Robert Frost

The best way out is always through.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Paris, Day 12 (June 10, 2008) What's happening here?

We actually woke up early this day (7:30am). And it must be said we did not have a bad weather day in Paris. The early summer days were wonderfully chill in the AM, sunny and warm in the afternoon, and then cool in the evenings. What roused everyone out of bed this morning was looking forward to an "American Breakfast" as promised by Rick Steves. No, he wasn't there in person but on the 7th arrondissement, Rue Cler neighborhood, near the Eiffel Tower there was supposed to be a cozy cafe he recommended that not only served a breakfast with the obligatory croissant, coffee/hot chocolate, but also threw in an orange juice (fresh squeezed of course), and an egg (TA DA!) David and the girls were ready to meet the day that included an egg.

We walked through this neighborhood from the Metro stop and quietly took in all the early (well early for us) morning sights we had been missing: Trucks unloading goods for grocers and restaurants, people in business attire heading to work and small hushed crowds at the cafes having their petit dejeuner (breakfast). We joined the early morning club at the recommended cafe, sat outdoors in the sweet morning coolness, and I ordered our breakfasts from the waitress showing her our Rick Steves guide (Steves' readers are supposed to get a 5 Euro discount!)

See our family breakfasting around the small cafe tables. Sophia, not hungry, again.

It was all delicious. I ate it all plus the hot chocolate from the bowl (I love this French habit). We were all pleased and I was ready to linger in the cafe setting but Sophia was restless, and the crew knew we were heading to the Eiffel Tower for our fist sight and they were itching to get a move on. I hurriedly gave my card for payment and as the waitress walked off I noted that the amount on the bill did not have the discount.

Now,dear reader, at this point of travel I had noticed some pricing mistakes (whether meant or by accident)along the way. A Euro here and few bits of change there and not usually in our favor. And prior to this I had kept the mistakes to myself in order to make things easy on us. But for whatever reason this was not going to happen this time. As I approached the lady at the counter she was just finishing up the charge and in my patchy French, and as politely as I could, I stated the miscalculation to her and she simply looked at me and handed me the receipt to sign. "Pardon madame" and I explained I would not sign without the change. A Frenchman at the bar turned his head to take in the scene with a slight scowl (probably thinking "ugly American"). She still paused a bit, then stated that she had already run the amount through the machine, what could she do? "Well" I paused, thinking that in the states, no matter how annoying, the customer is always right. In France it is all a matter of respect, yet I knew I was not trying to be annoying, I was just tired of getting the short shrift as a tourist. Then a thought came, and again piecing together a language not my own, the coherent thought came out that she could run it through as on the receipt and I would sign it, if she gave me the change in Euros instead of credit. The man at the counter actually smirked (entertaining as it all probably was to him), and the lady actually breathed out "Humph!" and handed me the change.

Triumphant, but weary I walked out to David and the girls who wanted to know what had happened. I reflected a bit too much on my morning grumble until a couple of blocks from Rue Cler the Tower came in to view. All annoyances melted away. I have tried and tried to think what about the Tower causes awe. I have kinda of figured out that for me it is the fact that in growing up in mostly small town Texas and dreaming that one day I might be able to travel out of state, that international travel was just not in the realm of possibility for me. Paris was a place to be seen in Lifetime shows and romantic movies (Sabrina, French Kiss, Forget Paris). Now Paris was all around me and better than the movies. And even better this time was that I was sharing it with my loved ones and could see their delighted responses.

By the time we arrived crowds were just starting to form so David and the girls immediately got in line. I realized we all would not be able to go up since Sophia had fallen asleep during the stroll to the Tower and getting the stroller up the stairs would be an ordeal up the steps. The elevator line was extremely long and pricier. I convinced the girls and David that I had been to the second level more than a few times before and tho' the view is a must I would much rather take time with Sophia and save us some money by my sitting it out this time. I was truly okay with this but I knew I was gonna miss their first time awe at the view. A neat plus was that we had scribbled out a few postcards over breakfast and the girls were going to send them out at the first level post office on the Tower. They actually stamp the Tower on the mail that goes out--what a treat for loved ones at home.
All in all my wait was not long (about an hour) and Sophia got in a respectable nap and snacked a bit before we regrouped. David took the camera and got some impressive pics:

This is my fave. They are touching the Tower. Look at the painted fingernails....how cute.

