by little red pen
About halfway through our travels, we move from the UK to France and I start writing in the present tense. Odd. I could psychoanalyse myself, or I could just roll with it. I’m rolling.
9 May: London | Paris
An early start for the Eurostar, then whoosh through the tunnel and we’re up and in France. A bit muddly finding our way through the Métro (accent/no accent?? help me, someone — the internet is inconclusive) to our flat, but the owner meets us on the street and the flat is just perfect — small and light and charming. Dad and I go shopping around the corner on Rue Daguerre, returning with baguettes and ham and fruit and pastries. We take the Rabbit to the playground in the afternoon, where he potters about very happily.
It’s so good to be in France, to be eating summer fruit at the peak of ripeness and looking out over these old rooftops. It’s like coming home.
10 May: Paris
An orientation day, starting with a walk to Jardin de Luxembourg. But first, baguettes, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any so good — they have a sourdough quality, chewy, light, hole-y, soft, and crusty all at once. I can’t get enough, and I do a bit of ranting about the cost and quality of food at home. The melons are so ripe that I feel drunk eating them. The fragrance is straight from heaven.
The walk brings back memories — the wide, tree-lined boulevards, the shops, the forbidden grass. We find a playground, and the Rabbit is happy. The Cat sits on a bench reading and eating his baguette. Ian reads his newspaper. Dad and I let ourselves be directed by the small one, who has discovered the power of point and command. It is a little hard to enjoy the garden, with the wind cooler than expected and the Rabbit getting cross about non-grass rules. But we eat our lunch and feel as elegant as possible in the circumstances.
We catch a bus to the Pont Neuf and walk onto our island. Around a corner, and there’s the square, with Hotel Henri IV and the trees and the sudden quiet. We stop for a coffee, which is a more frazzling experience than in the pre-children days, then the Cat and Ian guide us on the Métro to the Tour Eiffel. It’s big. We Métro home. I buy honey from a shop that has dozens of varieties. I choose citrus flowers.
11 May: Paris
A day for the children today. We go to the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne. Ian takes the boys on a train ride in the woods while Dad and I scout out the surroundings. It’s Breton-themed at the moment, so lots of stalls with galettes, oysters and champagne, striped clothing, cider, etc. The boys come back, and we find a table under the trees for our pique-nique.
Then we wander about, find the aviary, and try the amusement rides. The boys are allowed one thing each, so the Rabbit drives a firetruck on a merry-go-round with his Mama, and the Cat drives a racing car with his Dad. Ian is supposed to be the driver, but I have clear photographic evidence of the Cat’s hands on the wheel. A little farm zoo next, with tired, cross animals, then we stop for a drink.
Home on the Métro and shopping for dinner. The other grandparents are meeting us at the flat, so Dad and I do a comprehensive if not particularly efficient shop on Rue Daguerre, and then we have a little feast: ham, snow peas, cucumber, hummus, and olives while we catch up and get dinner ready; rainbow trout baked with lemon and bay, couscous with dates and apricots, asparagus, and green salad; melon and sorbet for dessert. Wine and coffee. It’s easy, pretty, and quick to prepare, and I want to shop and cook like this more often.
12 May: Paris
Mother’s Day! I stay in bed while Ian and the Cat make me breakfast. Well, the Cat takes my order, then comes back for a cuddle and a chat. I get baguette and coffee, with a block of chocolate wrapped in paper. Drawn on the paper is a picture with arrows — Kits is LOVELY! COOL! FUNNY! BIT OF A DAG! DADDY TOO! The Rabbit wakes, and then there’s four in the bed. I’m happy and loved.
We spend the morning at home so the Cat and Ian can play Risk, then go to the Musée d’Orsay after lunch. It’s good to be there again, but the Cat finds looking at art excruciatingly dull, so he refuses to walk around with us, and then gets lost. The Rabbit wants to keep going back to look at a stone owl (very nice, but…), and I don’t find my favourite paintings until the end, when I’m so cranky it’s hard to relax and appreciate them. Renoir stops me in my tracks though.
Perhaps it’s this evening that I make a stonkingly good bolognaise.
13 May: Paris
Ian and I escape for a few hours today while the grandparents take the boys to the zoo. We have shopping to do, but end up not buying anything. We walk around St Michel, but we don’t really know what we want, and when we go to Galeries Lafayette later, it’s so full-on we run away.
But we’re happy to be wandering the streets, daydreaming about living here. We have lunch in a bistro, and the waiter sounds like his voice has been sifted through gravel.
We leave tomorrow; it’s too soon. Perhaps it would always be too soon.