My Date with Monet

Monet's Waterlilies

After spending the day navigating through churches with opinionated  kids, Aaron and I needed to unwind. And we needed to find a daily itinerary that satisfied everyone in the family. Once they kids fell asleep — and after a few glasses of wine —  Aaron got a little too relaxed, and said a few things that he’d soon regret. Such as, while the kids slept late tomorrow morning, why don’t I leave and visit a museum alone? To take as much time as I liked. He could handle the kids by himself for a few hours, right? Famous last words.

I forced my eyes open early the next morning, slipped out to our favorite boulangerie, and brought home a breakfast of ham and cheese croissants. When I returned, I found a grumpy awake-too-soon Ada and a grumpy drank-too-much Aaron. I asked him if I should stay, but he insisted I leave. I heard Ethan and Chase thumping down the hallway, and quickly left before Aaron had any second thoughts.

As I walked through the Tuilleries Gardens, the only sounds were of the brisk wind whipping up my jacket and my boots crunching through the fine gravel. It was quiet, and I sighed a deep satisfied sigh. So this must be what it feels like to be in Paris . . . alone.

Black and White of Tuileries GardenBlack and white Arch in Tuileries Garden

If I visit a museum, it’s to see a specific artist instead of a massive art collection. In Florence, I went to the Uffizi Museum to see Caravaggio and Bottecelli. In Paris, I wanted to see Monet. And if there was one museum I didn’t want to take the kids to, it was Musee de l’Orangerie, a museum dedicated to Monet’s painting of water lilies.

I found the museum at the opposite end of the Tulieries Garden and used my Paris Museum Pass for a quick entry. The main floor of the museum is made of two bright oval rooms, with the paintings wrapped around the walls like a ribbon of color.

After the chaos of the last few days, it was a joy to sit in a quiet room and stare at paint; to get lost in color.

Monet painting

Once satisfied with the Monet’s lilies, I went downstairs to browse the museum’s small collection of Impressionist art, and saw works from another two of my favorite painters: Renoir and Cezanne. I left the museum tranquil, content, and in a magical world of my own.

Walking through the Tulleries Gardens towards home, I continued to fall in love with Paris’s crisp beauty. I looked across the river to the D’Orsay Museum and considered visiting it before heading back. Aaron did say I could stay out as long as I wanted . . . I didn’t have to rush. But no. That was pushing his good graces.

I meandered home, window shopping, lost in thought. I finally opened the door of our apartment with pink cheeks from the cold and excitement. I wanted the kids to feel the same exhilaration as I, and was eager to take them to the parks I’d promised the night before.

But my sweet bubble popped as soon as I saw Aaron’s face. He looked like death warmed over.  And really pissed.

He glowered at me and said, “Didn’t you get my text message?”

“Uh, no. Why? What happened?”

What happened was this: the kids spent the morning wrestling, fighting, and causing general mayhem — quickly overwhelming Aaron. He was at his wits end. And then he heard a knock on the door.

Standing in the doorway was the woman who runs the building and lived on the ground floor. She asked Aaron if he spoke French. When he shook his head, she used her fingers to show running feet and said “Non.” Apparently, our apartment was directly over a little restaurant. And “people can’t eat” if listening to  little feet running above their table. Aaron said she wasn’t angry, but very apologetic and polite. Aaron was mortified and in turn, apologized profusely. For the next hour he tried in vain, to stop the kids from running.

It didn’t matter what he said, threatened, or did — they would not stop RUNNING.

As he told me this, I went from extreme joy to extreme anxiety. While I helped wrestle the children to the ground, shoving clothes on them as fast as possible, my mind spun wildly. How could we stay in this apartment for the next week, without disturbing the restaurant under us? Would the restaurant call the rental agency and complain? Would the rental agency make us leave? My heart stopped at every thump they made. I made drastic, unrealistic threats in anger, frustration, and fear.

The only solution was to get them out of the apartment. We threw on their jackets, opened the bottom door to the gardens and discovered . . . rain.

The kids skipped and ran through the rain, happy to chase wet birds, while Aaron and I fumed under the arches. We decided that from now on, we’d have to wake them up, feed them a quick breakfast, and leave the apartment, not to return until they can barely walk, let alone run. Great plan, except what about today? With parks out of the question, how do we exhaust three children on a rainy day? With my Museum Pass  fresh in my mind, I came up with  same solution as thousands of other tourists. We gathered up the kids and started walking to the Louvre. . . .