Next on the agenda was Musee Rodin. I had missed this famous sculptor's museum on my two previous trips and had heard raves about the lovely gardens and well-known sculptures. As we approached the line came into view before the museum and this was our first encounter with amusement park like crowds and lines at a major site. I think the waiting killed my family's desire for the museum. We waited about 45 minutes. Not a tremendously long amount of time but when you add the hour or so they hung about as I lingered amongst the sculptures reading the stories and history it was all too long for them. Yes, I loved it. Here's the kiss,

the hands,

the thinker.
And for some dreamy reason could picture myself touring it all slowly, quietly, in the fall season when the crowds are far fewer. Maybe for another time? We shall see.
But at this time it was hot in the mansion that housed the sculptures, crowded, and the girls were hungry. Sophia wanted to run about. We attempted to eat in what Rick Steves described as a well stocked garden cafe, but when I ran in with Anna to get an idea of what was available her hopes were dashed as it was all vegetarian friendly, with mostly unfamiliar veggie salads, cold pre-packaged meat sandwiches filled with un-Sara and un-Anna fillings. So we turned around and I announced that a Mc Donald's could be found on the Champs d'Elysees and it was a location of some cool shopping (mostly the window variety) and the Arc D'Triomphe.

It was such a lovely walk down the Champs d'Elysees toward the McDonald's near the Arc de Triomphe. The sidewalks were streaming with people but not overly crowded. We ordered our hamburgers and big icy drinks and surprisingly found a table for us all in the very busy and ultra crowded Mac Doughs. Hmm. The French detest the American fast food you say. I think maybe "non!" I have since heard that France is the country with the second largest consumption of McDonald's food after the US and that soon there will be a MacDonald's in the Louvre! Oh, my. But actually I am not a McDonald's fan. It is not a social protest. It is just personal preference. I find our Texas Whataburger hamburgers and fries to be exceptional and probably only get something from Mickey D's about once a year at most. But overseas, each time, I have noticed it is a welcome sight when unfamiliar foods have disappointed and cost us more than the few Euros for a combo meal.

Once done our energies were flagging. Oh, no. I suggested the also familiar and decadent Haagen Daz across the Avenue. Everyone perked up enough to get the treats and then Anna felt uneasy. She liked her ice cream but knowing that the Arc de Triomphe was almost 3 blocks away I could see her calculating the energy she didn't have to walk there and then on to another Metro and so on to our apartment. She said she wanted to nap. I didn't want to be uncaring but I suggested that we were so close to other things I wanted to show them, Laduree (a elegant and landmark patissierie/tea shop), Sephora, um, Sephora. Maybe a small rest would help? No. Then she said that she wasn't feeling well tummy wise and I knew we were trudging back to the apartment. Later both girls regretted this but Anna says that she knew at that moment she needed to rest. And she is not usually a girl to poop out.

When we returned to the apartment David, Anna, Sara, and Sophia vegged in the living room and picked a kid friendly movie from the stack provided by the apartment agency. I could feel a cloud come over me. Selfishly I whined in my head that if I was touring Paris on my own I wouldn't waste a moment. But I knew in my heart that if I was taking in Paris on my own it would be sad indeed because I love sharing these experiences with my crew. I needed a getaway. Yes, I would take a stroll. I asked David if he minded if I strolled and took in a cafe. He drowsily said that sounded great, that he and the girls would nap/chill. I think I skipped on my way out the door ready to spend a couple of hours exploring on my own.

This was thrilling to me. I knew I would simply amble about the neighborhood. Ah the stairs of Montmartre.
Then this cafe invited me in.

It was neatly tucked around the corner and I found a quiet tiny table in the midst of the chattering, visiting French. It was perfect. I ordered my Kir (dry white wine with cassis) and nuts were the companion nibble provided.
I wrote in my journal, planned (well trimmed down the plans) our next day,s schedule, and just took it all in. The thought came to me that all the delightful Parisian characteristics around me: cafes, cobblestones, old architecture, were the Everyday things to most all the French people around me. This was some one's everyday. Man, oh, man.

