Thursday, May 25, 2017

with my granddaughter, continued

I cannot remember having such weather in Paris, especially in spring: it's sunny, breezy, gorgeous! True, the weekend will be too warm, but oh my, what a set of days this has been! Glorious to the max!

Snowdrop and I are in a good routine: like ones adapting to a southern European climate, we are active before one in the afternoon and after five in the evening. In between, we eat and rest.

She is up late, which is a good thing because so am I. Pushing the clock to write after a late dinner (and after she has gone to sleep) is a bad habit during my travels, especially if I have a full day before me. But Snowdrop and I don't really have a set agenda, so I do not feel obligated to be up early. Indeed, I'd purchased in advance combo tickets to art exhibitions and I let one of them (the one on Rodin) slide, realizing that the rigorous enforcement of visiting hours meant that there would be crowds. The day is best if it retains great elasticity. No agenda!

Breakfast is the same: day old croissants, fruits and yogurt. Yes, in addition to wolfing down her own, she steals all my cherries.


After, she wants to go to the merry-go-round. So if you were to pick her Paris favorite from this trip, I would have to say it's that darn little airplane on the Tuilerie Gardens carousel.

I acknowledge her desire to just spin on that little plane, but I say the best time for it is in the evening. As always, she accepts my call on this and we settle in for a few minutes of drawing. But I lure her away from this quickly enough: Snowdrop, want to go to the museum to look at paintings of gardens?

She is up and with the speed of lightening, puts on shoes and waits by the door. I would guess it's the idea of an outing. She has been to kid friendly museums in Madison and D.C., and I did take her last year to look at the collection of Monets at the Paris Marmottan, but I don't think she's remembering any of those. She is merely excited for an adventure.

...Even though this adventure, too, requires a bit of a walk. But it's a pleasant walk -- past the famous cafes of this neighborhood...


... then along the quieter section of the Boulevard St Germain, where fru fru children's stores and furniture displays dominate, and tourist traffic is light.

(There are, these days, a lot of macaron cookie stores in the city. In fact, the most famous -- Laduree -- is just across the street from our apartment. Snowdrop appreciates all the displays. As do I.)


(The skies are so blue! In this weather, the architectural merits of Paris really stand out!)


We cross the river again. The Alexandre III bridge offers one of the better views of the Eiffel Tower and I pause for a while, remembering how important this edifice was to Snowdrop on our previous visit. It still is, in that she always points to it when it pops into view, but it's not within our orbit this week and I am content to include just the occasional more distant nod to the great tower.


I should mention that today is a holiday in France (the third major holiday this month!) and as it falls on a Thursday, you can expect many people to stay away from work for a long weekend. This is a good thing for us: the traffic is significantly lighter. Here's a shot from the Right Bank toward the bridge and the more distant dome of the church that houses Napoleon's tomb. A pretty empty looking space for late morning!


The exposition that I'm keen on seeing with her (and would be keen on seeing even without her) is called "Jardins" and it's at the Grand Palais. Art depicting gardens. Diverse in time, place and endeavor, it includes Watteau, Monet, Bonnard, Picasso and Matisse, among so many others.

Here's a snippet from the brochure describing its focus:

... a journey where the "real" garden is understood as both a botanical collection and an artistic construction. This "gardening" exhibition promotes the garden as an art form and its creators as artists.

I'm really in love with paintings and photographs that depict artfully created gardens.  You couldn't have put together any display more up my alley.

And it isn't too crowded! That's great for the little girl and for me!

But Snowdrop is growing and she is becoming more independent minded. Last year, I could drag her to pretty much anything and she would stare at displays somewhat dazed, somewhat in awe, not knowing how to react to any of it.

This year, she is interested. We sit down in front of arguably the most well known painting here (Le Dejeuner, by Claude Monet) and we talk about it.


And then she is done with it. I'm not, but she is.


Do I miss having a more contemplative visit here? Do I envy this woman who gets to study each piece as long as she wishes?


I do not. It's like with food: I'm not looking for the best for myself. I'm looking for the best for the both of us together. That includes a nod to her favorites (something tells me if you'll scroll down today's post you'll see photos from the merry-go-round) and to mine.

We study a handful of other pieces (including photos, a water fountain, and a painting of a gardener with very dirty feet ,which I tell her look like ahah's after a day in the farmette yard) and then she really is done.

She is such a good little kid that you sometimes forget that she is just on the young side of two.


Crossing the bridge to the Left Bank again, I'm inspired to have someone take a photo of us again. I don't quite know why bridges do this to me. This gentleman was focused on squeezing the Tower into the shot of us and in its full size it looks quite funny, but cropped, it's actually sweet and it does represent a very frequent pose we have here: me, carrying her. (Just a few minutes before: up and down the stairs of the museum, dragging the stroller behind me... ah, the challenges of this city!)


