A Travellerspoint blog

Ups and Downs

semi-overcast 67 °F

en route

en route

"Right now," Coco's favorite number is 10. Wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that she is 10. Anyone who knows Coco knows that she is affable, quick to please, extremely helpful and laid back. Henry can generally be described as the opposite. They have a lot of common traits but plenty of interesting differences. So far on this trip, Coco has been at times uncharacteristically difficult and unwavering. I think it's all the changes, time zones and no Papa. Henry on the other hand has still been an OCD handful at times but he has really risen to the challenges of travel in ways I was hoping for but wasn't sure he'd achieve. I am proud of both of them. Coco putting some defenses up, looking for normalcy and Henry being an excellent team player. 

Of course, Henry just said, "I am not leaving this apartment tomorrow." But, that's just Henry being his contrarian self in advance of any stated plans. He's called shot gun on saying he does not want to do x, y or z. But, he'll come around and we'll have fun.  

After school, we found a place where I could print out tickets to some museums we'll go to next week. We have wifi in the apartment but no printer. This was a huge subterranean room with hundreds of computers, no "cafe" aspect to it at all. I had no idea French keyboards would be different! I had to buy extra time just because it took me 5 minutes to find the period and another 5 to figure out how to get the @ to appear. 

We then made our way north to meet up with Guillaume, a friend of Don's who's studying in Paris. Early (!), we got postcards and sat in a cafe, with a massive meringue and other goodies, while listening to an accordionist charm tourists under a nice big tree. Guillaume ended up giving us a wonderful tour of Monmartre, Sacre Coeur and the surrounding area, including a woody descent down the hill to the Moulin Rouge and then to Pigalle, where we had a drink in the cafe made famous by the movie Amelie. I thought we were just meeting to say hi (we'd met before, at a crepe place on 14th Street when we were planning the trip), but that it turned into a great neighborhood tour with an ADULT TO TALK TO was super. Merci Guillaume! 
We took the metro home and still ended up logging almost 15,000 steps on my pedometer. Scrambled eggs for dinner, showers for the kiddies, journal writing and kids in bed by 10 (sort of). We have GOT to get our schedule in order! Or, do we? 

Posted by Lindacdc 13:43 Archived in France Comments (1)

Extended Play

sunny 68 °F

Good day today. Felt a sense of rhythm to our day. The kids have very little touristic inclination. We ended up, after school of course, going to the Musee de la Poupee, or doll museum.  The name alone, a poopy museum!, was enough to get us to walk the 20 minutes (believe me, Henry wants to do a map check every half block to make sure we don't walk three paces out of our way) to this sweet little museum in an alley.  We all enjoyed it, especially Coco.  Like a fifth grader at the zoo alone for the first time with her own camera, I think she took a picture of every doll, high chair, and doll house in the museum. Glad we went. I was never interested in dolls as a child but have grown to appreciate them through Coco.  She can spend hours with them, dressing, feeding, changing, arranging. She has a deep love for them, my sweet girl. Henry awwwed and oohed right along with us, having himself spent a day or two of his life as Coco's baby boy.  
Miraculously, we ended up at our nearby, wonderful playground. We were there for more than an hour, me reading, and then went back after dinner. The play ground is encircled by benches, where all the parents sit. I've seen kids fall hard, cry for endless moments, get smacked square in the face with a charging soccer ball and tussle over placement on the equipment.  But, never once have I seen a parent get off the bench or manage their children from the sidelines. The kids have always worked it out. I have seen kids huddle hurt kids and walk them to their mom or dad, which is very sweet. There is something liberating about being at the playground here. I am not expected to umpire every dispute or run to every bump. I read! 

I would've also been drinking coffee but you don't just get a 20 ounce caffeine drink here and head to the park. I looked around this afternoon - no one had a coffee in the park! Lots of cookies and crackers for the kiddies but no coffee for mama. And, I survived and will surely sleep better for it.  

