Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday in Paris

Just as I punctuated the last Ocean sentence yesterday and the clock moved dangerously close to midnight, the first peep came from the room where Snowdrop was sleeping. She'd been out for nearly three hours and she was ready to be done with her "nap."
No way should I be in bed now! I don't care that I'm going on little sleep! It's play time! (by her clock).

Snowdrop, the best sleeper in the world, used the next three hours to protest the time zones. Cajoling, ignoring -- nothing helped. She was determined to be awake. Eventually (around 3? I stopped checking the clock...) she managed to turn the mattress upside down on top of her (not that we noticed until the next day) and disspirited, she fell asleep somewhere on the canvas bottom of the portacrib.

I am, of course, up the next day way before the exhausted young family even stirs. I mean, it's Paris. I can't sleep past the morning hours here. Since no one is up yet, I go out by myself in search of breakfast for us all.

The weather is beautiful! I walk with a bounce in my step (I'll catch up on sleep tonight, I swear I will!) and I find even better croissants than the perfect ones from Julien's yesterday. (Though honestly, I probably would not have picked a "better one" from a line up  -- they're all so very excellent. For the sake of record keeping, today's were from Les Gourmandises d'Eiffel.)

(The bakery also sells gorgeous pasteries...)

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(But this morning, I stick with breakfast breads -- as do the customers before me.)

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And as long as I am on a hunt for fine foods, I take a few minutes to stop at this greengrocer's:

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Are you clever enough to see the pun in the name of the shop? (Say it out loud and think string beans. It helps if you speak French.)

Such beautiful fruits they have! How do they sell berries that are exactly at the peak of perfect ripeness? Not hard, not rotten, not green, not moldy, just damn perfect? How does transport work for something like that?

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Next, a cheese store -- one that's is rightly praised far and wide (Marie-Ann Cantin's). I buy her exquisite butter, yogurt, and of course -- cheese.

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I stroll through the nearly empty market on rue Cler (peonies!)...

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... and then turn in toward my blocks, where chestnut trees are not the only things blossoming in Paris right now.

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Our breakfast  at the apartment is a little fragmented, as everyone suddenly has to spring into action.

(Snowdrop eats...)

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(I eat...)

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(Snowdrop, bathed and dressed by her mom, looks over one of her Paris books.)

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And then we're off.

The young couple is heading out for a couple of days and Snowdrop and I will ride with them on the metro to the neighborhood of the Gare de Lyon -- a train station completely on the other side of Paris. We'll eat lunch together and then Snowdrop and I will make our way in some fashion back to the apartment.

(Things get a little dicey, as a major labor strike is announced in France, beginning today. Transportation is always affected and so one has to expect the unexpected. Today it is our local metro line -- closed because of demonstrations. It's surely not the first time that I have found myself in the thick of a strike here. One has to be patient, that's all.)

(On our walk to the metro: waiters on break.)

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Snowdrop takes the metro ride in stride. Me, I'm happy to have someone lift the stroller along with me as we go down one station and up the next -- the French really do not make it easy to use the metro if you're antsy about stairs. Though I have to say, whenever I encountered stairs throughout the day, I always, always had the next person come over and give me a hand, with a smile and wave at Snowdrop.

We eat lunch at the lovely Creperie Bretonne.

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I love the buckwheat crepes from the Bretagne region and we're curious how the little one will take to this new for her food.

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Verdict: the crepe's great, but she prefers the camembert to the goat cheese and so she pilfers bits and pieces of mine (with camembert). The girl will give most anything a try, but she does have her preferences.

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Of course, she adores her dad's dessert crepe with chestnuts.

We part ways then. Snowdrop is full of lunch and it is the hour of her nap and I am happy to see her drift off to sleep in the stroller, despite the chaos of the city (we are right by the Bastille now).

I had been half tempted to stay on the right bank, to show her the playground at the Place de Vosges (it's right by the Bastille), but her nap makes me rethink this. Isn't it better to begin the long walk back to our part of the city? It's at least a two hour stroll...

And so the little girl is out for some of the major sights of Paris. She sleeps through the Bastille Circle...

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She sleeps through our crossing of the River Seine.

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(On Ile St Louis: a chef, taking a cigarette break.)

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She sleeps through the view toward the Notre Dame.

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... and through the walk along the Boulevard St Germain.

