There are several options on how to get from the airport into Paris: metro, taxi, shuttle service, and private car. We chose the last option even though it’s the most expensive, because it’s also the easiest. We avoided learning how to use the metro with jet lag, luggage and children; we avoided finding a five person taxi during a nation wide strike; we avoided prepaying for a shuttle that might not show up. The extra expense bought me peace of mind. And for our first morning, that peace was priceless. Our ragamuffin family cruised into Paris in a Mercedes van.
As we drove, we marveled at the white buildings with black iron railings framing the windows and tree lined streets. We landed at our apartment in the Palais Royal with Clara from the agency welcoming us with a warm smile. (The Palais Royal is an historic building that once hosted both royals and later on, revolutionaries.) Looking through the arched windows of our apartment and onto the gardens, I was overcome with pure joy. Come on! The kids yelled, let’s go!
We grabbed the bag of complementary croissants and left the apartment, down the buildings inner staircase, out the backdoor and entered the gardens. The kids immediately ran for the fountain, scattering the pigeons and ending a peaceful respite for Parisians lounging in the chairs.
After terrorizing the pigeons, we left the gardens and started our journey on crowded streets, through the grand arches of the Louvre Palace, and into the Tuilleries Gardens, where we discovered a a temporary outdoor art show featuring modern sculpture.
As we wandered about, we caught Chase loudly scraping a chair through the fine gravel. After Aaron chastised him, Chase explained,“but I want to look at art.” Oh. Well then – please continue.
Parisians coolly strutted, tourists happily strolled, and people lounged in green chairs surrounding the fountains absorbing the winter sun. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon. For everyone else, that is, but me. The bright sky hurt my eyes and my head throbbed with jet lag. Plus, the kids kept running off and disappearing into dingy hedge rows. I was consumed with chastising: If we can’t see you, we might lose you! You’ll stay with us or you’ll have to hold my hand? Do you want to hold my hand? DO YOU? I understood that they needed to run after our long trip, and I did want them to enjoy themselves. But I also didn’t want to lose one. Aaron was equally overwhelmed. He caught my eye and his serious expression mimicked mine: how will we survive this week? We gathered our wild beasts and headed home.
Once we tamed them in front of our portable DVD player, I crashed on the bed in sleep-deprived anguish. But with children to feed, sleep wasn’t an option. We needed to find a grocery store, and it was decided I would go.
Surprisingly, Ethan asked to come with me. With his hand in mine, we quietly walked through our neighborhood. What a difference it was to walk with only one child! It was enjoyable. My little boy and I were exploring a new city together. I was proud to be his Mom, not only because he was adorable, but because we now shared a special memory. Just the two of us. We found a small grocery store and bought milk, juice, and yogurt. On the way back, he spotted cookies in the window of a boulangerie and he sweetly asked to go in. And I agreed.
I said “Bonjour Madame” to the woman behind the counter and she smiled and replied in same. In simple French, I ordered two quiches for an early dinner: Lorraine and Provencal. The lady gave Ethan a cookie, I said Merci, we exchanged an Au Revoir, and headed back. Ethan tightly clutched his cookie until we got home, stood right in front of his envious siblings and said “I got a cookie.” He popped it into his mouth, smiling and chewing at the same time.
Refreshed from a successful walk with Ethan and all of our stomachs full of deliciously creamy quiche, I suggested we venture out again and enjoy the late afternoon sun.
The Palais Royal Gardens came alive in the afternoon with children.
We returned to the Louvre Gardens to see the glass pyramid, without the crowds.
We kept walking until we landed on Passerelle des Arts bridge. With bursting excitement, I pointed out Ile de la Cite and the towers of the Concierge, where Maris Antoinette spent her last hours. I explained to Ada that couples attached “love locks” on the bridge’s fence to symbolize their love for one another. I looked at Aaron, and said how I wish we had our own lock to add.
We shared another look: it’s all going to work out. And at that moment, the hardship of our afternoon disappeared. We shared a quick kiss and walked home.