Robert Frost

The best way out is always through.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Au Revoir Sweet Paris (June 11, 2008, Day 13)

This entire day was bittersweet for me. The day's agenda was not going to encompass anything new (to me): Musee D'Orsay, the Louvre, the Tuileries gardens, and the Latin Quarter. Because this was the last day of our trip, I knew I was wanting to treasure a revisit of these world renowned sights. I was ready to dust off the fuzzy romanticised edges of the Parisian images from my past and replace them with the real and gritty moments of a possibly crying toddler, diaper changes, hungry grumbles and complaints of boredom. We were now in the very midst of "trip lag" where homey familiar comforts are gone, moving around hurriedly is tiring, and cultural differences aren't charming. My dear ones really did not complain. The girls (all three) were amazing travel companions. But I could see from our slower morning starts, continual straight faces, and non-excitable reactions to, of all things, Paris, that their spirits were flagging. I was the constant travel cheerleader, just hoping not to verge on the obnoxious. Now, on to day 13.
This particular morning....a blur....nada. It is as if the mental recording of my memory begins with us walking upon Musee D'Orsay from its backside....ala Metro Solferino. I remember the quiet stirring of a handful of Parisians moving between the official looking buildings near the Musee. Again I had those random imaginings of someone to whom this is an everyday place describing where they live or work as.."oh, yeah, you know the block behind the Musee D'Orsay, across the Seine River from the Jardin des Tuileries, yeah I live/work there.." Dreamy.As we approached the Musee I could hear the rumbling of a mass of people, and sure enough there was a longer line than the previous day's line at Musee Rodin. Oh, no. We shuffled our way to the back of the long meandering line and my eyes caught sight of a door at the opposite end of the main entrance where people were easily gliding in with no wait. My bunch kept our place in line while I sidled over to the man guarding the other door. I showed him the pass we had purchased the day before at Rodin that was good for all the major museums. He motioned for me to go on in and so I waved my crew over and voila---the joy of having a museum pass.
Before my first trip to Paris in 1993, I only had the movie, school room idea of Paris (Eiffel Tower, cafes,the Louvre and Marie Antoinette). I had no inkling of the delights to be found in Paris's grand museums and Avenues. Once I arrived (1993) I remember the entire of feel of Paris embracing me the moment our missions group sat down on a sprawled blanket in the incredibly lovely and underrated Parc Montsouris to a picnic of the best baguette I ever had, cheeses, fresh fruit, butter, and jams, as we sat on an acceptable patch of grass and saw the Parisian families at rest and play all around us. I remember that I took in none of the orientation info being thoughtfully doled out by our missions leader as my senses were being flooded all at once with amazing and new experiences.

How do I pass these delights on to my family? I cannot account for the remembrances the girls keep of this visit, because imparting the better part of Paris: its' cafes, history, different edible joys and adventures is just not up the girls alley at this point and time. And yes they did try from time to time to step out of their comfort zones. Honestly if this last day had been spent entirely at the Galleries Lafayette (a supreme multi-storied glittering shopping landmark) mind numbingly shopping it would have probably ended on the highest note possible. But it would have been done without the Louvre! without Monet! without the stroll through the former royal Tuileries gardens. And I just couldn't do it. Poor girls. Musee D'Orsay is so light, lovely and majestic. It fairly glows as the light streaming in from the glass paned roof reflects off the cream toned decorative ceiling tiles and white stone interior. The gorgeous gilded clock overhead hearkens to its original use as a railway station.

Talk about re purposing a building. When I first visited D'Orsay (I had been to the Louvre, L'Orangerie (houses Monet's water lily panels), and even the sewer museum, yeah, I said sewer museum) I was taken aback not only by the impressionist art that it houses, but the elegance of the interior. The girls also craned their necks to take in the height of the central walkway through dramatic sculptures and as usual, we let them lead the way picking highlights of canvases shown on the map of the musee.

