Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday in Paris

During the night Snowdrop began to accept that the world does not run on Madison time. She woke up every hour, like last night, but each time, she put herself right back to sleep and by 3 a.m. she was done with the restlessness. And she slept good and late.

Me, well, I was geared for a struggle and it wasn't until I was sure that in fact no demands would be placed on me (at 3) that I sank into sleep.

I wasn't sure how long she'd sleep so I was up showering and getting breakfast ready way before she actually called out from her room.

I have to laugh at the "getting breakfast ready" part. It may shock some to learn that I used a leftover croissant for our meal. Here's my breakfast:

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Her's somewhat later, closely resembles mine.

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With hundreds of bakeries putting out fresh croissants throughout the city, it's really strange to be eating day old bread products, but I've learned from Ed that a microwave will at least take away the dryness of something baked yesterday and honestly, by the time Snowdrop is up, it's getting rather late. They say there will be rain in the afternoon. It's best to move briskly through our morning routines and get going now.

(Here she is after breakfast, loving the peek through the hole in the balcony window (it's there for the air conditioning unit which is hooked up come summertime).

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So can we go out, grandma?
As soon as your hair dries a bit more.

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It's cooler today, but I leave her jacket at home, preferring to take her raincoat in case we do get caught in a Paris shower.

We're off!

Where to? Well, would you believe it, I want to take her to the Marmottan Museum. There is an exhibit there that I think she may like -- children in art. Snowdrop has a couple of young child art books that she loves, with paintings mainly by Impressionists. Of course, she doesn't know they're pictures of paintings, but I thought she would enjoy seeing a large canvas of similar scenes in a museum. Besides, I really wanted to see it myself and the Marmottan is just a little more than a half hour's walk from where we're staying.

The wind is gusting, but Snowdrop is used to Wisconsin winds and she is unruffled by any of it. We pass by the Eiffel Tower which she now always points to whenever even a fragment shows up above a row of buildings. In full view now at our footsteps, it looks, of course, quite majestic.

We cross the river. There are two merry go rounds in this area and one is right by the Tower and one is across the river from it. That second one often stands empty and it is empty now (it's nearly noon). Snowdrop had ridden on a merry-go-round with her mom once before and I have reports that she liked it quite a lot. She's eager to pick a horse here too, but I guide her to the stationary ones toward the middle. There are no "seat belts" here and the horses themselves are rather big for a toddler. She looks determined, if a bit intimidated, doesn't she?

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I ride alongside her, of course, and we have a wonderful set of minutes watching the streets of Paris spin in all directions as we go round and round.

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We continue our walk. There are many many children in and out of strollers in this area, probably because it is a commercial hub of little shops and stores, but, too, because it's Wednesday which traditionally is a school free day for kids here. Here's one grandma (that's my guess) tending to her granddaughter.

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You know, I felt I had payed attention to my wardrobe for this trip. I actually bought a pair of fashionable pants for it and two sweaters! It's not because I'm in Paris, it's that I'm (mostly) with my daughters who are careful dressers. I don't want to be the complete frump next to them. But even though I am more attentive than usual, I always feel like I am not even on the same platform as most of the women here.

At the museum, there is no line and the friendly attendant whisks the stroller away until I am done with our little tour.

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I have to admit that the special exhibit is not, in the end the highlight of our visit. The rooms with the special collection are dark and there are many small groups of visitors (all French), hovering next to their art expert to catch every word. Snowdrop does look at some of the paintings, but I feel that the strangeness of the setting distracts her all too often.

But of course, then there is the mostly empty permanent collection. I've always loved the Monets here and I remember very well when I first brought my daughters to see them (they were admittedly a handful of years older). And I'll not forget Snowdrop's wide eyes as we looked  at the water lilies, especially those fanned by the willow branches from above -- just like the willow at the farmette, I remind her.

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There is another young girl with her mom in the room and this emboldens Snowdrop somewhat. She is up and moving!

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We don't stay long though. But I do buy postcards of the two paintings that seemed to have made the greatest impression on her (a Renoir from the special exhibit and a Monet of course). One set for her, one set for me.

The one other nice things about the Marmottan is that it's close to a park with a good area for young children. Again there are the sand pits and, too, there are a few pieces of equipment that really appeal to her. (No swings. That's a big difference between their playgrounds and ours -- I've seen no swings here.)

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Oh that freedom to roam!

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The joy of being a child outdoors, on soft sand.

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Again there is some protest when we leave, but I see that she is getting tired and so we make our way back, passing  a shop that I've visited once before. A kind of a stern place that normally I would avoid, but I was caught up with this yellow seersucker dress....