I stirred from my daydreaming revelry in just enough time to hurry back to the family at the apartment. They had just finished their movie and wanted to slip in another when I rounded them up to find a place for dinner. No one wanted to sit about a table and wait when they could pick up something and enjoy it at "home". But first we wanted to see the beautiful Paris landscape at one of Paris's sights that was only a few minutes away by foot--Sacre Coeur Cathedral.

We walked past our restaurant from the night before.

We walked past the artists all set up with there easels. We spotted one of these fanciful water fountains that actually flows with water you can drink, just fill up your water bottle.

We found the steps teaming with people around the church....

all taking in this view.

Talk about a spot that Parisians and tourist alike sit and share. Sacre Coeur is not remarkable because of its age. It is only over a hundred and some years old. A baby compared to the likes of Nortre Dame, and the Louvre. But its perch on this hill in Montmartre, its luminous white exterior, its beautiful mosaic ceiling, and grand view of the entrancing city of lights all make it a notable sight to see.

But the girls took a look, said, "Cool" and were ready for some dindin. So we set out to find some food "to go" and after some trepidation on what would suit us we found a small four table restaurant whose outside menu also said "emporter" (take out). Yippee.

The more we studied the menu, the more we wanted. The gentleman taking our order (Middle Eastern looking) smiled kindly as I added one item on top of another..."one sausage, no, make that three sausages, 3 orders of fries, no make that 4. Two Belgian waffles, no, make that one waffle, and one banana nutella crepe (of course), some roast chicken"...and he chuckled at me trying to interpret as my crowd was calling out to me what they wanted and how they wanted it. Then he asked where we were from. See, I am decidedly Hispanic looking and in Europe actually get mistaken for being Italian or Greek. Mexican-American is not on the local radar. He wondered because David and Anna, and Sara are so blond, blue-eyed and German looking and Sophia is a blend. He asked the French version of "What's up with that?" And I appreciated his honest curiosity and stated our little family was a melting pot and very much all-American. He nodded away apparently tickled at the answer and tossed in a few ketchup packets and a couple of drinks for free (I guess he heard the girls asking us for both as we waited for our order). What an opposite scenario from my morning's quibble over our overcharge for breakfast. We all uttered Mercis as we waved goodbye. Again, a small kindness buoyed our spirits. Ah, Paris.
We got home and unpacked all the surprisingly delicious goodies (Thank you chuckling man and thank you Lord) and watched The Holiday with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet. I so truly enjoy this movie for more than one reason. David and I always tear up at the part when Cameron Diaz's character surprise visits Jude Law's character (a widow) at his home and is surprised herself to discover that he has two adorable small girls. When David and I met (family set blind date) I was not surprised by his two adorable girls, but the night I met them for the first time was so much like that part of the movie. We all loved each other from the start. Thank the Lord. The girls gave the movie two thumbs up (we fast forwarded a couple of parts) and we actually rested our heads at a most decent hour. Well honestly......

At night, I organized our packs and outfits for the next day. I packed some items up hoping that the next night I wouldn't be overwhelmed with getting us completely packed to leave. I watched as Sophia and David slept soundly, listened to the sounds of the neighborhood from our opened windows that allowed the cool night air to waft through. I walked over to the sleeper sofa and watched the girls, sleeping almost head to head and thought how astoundingly sweet was this Paris moment. We only had one more day in this dreamy city.


Yaya' s Changing World said...

Hello, Jenny,
I found your site because you commented on http://sophie4me.blogspot.com/ and I had asked for email follow-up. I'm so glad I came here.
Your beautiful, sweet description of your time in Paris has left me speechless... not an easy task, believe me. You truly made me feel as if I were there.
You have a wonderful way with words and I look forward to reading more of your posts, as I am sure that I shall always feel a part in what you are sharing.
Thank you for such a charming description of something I never thought of appreciating so very much. ~ Yaya


Jenny said...

Hello,hello Yaya!
THank you for finding my blog and for your very kind comment. I also check out new sites by comments i read on other bloggers' sites and find that tho' the blog community is all over the world it is very welcoming. Happy blogging and I am going to pay a visit to your site too.

Mar-Cee-Ah said...

