The second part of the EPIC Paris travelogue commences here. (Also, as an added bonus for those who need a review after being away from the story for a day, I went through and added some images to yesterday’s post.) I really am going to try and channel my verbosity into another, more positive vector, because otherwise our five day trip to Paris is going to somehow occupy a month of time in the retelling. Not right. Given that Part One covered Saturday, this post will commence with Sunday morning. Or, perhaps, a bit earlier…
We woke up for breakfast at approximately 2:30am– or, more to the point, Sawyer woke up around 2:30, and decided to entertain the suite with a medley of songs of pain and (teething) suffering for several hours. This was when our love for our Hotel began to bloom, as we were not summarily escorted into the street for an airport-landing-strip-level sound disturbance. Sawyer finally thought her point was made at about 5:30, so we decided to ruminate on her thesis of pain for a few hours before going down to have our petit dejeuner (breakfast) in the hotel breakfast room. We enjoyed this experience enough that we decided to repeat it each morning– there was an additional cost of 12€ per adult’s breakfast, but that seemed competitive, and the food was fresh & good: bread, meat, cheese, cereals, juices, coffee or hot chocolate, and a selection of small sweet breads (pain au chocolate, etc.). We felt more human after an injection of caffeine, and the kids (who SOMEHOW had missed the three hours of baby pain) were happy to get started on the day. We left, and took the Métro to the Luxembourg Gardens.
I should refer, at this point, to my long-winded post concerning Strollers & The Tube; taking the Métro was far easier culturally, but somewhat harder physically. It is far simpler to get a stroller into the Métro cars than into a Tube car, and once you are aboard, the doors open consistently on one side (as opposed to the random platforming on The Tube lines), so riding once aboard is generally easier. (There are several varieties of Métro car in service, BTW, all of which were FASCINATING to Eli– as in, we had to compulsively look them up individually on the computer. THAT kind of fascinating.) However, getting to the platform itself can be somewhat daunting. There are fewer escalators (at least on the lines we took– the 1, 4, 6, 9, and 10) than there are in the Tube system. And there are hella steps, ohmigod. Given all the mileage of the pedestrian tunnels of the Métro, you wonder how there can be room for those famous Paris catacombs, let alone BASEMENTS under buildings. I mentioned, I think, in Strollers & The Tube that there are a surprising number of people in London who anonymously appear with a ready hand when they see you struggling with a baby buggy on the steps, which is awesome, and happens even MORE frequently in Paris– and on this trip, we were traveling as a unit, so Lana and I were able to do our own double-teaming– but no matter how many helpful strangers there are, the number of steps does not diminish. Also, some of the automatic entrance/exit gates tried to munch Lana and I. However, any discomforts were compensated for by the incredible interest the French seem to have in children and babies. The kids had many MANY people willing to pull faces or otherwise interact with them on the trains; we emphasized this positive experience by trying not to travel at commuter-heavy times, so that the expansive mass of our family was not (literally) pressing itself on the French general public. All in all, a significantly more pleasant experience than traveling in The Tube with children.
The children’s play area at the Luxembourg Gardens (which was our first stop within the rather large grounds) is pretty incredible. It was huge, with a variety of equipment for all ages & sizes, and kept the kids running from one thing to the next. It cost 1.50€ for each adult, and 2.50€ for each child; this seemed worthwhile, especially when you factored in access to clean toilets (access to which elsewhere in the Garden cost about 1.50€).
