked!)

The gardens were great. Even some bushes several bored kids had/were tunneling through in the back end. We spent a long time at the Gates of Hell, talking about heaven and hell and what might get you into one and not the other. But why would some one kill some one? Incomprehensible. When does a lie become so bad that you'd live forever in fire? Do you believe in heaven and hell, mom? They know my religious leaning, or lack thereof. But, I always say such beliefs are very personal, and my beliefs are only my own and are certainly not even shared by most people. That they need to think about things on their own and come to their own conclusions. Guess we'd never gotten to heaven and hell. Thanks, Monsieur Rodin. Maybe that's what The Thinker is thinking about.

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On the way home, we sat on a bench and watched three simultaneous games of pétanque, which as far as my knowledge takes me is just like bocce but I'm probably overlooking some key differences. We liked watching, talking about how nice it was that these older men were outside, talking, at least bending over every few minutes (except for the few that had long chains, the ends of which had magnets to capture their metal balls for them). Seemed like a perfectly fitting activity for those who find it perfectly fitting. 

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Home for card playing (still playing stealing bundles (Henry calling it "stealing Coco's bundles, much to her chagrin), journal writing, postcard writing, dinner, showers, failed Skype attempts, reading.

For the home team: Go HMB Tigers kid pitch!! Heard you all won your first game, Congratulations!!

More than 25,000 on the pedometer. 

Posted by Lindacdc 12:45 Archived in France Comments (2)

Single File, and Tech Crash

sunny 64 °F

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We walk a lot. But, our kids don't yet walk in a straight line without turning around to comment, question, or make sure i'm right there behind them every five paces. So, 20 minutes on a Google family's map can mean 40 minutes on ours. I am a drill sargent, holding the back of our line: single file!, stay right!, go left!, green man! (what we say when the pedestrian crosswalk man turns green), arrette!, attendez!. Don't walk in the street, no matter how little sidewalk is left by a cafe's tables and three abreast Parisians advancing. These are our walking rules, and they've helped us stay intact and sane. We also have a plan for what to domif we are separated on the Metro (hard to imagine since Henry insists we all three hold hands getting on and off the trains).

But, I've also made up some rules! some i fess up to quickly (public punishment of kids is expected and supported in France). others, i am keeping! - only water is allowed on the playground!

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from here, i lost my long blog about our great day. i blame the tooth fairy. the kids chose (yuK) to rent the tooth fairy 2 (yes, one with cable guy as tooth fairy) (CANNOT think of worse movie). the first English language thing they've watched - just figured out how to redeem gift card! while they watched the "movie" on my ipad, i worked on my blog on other devices. but, apparently, nothing saved (thanks, autosave!).

I am too exhausted to re-write. So, here is a list that barely does our day justice:

errands (camera stuff, striped shirts!)
Musee de l'Orangerie (Claude Monet central. were there when sunlit rooms gave way to dark clouds - amazing difference, amazing paintings; a white room just to decompress yourelf into the museum)
back to the trampolines in the Tuilleries gardens
neighborhood festival near the Louvre
awesome, old, packed kitchen store
kids rallied when mom was obviously frustrated, tired, confused by seemingly endless ways that lines and paying for things work in each store

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and, more than 21,000 steps on pedometer today.

here's to better technology tomorrow!!
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Posted by Lindacdc 13:08 Archived in France Comments (1)

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