Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunday in Istanbul

Taking a break at the end of the metro ride.

Our final Istanbul adventure was to attend church on Sunday.  We dragged our bags with us so that we could catch a taxi right after church and head to the airport. We rolled our two rolling luggages down the rough cobbled roads from our apartment hill to the tram station.  We tried to pack really light, so that's what we have: two rolling mid-sized bags for all of us to share and a backpack each.  Becca wasn't feeling well and whined a lot about the weight of her backpack.  We were sympathetic. Well, a little sympathetic.

We took the tram to the funicular and the funicular to the metro. Then we went a few stops to the one near the church. We tried to get our bearings when we surfaced (aka connect to GPS so it would tell us how to get to the church).  Once we thought we had it, we headed the direction it said only to run head first into a pair of missionaries.  They straightened us out and led us right to the church.


Becca brought Flavio to church to keep her company.

Church in Istanbul was like what I expected from the church in Paris. It was a small branch and probably a third of the attendees were missionaries. Everyone was really welcoming.  One of the missionaries gave a talk about teeter totters.  It had the kids riveted until he went into his analogy about trust.

A taxi picked us up outside the church at the end of the meeting and carried us to the airport. It was time for the next stage of our sabbatical, the visit to Ankara to spend time with my sister and her family.


Istanbul

Istanbul from the plane

This is a big city. I thought Paris was big. Paris had a population of 2.2 million people. That made Portland and its 600k seem tiny.  Istanbul has a population of 14 million. I can't even wrap my head around that. The city seems to spread out in every direction, spilling from the core of Old Town out over endless hills and even across bodies of water.


Paris for us was the city of stairs. Our part of Istanbul was the neighborhood of stairs.  Our apartment was in Cihangar, not far from Taksim Square, described by The Independent as 'the symbolic focal point of the whole country.'  We had a great view of the Bosphorus Strait. We were right on the hillside overlooking the water. Getting anywhere from there required climbing. My fitbit had not yet logged my target number of steps the first day, but in two trips out to the market, I had already logged 27 staircases. I decided that people must be in excellent physical condition to live there.

Anna was not in excellent physical condition for most of our stay in Istanbul. After puking all over the airplane, she woke up the next day feeling week and headachey.  I got to stay home with her our first Istanbul day, enjoying the view from our windows and the fans blowing the cool apartment air over us. It was actually a nice break. I even took a little nap. Paris really wore me out.


Anna remained under the weather the rest of our time in Istanbul. We dragged her out the second day. We visited Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. We drank yummy lemonade with mint leaves. We didn't see everything on my list, but Anna was worn out by the end.

The weather in Istanbul was hot, like it had been in Paris, but it cooled off nicely at night. The first couple of nights we opened the windows and let the breeze cool the apartment. Unfortunately, the breeze brought in thirsty turkish mosquitoes, hungry for the blood of unsuspecting tourists. They would wake us in the night diving toward our ears and buzzing like miniature kamakaze airplanes.  They feasted on William, sleeping closest to the windows overlooking the Bosphorus. He must have the tastiest blood they'd ever found.  He had at least 50 bites after two nights.  We learned to keep the windows closed and rely on the little ac unit and fans to keep the temperature bearable.


A prayer alcove in the tile section of the archaeology museum

We ended up taking things pretty easy in Istanbul. With the mosquitoes keeping us awake the first two nights and Anna feeling sick, we didn't push too hard. We let William choose our second day of touring. He wanted the archaeology museum. We spent a good afternoon there, dodging construction to see the best of the displays.  We followed that up with a mini Bosphorus cruise that most of us enjoyed but made Anna seasick. I took her to the padded seats on the lower deck where the view wasn't as good and that helped a little.

So, that was it for our Istanbul touring adventure. We saw about half the things on my list, but Anna felt better by the time we left.  I was satisfied.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Au Revoir, Paris


One last day in Paris and so many options of things to do.  We were all tired, exhausted by all those stairs we had climbed. We spent the morning doing laundry, getting ready to leave. Well, that's how I spent the morning. Kip and William raced each other to finish a Sci fi book Kip got from the library on the Kindle. Kip read it on his kindle app and William on the actual kindle. The girls played games on the phones and iPad.  None of them wanted to go out touristing. I let things go until lunchtime, when I dragged us all out to the fair at the Tuileries garden. We blew through the reserves of our cash riding carnival rides: bumper cars, air swing, a crazy scary ride called x factor, the rainbow, and finally the huge ferris wheel with a view of all of Paris from the top.

