Our heads buzzed from sugar and caffeine, our lungs longed for fresh air, and our legs were ready to run. After spending the last few hours restrained and under our best behavior while touring the Louvre, we were eager to spend the last few hours of our third day exploring Parisian parks.
Since our hop-on/off bus pass was still valid, and to Ada’s delight, we climbed back on the upper story of the bus. The cool breeze felt fantastic after muggy museum air, and Ethan’s exuberant taunts at the other cars (HO-HO-HO We’re higher than you!) brought much needed comic relief.
Ironically, during our trip to Notre Dame yesterday, I was so consumed with arguing with my daughter, that I forgot there’s a small park next to the cathedral. Our first stop of the afternoon was to visit it, before we’d hop back on the bus, and ride out to Luxembourg Gardens.
The square in front of Notre Dame was full of music and people celebrating a procession.While I stopped to watch, the kids ran straight to the park.
The park is small, but colorful, and spoke the universal language of fun.
An hour later, we pulled them off the teeter-totter, eager to visit Luxembourg Gardens before sunset, which promised pony rides, puppet shows, and the coolest jungle gym ever. Once back on the bus, I was so engrossed with the sights of the Latin Quarter, that it to took me a few minutes to realize we were on the wrong bus. I quickly scanned the routes in my booklet, and saw that instead of heading towards Luxembourg Gardens, we were headed in the opposite direction — to the Bastille.
Just by chance, the bus stopped on a bridge just opposite an unknown park along the river. While it wasn’t Luxembourg Gardens, it would do.
This park is on the Left Bank, just across from Ile St. Louis in the Quai Saint-Bernard . While the kids played, I studied my map, and realized we have to walk home. After the Lourve and two parks, this walk would surely exhaust the kids. There was no way they’d run through the apartment after today.
The walk along the Seine and on Ile St. Louis was Parisian perfection. The only noise came from Chase, who waddled, flapped his arms, and clucked like a chicken; much to the delight of everyone who walked past us.
After a bathroom break back at Notre Dame (they have decent ones underground on the right-hand side of the cathedral) we stopped again to feed the birds, and met an interesting Frenchman.
While he gave rice to Ada for the birds, he told us in broken English and simple French, that he belonged to the American Legion in World War 2, fought in Normandy, and loved Americans. He pulled a crumpled $2 bill from his wallet and told us it was his “good luck souvenir” from his trip to the US many years ago. He wanted to talk, and I wanted to listen, but I couldn’t understand him, and my eyes kept staring over his shoulder at the looming black storm clouds.
We walked as fast as little tired legs can walk until we made it to the Louvre Gardens. With only a few blocks left before home, I saw the lightening strike.
“Hey Aaron, did you just see that fork lighting?”
“Aaron, have you ever been outside during a lightning storm?
“I think it’s time to run.”
He picked up Chase. I picked up Ethan, grabbed Ada’s hand, and we ran. Thunder reverberating off the stone buildings. Lightening lit up the clouds; another electric fork broke through the horizon. I began to panic. We were out in the open, and the storm was upon us.
The clouds finally burst, hitting us with a sheet of cold rain. Well, this is bad, I thought.
And then I started laughing.
I looked down at Ada’s wet face and she also burst into giggles. “Ada! We’re running through the rain, in PARIS! Isn’t this fun?” She nodded, and we both squealed with delirious delight.
Once we reached the apartment, we were soaked as I’ve never been soaked before. My jeans were plastered to my legs, my hair rained it’s own water. The kids looked like three drowned rats. While they got warm in a hot shower, amazing Aaron (with an umbrella) went back into the storm and brought home gyros for dinner.
I admit, taking the kids to Paris was harder than I expected. But showing my daughter the Mona Lisa, watching the kids play along the Seine, and running through a thunder and lightning storm – those moments brought an unexpected bliss. Sure, we’d hit a few unexpected bumps along the way, but more importantly, our highs triumphed over the lows. And believe me, that night, the kids did not run through the apartment.