Sunday, February 26, 2012

we’ve never had paris

When we moved to Paris, I made a point of shipping several bins filled with holiday decorations in order to keep our traditions alive.  Holidays are kind of a big deal at our house.  Over the past decade, I have hosted countless Valentine and Halloween parties, Christmas open houses, Easter brunches and Thanksgiving dinners, and I have corresponding decorations to accompany every occasion.  I don’t have to worry my pretty little head if Paris doesn’t make a Hallmark card for it.  I came prepared.

DSC_7039 look closely:  these fancy desserts are perched on beribboned swings

Valentine’s day in Paris is a seriously romantic notion.  With its lovey-dovey reputation, one might even proselytize that every day is V-day in the city of love.    One might also be on vacation without children; or perhaps proposing with a ring in a champagne flute, atop the Eiffel Tower.

DSC_7028 tea for two (stylish tea salon in a hotel on rue du cherche midi)

Naud and I know little of the romantic side of Paris.  We first came to visit as parents with a three year old in tow.  It was dreamy in a jetlagged, toddler-toting stupor sort of way.  We had great fun frequenting playgrounds, marionette shows and zoos, taking in shopping and art museums during Annabelle’s lengthy stroller naps.  We enjoyed fine dining due to our (generally) well-behaved child and her adventurous palate (not to mention my Mary Poppins-approved tote brimming with crayons and activity books).

Our Paris has always been a family affair and we like it that way.  People who don’t know this G-rated take on the city have no idea what they’re missing.  The French love children.  Kids open doors in ways my rudimentary language skills never will.  We get to live vicariously through Annabelle in places where we’d just seem creepy if we didn’t have a child in tow.  Take marionette shows, for instance.  There is this incredible old puppet theatre in the Jardin du Luxembourg where they ring a bell to announce shows and children sit on wooden benches in front so that they may interact with the puppets.  The sets are amazing and the characters, engaging.  We love it as much as Annabelle does.

DSC_7034 hearts on display at a neighborhood brocante (vintage boutique)

Moving here hasn’t changed our status as parents.  We routinely enforce homework, manners and bedtime all while juggling household tasks.  The only difference is that we’re doing it in Paris.  We manage to counter the mundane with morning coffee dates after dropping Annabelle at school.  We’ve also taken a cue from the French and make a point of kissing more often.  It’s not just in the movies.  I am happy to report that public displays of affection are alive and well in Paris.

DSC_7041 laduree took the icing on the cake approach

When Valentine’s day was on the horizon, I learned that the French view the holiday as solely for grown-ups.  This meant no Valentine exchange at school, no conversation hearts, no adorable red-themed attire.  In fact, there was so little commercialism, it would have been easy to forget the whole thing.  A few pastry shops (patisseries) and chocolatiers got into the spirit and adorned their windows with festive displays, which was enough to keep V-day on my radar.

DSC_6839 nicely played (at a chocolate shop in our neighborhood)

Despite the lack of hoopla, Naud was sweet enough to make dinner reservations at popular new restaurant, Verjus.  In the morning, we exchanged cards and chocolates (Pierre Herme for him, Foucher for me) and I made sure Annabelle felt the love with a few token gifts and candies.  After he left for work, Naud deposited roses on our doorstep and texted me to open the door.  I am a lucky lady.

DSC_7024  foucher chocolates have the sweetest boxes

Our friend visiting from Seattle generously offered to stay with Annabelle, so we had ourselves a built-in sitter for the occasion.  It was our big chance to finally shed the family-friendly Paris and savor a night out, sans offspring.  I should have been elated, only I wasn’t.  I felt a cold coming on, Annabelle was sick and my friend was leaving the next morning.  It felt forced and unnatural to go out for the sake of going, so we called off our fancy dinner and instead, I pan seared lamb rib chops with herbes de Provence and honey, tossed tagliatelle pasta with butter and parmesan and oven roasted asparagus.  We bought four individual desserts from one of my favorite bakeries  and split them four-ways.  It was a perfect evening with people I love and I couldn’t have asked for a better Valentine’s day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

sharing the love

We hosted our first visitor this month.  A dear friend of mine from Seattle booked her ticket soon after hearing news of our big move.  At the time, the idea of life in Paris was still an abstract notion.  We had no idea what the future would hold; but as luck would have it, her timing couldn’t have been better.  She showed up in Paris just when our lives here had begun to take shape, at that moment when the rhythm of life signaled the end of the honeymoon.  We were grateful for a change of pace.