I drank in the Monet, Matisse, Pissaros, in their elegant setting. The girls picked a canvas or two they liked. Sara loved this very colorful one (no idea who painted it):
Anna enjoyed the detail of the diorama of the Paris Opera House and scale cross section model of Musee D'Orsay itself:

But again the time interrupter of hunger that is a brother to irritability and frustration swung in and stopped our tour. Instead of trying to roam about the neighborhood for a welcoming cafe or bistro we ambled into the high priced museum cafe. Just the other day I actually found the receipt for this sandwich, chip and drink lunch and it cost us a whopping $45 US. GULP. But it was adjacent to the large wonderfully situated balcony with a view of the Seine, Tulleries, and the Louvre. Our next stop. These are some truly sweet girls:

I knew that the Musee as gorgeous as it all is, was not keeping the girls attention and so we walked over the Seine by a wide foot bridge over to the Royal Tulleries gardens.
Populated with Parisians and tourists alike lounging and drinking in the day amongst the gardens sculptures, the gardens were a perfect short stop for Sophia to run around and enjoy her favorite travel activity: Picking up rocks and tossing them. Ah, simple pleasures. Hmm, life imitates art?:
As we approached the Louvre, again I could see the crowded line at the notable glass pyramid entrance.
But a diaper change was necessary and the stop proved to be completely helpful as the girls looking about noticed a near under ground entrance to the Louvre, away from the major crowds (thank you Lord). Not many people were going in, but we entered with the confidence of tourists who can plead ignorance if corrected and were rewarded with the surprise of a quick express entrance, again with our museum passes. The girls felt elated with the tiny adventure and ready to explore the overwhelmingly grand Louvre. It is a Paris MUST.
This extensive museum that houses many ages of art, is in a word, ginormous (well kind of a word). I have visited it four times and yet haven't even scratched the surface. But because my family was on museum overload, I pared down the must see checklist to the predictable highlights of The Mona Lisa, Winged Victory of Samothrace,

Venus de Milo, and the awe inspiring series of Rembrandts. David said that even though he understood why Musee D'Orsay was my favorite, he wasn't expecting how intriguing the art, history and building of the Louvre itself would be to him. Each expansive room after the other filled from floor to ceiling with amazing images and color. We kept finding our eyes being drawn upwards to the intricate details of the ceilings themselves that recalled their royal history. The grandness of the museum kept the girls' interest but the crowds were wearing them down. Once we got to THE Mona Lisa, it was like we hit the Hollywood red carpet and the paparazzi was in full force. She was tucked away in a smaller room than the others works and keeping her company was this other piece of over sized floor to ceiling canvas that no one was standing near.Here she is behind crowds and protective glass.
Sara in proximity to the Mona Lisa. "Sara what do you think?", Me. Sara, "Um, it is neat." Me, "Is that it?" Sara, "It is really small." Me, "Are you ready to go?" Sara, "Um, yes." And off we went.
This shot is the last Paris shot I have at all. Even though it was just getting near four I knew that by the time we found a place to eat and ordered we would feel like having dinner. Then the other time consideration was that I had to do some major packing. So it was going to be the earliest turn in time of our entire trip. On our way out of the Louvre we looked for an easy access out with our stroller and we got to have a ride on the circular open topped elevator that rises up the main entrance pyramid.
We decided on picking up a pizza at the restaurant (Rim Cafe) we first visited when we got to Paris (in the Latin Quarter) and waited for pizza being entertained by a street band playing Strauss. Sara passed her time enjoying her last banana nutella crepe and ate it with gusto. Then another Metro adventure ensued, seeing as it was "rush hour" for the Metro and we were loaded with our crew, plus gear, plus pizzas at the busy Metro stop. When we finally crammed ourselves into our spot we were practically body to body in the car. Then as usual, a man offered his seat to me as I was holding Sophia, diaper backpack, and some food. Sara wiggled near me and as her usual, she was staring at a young woman near her. I poked her side to keep her from staring too long and in answer to the jab Sara said, "Her outfit is really cool" in a clear yet hushed tone. All at once the girl standing near the Metro car doors as they were readying to open at the stop, turned around to Sara and said, "Thank you!" with a slight accent and a sweet smile as she left the car. Sara's face reddened to have been caught. Then she said just as I thought it too, "Glad I said something nice." Yes, indeed.
By the time we tromped into our apartment our pizza was cold but still tasty and downed with our last bit of juices and soda as we watched another movie and packed. The girls said more than a few times that they were ready to be home. Sophia wound down quite easily and after everyone was fed, showered and tucked in I still found myself packing and organizing (its my plight).
The next AM I called our apartment owners because we had yet to see them and hand off the security deposit. The owner said not to worry about it and if there were any concerns they would get in touch with us (there were none and the apartment experience was ideal). Thankfully we had set up a shuttle pick-up to the airport which arrived on time around 7am. What I enjoyed best about this ride was that our driver took us by some major sights on our way out including the Arc d'Triomphe, and our parting shot of the Tower. Ahh Paris.
Honestly our trip back home was quite a bumpy one again. And oh, so very tiring. Sophia, who had been such a trooper for the journey to Europe and all around it was having none of it traveling back home. Once again I had to pause and say that we did it to ourselves: we traded ease of travel and peace of mind for cheaper tickets and the hustle bustle. But after near 24 hours of travel back on three separate flights, a two hour drive home from Dallas airport to our boonies ranch, and no lost luggage, we were of all things: Thankful.

