Racing with the sun, the time moved faster despite the additional daylight hours and I struggled to finish the last of my small home projects before the visitor season began. Wrestling with my granny cart to fill the house with supplies so that no time was wasted during their visit was no easy task.
The last of the painting and hanging of mirrors, deep cleaning the bathroom and purchasing enough bottled water to satisfy a hurricane warning I felt ready. Finally, the day came, and I set my alarm early and headed to the Metro and RER to Charles De Gaul Airport for the first time in 8 months.
Weaving thru the chauffeurs with names of the passengers they were meeting, I arrived at the gate with Beignets and a a full heart. They easily made it thru customs and we held onto each other like reunited survivors.
The first day is always the hardest for travelers over seas, so I planned many activities that would keep them awake till an appropriate bedtime. After getting them photos and Navigo cards to ensure easy use of public transport, we headed to the RER. Two Metro lines followed and a 10-minute walk, up the stairs with luggage to our home.
After a quick change and a little catch up, the four of us headed to the city. First stop Rue Saint Dominique to Boulangerie Nelly Julien for the now famous Lardon Baguette’s witch we shared as we continued to the Champ de Mars where we sat on a bench in front of Le Tour Eiffel for a little picnic. I made sandwiches with fresh baguettes and Claude opened a bottle of Rose while Robyn and Frank grinned like school kids in a candy shop.
We continued to walk along the Seine and crossed Pont Alexandre to find our way to Le Arc de triomphe and Champs-Élysées. Having seen a few of the most popular spots in the first hours after arrival, we took them to the Foire du Trone witch is like the County Faire in the states. The differences and similarities are interesting in that horrible 80’s American rock plays on the roller coasters, but the food is not hot dogs and corn on the cob. Instead they serve gellatto, churros and merguez. The weather began to change and I could see them fading, so we stopped at a local bar I adore for a couple beers and headed home.
I have complained for months about the beer in France. One would think there is enough great wine to keep anyone happy, but I do like a good beer, and thankfully I have found a couple places not too far out of the way. It was a good day when I found Duchesse de Bourgogne on tap, a flemish sour named for Mary who died at 25 in a horse ridding accident. The two weary travels looked like the had been bucked off the horse too by the time we got them home.
I made a nice mellow dinner and we enjoyed some wine before putting our them to bed. The following days would be longer since sleep is not easy the first night across the world. Even though I had told them there was lots of walking in Paris, they found that watching the miles add up on their phones was almost as entertaining as the sites themselves.
After a little sleep and Eggs Lox and Onions, we headed to the outskirts of town, to get the farther places out of the way. After a tour of Montmarte and Basilica Sacre Coeur, we dodged the bracelet tying con artist and headed for lunch at Café Des Deux Moulins where they filmed Amelie. It was overpriced, but we needed food, and it is great to rewatch in the movie and recall having been there. The service was very good and after we headed to the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps not only to see the most amazing shopping malls in Paris, but the rooftop offers a free view like no other. After a glass of bubbly, we couldn’t resist hitting the atrium for another which lead inevitably to a visit to The Little Red Door.
Little Red Door is listed currently as number 24 of the top 50 bars in the world and I have wanted to go since we moved here. Claude isn’t a big cocktail person and they are open only after 6pm, and generally we are home on nights he is not working. So this was a real treat and between the 3 of us, we were able to sample all their creations. Yes, all of their cocktail’s but the list isn’t long. They are truly amazing and the menu presentation is unique as well tying art to eat drink. I am delighted to recommend it to any visitor and more excited to hear the new menu is due out soon and will give me another reason to visit.
After much water and tylenol, we headed back to Paris on the following day to hit up my personal favorite L’As du Fallafel in Les Marais for the best Kosher Middle Eastern food on the planet. No visitor should ever miss this, and there is just so many baguettes and onion soup a traveler can eat before they needs some variety. After a quick dual in the famed musketeer rendezvous Place de Vosges we called it an early night to prep Team Klatt for their adventures in Brussels.