the best guests are the ones who give piggyback rides

Living in your favorite city is like turning your hobby into a full time job.  It has its rewards but doesn’t leave much time for the hobby itself.  Parisian life is grand, but we aren’t frequenting museums every weekend or dining in Michelin star restaurants.  We are too busy grocery shopping in a foreign language, helping our child with mountains of homework (in French, no less!) and trying to keep our sanity in a very small living space. 

prettiest bridge in paris: pont des invalides

We have come to accept that our washer is our dryer.  It’s a combined thing.  One dirty load takes two hours.  One dryer load, which can only run when the washer is not in use, takes 90 minutes.  Towels clock in at a whopping three hour dry time.  Our countertop oven is good for roasting vegetables and baking chocolate chip cookies but has serious limitations when it comes to baking a cake or roasting a chicken.  These minor irritations are a small price to pay.

DSC_7082  eiffel tower drive through

We are living our dream and taking on the challenges that go along with it.  The fruits of our labor are unmistakable.  This is Paris, after all.  During her recent visit, my friend summed it up well when she marveled, “Everywhere you turn in this city, there is something beautiful to see.

hello, beautiful.

We take great pleasure in the little things:  stumbling upon a charming side street, the well-deserved croissant after a day spent traversing the city on foot, the rare good cup of coffee, quirky shops filled with delightful odds and ends… There is never a dull moment in Paris. 

walking home from dinner at allard

Hosting a visitor gave us our first stab at playing tour guide but it also afforded us the opportunity to be tourists in our own city.  It was the best of both worlds for my friend, who saw the sights as well as an intimate portrait of Parisian living.  For us it was more of a juggling act, playing tourist while tackling the chores of daily life but we managed alright and had a good deal of fun in the process.

DSC_7097 pint-sized tour guide in repose

Quote of the week:  Annabelle to our guest, “You’re not really Parisian until you’ve stepped in dog poo.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

the sincerest form of flattery

It all started with a care package from the States.  Annabelle’s good friend Audrey sent a thoughtful assortment of favors and activities left over from her birthday party.  Included in the mix were several hair accessories, including neon hair extensions and large tropical faux flowers.  Annabelle proceeded to clip these items together and plop them atop Naud’s head.  

I was busily making pancakes when I heard peals of laughter and turned toward the living room.  The moment I saw Naud, all I could think was: Frida Kahlo.  I begged for a little creative license and he not so cheerfully obliged.  One flowery scarf, ruby necklace and faux unibrow later, we had ourselves a dead ringer.  I knew better than to suggest lipstick.  The man has limits.
one of these Fridas is not like the other

Finding Naud’s inner Frida made me laugh so hard I almost wet myself.  I’m so glad my husband is a good sport although I think the red lipstick would have added a lot. 

DSC_7051 gratuitous scenery shot to erase all memory of the previous imagery

Once everyone (Naud) was back to normal, we headed to the American Library in Paris for their annual Valentine party, which was great fun.  The bus stop near the library afforded us a sparkling view of La Tour Eiffel as we headed home to prepare for our first out of town guest, due to arrive later that evening. 

snow, sort of

DSC_6965  annabelle shows no mercy

It snowed in Paris.  It wasn’t much but it was worth mentioning.  Snow makes me happy.  Snow makes Annabelle even happier.  Naud is somewhat ambivalent but combined we were pretty elated about the whole thing.

The entire accumulation was about one centimeter and lasted for all of two hours.  We made the most of it and that’s what matters.  We walked to Saint-Sulpice square and discovered the fountain had frozen solid, creating an impromptu ice rink of sorts.  Children were merrily gliding across its surface and Annabelle gladly joined in the fun.

DSC_6973 walking on water

Naud and I even clambered up for a moment, just to experience the sheer audacity of climbing atop a Parisian fountain.  I mentioned our excursion to my French friend and she seemed genuinely horrified.  Oh well.