After the carnival experience I could hardly face the thought of what I wanted to do last - climb the Arc de Triomphe. It was the last item on our Paris museum pass with a large amount of stairs that we hadn't yet done. We could do the sewer tour, the Orsay, some science museums, the music museum, but the only thing with lots of stairs that we hadn't yet done was the Arc de Triomphe. And given that our Paris experience has developed an unintended theme of stairs, this seemed like the only appropriate way to end things.

Before heading there, we found ice cream and sat on the edge of a dormant fountain to enjoy it. It was just what I needed. I felt my blood sugar climb and energy level increase until the thought of 280 more stairs was a challenge I was eager to take.


The staircase at the Arc de Triomphe is a spiral one, of course. Paris wouldn't have it any other way! Only, this one doesn't have a solid center, a column of stone supporting the stairs on the inside. This meant that you could look over the railing in the middle and see all the way down. This totally freaked me out. Every time the kids peered over I imagined them falling to their death. I begged them to stay close to the wall as we climbed.

The smell in the staircase was very European. Hot summer day European. The smell of hot people was very strong and the staircase was very long.  The view at the top was amazing and I was glad we did it, our final Parisian stair climb. We took pictures of the sites below in every direction, like all the other dutiful tourists. We even got the obligatory selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Selfies are an odd sort of thing. You used to ask other people to take your camera and snap your photo if you wanted a picture of yourself at a famous site. Now, you hold the camera at arm's length and use the image on the screen to place yourself where you want against the backdrop of the site you are visiting. Or use a long stick attached to your camera for am even better angle. There's no need to involve the people around you at all. I almost offered to take the camera for a couple getting a selfie with the Eiffel Tower but I realized they were doing it the way they wanted, the popular way, so I left them to it and simply stepped out of the way.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The worship of art

People go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. She is one piece in thousands housed there, but she is the one people want to see. Everyone knows her and her half smile whether they care about art or not.

We met the missionaries on Monday for our Louvre exploration. They arrived just before it opened and were soon inside and on their way to see her. We got in half an hour after them, passing quickly through the line for people with tickets and museum passes. We went to join the Elders at her side.

You climb a grand staircase to reach her. The Winged Victory of Samothrace stands poised at the top, ready to launch into flight to escape the visiting throngs. Without her head, she is mercifully blind to the thousands of eyes that gaze upon her every day as they make their artistic pilgrimage to the Mona Lisa.

After proceeding through a room filled with hundreds of beautiful Italian religious paintings which they hardly notice, the throngs reach their goal. Lisa hangs on a wall all her own set in the middle of room 6. Behind her curtain of glass she watches unperturbed the press of art worshippers before her. They cannot cross the barrier or reach through the glass to disrupt her solitude. They admire her from a safe distance and leave her in peace.  We admired her from our spot behind the crowds, then turned to the rest of the art.


The Louvre is huge and we didn't have a great plan of attack. We went to African, oceanic, and native American art. Then, we were stuck and had to figure out a way to get to the next area we wanted to see.  If you've been to the Louvre and seen the signs that say 'sens de visite' or something along those lines and have an arrow showing which way they suggest you go, you can imagine our path because it almost always went against the arrow. We saw mummies and statues, paintings of Mary and Jesus, some crazy African art, and some fancy furniture from the time of Napoleon.  Becca took my phone for a while and got a ton of pictures. Her goal was to take a photo of everything. Until I decided the battery had to be saved and took it away.


We spent the afternoon in the park, Tuileries, just in front of the Louvre.  While Kip and the kids enjoyed ice cream and crepes, I took a quick trip into L'Orangerie to see the Monet water lillies in person. They were beautiful. They were the object of my pilgrimage, the paint thick on the giant canvases, the colors vibrant.  This was where I went to connect with my spiritually artistic side. I walked through the first room of Monet murals, admiring each panel. I went through the second, viewing them from every angle. Then back to the first room for another look. I went then down below and found some beautiful things in the lower level. Before leaving, I returned one more time to the two rooms of Water Lillies. If the rest of the family had not been waiting, I would have sat down to soak them in and stayed there for hours.