The High speed train was much anticipated by my conductor brother in law and i was given a little time to work with a conversation exchange partner. My sister kept telling me how good my language skills are getting, but I have only had brief conversations in cafes and tourist spots with people that basically already speak English and can understand my butchering of the language. I’m still feeling challenged talking like a kindergartner with ADD. I have been told that for the length of time I have been here, my skills are good, but I’m eager to talk like a teen ager minus the parisienne slang.
Conveniently enough the following day Claude had off work and we were able to go out for a bike ride and see a movie and enjoy a quiet night. The Dynamic duo made it back to the house like experienced travelers and full of excitement, good beer and Belgium Chocolate. The next day I put my tour guide skills to the test and showed the group including my husband around town telling them all the history and stories along the way even ending the day at Pont Neuf to add the Lock I bought them to the bridge.
Happy to make it past 25 like poor Mary, i woke on my birthday at an ungodly hour and we made our way to the Bus after a quick café and Palmier . The trip to Orleans for the Fete De Joan D’arc went fast and it reminded me of how important it is to leave the city on occasion. They were celebrating her winning the Siege of Orleans against the English and delivering the village back to the safe hand of the King. Poor Joan only made it to 19, so again, i was feeling lucky to celebrate another year of life.
In France, they celebrate a different Saint each day. They put out a calendar each year, with the names on each day of who is to be celebrated, May 14th is aptly the Day that Joan of Arc is celebrated. Being my birthday and feeling a strong attachment to her, It was good to share the day with her. Not because she was crazy cool, or just plain crazy, but because she was a woman living outside of the norms of society. Maybe I am a little like her, but hopefully we don’t have the same ending.
After strolling the Renaissance faire they had set up in the center of town, I felt silently connected to my friends at the Original Renaissance Faire, I happily drank the best beer to be found in France thanks to a variety of craft brewers. We saw the parade and when the American National Anthem was played for god only knows what reason, we sang along loudly and made our way back to the bus to head home.
I sent them off to enjoy the Louvre the next day and Claude started his new job. It gave me a little quiet time that I have become accustomed too and I met up with them after to show them around Saint Germain de Pres to sip cafe in Hemmingways famed Cafe Flore. We did a little shopping at City Pharm legendary for the best prices on cosmetics in town. Loaded with Caudalie we made our way thru the winding streets and had dinner at La Jacobine. A real treasure of traditional French food in the heart of the city hidden on a cobble stone street in a medieval building with beams exposed, we couldn’t be happier to end another good day together.
After the following days with Norte Dam, Muse d’Orsay and The Latin Quarter toured we could leave the city again to venture with Claude to Versailles. I had been years ago, but it was great to revisit and it was a beautiful day providing me with much needed color.
I took them to the Shoah memorial in Le Marias where the dead that assisted Jews are honored and since we are on a death theme, I included the location where Jim Morrison died. It happens to be across from a very good bar and sent the two off to enjoy a romantic night in Paris on their own including a river cruise to see the Tour Eifel light show.
Our last day proved a good one, we shopped and enjoyed a walk thru the St Martin Canals, the Republique and crepes at the Bastille Marche. We went to one of my other favorite beer bars and headed home to get the final packing and prepare for reality. It was a great visit and it showed me how much I have learned here. Not just my way around and the stories and the conversations with people casually when I forgot that it was not being understood by family, but good to see that it was becoming normal.
I took them to the airport the next morning and learned that International flights in France require more time than usual to get thru and improved my skills for the next visit just a little over a week away. Just enough time to get back to City Hall to confirm my ID is still not ready and restock the house.
We had our first heat wave followed by rain, creating Tucson like Monsoons and Claude was able to compete at the Veledrome. He has dreamed of getting back into racing on his bike and with his new job it allows us Sundays together or competing. We are also able to spend Saturday during the day together doing things that normal couples do on weekends.
The last year was filled with challenges, moving, language, adaption. Einstein says, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” I start the new year of my life with more than I had before. I am learning and finding joy in the adventure. I sent my sister home with good reports for friends and family, and my heart is fuller having memories of loved ones in my new home. I have more than poor Mary and Joan, so thats something to be happy about!