It took me a full week to unwind and unpack (that's me) and hey, only a year and half to retell our tale. But the girls still love travel (yes, dear friends I am about to retell our August 2009 trip with Loulou), still will go to museums, walk for blocks to a major sight, pose for random pictures, eat new things, and put up with lugging luggage to and fro. They have actually said they would love to go back to Paris (proof to me that I didn't ruin it for them) and do some shopping. David even said that he would go back. When will that be?

Well I sit here and realize that we were definitely blessed to take our entire family when we did and that Paris may not be in our near future. But these dear memories are ours and because of the blog world I can keep up with Paris adventures and sights all the time. And of course if we find our way back again y'all will be the first to know. Thanks for reading ...Au revoir.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas time is HEEEERREEE!

***WARNING*** This entry you are about to read is more than likely going to have a major tangent and a slight brag. Please do continue reading but have grace on these personal hiccups, sometimes that is just how I roll. ***

Can you just hear the Charlie Brown gang singing this little ditty? Last year I posted about favorite Christmas shows/movies that usher in this holy time to me. Yep. The list is still unchanged for me. At this writing I have heard Buddy the Elf proclaim to a mall Santa that "..(he)sits on a throne of lies.." not being the real Santa and all. And we have watched Linus tell Charlie Brown and all American viewers the real meaning of Christmas from his recitation of the Gospel of Luke chapter 2. Amen Linus. I will catch up on the rest of my faves the week of Christmas I am sure.

But just yesterday I was asking my dear family their favorite Christmas songs. And I was surprised to hear their faves. So here goes another list.:

6. I like them all. Really. I have what Jane Austen would call a "serviceable voice" (slight brag warning) and will readily belt out any Christmas song that comes to mind, Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland (Liz Phair does a great version of this), The Christmas Song (ala Nat King Cole please), O Tannenbaum, Mele Kalekimaka (Bing), etc. But since I want to finish this entry today I will try my hardest to stick to five.

5. Carol of the Bells. I like the instrumental versions a lot but the first time I heard this it was just voices and it is haunting, lovely, and evocative of the season (ooh, evocative, cool word, I even like just saying it...anyway). This was Anna's favorite. Good choice.

4. White Christmas by, who else, but Bing Crosby, of course. Well, now how in the world does a lifelong Texan, who has never seen a white Christmas (rainy, yes, snowy NO) in her whole life, find this song to pluck at her heart strings. It is EVOCATIVE I tell ya. I picture the dreamy scenes of Christmas it paints and aspire to help create that for my sweet familia, minus the snow.
3. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Andy Williams and his rich jolly voice out singing the swinging brass playing the tune. I just gotta sing along when I hear it and pump up the volume to 11.

2. Silver Bells/Silent Night. These are David's and Sara's favorites respectively. Silver Bells is such a nostalgic song of the celebration that so many share and the "Merry Christmases" you hear being shared even amongst strangers. Silent Night was my favorite growing up because the tune so easily fits a child's range. But truly this dear song of praise and worship sung at midnight candlelight Christmas mass growing up (I grew up Catholic) was a time of awe and wonder to me.

And now my tangent. My hidden secret joy about Christmas music. It cannot deny the joy of the season of God's greatest gift of Love to us...Jesus the Christ. I know secular songs are on my list and I do dearly enjoy them but the songs of Christmas that grip my heart and yes even bring tears to my eyes are the ones that give glory to our Lord and Savior and remind us of the AMAZING LOVE laid at our feet by our Gracious Heavenly Father. And people around the world are hearing these songs of the gospel everyday through the mediums of the internet, TV, radio and all around really. And His word does not go out in vain. So now to my top favorite song:

1. O Holy Night. Josh Groban, Celtic Woman, Martina McBride have lovely versions but the melody and words give glory whenever sung.
O Holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morning
Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angel voices
O night divive! O night when Christ was born!
O night Divine! O night , O night divine!
Merry Christmas dear friends! Joy to the World indeed.


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