Dinner? Falafel! Cheap, some protein, and cheap! I mean, delicious! I know Coco loves it but Henry's always resisted. Tonight, he said it was really wonderful. They each got it "sans aubergine" (thank you Ms Kurdys for the story that will forever remind me how to say eggplant in French).  
We walked home our usual way, taking us north of Centre Pompidou up Rue Montorgueil where we self-toured a butcher shop with some just killed ducks and chickens, feet and heads intact. We talked about why they would leave the heads and feet on and how much sense it makes not to waste it, that it can bring a lot of flavor to a lot of food beyond a single meal.  We also self-toured a fish shop. By self-toured, of course, I mean we were just there to be in the way and didn't buy anything. Lots of cheese shops, a whole shop that just sells jams. And, of course, the bakery and pastry shops. Man, that stuff is really delicious.  Crunchy and crispy and sweet and soft just where you want it to be crunchy and crispy and sweet and soft.  A true art form indeed. A phenomenal (!) bakery closest to us also happens to have very nice staff, who tonight gave us three mini pain au chocolat along with our baguette aux raisins. Merci Madame! We may be in trouble.  If my posts become exclusively about bread and croissants and fruit tarts, do not be too surprised and, please, do not send assistance.

We did get some fruit and a small loaf of said raisin bread for morning. Stopped across the street for milk and it was home again, home again. After about 8 cycles in the euro dryer, one towel and a few clothes were finally dry! Victory! 

Since the only English tv is news ("boring!" = yeah!), we've been playing crazy eights and trying to keep Henry from counting cards. I do watch some TV after the kids go to bed and the news is so different, so much more graphic and less sugar coated than US newscasts. I don't know what the US showed of the Libyan ambassador's murder, but the scenes shown here were extensive and graphic.  the same is true for coverage of Syrians fleeing Syria, or trying to. 

I heard Henry say "pardon" and Coco say "Merci" today, both unprompted by me. tres bien, mes enfants, tres bien!

Posted by Lindacdc 13:31 Archived in France Comments (1)

Jumping for Joy

sunny 65 °F

When we got here two days ago Henry spilled a quart or so of milk, which I sopped up with a towel. I then put the towel in the laundry "room" and closed the door.  Man did that room reek this morning when we went in there to do some laundry! Lesson learned! Besides that towel, the apartments working out great. Our street is not the most picturesque of streets but it's a very nice neighborhood and within walking distance to all the major sites. And, lots of stores big and small selling laundry detergent. The side walk in torrent of our building is maybe 18 inches wide. So, you really can't even peek out to see if it's clear to leave the building without potentially smashing into some rushed Parisian. This has proven very humorous to us. Re-entering the building also has to be well-timed, trying not to have a Parisian pile-up behind us. 

Using more and more French. Thinking of writing, "An Ode to Christine Kurdys.". She was my high school French teacher and an amazing one at that. I remember lengthy lessons on saying "Bof!," loosely translated as "harrumph." we had to shrug our shoulders when we said it, over and over again.  Ms. Kurdys was from the mid-west and would imitate mid-westerners speaking French, while her own French was so beautiful. She also had a thing for Catherine Denuerve (sp...) and would go on and on about how perfectly, unmatchedly gorgeous she was.  Ms. Kurdys didn't dress like anyone else, didn't look like anyone else, didn't teach a class like anyone else.  She introduced us to existentialism, to art. French class was wonderful. I went on to minor in French in college. Since then, I've become more than rusty. But, I trust my instincts and the vocabulary is coming back, the verb tenses. Merci, Madamoiselle Kurdys! I was the odd ball that loved high school, thanks in no small part to you. 

We had our first "school day" today and the kids did great. Henry insisted on getting graded. Coco was as slow as ever (we call her Pokey...) but she finished strong too.  I got to thinking the homeschooling thing will work out just fine. The kids are FAR from being acclimated to Paris time (I had to me them both up today, at nearly 11am. Once we get our sleeping schedule back in the realm of normalcy, all will be easier.  
We walked to the Louvre today, to go to the adjacent Tuileries garden.  We looked at the Louvre and talked about what was inside. Henry: "So, the REAL Mona Lisa is in there, talking and walking around and everything?". And so my day goes! We did not makers for the art today, but for the playgrounds. Today was cool and sunny and we finally found the trampoline playground I'd told the kids about months ago (many versions of our trip planning had us going there directly from the airport...). For 2 euros each kid gets 5 minutes on a 6x8 trampoline, all 8 trampolines lined up in two rows of four with some padding in between. Masterful! Kids are happy because, well, they are on a trampoline and parents are happy because their kids are fenced in an outdoor padded play pad. Everyone wins! 

We saw some amazing architecture today, the Opera, La Comedie-Francaise, the Arch de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Place Vendome.  Lots of oohing and aahing by all.  

Today's bakery summary: baguette, small raisin bread, one pistachio macaroon and one "pink" macaroon (turned out it was strawberry).  