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On the street again, we continue to see lots of young people out and about. This Parisian teen could have been from the U.S., what with the smartphone and the logo t-shirt, but of course, the scooter and the good shoes (which you can just barely see here) give her away.

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And now we're crossing the river again -- back to the left bank, back to the Tower...

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And I think this is a good time to pause for lunch. But Snowdrop has fallen asleep! I track down a tea room/restaurant that's just a few blocks from our apartment (Les Deux Abeilles) and the girl is totally out! They're very cool about seeing me with the stroller, especially since the place is packed and it's not easy to fit us in.

Snowdrop sleeps through the mushroom omelette, sleeps through the chatter, sleeps through it all.

(Do you notice that the room is full of women and only women? I comment on that to the proprietor who seemed a bit apologetic. He says it's because it's a tea room and they're known for their salads, quiches and such. Men like meat, you know... He says. Ah.)

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The little girl wakes up as we leave. I do hide a few pieces of omelette for her in a napkin even though I know she must be hungry by now.
Just one stop, Snowdrop!

I make my way to the Julien bakery again. It's known for its pastries (in addition to its breads)...

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... and for its fruit tarts. I pick the raspberry one for us to share at home.

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And I buy a baguette and she is thrilled with it!

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(And at home, after a fitting meal of French toddler mush, she digs into her beloved creme patisserie, then finishes it off with the berries. I break away a good part of the cookie for myself.)

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In the late afternoon it rains. Snowdrop had napped rather late, yet I worry that she will be housebound and antsy if we stay indoors for the rest of the day. I put on her tres chique Target raincoat and out we go.

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Oh, she loves the great outdoors! The walk, the rain, my struggles with the umbrella, the idle stroller -- getting soaked through and through while she trots off on her own...

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Well, sort of on her own. Much of the green space around the Tower is now shut off and barricaded to the public. It's sad to see this and though Snowdrop is as happy as a rain-coated clam to be allowed anywhere at all on her own, I still feel that she has a better shot at urban freedom in other parts of the city. But it is indeed a precious sight to see her running back and forth before the ever grand Eiffel Tower.

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I had booked a baby sitter for the evening. Let's call her Violet, because she is actually English and I associate violets with that country.

From the get-go, I like Violet. She is confident but sweetly gentle and not at all heavy handed. She is just in her last year of high school, but she seems quite capable and smart. I am testing her tonight so see if she will love Snowdrop and if Snowdrop will love her right back (though on the latter front I have fewer worries as Snowdrop loves and smiles without much attention to who's who in this world).

In talking to Violet before heading out, I do ask her if she expects to stay in France, being British and all. She answers in the affirmative, though she admits to feeling, even after nine years of living here, a bit on the edge of things. French kids are different -- she tells me.
How so? -- I prod her, though I can guess what she'll say.
More confident. You can spot them anytime in a crowd. They just have that air.

It's probably true, though of course, this brings around the question of what it means to be French. I'll describe to you a scene I came across on my way to dinner tonight. French police had just caught and arrested a man who held grocery bags with obviously stolen goods. I had seen his buddies: they ran past me, knowing that their friend had been caught. They, too, had bags of groceries, but they got away, turning a corner and scooting quickly in another direction. The police were obviously anxious to catch up with the whole lot of them. They hadn't seen the escapees. So, if you were me, would you go up to the police and say -- they went that way? Would you?

I thought I should, and I thought I would, but actually I did not do any of it. I walked on. And I wondered why I walked on. And I found a plausible explanation - no one had been hurt. And I feel less compelled to ring the bell when the theft is of food. 

Perhaps you'd agree? So would it change your mind to know that one of the bags contained bottles of champagne? (You cannot fail to recognize a champagne cork.) Oh, the impossibility of having good answers to even a fractions of Europe's questions concerning growth and prosperity or lack thereof!

Let's go back to this evening and my plans for it. I didn't yearn for time alone. I would have been happy to put Snowdrop to bed myself. But I left the two of them and I went to dinner by myself in one of the typical local places I frequent in Paris (Chez les Agnes) and as is often the case, I walk away thinking --it's fine, really just wonderful... (Here's the delicious appetizer of wild asparagus -- something I questioned them on: is it really wild? I'm curious because we have plenty of self sowing asparagus at the farmette, but it does not look like this. It is indeed wild -- they tell me. I'll have to read some more to understand where and how this oddly tipped plant grows.)

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... but the restaurant is also a little stiff. I probably would continue the search for a better vibe in the future. (There are so many ways to eat well here, that I can be picky and stay clear of places that lack the warmth that I seek from an evening out.)

As I sit at home now, finishing my Ocean post, a terrific lightening bolt strikes the Eiffel Tower. So dramatic! Snowdrop never even stirs. Have you finally converted to the European time zone, little one?