Jenny - such wonderful words to describe your trip. I am so glad you are sharing your story and helping me feel like I was along for the ride!

Jenny said...

You are too sweet Marcia. I would love for you to be along for the ride. I think I have told you this before. I could see you drinking in all the details of an overseas adventure of your own. When you do take that adventure you better blog about it so I can go with you tool.

Mommas Soapbox said...

I've always wanted to go to Paris. This was the next best thing!

Sally Annie Magundy said...

Hi Jenny!
You so sweetly commented on my blog and told me about where I could view Shaun the Sheep and so here I am to say hello! :)
I read quite a bit of your interests on your blogger info (ack! I need to do that!) and we enjoy a lot of the same things. I will look forward to reading your lovely blog!
Thanks again for visiting and a happy week to you!

Jenny said...

Hey Sally! Thank you so much for stopping by. I couldn't help throw a shout out for Shaun the Sheep as I found it funny my little one was watching an episode as I read your entry. I can't get over the sheer volume of ideas and creative outlets you share on your site. I do well to eek out an entry a month. I can't wait to get crafty these holidays.

Jenny said...

Hello Momma! Heehee. I am so glad something of the Paris I so love reminscing about brings it to life for you. Yeah, I can go on and on but I sure appreciate you stopping by and now I am about to head on over and visit your neck of the woods. Happy blogging!

A Tale of Two Cities said...

Even though I write about London, Paris is my favorite city in the world. I feel at home there, having been probably 50 times in my lifetime. (We lived in Brussels in the 90's and it was an easy trip.) I love how you stood up for yourself at the restaurant. I applaud your bravery--not always so easy to do in a foreign tongue.


Jenny said...

50! visits! I swoon to think of it. Thank you for stoping by and commenting. for whatever reason it takes me so long to write and then transfer my pics to my post that I only post once a month. But I keep plugging away because I think I will find my groove sometime. You know I do love Paris, in a dreamy way, but having just traveled to London in August I found that the history grabs me more. I get the urge to discover its nooks and crannies. Oh, by the way I just got my Keep Calm tea towel and my hubby is framing it for me for Christmas!

Sally Annie Magundy said...

Hi Jenny! Thank you so much for your prayers for my dear doggie! You are a sweetie and I so appreciate your kind words!
Happy Tuesday,

Jennifer K said...

This is one of my favorite posts on your blog. I almost cried when I saw the picture of the girls touching the Eiffel Tower! It's so sweet. I guess we're alike in that I sometimes let overcharges go by without commenting, but some days I get fed up and totally assert myself.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Hi Jenny thank you so much for commenting on my blog :-)

Rue Cler is one of my favourite streets, spent a lot of time there in Aug/September, oh Montmarte, we actually climbed to the top of the dome of Sacre Coeur...I love Paris, so pleased you were able to go for a stroll on your own and take in more sights..and a kir or two :-)

I met Jennifer K when I was there too, so lovely to meet another blogger, we hadn't spoken or met before , and we got on great, it was a Kir or two then and dinner!!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

If you give me your email address I will send you my address :-)Thank you.

Sally Annie Magundy said...

Hi Jenny! Thank you so much for your continued care, prayers and good thoughts for my doggie! WHEW! She is going to be fine. I'm still pooped from all of the worry.
Happy weekend to you and your dear ones!

Parisienne Farmgirl said...

Before I get to busy with making and wrapping presents (and delivering a baby) I wanted to visit and say "Merci Beaucoup" for following Parisienne Farmgirl this year.

It truly was a blessed year and I hope you keep on blogging, sharing your thoughts and life's adventures in 2010.

Merry Early Christmas.


Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing your photos and thoughts on your Parisian trip. I'm always ready to tag along!
We've spent many vacations in Paris in a small apartment on Rue Cler. Such a lovely part of the city! ~ Sarah

Le Chateau des fleurs said...

The Holiday is my favorite! I watch it over and over at Christmas time...Good for you for the change at the cafe. Makes me mad that some people will be dishonest like that!
The waiting in Paris is super long! This is everywhere. You did it with the girls OH WOW super woman!
Love all the pictures and story! How fun!
Thank you for linking up to French Obsession. You are the best!


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