Saturday, May 27, 2017

Paris, with family, continued

For a city this size, Paris can be surprisingly quiet. Veer away from the boulevards, or better yet, take a stroll on a weekend morning -- not even early morning, mid morning will do -- and you will hear your own footsteps.

For the first time, I am able to be up and about when it still feels morning cool outside. (The pleasant aspect of this heat wave here is that the nights cool off remarkably well.) I go to pick up fresh croissants -- and that's lovely too, because Snowdrop and I have been eating day old stuff which, I dare say, is tragic in a country where bread products, kept even for half a day in advance of eating them, aren't respected.

I don't go far. There's no need to search for perfection. Croissants in most bakeries here are like the violin that's just short of the stradivarius. Paul's is a short two or three blocks away. I go there.


(Past a quiet little square...)


(Catching the tip of St. Sulpice over the always low rise buildings...)


(And the tip of the St. Germain against a very blue sky...)


In the cafe filled Buci Street, there is a gentle stir. The early birds are starting their day.


I was once one of them here. I'd chase sunrises and watch the city wake up. Not anymore.

At home, Snowdrop is just waking up. She and I share breakfast as her parents slowly get themselves up and going.


And then we do a rerun of a lot that she and I have done before, only this time with one or both her parents.

An important point about this day: the temperatures have crept up a bit. We'll hit 90F (32C) by late afternoon. This was predicted and indeed, it's "cooler" than originally predicted, but still, by American standards it's air conditioning weather, only most places here don't have it, don't use it and make do without it. Our apartment, if worked right, is remarkably cool. Shutters or shades pulled, windows open only because we are shaded everywhere. By evening, the air is really terrific and throughout the day, the humidity hovers around 35%. But still, when the sun is out, you want to stay toward the shady part of the road.

To the park then! We do the thing that is done best before the day becomes too toasty: pony rides!

This time mommy leads and the horse is named (by Snowdrop) "Lucca, like in the book!" Here they are, with the Luxembourg Palace and Senate in the background. (And yes, you're supposed to follow along with the group, but there is only one attendant and the group spreads out greatly, so for many minutes it feels like you're parading your little one through the park on a horse, while the populace around you walks.)


As before, I tell her that pony rides require the removal of the sweater. She's happy to do it to get up on that pony. (Passersby always take pictures of the kids on their ponies. I remember doing that too!)


As we walk the predetermined route, I notice how this vast park, too, has its numerous quiet spaces. People are drawn to the big pond and to the cafe, but walk your pony among these chestnuts and you'll feel the almost meditative mood of the old and young trees in their various shades of green.


After the ponies come the swings (way up high, in the sky, Snowdrop continues to fly...) and then she asks for the playground. I hesitate. It's packed with kids today. Is it worth watching her stand back and wait a turn that may or may not come about? Kids here are confident in their movements. They have years and cultural familiarity on their side. But in the end, Snowdrop is so determined to show this space too to her mom that we go along. And I'm glad of it. Mommy can rest a bit, gaga can admire the progress the little girl has made in attacking the climbing rope ladders (she makes it all the way to the top)...


... and the confidence that allows her to tell kids who do not understand any of it -- that space is for gaga. You can go there -- pointing to some more distant place... (Snowdrop never tells you what to do, she suggests it. It's never "you go there" but rather "you can go there.")


Finally, when we pass 1p.m., we pull her away and direct her out the park toward a lunch place. It's hot, but I'm sure she is hungry. And I wonder where she finds her energy: she has done a lot of running and walking today on yet again too little sleep! (And yes, the sweater stays off. She asks for it, but sometimes, you just have to say no.)


(A quiet block that today makes you really believe that we've hit southern Europe. At the siesta hour.)


The young family is happy to try Da Pietro's and again, the little one dives into her mushroom pizza. Whoever thought of this magic for kids food ought to get a spot in heaven. Is there a child that doesn't love pizza?


(But Snowdrop definitely is worn out. We are surrounded by French families out for a big weekend meal and she watches their interactions as she rests her head on the chair that is of course too big and too low for a two year old...)


We pick up pastries from up the block. You can ask Snowdrop which one she wants, but her choices aren't necessarily going to make her happy and this isn't the time or place to teach her independent decision making. Not when someone else is picking up the tab for her.

(This display of bigger cakes actually has hers in it: it'll be a corner of the square strawberries cake  with strawberries and cream -- a reliable selection that is bound to make her happy.)


And it does.


Evening. Snowdrop is awake, looking for a few cherries perhaps.


It's really warm outside, but we have a date: her parents had an errand to do and we are to meet up with them at the merry-go-round. Snowdrop is so ready!


Mommy and daddy are already at the carousel by the time we get there, waiting, waiting... Snowdrop runs in total anticipation!



And then she sits on her favorite carrier, from where she navigates the globe.


There is the usual plea for everything to continue: if not the merry-go-round, maybe the playground? Yes yes, it's for big kids, but as she tells me, ever so honestly -- I'm a big girl! A few bounces and jiggles and we all head home.


If you add up all the meals since I left the farmette, my count tells me that there have been 18 altogether. I've eaten all of them with Snowdrop -- from the airplane dinner (her verdict on that one: yuk!) to all the breakfasts, lunches and dinners thereafter. I wish I could say that I was always laid back about how things would go. I think I was pretty chill, but not completely so. I worried about all the pieces fitting together: Snowdrop's tastes, inclinations, and too, her mood.

For today's dinner, I haven't any of the worry: my daughter and I have a date at Semilla Restaurant (where she and I have eaten before) while Snowdrop's daddy is left with figuring out where to take the little one for their evening meal. When my daughter and I leave, there is still much indecision and discussion. No matter, my daughter says: they'll figure it out.

She and I have a wonderful evening, just at the open window of this remarkable and very favorite restaurant.


We walk home after 9:30, just as the sun does the final set over Paris.


We tiptoe up the final steps. Surely Snowdrop will be in bed and asleep by now.

She and her daddy are not even home when we enter our tiny apartment. I'm nervous. Where are they? Relax, my daughter tells me. I'm sure they're fine.

A few minutes later, Snowdrop bursts in. She is all smiles and giggles after her special night with her father. They had gone to a moulle fritte (mussles and fries) place and the expectation was that he would have many moules and she would have some frittes, but in fact, as the story goes, she devoured very many of his moules and so he was left with satisfying his own hunger with the frittes.

There are many lessons to be learned from this evening, but that's not the point, of course. The most important message is that there are so very many ways to cut an evening and so very many joys to be had on this planet despite your conviction that only one set of outcomes will bring peace and satisfaction.

I write this in the quiet of my bedroom. It's Saturday night, but it is very very still outside. Has Paris fallen asleep? No, I don't think so. The better explanation is that my bedroom faces the courtyard.