Pedometer: 11,500 steps. 

Posted by Lindacdc 14:49 Archived in France Comments (5)

Rain and Beauty

rain 65 °F

Rain today. Our big plan to go to the Tuileries gardens for the awesome playground (can you say trampolines?) was squished. Instead, we sacrificed and walked to Notre Dame cathedral. How beautiful. I'd been there before but was quite wonderful to show Coco and Henry. The size of it alone is breathtaking. We had a lame lunch at a cafe near the cathedral, mostly to get out of the rain. A very small, crowded and wet cafe. Within 45 minutes we dropped two forks and two napkins, spilled a glass of water and Henry squirted about a 1/4 cup of ketchup on his khakis. To make things more interesting, we were at a communal table with a couple who must have kids in their lives.  We've encountered some very nice, helpful people. We used some of our cafe time to write a few postcards. I looked up and both kids we struggling to peel the backing off of their postage stamps. They have never encountered a stamp that is not a sticker, I guess. A teachable moment!

Dinner at the apartment and then an evening walk to the playground we went to yesterday. Tonight, we closed that placed own! Well, it was only 7:30pm but closing anything down is a novelty for me. We logged more than 18,000 steps today on our pedometers.  Well, Coco did. Henry and I didn't set ours correctly and decided to just go by Coco's counter. That's even including a metro ride home from Notre Dame. 

It's amazing how such an old city can be so modern and livable. Next year, Notre Dame will be 850 years old (not that i'd live there, but still). We've walked by a 17th century home today (now apartments). The sidewalks are narrow, the curbs bringing you within reaching distance of quick traffic. There is just so much plain old hanging out. Makes you think that one should just hang out more and all would be OK.  

Posted by Lindacdc 13:34 Archived in France Comments (3)

We Made It

sunny 70 °F

Thanks to the compass Don gave Henry, we made it to our airplane with plenty of time to spare. Actually, thanks to Don driving us to Dulles, with a side trip to see baby Addison, Brooks, Jason, Katie in Herndon along the way. Actually, made it to the airport a full three plus hours before the flight thanks to my neuroses and Don's chauffeuring ( did I just throw a French word in there?).  Just like my dad always did, I like to get places early. Like before things are even open, wait in the parking lot for 45 minutes early. Otherwise, it's anxiety city. Of course we have time to walk to the other concourse in search of a Greek salad, we have three hours! For me, three hours of saying no to airport news stand stuff is better than my "I am late" stress. 
We were digging Air France. Kids wanted to keep the tiny salad dressing bottle, the silver plastic cutlery, the pillow, the blanket, the headphones. Indeed, these may show up in three months as souvenirs for some of our closest friends. We discovered a self service bar 10 rows back. Really! Vive l'Air France! 
Not much sleep for anyone. A couple of hours for Henry, even less for Coco.  And, had to wake them both up for landing. Smooth customs and oh-so-proud moment using my chip-and-PIN card for our train tickets to downtown. We made it!
First day a blur. Sweaty, grateful entry into apartment in the 2nd arrondissement. Four hour nap after some major melt-downs, one of which had Coco packing up to go back home. Quick walk around the neighborhood for some groceries, a street crepe, and failed attempt to find a playground. We did find it actually but it was for the tiniest of kids, oldest maybe 3. The market and crepe place were within about a 15 minute loop of our apartment. When we got back, what was across the street but a market and a crepe place. We need more sleep.
we came home, regrouped and headed back out looking for another, better playground and found one the next neighborhood over, in the Marais. Great spot, good toys and lots of kids. A real universal language, play. I haven't been told by anyone toavoid the water somwe've already enjoyed the gushing water fountains around thecity to fill our water bottles. Guess we'll know in the next day or two if that's such a good idea. Lots of smokers. Lots. Even at the playground. Smoking! Half the kids running around barefoot in a downtown playground! We even saw a big dog without a leash on the metro tonight. Total chaos! And, no wonder the tour de France has cars driving within inches of the cyclists, thatt's exactly how the streets are here. No buffer zone, pas du tout. Had an awesome falafel for dinner and gelato in the place de vosges, a small but perfect square, Paris's first, surrounded by wine-drinking, dinner-eating locals under the arches surrounding the square. A lot more walking today than we expected, given that this is one of a couple "travel/do close to nothing" days. And, darn, we forgot to put the pedometers on! Tomorrow the pedometers come out! 

Posted by Lindacdc 15:51 Archived in France Comments (1)

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