DSC_6985 snow + annabelle = puppy love

Adjacent to the fountain is Saint-Sulpice Cathedral.  We had never seen the interior and were in dire need of thawing a bit, so made our way inside.  It was beautiful, austere, and not particularly warm.

DSC_6996 inside saint-sulpice

Annabelle lit a candle for a sick friend and said a little prayer.

DSC_6990 lighting a candle for a friend

We exited the cathedral and followed the rumbling of our bellies to the nearest bistro when suddenly it dawned on us that we had somehow made it this far without an authentic bistro lunch.  It was about time.  We ordered hearty winter fare and drank red wine in the middle of the day.  Scandalous!  The place oozed charm but the food was just so-so.  It’s harder than you think to find a good meal in Paris.  Fortunately, good company saved the day.

DSC_7016  that’s what french people do.  they stare just like that guy on the left.

That evening, I went for a run in what was left of the snow and it was dreamy. 

IMG_0240 snow on the path at jardin des tuileries

crossing the invisible line

I did something I’ve never done on a recent run and made a right turn where I always make a left.  It’s not that I don’t like to switch it up.  In fact, I probably run more routes in Paris than I ever did in Seattle.  It’s my favorite way to tour the city  This was different, though.  Generally, I run in areas I’ve already encountered in some capacity but this time I went off the grid. 

My right turn landed me smack dab in the shopping district of the first arrondissement.  It was cold and clear and not terribly busy and I was feeling brave.  The first thing of interest I encountered was an absolutely stunning church I’d never seen or heard of, Eglise de la Trinité.  Its beauty was both majestic and compact in comparison to giant cathedrals like Notre Dame and Sainte Sulpice. 

eglise de la trinité

Buoyed by the church sighting, I continued on my way and found myself planted squarely in front of another gem, Academie Nationale de Musique.  Perhaps because they are generally open to the public, most colossal buildings in Paris are more impressive than imposing.  The intricate artistry and details do much to soften their immense stature.

IMG_0233 one quarter of the academie nationale de musique

After that, I got lost.  I don’t actually believe I’m ever lost, so I wasn’t really.  But it was cold and I had no idea where I was.  I tried to use the map on my phone but I am hopelessly map illiterate and kept heading in the wrong direction.  Eventually, I figured it out and made my way home.  In the process, I encountered the most unusual metro entrance yet.  It looked remarkably like a beaded hairdo.  In fact, it reminded me of the cover of a Zap Mama CD Naud played for me when we first met. 

IMG_0236  portal to another universe or just another metro tunnel

maybe this was the inspiration…

When I spotted the Louvre just beyond the funky metro entrance, I knew I was in the home stretch.  It was empowering to forge a new path, get lost and found and end up back at my own front door, all in the span of an hour and 15 minutes.

running fool

Because there is no school on Wednesdays, I have taken to running before Naud goes to work on those mornings.  Despite the fact that I can’t bring myself to get up early on a regular basis, I am quite fond of running at sunrise.  I love waking up with the city and greeting Paris all its dewy splendor.

We experienced an unbelievably cold stretch earlier this month.  When I headed to run, it was often still in the teens.  I wore many layers, including long underwear and a scarf wrapped around my face.  For the first 10 minutes, it felt like my face and fingers were on fire, but the pain was totally worth it.

first signs of ice on the saint-sulpice fountain

During the cold spell, I was constantly awestruck by the perfectly clear blue skies and gold-tinged glow on every facet of the city.  The sun shone brightly but never quite touched down. 

Bitter cold did little to stop life in Paris.  On the coldest of days, the city was a bustle of people going about their day.  I liked that.  It was good for cafes, who did brisk business warming up customers.  No one seemed to hole up at home.  Young and old, alike, were out and about. 

The fur came out in full force.  You name it, I saw it, in fur form.  There were fur hats that reminded me of the soldiers from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, fur capes, fur stoles with little faces and legs, dyed fur, fur vests, fur headbands and fur dog jackets.  Fur was suddenly The North Face of Paris and given the frigid temperatures, it came across as more utilitarian than vulgar. 