Outside, the kids and Kip had grown restless. Frankly, I hadn't expected them to last as long as they had.  We found a play area with spinning toys and slides and the kids set to work befriending the other American tourists playing there. They were busy for over an hour while Kip and I relaxed in the shade.  It made a nice end to our day of museums.


Monday, July 20, 2015

A Sunday in Paris

I was really looking forward to church in Paris. I was picturing it like a ward in my mission, full of native French people and a couple missionaries. We would walk in and be the unique visiting Americans. Not quite what happened.

We went to a ward that meets right in the center of Paris. We got there a little early, but realized quickly that this particular ward gets a lot of visitors. They had sets of headphones English-speakers could borrow and one of the missionaries would translate what was being said into English.  By the time we arrived, the Chapel was almost full and all the headsets were borrowed.  We were offered option 2 (yes, they get enough American visitors to need an option 2). This was to sit in the overflow with a flat screen tv and the same translation playing. I set Kip and the kids up there and slipped back into the Chapel for the meeting. I went to the back row. As more and more people arrived, the seats filled up entirely.

I enjoyed the meeting. I was able to follow most of what was said. The theme was repentance and I really liked what a couple of the speakers said about it.

The kids were scared to stay. What if no one spoke English? I asked the family in front of me (visiting from Colorado) if they were staying, but their kids didn't want to, so they were heading home. After the meeting, most of the visitors went away, back to the work of being a tourist in Paris. We found some local members who directed us to the primary room and promised that for class time the kids would be split into French-speaking and English-speaking. I dragged the girls into the room clinging to each other, introduced them and ditched them. Kip and I were directed to an English-speaking Sunday School class and William went off to the class for young men.

I worried for the next hour and a half that my kids were miserable. I shouldn't have. They all appeared at the end of the meeting with big smiles on their faces having made new friends and gotten cookies and rice Krispy treats. Best Sunday ever.

We spent a lot of the time after church observing the 'day of rest' concept of the Sabbath. After 6 days of touristing, we were exhausted. Kip and I more so than the kids, who relaxed for maybe an hour, then created increasingly noisy games involving dropping things out their windows and going to the lobby the retrieve them.

Knowing the neighbors would eventually kick us out, we preemptively took the kids to Montmartre. We figured visiting a basilica was a decent tourist activity for a Sunday. And because we were exhausted, we opted to take the metro there instead of walking up from our apartment. What we didn't realize is that the metro doesn't go up the hill. It drops you off deep underground. Then, you can wait in line for an elevator (reminiscent of the Washington park elevator from the MAX in Portland), or climb the stairs. We hate lines. And we weren't thinking clearly enough to realize that if there was an elevator, the climb most likely was a big one. We went up it. It's a spiral staircase, of course, and it goes on and on and on. To make things a little nicer, the outer wall is decorated with some super nice murals. There's no graffiti on them. I think graffiti artists don't want to climb those stairs.

We surfaced at Les Abesses and climbed the rest of the way to Sacre Coeur above ground. We went through the basilica on a speed tour, the kind that's supposed to keep the kids from having time to get restless. But we were stopped as we made the final turn by the arrival of the clergy and the start of the 6pm services. I thought it was neat to be at Sacre Coeur during part of a service. The singing, provided by a local nun, was beautiful. The resonance of the hall was amazing.

Kip, William and Anna decided when we got out that they wanted to climb the tower. Becca heard that there were 300 steps and opted to skip it. She and I got to pass the time looking at souvenir shops and telling the portrait artists 'non merci' when they asked if they could sketch Becca for me.

So our tour of Parisian staircases continued. I'm a little ashamed that I missed out on 300 steps Sunday night, but I will survive without them. Perhaps I can get some more before we leave.

Touring without a line

We were amazing at Versailles. We did it all and never once had to stand in line. Well, except for the bathrooms a couple of times. We let everyone sleep in and arrived around 11:30. The line in front of the palace was huge, we heard rumors it would take 2 hours just to get in. But we walked right past it and went instead to the gardens. It was Saturday, fountain day, so we actually had to pay to see the gardens which otherwise would have been free. And here's where we were a little less amazing. The water show goes from 11-12 and we got in at 11:50.  I'm pretty sure there was another afternoon show, but we missed that, too. We did find one fountain as we wandered the gardens that was playing music and shooting water. It was nice to sit and watch it and relax before continuing our exploration under the hot sun.