After the enclosed children’s area, Finley desperately wanted to go on a nearby carousel. Eli & Finley rode, with Finley on the outside so that she could “joust” for the rings. I include a video of Finley successfully getting a brass ring here:
Then, after all the jousting, folks were hungry. We had crêpes beurre sucre (crêpes with butter and sugar) from the cafe stand next to the Marionette Theatre– delicious. It will be important to future family re-tellings of this story that, at this point, Finley said (rather adamantly, and WAY TOO PIERCINGLY) that she did NOT like crêpes— which (of course) changed in the course of this trip. We walked out of the Garden going south (toward the Paris Observatory), and walked to the Fondation Cartier, a permanent exhibition space founded by… you guessed it, Cartier… currently featuring a retrospective exhibit of one of my favorite graphic artists, Moebius. Sawyer’s reception of the exhibit may have been influenced by her reduced sleep, teething, or (perhaps) by her age. She was unimpressed. Eli was well into it, especially the 3D movie that was part of the exhibition (it was pretty awesome); Finley’s interest waxed & waned; Lana did well as the partner-who-suffers-through-the-other-person’s-slightly-ridiculous-interests… and hey, maybe I will end up returning the favor when we head to Dickens World (although I AM actually looking forward to that– don’t tell her). For the comics-informed readership, I will say that the collection was awesome, and seeing some of the original sketchbooks for Arzach (written, it would seem, in a large Moleskine?), Silver Surfer: Parable, and (my favorite) Major Grubert of The Airtight Garage was really cool. From there, we walked/dragged/carried each other (Finley was tired) back to the hotel. Lana held the kids down and/or together, whilst I headed out to find some bread & cheese for a late lunch.
This was a little more difficult than it initially seemed. I found a wonderful boulangerie right off the bat– which went by the unlikely name of “Passion Forest“– but I was unable to find any cheese for purchase. This is because Paris closes much of itself down on Sunday, which seems like a fine, quirkily “European” idea, until you can’t find any cheese. I WAS able to find something else, though. I bought Lana (and the rest of us, really) some of the most beautiful marzipan fruits I have ever seen.
The shop was called Desgranges, and was beautiful (both the contents AND the shop itself– the shop looked like a Tiffany box full of candy jewels). Candies and sweets of every size and description. Chocolates. Tarts. Huge meringues I could have dropped an engine in & driven home. Oh, yes– and macarons, in every color and flavour. I also brought a dozen of THOSE bad boys home. (Sadly, they suffered a little at the hands of our children before being consumed; one was trod upon, and another …ahem… farted upon. Accidentally. I will only tantalize you with that tidbit, and not launch into the whole gnarly story.) So that constituted a late lunch. We tried to cajole/force/demand that the kids nap for a little while, as their various behaviours were becoming… excessive. That sort of worked; after an hour or so we decided they would be able (probably) to keep it together through dinner.
For dinner, we went to Le Brasier. We went entirely on the recommendation of the desk clerk at the hotel; I wish we had gotten his name, as he went out of his way to help us & gave great advice. He had described it as being “very traditional,” which it was. The interior had rustic elements with fun, dated colours and seemed perfect. Each table had a small electric grill set into the surface of the tabletop at either end (necessitating Sawyer’s placement in the middle of the table, for once, and some terribly serious instruction to the children); on these grills were set two of the house specialties– fondue savoyardes (bread dipped in hot cheese) and fondue bourguignonne (meat dipped in hot oil). This was fantastic. Not just super tasty– the fact that we got food at all was fantastic. Lana had taken French in High School & College, and I had taken it in College as well; regardless of our academic achievements, our conversational skills were, how you say, lacking? The incredibly polite and humorous had limited English, and was trying to confirm my badly butchered order for the children (he had gotten the adult orders before, assisted by us pointing directly at the items on the menu)– I was asking for “pain au beurre pour les enfants, s’il vous plait” (my attempt at “bread with butter for the kids, if you please”) and he was looking stupefied. He said with a half-grin, “A bull?” I shook my head no. The grin grew. “A, how you say, umbrella?” Again, I shook my head, smiling myself. Lana was so stunned / entertained by the mistranslation that she couldn’t try and elucidate on my behalf. I took a crayon and scrap of paper from the kids, and wrote my pidgin phrase out. He smiled deeply, and said, “Ah. Your French is very good. But not for speaking.” The meal was delicious, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed their bull and umbrella (by which I mean bread), along with servings of our meat & cheese. (We did not bother dipping Sawyer’s Cheerios or disgustingly-gnawed hunks of bread in anything– she is less “adventurous” than the other two.)
And then we retired to the hotel. End of Day Two. Looking at the length here, I believe I will save Day Three for another post. I am not doing well on the “brevity” tip.