DSC_6951 staving off the cold with my fur-free north face jacket

An American woman whom I have met and often run into at a cafe near Annabelle’s school, showed up wearing a neck to ankle fur coat, replete with fur headband.  She was so engulfed by her coat that I hardly recognized her.  After a while, her husband joined her and announced that there was another protest going on nearby.  Annabelle’s school is located in an area near a lot of government buildings, therefore protests are a common occurrence. 

“What are they protesting this time?” she asked. 

“It’s PETA”, he said.  “You’d better not go out there with your coat on.”

“Oh no, you’re not serious!”, she exclaimed, visibly panicked.

“Yeah, I’m kidding,” he snickered.   

Good one. 

annabelle in motion

Annabelle has found her niche in Paris.  She’s all about public transportation.  In fact I’m pretty sure she’s better at navigating the Metro than I am.    I’m a big fan of walking and using public transportation as a backup.  Annabelle sees the Metro and busses as a welcome reprieve for her weary legs.  Every time we pass a herd of Velib rental bikes, she expresses her disdain that they are not intended for children.  That doesn’t stop her from hopping on the saddle and exclaiming, “Take my picture!”

not for children but alright for a photo op

Not too long ago, we were invited to lunch at the home of one of Annabelle’s classmates.  Her mother gave us directions regarding which bus to take and so forth, while offhandedly mentioning that they live near the Eiffel Tower.  I took this as meaning in the vicinity, but they actually live in its shadow, making for an impressive departure at the bus stop.  Surprisingly, it was the first time Annabelle has been to the Eiffel Tower since moving to Paris.  Due to frigid temperatures, she practically had the entire place to herself.

nothing like the bitter cold to clear out tourists

Whenever we cross Boulevard Saint Germain and happen upon a certain metro grate with an impressive updraft, Annabelle squeals with delight.  Warm, vanilla scented air blows from the Metro tunnel below, making for frequent Marilyn Monroe moments.  On a cold day, it’s quite pleasant though I can’t help but consider the fumes and filth surely lurking beneath that vanilla facade. 

eat your heart out marilyn (cough, cough, sputter, sputter)

When Naud returned from Seattle, he imported all sorts of goodies in his luggage: maple syrup, brown sugar, Fran's chocolate, Lululemon sportswear, toothpaste...  Yes, toothpaste.  Somehow, every French toothpaste I’ve tried tastes like licorice, which makes me gag.  In addition, he gathered up some items from our storage unit including Annabelle’s Lego’s, sewing supplies and her scooter.  All French kids have scooters and Annabelle was ecstatic when hers arrived.  It was a lot like Christmas around here.  My best surprise, aside from brown sugar, was my Le Crueset Dutch oven because despite the fact that they are made in France, Le Creuset are much more expensive here. 

Love is lugging a hulking cast iron skillet and bulky scooter across the ocean for your wife and daughter.  We're so lucky.

IMG_0228 watch out paris.  there’s a new scooter in town.

pajama party

Moving to Paris meant relinquishing our easy way of life as we bade ‘au revoir’ to our big house, bathtub, working dryer, car, and language.  Granted, we didn’t truly give up our native tongue.  The most obvious outlet on that front is speaking to one another.  After a long day of butchering the French language, it sure is nice to come home and speak English.  I’ve noticed, as well, that Annabelle is a regular motor mouth after a long day at school.  I try to always pay attention and only occasionally ask her take a breath or play the ‘quiet game’.

Our most recent outlet is the discovery of The American Library in Paris.  It was recommended by my lovely French friend who hosts impressive dinner parties and offers excellent advice on navigating French culture.  Because she lived in New York, she has scouted out many of the good American resources in Paris in order to keep her girls connected with their upbringing on US soil. 

annabelle riding the metro to her first pajama party in paris

The American Library is a dream come true.  They boast an outstanding children’s wing with the bubbliest, most adorable librarian ever.  Think Phoebe from ‘Friends’ but smart.  She is passionate about reading and hosts fabulous events for children based on American traditions and holidays.  We love her. 

DSC_6859 making cootie catchers at the american library in paris

Our first event at the library was a pajama party with story time, popcorn, m&m’s, games and a dance party.  All the little bookworms looked precious in their jammies and Annabelle had an absolute blast.

DSC_6851  dance party in the library… in pajamas!

