Paris in the fall

*I should note that all of the amazing photographs from France were taken by my very talented photographer-cousin, Laura.

We spent the second part of our trip to France in Paris.  I'll be honest: saying goodbye to the boat was sort of a happy thing for me.  It was fun, but it would have been much more fun without a crawling infant aboard.  And...with a little more room.  And...a normal toilet and a microwave.  Nonetheless, we turned in the keys and embarked on Death March #2 toward Paris.  I literally almost had my arms snapped off in the metro.  I agree with the French that our health care system is barbaric, but so is their metro system!  Eric literally had to pry the doors open to release my arms.  Anyway, I'm sure we afforded the locals a good laugh with our huge group of people, bumbling ways and periodic shrieks of "WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN!?!?!"  and "WHERE IS GRANDMOTHER?!?!?"  I found that the best strategy for moving through the gates was to feed the children's tickets through for them and then yell "GO, GO, GO!!!" in a loud and urgent voice, while pushing them from behind.  I'm sure we were very entertaining.

We finally made it to our hotel in Paris, which appeared deceptively clean and well-kept...more on this later.  For the moment we were just glad to have normal-sized beds and showers that did not contain toilets.  After doing a little celebration dance, we headed out to see Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle, two of my top priority attractions.  The Sainte Chapelle was being cleaned, but even so, it was everything I had always dreamed it would be while sitting in a darkened Art History lecture hall in college. 

We had a Joshua Bell moment in the subway, and after reading this article a few years ago, I insisted that we stop to listen just in case these were world-class musicians.  I'm not sure if that was the case, but they sounded pretty amazing to me...

[The video of this special moment is the reason why it's taken me over a MONTH to publish this post!!  I cannot get it to upload, so you'll have to imagine...violins...cellos...French subway- it was cool.]

The next evening Laura very kindly watched the kids for us while Eric and I went out to dinner.  We rode Velib bikes to the Marais district and searched out the little restaurant where Eric remembered eating incredible chocolate mousse on his earlier trip.  If I hadn't been suffering from post-baby level sleep deprivation at that point I think I could remember more details

One of my favorite days of the whole trip was the day we spent almost entirely in the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was right across the street from our hotel.  The first thing we did was to rent a little wooden sailboat for the boys to push around with a stick in the fountain- surprisingly entertaining.  

Then we stumbled upon the sweetest playground you've ever seen.  Little Eric tried to join these two French boys in a game of basketball, but they seemed not to understand...(I'm working on figuring out how to shorten the video so I can post it)...

We substituted hot chocolate for lunch at a little cafe a block away and then returned to the park for pony rides (Brigham was disappointed that he didn't get the odd-looking pony with the big ears- actually a donkey, I think)...
...and a puppet show of which we understood about two words...

Then it was back to the Eiffel tower to see it sparkle close-up, where the boys got caught in a freak mini-monsoon.  Laura, Marley and I were waiting on our dinner at a restaurant a few blocks away when we heard thunder and Laura decided to walk down to the tower and check on the guys, whom we'd left waiting in line.  We thought maybe they would stop letting people go up in the event of thunder or lightening and she wanted to tell them where we were in case they needed to come find us.  A couple minutes after she left the restaurant I noticed that tables and chairs were blowing past my window.  She returned a half an hour later soaked from head to toe, to report that the tower was open for business and she hadn't seen the boys.  Indeed, we found out later that they were up on the second level when the storm hit and had watched the wall of rain come toward and then engulf them.  I think that might have been the highlight of their trip.  Either that or the small snail they found in the subway.  

We returned to the hotel that night happy, but exhausted and excited to be going home the next day.  I curled up in bed and read for a few minutes while Eric checked our flight status in the lobby.  Just as I was falling asleep, I felt something sting my neck and I quickly turned on the light to find a giant bedbug on the sheet.  Well.  After the worst night's sleep of my entire life (and that's saying something), we packed up our stuff and Eric headed down stairs with three sample bedbugs on a napkin, where he got the manager to give us our rooms for free.  It was about this time that we all started to itch.  After a long flight home, during which we entertained ourselves by mentioning our encounter with bedbugs and then observing the panic in people's eyes, my aunt and uncle met us at the airport in Baltimore with a box full of trash bags and a roll of duct tape.  We sealed up everything except our wallets and car keys and a few diapers and drove home, where we faced the task of de-bugging everything.  Anything that could be washed Eric took to the laundromat, and the rest of it we either submerged in soapy water, froze or heated in the oven, including the lap-top, i-pod and cell phones.  I think it's safe to say by now that we're bedbug free, but I can tell you that I will not be staying in a hotel for a very, very long time!

So all in all, we had a great time.  There were a lot of very human moments- some misunderstandings, some tantrums, some sleep-deprivation-induced snapping, but with the passage of a little time, those things seem to have faded, leaving us with lovely memories of smiles and looks of wonder on our kids' faces, incredible sights both grand and quaint, croissants, chocolate and boeuf bourgignon.

*My crafting-talented friend Cindy Lynn is starting an Etsy shop- check it out!