Thursday, April 7, 2011

paris journal 1

April in Paris!! You've got to do it sometime in your life, right? This year Paris called us, and we answered. Carl's fiancée Sarah Beth is very generously hosting us for most of the month. A cute little baby passport for Greta, safety arrangements for our own house, a few bags judiciously packed, and we're off.

I'm sad to say we were Those People on the plane, the ones with a loud kid who punctuated the flight with wails. Dang it! At least she never cried for more than about 10 seconds at a time. Still, I've been on the fellow-passenger side of that, so I thoroughly understood the filthy glares we received off and on. Someone came up later, though, and remarked on how quiet she was, so maybe the plane's sound drowned her out beyond a row or two.

So, we're cozily ensconced in our beautiful, cheerful apartment in the 14th Arrondissement, surrounded by a cartoonist's idea of Paris: quaint buildings along non-right-angled streets, just-budding trees, charming little cafes and bakeries everywhere, and, for those a few floors up, a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower right down the street.

We went out for a walk around 7:30, just as the evening light began to make everything glow. After a quick trip to the store for all the stuff we chose not to make luggage (diapers, formula, wipes), we walked up and down Rue Daguerre, a pedestrian street crowded with cute shops and cafes, at most of which the outside tables are arranged so as to watch the growing flow of men and women beginning, after work, to populate the evening.

Greta was absorbing all this from knee-level as we wheeled her around, seemingly fascinated by all the new sights and sounds, but occasionally twisting around to give us long eyebrow-raised forehead-wrinkled looks. Just making sure we're still there.

The streets are lined with 6-or-7-story buildings, done solidly in the 19th-century continental style, plastered and decorated with sturdy cornices and simple entablatures, topped off with angled dark-tiled attics, bright dormer windows popping out at intervals. I remembered that the dormer window was in fact invented right here. The first ones probably popped up not too far from this very spot.

As night darkened, around 9, we sat down at a bench near a busy corner to have a bit of dinner — our first semi-normal meal of the entire trip. It consisted entirely of most of a whole-grain baguette, bought fresh from one of those charming bakeries, with apricot jam and basil pesto. We relaxed, talked, fell in love all over again, and strolled back home.

Our bright yellow bedroom contains a bright blue desk and a softer blue bed, covered by the kind of puffy comfy duvet that, even now, Europe does like no one else. Right next to it is a lovely crib. After a long and disorienting couple of days, Greta slept only few hours before becoming absolutely inconsolable. The poor souls surrounding us had to listen to her caterwauling for a solid two hours. We made the conscious decision not to bring the entire empire with us — toys, stuffed animals — realizing that the girl's territory would then be entirely alien. We tested several different baby solace theories, to no avail; finally she just tired herself out and slept deeply.

What awaits us? The Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, the Bastille Opera, Ste. Chapelle, Notre Dame, Sacré-Couer, hours of eating, drinking, relaxing, and soaking up the vibrant life of a fifteen-hundred-year-old town.

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