A couple things I missed mentioning yesterday, that I feel are worthy of mention. On Sunday, (Tour Eiffel was on Monday) we went to church. I wanted to see and hear the massive organ at St. Sulplice, and for some bizarre reason I thought that hearing a Catholic church service in French would be intriguing for the children. I don’t know why I thought that, really. I think I was picturing smells-n-bells and lots of pomp and fuss. Also there was the gnomon, this ancient sundial calendar type deal, that I hear played a role in The Da Vinci Code. I thought the kids would be interested in it. And the Great Organ, see below. It didn’t work out like that. St. Sulplice was and is of course, just stone cold lovely.
But the service was in fact rather dull, even to me, and I could understand some of it whereas the boys and Ben could not at all. They were painfully squirmy and I almost took them out. Ben and I had a whispered disagreement about it– he insisted that we see it through, whereas I worried about disturbing others. Not a pleasant moment. We stayed to the eventual end. The organ was great, but I sensed that it was pearls before the swine. (From wikipedia: “Though using many materials from Clicquot’s French Classical organ, it is considered to be Cavaillé-Coll’s magnum opus, featuring 102 speaking stops, and is perhaps the most impressive instrument of the romantic French symphonic-organ era.“) I couldn’t tell all the miraculous shades of coloration, or anything like that. It was like being served a fine wine and sort of going, “Okaaaay, I guess….” I really wished my dad had been there to hear it, because it would’ve meant a lot more to him.
For Isaac, the definite highlight was that there were pigeons indoors. He thought this was worthy of his presentation back at school and took pains to document them.
Throughout the trip, it was interesting to me what struck Isaac as worthy of documentation. I never knew when he would be moved to ask me for my phone to capture something. The pigeons delighted him. In addition to many pigeons pictures he also took a lengthy video, walking behind one through many parts of the great church.
Similarly, on the topic of bird photography, later that day we split up. Elias was determined to see the Musee du Moyen Ages (the museum of the middle ages). Ben wanted to see it too; it was even on his official list. We had walked past it on the way to St. Sulplice, and Elias kept saying, “I wanna see that fort!” Meanwhile, I was equally hell bent on seeing the bird market, which was only on Sundays on Ile de la Cite. I reasoned that we could see that Musee any time. But whatever, divide and conquer. Isaac and I went birding and Elias and Ben went back in time. Isaac took millions of photos of birds and also little furry critters, such as adorable dwarf baby bunnies with their tiny ears! And little chinchillas and guinea pigs!
Also that day, while walking along through Paris, Isaac and I came upon a screaming German lady. The situation was seemingly somewhere between a lover’s quarrel and a domestic dispute, held on a doorstep of an otherwise quiet street. The blond and chic young woman was off her rocker entirely and full on screaming in German at a stoic and silent man. What happened before or after this I don’t know. We couldn’t understand a word she was saying, but I could understand the tone for sure. Obviously, this was the flip side of a deep passion between them. I sensed that she was enraged because he had cheated on her, but this is based on nothing. It was all in German. (Later Ben said that I was being sexist, and perhaps she was just batshit crazy.) As we walked down the street away from this public confrontation, we kept hearing wafts of her shrieks. This led Isaac to question me in detail about adult relationships and led to a long conversation on the subject. Indeed, days later he still kept bring up “the angry German lady” as one of the key sights he had seen in Paris.
But I suppose that Isaac’s favorite thing of the entire day was the Butt Tree. Yes, after walking through a stunning collection of orchids for sale (I wanted them all!) we came to a potted tree, maybe 4-5 feet in height, that bore an uncanny resemblance to one’s most amusing body part.
Also, that fine day, we encountered the world’s shortest hail storm. I filmed nearly all of it, which came to just 18 seconds.
