Wednesday, May 24, 2017

with my granddaughter, continued

If you have children and especially if this includes girls, you'll likely be familiar with the book "Madeline": In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines...

It's a 1939 classic about a little girl who attended boarding school here. Though she was the smallest of the lot, she was not intimidated by life or wild beast. To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said pooh-pooh!

What zoo did little Madeline walk to with her eleven school mates? In fact (as the story would have it), Madeline went to the Menagerie in the Jardin des Plantes -- on the eastern corner of central Paris.

I want to take Snowdrop there, though I am a little taken aback by someone's description of it: it's very old world, in that the animals are in cages...

Too, the zoo is a good hour's walk from where we are. Is it worth it? When I float the idea by Snowdrop, she doesn't hesitate.

Immediately after a lovely breakfast with Gaga...


... she hurries with her bath and in the late morning, we set out.

I'll leave you with three street scenes from our walk:

The waiter, waiting for a diner... (If you've been to Paris and have not seen this classic scene, then you've not walked enough here!)


A group of school boys, on an excursion...


A street musician of the old era, by a metro station.


I think Snowdrop must have decided after many many city blocks this is one of those adult promises that doesn't really ever materialize. But at long last, I find a side entrance to the Jardin des Plantes (and am greeted by a beautiful old chestnut!)...


... and we make our way to the zoo.

I am surprised by it, in the most pleasant way. I knew it wasn't really a large animal place and indeed, we see more varieties of goats than I think I have ever seen in any one zoo...


... but nor is it really a "cage" place. It's not huge (much like the Madison zoo, actually), but it does boast nearly 200 species, a third of which are near extinction.

And it's lovely to walk through!


There aren't tigers anymore, but there are a few leopards -- behind glass (as are the polar bears in Madison) and there is an additional fence to keep kids from being a bother to the animals I suppose, but in any case, I thought Snowdrop effectuated a very pooh-pooh pose by this wild beast!


This is one of the oldest zoos in Europe and some of the structures are as interesting as the animals that inhabit them...


To me, the endangered animals are hugely fascinating, even as every description is in French and I don't test Snowdrop's patience by reading and translating the tableaux for her.

Here's a (endangered) Malayan tapir...


...who becomes her choice of souvenir to take home.


You can't forget that this zoo occupies just a corner of a larger garden (Jardin des Plantes) -- one with a very pronounced horticultural identity.

A walk among the lofty planes is lovely...


... but the flowering gardens are the real draw.


We don't spend too much time on them. It's nearly the lunch hour and the girl, who on a school day has a solid breakfast, a school snack and a lunch, all before noon, is coasting on a few pieces of fruit, a few spoonfuls of yogurt and a few bites of croissant. In other words, I have to believe she is hungry.

I am often undecided as to which option is more to the girl's liking and as usual, I toss the decision into her lap: do we walk back (it's a loooooong walk!), or do we ride the metro?

She chooses metro.

That's great. For the most part. The nearby metro line perfectly connects us to our neighborhood.

But of course, no parent or grandparent in her right mind uses the metro here with a stroller. The stairs! Oh, the stairs!

It's great if there is a French person nearby. They always offer assistance. Snowdrop is so impressed with this and often tells me -- that man (or woman) was really helpful!

Oftentimes there is no one and I am left with struggling to get the girl up (or down) one flight, while the stroller waits to be rescued later. It's a chore!

But once on the metro, the girl is mesmerized.


I sit on a pull down chair next to her and very quickly she is out of the stroller insisting on joining me in this big person seating arrangement. Then, fearing that some stranger might claim the seat next to her, she cajoles me to quickly come to her side!


(Our metro train, departing the stop where we disembark.)


Another choice for her to make: croque monsieur at a restaurant, or a sandwich from bakery and picnic in the park? She chooses the croque at a restaurant and behaves as if she were the most perfect young patron.


In the end though, her interest in the croque pales when compared with her love of the french fries (this is at Les Editeurs). She cannot stop eating them, indicating that it is the best fry EVER, which it may be, though I think her exposure to french fires is limited to perhaps a monthly trip to Culver's back home.


(Walking down the very interesting stairs after a quick trip to the restroom.)


She wants the park now. Playground is a word that I hear every two seconds. Well why not? We have a good hour or two before she's due for a nap and we are a step away from the Luxembourg Gardens.


A pause for ice-cream. It seems that on this trip she has developed a chocolate love.


But before we even get to the playground, we come across a set of swings. Like the playground, it has a charge  (this time of 1.5 Euro which is small, but I have to say, back home, I hesitate about the expense of a daily coffee at the coffee shop she and I frequently visit and I am more prone to pick up a cookie for the both of us only because oftentimes Ed offers to treat. In other words, small expenses add up).

It is especially interesting to see this charge, given that no play ground (from the handful that we've visited) offers swings here. And if Snowdrop is not an experienced climber, she most definitely can outswing even the biggest kid on the block. So it's pay or pass. Of course, there is no question that on this trip of all trips for the both of us, treating her to a swinging session is an absolute must!

(Fascinating how they ask you if you want a seat belt! The swings are opposite facing chairs that can go really high and I of course say yes. The attendant then ties a quaint rope to secure your child.)


Way up high, in the sky, Snowdrop does fly...


Oh, does she fly!

I suppose it's good that she doesn't know the language or the norms. She wants to continue. I tell her that the rules are such that we must stop now...