The event wrapped with a lot of balloon popping, books as prizes and popcorn everywhere.  Annabelle selected enough reading material to fill her book bag to the brim and her heart with joy.

Happiness is a good book on a cold winter’s day.

pretty little things

It’s hard to find ugly in Paris.  Pretty things abound every which way you look.  I’m doing my best to keep my wits about me and not grow overly accustomed to the beauty that surrounds us.  It’s no wonder the French are so stylish.  Centuries of  exquisite art, architecture and fashion have laid the foundation for abundant good taste.

Point in case:

picturesque anenomes adorn our entry table

lattice-work on a building creates an impressive optical illusion

ceramic flower closeup  remarkably realistic ceramic vegetables and flowers

DSC_6863  quite possibly the prettiest building in paris

DSC_6818 fanciful whoopie pies at the bon marche grand epicerie

the french dinner party


When we moved to Paris, I had visions of someday making friends with actual French people but knew it was more likely that the ex-pat community would be the first to embrace us. 

We chose to immerse Annabelle in a French school in order to delve right into the culture and were fortunate enough to find a traditional French school with a very international student population.  In fact, three of Annabelle’s classmates speak fluent English and have done their fair share of translating on her behalf. 

The  director of the school previously lived in New York and the office administrator is a former English teacher.  This unexpected gift has gone a long way in bridging the communication gap.  On the flipside, Annabelle’s teachers speak very little English and I understand about fifty percent of what they say, on a good day.  Few parents have made a point of reaching out to us, not out of rudeness, but due to a lack of English language skills.  We simply cannot converse.  It turns out my conversational French is more of the “I’d like a bunch of carrots and a bottle of wine” variety.

It’s not that I don’t have a fair amount of French under my belt.  I use it almost exclusively in daily interactions; but conversations between mothers are more intimate in nature and I have a lot to learn. 

Fortunately, several kind and welcoming English-speaking mothers have offered their friendship.  One in particular is French but spent several years in New York and moved back just over a year ago.  Her oldest daughter is in Annabelle’s class and the two became fast friends.  With her knowledge of American culture and French sensibility, this mother embodies the best of both worlds.  Her willingness to demystify the nuances of French life has been my salvation.

Not long after we enrolled Annabelle in school, said French mama extended a dinner invitation.  The dinner was slated for the very night Naud was slated to return from his business trip in Seattle.  I convinced him that all he had to do was stay awake.  No one would expect witty banter from a weary, jetlagged business traveler.  He was off the hook.  I, on the other hand, had to put my best foot forward. 

The evening was filled with surprises even before it began.  The first came when our host graciously informed me that it was customary to secure a babysitter for such affairs.  Dinner parties begin at eight or later and are generally adult gatherings.  An exception was made because we didn’t have a sitter lined up and so we fed Annabelle in advance and brought her along.  The girls played together beautifully while the adults communed in the next room. 

We arrived fashionably late, which is the cultural norm in France.  Anyone who knows me knows it is my norm wherever I live, but French etiquette is quite firm on the subject.  They even have an expression to go along with it: ‘le quart d’heure de politesse’ or the quarter hour of politeness.  Seriously.  I love this country. 

Once situated, we discovered we were one of three couples invited, rounding the total headcount to eight.  All but two guests spoke English and made a point of including us in conversation.  We started in the living room with appertifs, including champagne and a little tray with nuts, cherry tomatoes and olives.  Seating was arranged around the coffee table and the tray was passed in a circular motion until all the nibbles were consumed.  Next came wine and little rounds of boudin sausage speared with toothpicks.  Wine and conversation flowed in this manner for quite some time. 

The guests were all parents which gave us immediate common ground.  One woman was a fellow blogger and her proud husband divulged that her literary blog has been voted as one of the best by French Elle magazine readers.  Her husband was dressed to impress in a velvet suit, while she personified Ralph Lauren Polo in her brightly striped rugby shirt, jeans and hot pink lipstick.  I noticed that, although I was appropriately attired in a casual navy silk dress, tights and dark green booties, Naud’s ensemble was lacking the necessary sport jacket to spruce up his button down shirt and slacks.  Who knew men would steal the show on the fashion front?