And now I give her a choice again: picnic or restaurant, and again she picks the latter. And I don't push the picnic. True, it offers an unconstrained eating experience, but I'm thinking she is low on substantial meals and sandwiches just offer an opportunity for her to pick on the bread and ignore the rest.

We are about to pass my favorite luncheon place, Cafe Varenne, and I think it's a good choice, because I know it has food she likes, but it happens to be one of the places that chose to take a holiday today.

Again, I offer her a picnic in the park.
No, a restaurant, please!

I have an idea. Let's switch to a known set of favorites: pasta or pizza. In other words, let's go to Italy!

There is a place not too far from us that has an especially fantastic pizza -- Pizza da Pietro. Not only is it open, but there is a spot at the outside table (awfully close to the table with two serious men, but hey, this is Italy now -- the rules of behavior can be a little bent!). The waiter deftly parks our stroller by the curb, picks her up and pushes her in. She is happy that pizza is an option, that crayons and paper magically appear from Gaga's bag, and that there is an occasional child who passes by with parents wishing there would be a place for them at da Pietro's (sorry -- we seem to have taken the last one).

(Watching other small ones go by.)


The theory is that if they have a meal that they don't like (yesterday evening comes to mind), kids'll make up for it the next day. Snowdrop certainly makes up for  everything by being her most charming, most voraciously enthusiastic, not only with her mushroom pizza, but, too with the hard boiled eggs (well, the whites, but close enough) and the occasional green bean from my salad.


Two years old, going on twelve.


A block away is my favorite neighborhood bakery (Gerard Mulot) and I ask her if she wants cakes from it. Yes!

I pick up a couple of pastries that I think may last us for a few days and, too, I admire this tray of macarons -- strawberry and champagne! What a wonderful summer combination! How cool to have the colors vary with each cookie! I pick up two of those for a late evening munch.


And then we return home... (One more block from here!0


... where she devours a pastry with strawberries and cream.


Evening. Snowdrop's naps are so late that it truly is evening when she wakes up. She lives the life of someone whom I hardly recognize: late to get up, long naps, joyful wake ups, late dinners, even later bedtimes. And always there is that grin that lets me know she is as happy as a clam to be here with an attentive grandma, who oftentimes breaks into incomprehensible strings of words in the stores and restaurants of Paris.

She gets up and straight away organizes a picnic for her baby. One could well guess that she is remembering all those proposed picnics that she herself turned down.


I tell her then that I have two items on my evening list: to go to the Asian deli across the street and pick out foods for supper, and to take her to the merry-go-round.

She is a bit unnerved by this Asian deli thing, but she grabs her baby and we walk to the little shop that sells prepared "Asian" foods for the tony young set that inhabits this neighborhood.


(In and out of the front door is never a simple affair: We must navigate the circular stairs,  the courtyard, and then the Great Entryway, which has a high step and forbidding doors. Snowdrop has embraced these as her own and is very much on her way to becoming forever comfortable with the obstacles in life that are very Parisian and not at all ones she faces back home.)


Okay, the merry-go-round at the Tuileries: twice an airplane, once a carriage ride.  I told you you'd find these here today!




And then the disappointment of knowing that this is it for the day.


We walk back, detouring along the left river bank, looking at the boats, the passersby, the bikers, skateboarders, scooters. Looking at the bridges, too, from a different angle....


... and then we're out on the streets again, walking again past the flower shop. Wait, the flower shop? Why aren't there flowers on our breakfast table? Perhaps because there is no table there to show them off all day long. No excuse. Snowdrop, we're buying flowers!

We're nearly home and then the chant starts: gaga, I want to go to a restaurant!

I'm a tad befuddled by this. How is it that a two year old longs for the tedium of restaurant service? I tell her we have great foods at home. She is disappointed, but of course, she has no control over this. I get to decide and I want one break from monitoring a toddler's behavior, even the most awesome on the planet toddler's behavior, in a Parisian eatery.

In the apartment, I put out the foods: curry chicken, spicy shrimp, fried noodles.

She is apprehensive.

But in fact, it is a wonderful evening.


She likes most everything and I am so happy with her willingness to go along with my whimsy  that I am more than happy to let her finish her strawberries and cream pastry for dessert.


I could sign off and retreat to bed fully satisfied that I did okay by this sweet child. That we got good routines going. That she grew oh so much in the past three days with me.

But I hear her crying. I know the problem. There's boisterous partying outside. Not the typical bar type stuff, but some extraordinary reverie that I cannot figure out. It wakes Snowdrop (and probably a whole bunch of others on the block) and I am there in my soothing Gaga role. This never happens at home. She is famed for disturbing no one at night unless she is sick.

She is not sick tonight. Just a little confused as to the wheres and whys.

This too is a wonderful part of being with her these few days in a strange to her place. I get to better understand her worries. I hope I can flip them into excitement. Goodnight, goodnight, sleep well, sleep tight.

With love, grandma.