We went to the Louvre, of course. You have to nail the Louvre, just to do it. It’s not that it’s fun, per se. It’s just– you must. Il faut le faire, et c’est tout. We did have a tip from Ben’s dad about a secret entrance in the Tuilleries, which we found and utilized. It led us down some stairs into what amounts to a very high-end underground mall, and thus circumvented the long lines at the Pei pyramid. But needless to say it was still packed to the gills. We did this on a Monday. Was that a good or bad day? I have no idea. Anyway, hot and packed are the words that come to mind. We targeted only two things: the Mona Lisa and the David painting of Napolean’s coronation. The boys wormed their way in through the crowd to see the Mona Lisa up close, while Ben and I hung back. Isaac took a photo or two.
I wanted Elias to see the David, only because I thought he would love the hugeness and the grandeur of it. I was not disappointed.
But after that, or even before, Isaac declared, “My cultural saturation is at maximum.” We had to escape and escaping was not at all easy. Just the endless signs and corridors and the stairs leading here and there and the difficulty is finding the way out to freedom. And… Elias still had designs on the gift shop. Ben courageously agreed to take him into the center of hell while Isaac and I beat a hasty retreat to the air outside. When Ben and Elias emerged, however, they were empty handed. Elias was in tears and there was a meltdown. It had to with what he could and could not afford with his spending money. Luckily, this was one of only a rare few meltdowns of the whole week. Lesser children would’ve been crushed many times over by all the intense demands, stimulation and overwhelming options of this fine city. But ours held up tremendously. It helped that we pre-lubricated the whole affair with spending money, which we gave them in Euros at Christmas time. However, even ample spending money has limits– and that’s a painful reality to confront when you’re seven.
We dragged our carcasses home much diminished by our three hour Louvre-ing. And later that day it was Eiffel Tower time! On that, see previous post.
Although it was patently insane to do Louvre and Eiffel on the same day, I’m glad we got them done early. I had been lobbying to go to Versailles before we went to the Louvre, but after that experience I could that Versailles would have been really, really miserable, like the Louvre only more so.
On Tuesday, it was raining. Ben wanted to wander. He loves to get lost on foot in big cities and no everyone shares this trait. We walked through St. Germain des Pres to see a couple surprises he wanted to show us– especially me. First off, was Shakespeare and Co., the famous English language bookstore in Paris. I’ve been there before, but HEAVEN!!! You just want to stay forever and live there and just…. it’s perfect. I read that they still have this sort of de facto “hotel” for young and penniless writers, in which you can trade work at the shop for the option to sleep somewhere in the store at night. So after hours every nook and bench and bit of carpet becomes someone’s bed, because what’s important is obviously one’s work! And being in Paris at all costs! Plus there is a huge white cat you can pet, and old typewriters everywhere to play or work with, and a piano which people play at will. When we were there all this romance was only heightened by the drumming rain outside. Oh, I wanted to abandon everything and sleep there, on the floor, forever!
Photos were not allowed, but I did sneak one of Elias working in a diminutive writer’s nook.
We walked along through the rainy streets, that in general looked like this:
Isaac began to complain that Daddy had no clue where he was going, and I tried to convince him that the point was not the destination but the journey itself. We were wandering around in Paris in the rain, and that was indeed the goal. But wet and hungry and footsore, Isaac did not find much solace in this philosophy. He wanted to get there, wherever it was. Finally Ben was forced to reveal what he was looking for, Les Deux Magots, because lacking language skills he did not know how to ask. He was trying to come upon it and surprise me, but eventually I had to step in and get assistance in French from a passer by.
Isaac however did not like his Deux Magots food at all, and soon got a Nutella crepe on the street. This became his desired breakfast, lunch and dinner, snack, dessert and tea. He would’ve eaten at least ten a day, and nothing else, had we not refused to allow it. Anyway, he consumed this wonderful thing in a cab, en route to Les Invalides, another high point.
The place was FULL of GUNS!!!
Indeed, perhaps the best possible thing is that they each bought themselves a very nice, well made replica gun. Later, at home…
Okay, I’m gonna post this and take a break. More to come.