Eventually, our hosts ushered us into the dining room where we were shown to our assigned seats.  The starter was a composed mélange of  salmon, asparagus, peas and carrots, perfectly molded in the shape of a hockey puck and garnished with blanched asparagus and thinly sliced lemon rounds.  Before sitting down to eat, I tucked Annabelle in for her semi-sleepover and kissed her good night. 

During the meal, I did my best to keep up and was grateful for the frequent transitions from French to English.  As the evening (and the drinking) progressed, the French guests naturally subsided in their efforts to speak English.  Our hostess did an impeccable job of maintaining conversations in both languages whilst simultaneously translating as needed.  It was an impressive show of hospitality that I will not soon forget.

Next came the main course, pork roast with caramelized onions and two types of beans, flageolets cooked with the pork and lentils slowly simmered with sausage, served family-style.  A bowl of large lettuce leaves accompanied the beans and meat and there was plenty of poilane bread for sopping up the juices.

The cheese course came next with four divine cheeses, each distinctly different in texture and flavor but all complementary.  The cheeses were passed much like the little tray with nuts and tomatoes.  Each guest took the portion of their choosing and passed the cheeseboard around the table.  Although I have heard that it is impolite to have a second helping, several guests unabashedly debunked this myth.

The meal was punctuated by a very rich, flourless chocolate cake, served tableside from an adorable pink and white gingham cake pan.  There was dessert wine, of course.  In fact, sometime around the cheese course, our host admitted to storing a whopping 80-plus bottles of wine in his office at work, where the temperature happened to be the next best thing to a wine cellar.  Needless to say, all of the wines served  throughout the course of the evening were stellar and perfectly paired with the cuisine. 

We adjourned to the living room for one last round of drinks from which I wisely abstained.  I intended to make it home standing up.   The mood was mellow as guests lounged about, making small talk and allowing the evening to run its course.  We spent a good half hour securing a cab to take us and our sleeping child back to our flat.  It was after one o’clock when someone congratulated Naud for holding up as well as he had.

Back at home, we transferred Annabelle to her bed, tucked her in and gave her a kiss for the second time that night.  It was Saturday which meant it was time to either join the crowd at the bar below us or drag the mattress into the kitchen for a good night’s sleep.  We opted for the latter.

Our first French dinner party was a beautiful thing to behold.  It was structured but never fussy.  Our hosts seamlessly collaborated to prepare a delicious meal, from start to finish.  A great deal of thought went into every one of their decisions, from guest list to seating to wine pairings and cheeses.  No stone was left unturned. 

We all slept in until after ten on Sunday morning and awoke on the kitchen floor with splitting headaches and fond memories of the previous night’s revelries.  The hangover was totally worth it. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

a week without armor


A lot can happen in a week.

When Naud traveled to Seattle on business, last month, I was surprised at my own vulnerability, my strength, and my fierce identity as a family unit.  In his absence, I was more organized, more efficient and a lot more level-headed.  I somehow managed to stay on top of everything while utterly exhausted and emerged with newfound appreciation for my husband.  All while I had the worst head cold of my life.

I discovered something terrifying and wonderful in the process.  My love of my husband is so great that I wanted nothing more than to ditch Paris and hop the next plane to Seattle to be with him.  In a nutshell, husband trumps Paris by a long shot.

I feel the need to clarify.  It’s not that my love of Paris ever exceeded my love of my husband.  It may sound that way but, simply, no.  The shocker was in coming to the full realization that wherever I go, home is family or more aptly put, family is home.

Annabelle and I make a great team when she isn’t driving me to drink but  Naud is my soft landing.  He is my safe harbor.  He winds me down when I’m all wound up and puts things in perspective.  I am a better mother when he is around.  I am a better woman with him in my life.

I am new to this business of business travel and already, I don’t love it.  During one conversation with Naud, I told him I missed him whenever I had to take out the garbage.  He wasn’t amused.

I didn’t love Paris that week.  Perhaps I could have weathered it like a pro if we hadn’t recently moved to a foreign country.  I had not fully processed the reality of our move until Naud left and I stayed behind.  The good news is, my child tends to bring out the grown up in me.  In that sense, Annabelle was a life saver and I was grateful for my constant companion.