We worked our way back through the gardens to the Trianon, the smaller palaces and domain of the queen. Our favorite part was the hamlet Marie Antoinette built, her little play village where she would dress up as a peasant (a very clean and well-dressed peasant) and 'work' on her farm. It was all very pretty. The kids especially liked the bunnies and the goat that got its head stuck in its fence. We tried to push its head back through but it just pushed back harder so we had to give up.

We got back to the main palace after 5 hours of exploring (including a long fancy lunch break fit for royalty).  With just an hour before closing, there was no line. Kip and Anna had seen enough and chose to find a monoprix and buy snacks. William and Becca joined me to do a super-speed walk-through of the palace of Versailles because I couldn't imaging going there without going inside. It was probably the fastest walk-through ever. They were starting to close areas off for the night. We did the whole loop in 30 minutes, at least the party of the loop they were still allowing people to see. I went through my Rick Steves guidebook afterwards and realized how much we missed. But we did see the famous hall of mirrors from Becca's 'Paris for Kids' book, so she was satisfied. And I was insanely proud of us for going to Versailles and seeing enough to make us all happy without having to stand for hours in the hot sun.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Funny pic

No one would guess this picture was photoshopped, would they?


Friday, July 17, 2015

Cool picture

I'm having trouble getting pictures where I want them.  Here's one that should have been in the last post.



Someone had a lot of time, and bones, on their hands.



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The city of what?

I know that Paris is often called the city of love.  After 5 days here, I would suggest some other names for it.  I would call it the city of stairs. We climbed the Eiffel Tower today and Notre Dame yesterday.  That's almost 1,000 steps.  Not to mention that our flat is on the 5th floor (European 5th floor with ground floor being 0). Sometimes we take the stairs instead of squishing into the tiny box of an elevator. It says it can take three people but it's crowded with me and the girls.  I wouldn't try it with three adults.  But we really appreciate it with groceries.

I would also call Paris the city of lines.  It took us almost 3 hours to get into the Catacombs Wednesday morning.  On Thursday I enjoyed listening to a jazz-flute-playing street musician for at least 30 minutes while waiting in a short line for a slow public toilet.  Luckily, that cut my wait for the Notre Dame staircase down to about half an hour.  We went as early as we could manage to the Eiffel Tower today.  It was probably not even 8 am when we left, which is a miracle for us.  We got in line before they opened at 9 and had our tickets by 9:30.  Really, that wasn't that bad.  We considered buying elevator tickets to the very top after climbing our 700 steps to floor 2, but there was a line there.  We couldn't stomach another line, so we convinced the kids that two scoops of ice cream were a better option.

I would also call Paris the city with more to see than you can possibly see in 9 days.  When I look at what we've done so far of the traditional touristy things one is supposed to do in Paris, I feel like a bit of an underachiever.  And yet I come home to my 9th arrondissement flat every night with sore feet, tired legs, a bit of a sunburn, and complete physical exhaustion.

What have we done so far?  It doesn't seem like much.  We stood beneath the Arc de Triomphe but did not get to climb it.  We went to the Catacombs and enjoyed wandering among the underground piles of artistically-stacked bones.  We went up the Montparnasse Tower for it's view of Paris.  We went to the Eiffel Tower, through the Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb.  We did some less-trendy Parisian activities.  We went to a small museum near our flat and an aquarium where we had hoped to see the sharks get fed.  We had the time wrong and were too late.

