Have you ever made a friend online?
I met my first internet friend Julia from England, on a travel forum when I posted that I was pregnant with twins several years ago. Julia was not only a Mom of twin boys, she was a family-travel enthusiast; we immediately clicked. What began as a brief chat on a public forum became months of long, personal emails. Julia was there for me during the highs and the lows of my pregnancy and those sleep-deprived first few years. Yet, we’d never met in person
When I mentioned I was going to Paris, she suggested we finally meet. I was thrilled.
We decided to keep our get-together kid friendly and relaxed by first meeting at Place des Vosges, followed with a lunch of falafels from L’as Du-Fallafel. We’d eat them at a park in the Marais; the kids could play and we could catch up.
While we waited for Julia at the Place des Vosges, the kids found giant sandboxes. They joyfully jumped in, and began constructing an imaginary world of sand castles. I’m pretty sure those weren’t sandboxes used for sand castles, since other children sat next to their parents on the benches, watching our kids in fascination (and perhaps a dash of envy.) And I’m pretty sure we were committing a social faux pas; I should’ve pulled our kids out. But I didn’t. They were quiet and content and I was too blissfully relaxed on that bench soaking up the Parisian ambiance, to disturb the peace.
Just as Aaron joked that Julia was a British spy, I recognized her walking towards us. We hugged, laughed, talked for a bit; she left to check into her hotel, and we agreed to meet on ave Rosaries in the Marais for lunch.
The Marais was different from the cool, grand Paris I had begun to know. The streets were narrow, the buildings vibrant and colorful, and it breathed character like a lively village. I was instantly in love.
Kristina, another of my travel (and food) obsessed internet friends, insisted I try the falafels from L’as Du Fallafel. She gushed over this place when she was in Paris a few years back. How could I resist?
While I normally cringe when I see a long line – trust me- this one was worth the wait. Which isn’t as long as you’d expect due to their efficient ordering system: A man (cashier?) walked up to us in line, told us what we would order, how many we needed, how much we owed him, and gave us a receipt. This might put people off, but listen to the guy; he knows what he’s doing.
The line moves you right to the pick-up window, where we caught a glimpse of the kitchen and the men creating falafels at lightning speed; our order was shoved through the window at Aaron. It was frantic and utterly fantastic. (For an in depth review of L’as du Fallafel that will make your mouth water, go to this review in the New York Times).
With our hands overflowing with hot, mouth-watering deliciousness, we walked a few blocks to a hidden courtyard; it was pure elegance with rose bushes, fountains, and statues. It also had space for the kids to play with their new yo-yo’s (a thoughtful gift from Julia), and benches where the adults sat and devoured the steaming, dripping, delicious falafels.
When the courtyard was in full shadow, we left in search of another park still warmed by the afternoon sun.
Just a block further we found a playground. My kids ran towards it, yelling and laughing to one another, many decibels louder than the other children already playing. After a few moments of stunned quiet, the Parisian children adjusted to their new American playmates (much to the horror of their nannies) and transformed the playground into a raucous play fest. (I’m afraid our kids corrupted the Parisian kids.) The nannies eventually gave up shushing the ear splitting squeals, and dragged their kids home.
My future apartment, next to the park
We talked with Julia until the sun finally slipped behind the buildings and a chill swept through our layered coats and scarves. It was by far the most relaxed day of our trip; a respite from the travel bustle; a day centered on the kids need for free play. We traded tourist sight-seeing for a languid lunch and satisfying conversation. It would one of the highlights of our trip.
It was lovely to finally meet Julia in person; a friend who had held my hand through the upheaval of raising twins. Our connection is proof that the vast electronic world can bring two people together, that would’ve never otherwise met.