While Naud was away, Annabelle started ballet classes, I went out for coffee with a kind and welcoming mother from school, we received our first French dinner invitation and Annabelle attended her first French birthday party.   We were feeling the love. 

The aforementioned birthday party coincided with Naud’s arrival back in Paris.  He called me from the airport to let me know he’d be home soon.  I greeted him at the door with a kiss and handed him a pair of running shoes.  Nothing cures jetlag quite like fresh air and exercise.  It was our first run together in Paris.   All was right and rosy with my man by my side, the city streaking past us in a blur of lights and colors.  Our city.  Home.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

when the cat’s away

Naud traveled back to Seattle on business, last month.  On the day of his Saturday departure, I rose early and squeezed in a morning run to get me through the weekend.  It was a good one.

sunrise tuileries trees louvre waking up with the sun on my morning run

Annabelle and I walked with Naud to the train station and said our tearful goodbyes.  It wasn’t so much that he would be away for a week as it was a matter of timing.  We’d only arrived in December and already, he was jetting off to the very place we’d come from.  It would have been easier if he were traveling to Antwerp or even Sausalito.  Seattle was just too close to home.

seeing daddy off at sunrise

Missing Naud was inevitable.  What I hadn’t anticipated was feeling so terribly out of sorts without our third Musketeer.   When Annabelle lost it on the train platform, I admit I brushed away an errant tear or two.  I do love that man.   

We emerged from the station a somber duo and ambled aimlessly along the Seine.  I was in search of a distraction at an hour when commerce is virtually nonexistent.  A cafe was our best bet and I knew just the spot.  On the way, Annabelle begged to stop in Notre Dame and see the crèche.  For once there was no line, so in we went.  

DSC_6775 the wise men brought gold, myrrh and…? 

“They have Frankenstein in there,” Annabelle declared.  I assumed she was confusing characters and asked if she meant the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  “No,” she insisted, “Frankenstein.  You know, gold, Frankenstein and myrrh.”  Aha.  Frankincense.  They do have that.

Inside, diffused morning sunlight streamed through majestic stained glass windows, bathing the interior in ethereal light.  The effect was calming and did much to soothe our downtrodden spirits.

notre dame bathed in morning light

When we emerged from the cathedral, Annabelle (apparently on a roll) looked about and authoritatively remarked, “This area is a real ‘dumping pot’.”  She was referring to the mix of languages and cultures found outside Notre Dame which made up a melting pot.  ‘Dumping’ worked but in a considerably less charmed sort of way….

After a cozy brunch at Le Loire dans la Théière, one of our favorite places in the Marais (the 4th arrondissement), we headed home by way of the Jewish quarter, where I picked up the best spinach piroshky and Challah I’ve ever tasted at Sasha Finkelsztajn.

Annabelle hadn’t perked up much, which meant it was probably time for another carousel ride.

DSC_6782 practically smiling again

The thrill was short-lived, as is often the case with carousels.  Annabelle’s attention was soon diverted and her sugar reflex went into overdrive at the first whiff of spun sugar wafting from a nearby cotton candy (Barbe à Papa) stand.  I was in a generous mood and was easily persuaded.

DSC_6786 when papa is away, barbe à papa is a fine consolation

We could have stopped at carousel rides and cotton candy, but good things usually come in threes, so we went ice skating to round out the score.  The skating rink is adjacent to the carousel and we were already there.  Annabelle had been begging to go for weeks and it was the perfect day for it.  Despite my lack of enthusiasm about lacing up and wobbling around on the ice, I made up my mind to be a good sport.

faking like we know what we’re doing 

Onlookers smirked as I circled the rink with one hand glued to the side railing.  Initially, Annabelle was skating ahead of me, but I eventually let go and found my skating legs.  Ice skating is equal parts invigorating and exhausting.  I tend to forget how much fun it is until about half an hour in.

DSC_6798 long shadows, little skaters and a whole lotta leg

It was a grand time when all was said and done, and we made our way home with rosy cheeks and healthy appetites.  After dinner, we snuggled up and watched, ‘Little Women’, which was apropos considering the girls’ father is also away from home.  I may or may not have cried a little. 

It was going to be a long week.