The Catacombs were a lot of fun on Wednesday morning. Who wouldn't like wandering through dimly-lit, dripping, underground tunnels stacked with the bones of Parisians who died long ago?  One of our Beaverton neighbors is here on his mission.  He and another Elder Smith met us in the line to enter the Catacombs.  We decided to designate them Elder Smith-of-the-East and Elder Smith-of-the-West, our neighbor, of course, being the one of the west.  To add to the fun, we ended up in line directly in front of two other tourist parties from Portland.  This made the 2 1/2 hour line time much more bearable.  The line barely seemed to move, leaving us exposed to the direct torture of the sun as it climbed toward it's peak in the sky for far longer than I liked.  It felt like a miracle when we finally reached the corner where the entrance was in sight and the trees blessed us with their shade.  When our snacks and water ran out long before we reached that shade, Kip took some Euros and went in search of a market.  He came back with water and fresh fruit and at least one of the people behind us followed his lead.  As we rounded the corner near the entrance, I spotted a crepe stand across the street.  I slipped out of line to go over, getting the first two crepes of the day - with nutella and whipped cream, of course.  I rushed the piping hot treats back to the line, where the rest of the family was just disappearing inside to buy tickets.  I thought when the security guy checked my bag that he would say no food, but he waved me and my steaming chocolate goodies inside.



Becca and Anna were both nervous about the Catacombs.  We dragged them down the winding staircase to the underground anyway, like any good parent would, right?  And soon we had them laughing at countless bad jokes, such as Elder Smith-of-the-West's offer to give 10 euros to anyone who found a funny bone.  At the end, Becca said her favorite part was the funny things we were saying.  Walking through the remains of thousands of dead people just brings out the joker in some of us.  My favorite part of the Catacombs were some of the poems.  There were some admittedly  depressing ones, and others that were kind of nice.  I especially liked the one asking "where is death?" She has barely arrived when she is already gone.

Going to the Montparnasse Tower wasn't so much something we desperately wanted to do as it was something close to the Catacombs that we could do before riding the metro home.  We paid for tickets up to floor 56 (no stairs on that part, but 3 flights later on to reach the roof) and enjoyed the view of Paris.  The only really notable part was the photograph they took of us.  They get you as you come off the elevator, feeding the tourists through a maze to a green screen where they take your picture and hand you a card. Your family photo is then digitally added to various views of Paris.  Usually, I have no interest in this kind of souvenir.  It feels like cheating, cutting and pasting myself into scenes I wasn't actually a part of.  But in this case, I loved it.  I loved it because William just happened to be wearing a green t-shirt.  Where his shirt would have been in the potos, instead there was a shirt-shaped hole showing the fake Parisian scene with William's head floating above it. I couldn't pass it up.  I still laugh just thinking of it.

I had promised Becca that if she learned to ride a bike, we would ride bikes in Paris.  Thursday was the day.  We did a bike tour.  And I realized that although Becca does great biking around the streets of our Beaverton neighborhood, that is very different from biking the streets of the capital of France in tourist season.  Maybe this is another time we could have prepared a little better.  We spent almost 4 hours biking around Paris and learned a lot about it's history and rode past several of the famous sites.  I was relieved that no one was run over, of my children or by my children.



It was HOT on Thursday.  The high was around 95. By the time we finished our bike ride, we were melting.  Knowing the apartment would be just as hot gave us the courage to go back to Ile de la Cité.  I dragged the family to Notre Dame and realized just how different it is to tour Europe with adults in a touring orchestra from traveling it with kids.  We sat in the cool dimness of the interior of Notre Dame and I reviewed the Rick Steves guide, fascinated by the beauty surrounding me.  The kids were bored stiff.  Kip was bored, too, but on orchestra tours, that just meant that he would slip outside, find a cafe and sit and wait for me.  We would both often end up sitting for hours with friends at cafes on our European orchestra tours, drinking something cold and talking.  This doesn't happen with kids.  If we try to sit and relax in a cafe, after about 10 minutes, the kids are trying to kill each other.  If I drag them into a church, they ask millions of questions and get frustrated that I don't know the answers.  Then, they get bored and start fighting.  I went through the interior of Notre Dame much more quickly than I had intended.  Then, we headed for the line to the stairs.

All those steps (255 of them) calmed the kids down a little.  They didn't fight too much at the top.  The sun kindly even went behind a cloud when we were on the very top.  Then, back on the ground it rained.  I got to sing my "I love Paris in the rain" song while we ate ice cream beside the cathedral.

On the advice of our bike tour guide, we went to the Eiffel Tower early. Not having prepurchased tickets, we opted to simple climb the stairs.  Becca's book 'the kids guide to Paris' suggests that it is 704 steps from the ground to the second floor.  We did them all, but my legs were burning. We were lucky with perfect stair-climbing weather. It was overcast and so cold this morning that I purchased a hot chocolate when the kids got their ice cream pn the second floor.  I developed a new theory, too.  When we ordered ice cream after getting out of Notre Dame, we got little tiny bowls with just enough ice cream.  When I ordered on the Eiffel Tower, the tiny bowls were the same but the amount of ice cream was dramatically increased.  My only guess was that on the Tower, I ordered completely in French.  Maybe that got you more ice cream?





