. . . my oldest daughter first stepped foot in Paris, France. It changed her life forever. I didn't have my blog then so I decided to commemorate our trip here this year. Maybe you'll enjoy it. If not, I'll see you in a few days.
She graduated High School on June 9th and her dad and I had wrestled for months about how we wanted to reward all her hard work and celebrate the upcoming years of her life. We talked about everything from a sum of money to jewelry, but it seemed the only thing appropriate was a trip to her fantasy land: Paris. At first, I balked because I knew the expense would be high, but the more we researched, the more it became feasible and the more dad insisted. Since I had spent much of my childhood in France, I was so excited to return and to share it with my daughter.
She took this photo of me in the airport before our trip.
And off we flew on June 29, 2007.
We flew during our US afternoon and evening with a layover in Newark arriving in the morning, Paris time. Ken had arranged for a car to pick us up and take us to our little (understatement of the year) rented apartment. We moved through baggage pickup without any problems, but customs took us forever. There were many tourists arriving including several large groups of kids and no one knew what line to be in. We eventually got to the check-through and we were on our way. I was worried that the driver would've left us by then, but thankfully, he was still there! It was funny to see our name on a card held up by someone in the greeting line. The driver was even more amused that I greeted him in French and gave me my first compliment of the trip, "Vous parlez tres bien le Francais." Ahhh, merci monsieur.
When he learned the purpose of our trip and that I had been there as a child, he was so accommodating, insisting on taking us the scenic route. He, as well, arrived as a child in France from Africa. As we rounded the Arc de Triomphe, and started down the Champs Elysses, (this picture is SOOC –straight-out-of-HER-camera) Emily was almost hyperventilating in a relatively calm sort of way. She saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance and wanted to jump out of the car and get there on her own! It was so rewarding to watch her enjoying her initial impressions of a city that was my home at one point as a child and that is her 'fantasy home'. Seeing it again, through my adult eyes, and through my child's eyes, is a perspective of this trip that I'll never forget.
We weaved through tiny streets and arrived at our destination, rue des Tournelles. There was a large gate that we had the security code to, then we made our way through this lovely courtyard to our apartment. I knew it would be small (20 sq.m, I think!), and I thought I had mentally prepared myself for such, but was a little unprepared to find a whole apartment not much larger than my master bathroom at home. Granted, my master bath is quite sizable, but I didn't think it was 20 sq.metres! Cozy is how I would describe our living quarters for twelve days. The living area was also the bedroom, which revealed itself when we pulled out the futon. There was a small (VERY small kitchen) with a couple of burners, a fridgenette, and some cabinets. The bathroom was smaller than an average American ½ bath and was basically in the entry to the apartment, but included a shower, a sink, a toilet, and a heated towel rod, which was convenient, given there weren't many towels provided. When we were seated you-know-where, the sink was at our chins! Here are a few more pictures.
(The artwork you see over the kitchen sink was a window overlooking the central staircase! And I'm pretty sure all these photos were taken with a wide angle lens! The pictures make it look WAY larger than it was! No problem, though. . . we didn't need much space!)
Our Rental Host met us there, showed us around (with about three steps in each direction!), told us he was headed to Indianapolis for his girlfriend's brother's wedding (or something) then we were on our own. I experienced about two seconds of "oh my goodness, I'm alone with my daughter in a foreign city", then I said, "Are you hungry? I noticed a boulangerie on the corner. . . are you up for your first French experience?" Her answer was, "Mais, bien sur!" (But, of course!)
We were exhausted. We had, after all, been up all night. However, things were hopping in the Marais and we were hungry. So we figured out how to find the 'open-the-gate-button' (it was dark in the carriage park and we couldn't find the light! Finally, we saw a 'tiny' light and pushed it. . . ahhhh. . . the gate opened!) and we were on our way to the corner. I had to sort out the ordering line, then the paying line, and the workers didn't seem too happy with me even though I was attempting, for the first time in probably 20 years, to speak their language! But we got our quiche, bread, and of course, éclair, and went back to the apartment to eat it. We set it out on the tiny table and ate voraciously.
We were extremely exhausted and kind of ended up scrunched on the futon after we ate. It was Saturday, the 29th, the last Saturday in June. As I napped fitfully, I kept hearing music beating through the windows. It wasn't nice guitar solo, or classical radio, but it was a definite rhythmic beat. Emily was leaning on me on the futon, reminding me of her baby naptimes. I wished I could've figured out how to open that thing! I didn't want to move too much for fear of disturbing her, but I finally had to get some feeling back! So I woke Em and we both tried to figure the music out. We only came to the decision that we would have a noisy neighbor for 12 days. Oh La! Ca, ce n'est pas bon!
We showered and decided to explore our neighborhood. As we walked down the streets of the Marais, we kept seeing rainbows, but knew that it hadn't rained. That's a joke. . . the rainbows were on clothing, worn as capes, sprayed in hair, painted on bodies, and they reflected the Gay Pride celebration that always happens in Paris on the last day of June. Em and I realized that the music we had heard during our fitful nap was of a concert being performed in the Place de la Bastille all afternoon. I don't know if it was our lack of sleep, our reaction at realizing what all the color in an otherwise black & white city was about, or just the giddiness we felt at being in the City of Lights, but we were suddenly giggly and casting glances at each other. Oh the communication (and fun!) you can have without saying a word!
We saw such OTHER wonderful sites as this:
(The photo of the meringues was for Aly, who LOVES them!)
I loved the quintessential site of the old man on the streets of Paris. The light fixture is on the Place des Vosges, one of my favorites. The photo of the cyclists is a photo of a piece of glass artwork. The Place des Vosges is full of art galleries!
We found the Monoprix (achhh… I forgot about the twice-yearly sales!). We purchased a few snacky items—petit suisses (a yummy, descriptive blog post all its own!), chocolate, and wine!)—I told Emily stories about shopping in France as we carried our stuff back to the apartment. It was dinner time, at least in Paris, and we found a bistro to accommodate our hunger. We had a kitchen in our apartment, but I've had more to cook on while on our ONE camping trip than we had in that apartment! So we ate most of our meals out.
We had to wait a little while our table was readied, so we sat on a bench in the Place du Marché Catherine. I pulled my camera out and shot our resting feet. We didn't wait long to be seated, then we were brought a chalkboard with today's menu written on it. That's Em studying it and taking only a few minutes to decide on a simple Steak and Frites! Chocolate Mousse for dessert! Mmmm, c'etait bon!
We walked arm-in-arm back to our apartment just like two old French women. Happy, tummies full, and totally savoring our first day in Paris.
Back at the apartment, we knew we couldn't both sleep on the upright futon and I refused to sleep right on the medieval tiles with no cushioning! So we set about adjusting the futon. We pulled and tugged, laughed at each other's attempts and ended up with a semblance of a flat bed. However, if either of us got up, we had to warn the other because they might've ended up on the medieval tiles anyway!! Not funny in the middle of the night! Ach… I didn't sleep very well being in a strange place and the shenanigans with the futon didn't help! Maybe tomorrow.
My last scene of the day:
My baby. . .sitting in the window of the tiny courtyard, taking in the sights and sounds of all things "Pa-ree" on her first night in the City of Lights. I had to coax her to come to bed in the unstable thing we CALLED a bed. I'm so happy she had this experience.
To many more firsts!