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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.