We're back at our apartment building. Snowdrop asks why the cage with the bird is missing. Oh, I know why. I had run into the person who had brought in the bird and had asked her the same thing. Il est mort -- she tells me. Dead.

Why do toddlers ask such difficult questions? Well, I'm going to dodge this one: off to be with his mommy and daddy and other loved ones now!

I can see she is a bit relieved. For the first time, she takes on the chore of navigating the tightly circular stairs on her own. Bird's no longer a worry.


Could you read this book now Gaga? 
Sure, sweet one. And here are your cherries. (To myself: I'm so handing this book over to my daughter to read when they return to Paris! It is soooo long! Good, but looooong!)


Evening. Oh, why even bother to improvise! She loved the carousel at the Tuileries Gardens and has been talking about riding on that airplane ever since. It's a lovely walk, it's sunny and warm -- let's go!


I buy two rides for her and as before, the attendant throws in a third. As the merry-go-round slows down, I ask her what's next after the airplane? She picks the big ostrich. I mean it is one huge ostrich.

So does another girl. They arrive at it at the same time. For once, Snowdrop is adamant: I want to ride this bird! Please!
The mother of the other child settles the draw: she tells her daughter -- she should ride it. She is younger. You can pick something else. The girl protests but without conviction, retreating slowly to another animal.

Snowdrop is dumbstruck. Perhaps this has never happened to her before. She tells me: that lady, she is so nice! The girl must live in Paris. Does she live in Paris? She was so helpful!

I want to offer an extra ride to the girl who freed Snowdrop to ride her choice, but the mother and child disappeared quickly after.

(A very happy Snowdrop...)


And once more, on another airplane.


We have some time still before dinner and as we walk the Gardens, I see that there is yet another attraction for kids: individual trampolines where you can jump your heart out, all for two Euros. Well, how many times can I offer this to my granddaughter!

I ask the attendant -- from what age?
I ask Snowdrop: do you want to try?

She hesitates.


She must have decided that maybe she can handle it.
Yes. She takes off her shoes and puts them in a cubby. She makes her way to the trampoline.

She can't handle it. She can jump on solid ground, but the trampoline is wobbly even if you stand still and do nothing more than sway this way and that.

I'll just sit on the side.

Oh, no, let's try to see if you can enjoy it. How 'bout if we both sway holding hands?
She likes that enough, but she knows damn well that she's doing a modest version of what the others are doing. (It doesn't matter that all the others are way older. She does not fully get the constraints of age.)

The attendant comes over. Like so many young French men (I do not mean to exclude other nationalities in this, it's just that I see it so often here), this guy is completely at home with kids. He speaks their language. He asks her in French, then, realizing that she doesn't understand, in broken English if she'll let him help. Within no time, he has her at least jumping!

He made her day, I'm sure of it.


As we head back, emboldened and perhaps a little proud, she scorns the stroller and flies off.
Are you an airplane? I ask.
No, a bird! Tweet tweet!


We cross the Seine on a pedestrian bridge and she continues her solo walk. And here's a surprise: I'm hot, she tells me.
Take off your sweater, I retort.
And she does.

I ask a guy on the bridge to take a photo. He takes several. I like them all. Ocean gets two!



(Fascinated by the boats below...)


Continuing on her solo trek on the Left Bank now...


(I really love the looks of flower shops here....)


We're home. We're to eat dinner at the restaurant that is literally in a wing of our apartment building -- Le Pres aux Clercs. That means we can leave the stroller in the courtyard of our "home." Snowdrop adeptly climbs out and sits waiting while I dispose of it.


And she is delightfully charming during the wait for her food (99% of the restaurants here offer no high chair, so that even at her height, she is always just a tad short for the table).


But I think she then has had her max for the day. She doesn't complain, she just turns on her full impishness.

It strikes me that when kids behave, more is dumped on them. Snowdrop may appear indulged in my Ocean postings from Paris, but she also endures quite a bit more here than back home. The long, very long walks on narrow bumpy sidewalks (oh, the French and their lack of respect for the stroller pushing parent!). The noises of the city that are about ten times those of Madison. The flights of stairs where she has to wait patiently in tough places while I go back to retrieve the stroller (again, I blame the French!). The irregular meals with foods that don't match those back home (except the croissants and cherries!). The street noises at bedtime, the heat of the sun, the public restrooms, the absence of toys at our "home." The list is long.

So you push the child even more: restaurants -- this is an adult indulgence. No kid (except a French kid who is trained constantly in school and elsewhere to revere food served to her or him at lunch and dinnertime) loves the routines of a protracted meal, restaurant or otherwise. But Snowdrop is so perfectly sweet and willing that she has sat through not just dinners but also lunches,  at places where there are few kids and good manners are expected. And she has delivered.

But tonight she wants to leave her imprint. After waiting patiently, she eyes the arrival of the food curiously and when it is once more too hot and too out of her range of normal, she rebels. No fuss, no wail, no complaint. Instead, she takes things into her own hands. She removes her shoes. Then her socks. She thinks a reclining position is cool and clinging mightily to a wine glass in which her water is served -- even cooler. To the leopard in the zoo, she may have said pooh-pooh, and now to this meal of chicken (lovingly raised in the south of France and braised in a honey something sauce) and potatoes, she also says pooh-pooh. She does try my foie gras but snubs an offer of seconds.

Snowdrop gets that rare Gaga frown (we've talked about what a frown looks like and what it stands for) and a shake of my head when she asks for bedtime cherries. We munch on nuts instead and read the cherry book and snuggle until bedtime.