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And then, only 45 minute into her nap (she typically slumbers for at least two hours in the middle of the day), just as we enter the neighborhood that I always stay in when I am here, she wakes up. We are steps away from the Luxembourg Gardens and so I tell her -- Snowdrop, I have a plan!

I take her to my favorite bakery in this area (Gerard Mulot). What do you think, little one... are you ready for the best strawberry tart in Paris? (They rank every food item here. This bakery received the gold ribbon for the tart not too long ago, though again, there are a thousand others that I would love to sample and savor.)

We enter the patisserie. She is a bit puzzled. What is this place? All those colorful little cakes...

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I buy the tart and some water and tell her -- we're heading for the park!

Through various books, she has learned a little bit about what Paris has to offer even before coming here. She could identify the Eiffel Tower in any illustration. And she is familiar with the picture of the Parisian park with the water pond in the middle. But in a sense, nothing prepared her for the Luxembourg Gardens.

We find a quiet place, not too far from the fountain and the flowers and where people sit to enjoy the parade of others before them. We pull over a couple of chairs. I take out the tart.

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She of course loves the strawberries. But her world lights up to a new level of culinary delight when she tastes the creme patisserie that separates the berries from the crust.

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There you have it: she is my granddaughter. For sure.

(Why didn't you tell me about creme patisserie before grandma? why why why?)

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But this is only a prelude to the joy that follows. When she learns that she is free, free, free...

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to romp -- to the fountain...

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 around the fountain...

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... between all these people who so often smile at the children who play here.

She can't believe her luck! It is tough to take her away, but the afternoon is moving along quite rapidly and I have one more place for her -- the little kid playground in the park. It has nothing but sand pits in it, but it's fenced off from the rest of the gardens and there are benches around for adults to enjoy and it is like a bit of heaven for her.

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Play in sand? 

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.... no one minds if I carry pebbles this way and that?

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Other children to watch? Climb in, climb out?

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Oh my!

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This girl, who has not had a decent bit of sleep since Saturday night coasts on the park experiences for the rest of her day.

As we leave, I notice we were right by this place:

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They're this year's winners of the best baguette in Paris and so of course, I pick up just half of one. She samples. She approves.

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And then we make our way to the food halls of the Bon Marche department store and here, too, she is just as charming as I'd ever seen her. I pick up some prepared foods for our supper (skewered shrimp with squash, pickled wild mushrooms, braised carrots, steamed baby zucchini, three types of baked cauliflower) and she is all smiles and she waves to the attendants so that the both of them proclaim her to be  tres mignon (very sweet). I smile in what I hope is a modest fashion.

Of course, not everything is deliciously grand for her. I pick up a lovely ice cream cone with raspberry ice cream of the nicest kind. She tries it. She's okay with it. But frankly, she could pass on the whole experience.

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Just one more stop on the way home -- at a children's clothes store, mainly because it had lovely pinwheels in the window and Snowdrop just lights up when she sees them. I do pick up a dress...

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... and she picks up another set of friends -- the salesclerks there.

I had purchased for her this book back in Madison about how in France, everyone always says bonjour when you enter -- a store, a restaurant, a cafe... I made up a song about it which she knows quite well, but still, it couldn't have made sense to her before. In Paris, everyone says bonjour. What does that even mean?

And here we are and we enter the stores, the cafes, the restaurants and everyone says bonjour and I remind her of the song and her face lights up. Connecting the dots beyond the spaces of where one lives. Seeing that the world is vast and most of it you'll grow to love through books, but sometimes, you get to see that it's very real. Everyone in Paris does say bonjour. Perhaps she'll forget this tomorrow, but I wont.

(Almost back now, passing other shoppers on their way home...)

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At our Parisian apartment, she plays independently: it's easy here, even though we brought very few toys with us. She loves going from room to room, exploring, getting "into trouble with me" (throwing a toy out the window onto the little balcony is a real impish high for her, as is running to the bedrooms and discovering some treasures that I quickly have to retrieve from her little fist). Here, she carries her book from one room to the next.

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We eat supper at the table together. We have exactly the same foods and she tries them all, liking especially the shrimp and veggies. (I save the baguette and berries for last. She lets me know that of the cheeses, camembert ranks for her higher than brie. Okay, Snowdrop. I can live with that.)

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The Tower lights twinkle. It's midnight. Might you sleep well tonight, little Snowdrop?

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