Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paris notes: big sites and small concessions

We managed to see a lot. We visited Notre Dame and Sainte Chappelle. One morning I ran to the Arc de Triomphe and Justin took Claire there one evening to walk to the top. We all went up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. One evening Justin walked a loop toward the Louvre. We didn't visit any museums or take a bus tour. We did walk along the Seine and up the Champs Élysées.
Notre Dame above, Sainte Chappelle below. Sainte Chappelle's stained glass was amazing.

We went to Paris without expectation. We didn't eat a single amazing French meal, but made our dinners of Paris street food, apples, cheese and bread. A friend suggested we share a bottle of wine a day but I had three or four glasses over the week. It's a beautiful city to walk and I liked seeing it that way. We saw the sights we saw because they were easy to walk to  from our apartment and the lines weren't long. We ate the food we ate for the same reasons: easy to find and the lines weren't long. During the week Justin and I both had moments of: if we weren't traveling with kids, then _____. But we were traveling with kids. I didn't park myself at a café but I watched people while walking or waiting for a light to turn or riding the metro. I didn't write much in the present but thought about what I might write later.

Sometimes that's a fight, to let go what you want because now just isn't the time. The fight is in my head but it feels physical. It feels like a pushing match, to let the present be presently enjoyed rather than shadowed by This Could Be Even Better If _____ a. I was alone b. We were alone c. Kids were older d. I was younger. That goes beyond our week in Paris. I've felt that pushing many times since marrying and becoming a mom. On the plane back to Chicago, I met a woman who works in journalism; she was a reporter for a long time but took an editorial position after her children were born. She was coming from Italy and we both swapped stories about what we didn't do because we have kids. She didn't hike two more kilometers to get to a remote stretch of beach. I didn't eat anything fancier than expensive cheese while in Paris. And that was okay with me. The cheese was perfect. So was the view from the Eiffel.

Paris notes: walking around

Do you see it?
Pastry break. Walking around tires out the little legs and makes the bellies hungry. We enjoyed great pastry and good coffee on our walks.
Enjoying the green. That's what I told people we'd do in Paris: walk and enjoy the green. We miss the pedestrian lifestyle during the school year in Kuwait so we spent the week walking.
And sad to leave the green! Grant didn't want to leave the trees on one of our walks.
Billie was kind enough to show us around her neighborhood take us to nearby parks. Such nice days we had! Claire and Jackson got along really well; it was fun for her to have a new friend for the week.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

getting to Paris

Since I've renewed my committment to writing fiction this past year - practicing writing fiction - some of my daily life gets translated in my head as a short story or chapter. And one day you may very well read a short piece about a train ride from Frankfurt to Paris and I'll call it fiction to spare embarassment and to justify some embellishment.

Thursday was our last day of summer school. This year was much better than last for me but the final week of any session is designed to make you really glad it's almost over. Everyone has a limit. We had to be at the airport that evening to catch a midnight-ish flight. I sat with Claire and Grant on the plane and Justin was a row back. I was exhausted. We slept and stirred, slept and stirred.

In Frankfurt we stored our checked bag and got our carry-ons to the train station. The whole point of the train was to sit and relax and watch the green fly by. Justin booked and thought we were getting seats that we did not get. Our seats were next to the smooth gray plastic panel that is not part of a window at all. At that point I was cranky. We may as well have been on an airplane. Except that a flight would have lasted a third as long. I pointed this out because that part of me is not yet fully refined and able to see that it isn't all smooth gray plastic but, yes, about four inches of window to see parts parts parts but no whole.

In Paris we had to figure out the metro. Everyone talks about how easy metros are, so easy to get from here to there, so easy to follow the colored lines to the stop you want, so easy. But I need to add that very little is so easy when you are tired beyond reason, your kids are tired (and probably hungry), and you are carrying luggage no one wants to carry for an easy ride on the metro. You know what? We arrived. And you would probably say that's the point: to get there. But the travel still sucks. And I'm not sure I'll ever romanticize that.

We went for a walk after we quickly settled our apartment. We ate a meal that cost more than it was good but we've eaten much better since. We bought a bottle of wine and some pastries. Later, the kids were delirious and hysterical, resisting the sleep their bodies and minds needed. And then I cried myself to sleep, so spent and so ready just to sleep that it couldn't come soon enough. Justin was beautiful because one of us had to be, and he carried his family with a good measure of grace.

So we are here, walking and walking and walking.