Down from the tower we went to the Army Museum.  William and Becca did something amazing there, suddenly discovering a common interest and enjoying each others' company.  They were enamored with the weapons of the middle ages.  The suits of armor, swords, sheilds, and spears were fascinating to them both.  They both even enjoyed a movie about training for World War I.  Kip and Anna went off without us to another part of the museum and when we met for our picnic told us we had to see the room of relief maps.  Of course, it was on the 4th floor.  We had to take 5 flights of stairs.  And this was after the 700 steps of the Eiffel Tower.  I'm starting to hate stairs.  Although, they make justifying one more patisserie just a little bit easier.  I will return to Oregon with stronger legs and a bigger belly than I had on departure.

People here may be in love, but for me, so far Paris is the city of stairs.  And people.  And waiting and waiting to see someplace beautiful. Or to use a restroom, which is definitely not beautiful.  But so far it has been a lot of fun.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bastille Day!

What a difference a day makes.  I woke up around 7:00 feeling good,  refreshed from a full night of sleep and ready to take on a day of enjoying Paris.

We took things slow in the morning. I made a shopping list and went to Monoprix. We got the basics, a  baguette, cheese, pasta and sauce, and ice cream. We had to go home and enjoy the bagel with cheese and Nutella before heading off on our next activity. With the fireworks near the Eiffel Tower tonight, we knew the city would be crazy. We were all a little nervous about riding the metro after twice getting separated yesterday. We finally gathered our courage and headed on the metro to the Arc de Triumph. 




We found when we got there that we couldn't buy tickets and climb to the top. The ticket office was closed until 5:30.  We came up from under the street and took a few pictures before a group of official-looking people with whistles told us all to leave. The confused mass of tourists were slow to move, but as much as they did move, the gendarmes (police) put barricades to block their return. We were shooed from under the arc and down the stairs, herded like unwilling and dim-witted cattle back to the central area underneath the street.  The whistle-blowing officials didn't follow immediately, so we paused to consider our next move. Our Break was cut short by the arrival ofa group of the tourist-herders from above.  People started to move, but not very quickly. One of the women with a whistle appeared on the steps and blew it loud enough to let people know she meant business. With our ears still ringing from her whistle, she yelled for us to get out in the kind of voice that people use when there is not an option for debate. The mass of holiday tourists admitted defeat and headed to the exit tunnels. I exchanged a smile with one of the policemen as we passed.  The woman had put us all in our place.


Back above ground we decided to head to a lesser-known museum between the Champs Elysée and our apartment. We walked to it, considering stopping at another cafe for lunch. The prices at the ones we looked at were a little high, so we opted to have a picnic.  We stopped at another Monoprix and let everyone choose a main course and a drink.   We chose sushi, a sandwich, salads, sprite, orangina, fruit, chips, and cookies. We ate it on a bench outside the shop. It was probably one of the best meals we've had so far in France, and the cheapest.   Although, in true Becca fashion, she wasn't satisfied by what she chose and ate almost nothing yet again.  After our street-side picnic we went into the Jacquemart-André museum.  It's a beautiful chateau which the owners filled with art to the point that after they died the home was turned into a museum. It was a good way to start the museum part of our trip. It was not very large, less than 15 rooms of art to view.



And we were surprised to discover that they have a kid zone. There were some fancy costumes for the kids to try on and pose for photos.  There were easels with big sheets of paper and packs of pastels. There were coloring pages of scenes from the art in the building that looked very much like the ones we used in art lit for the project on David. The kids could sit at a table and color them with markers, crayons, or watercolor and pastel pencils. There was also a set of building blocks that looked like thin Jenga pieces. We were all thrilled. The girls settled in with coloring pages.  Kip took an easel.  There were no other kids there and with everyone else in Paris heading toward the Eiffel Tower already, the museum was very quiet. William took some time to realize that we were going to be there a while, then took another easel for himself. I joined the girls coloring and chatting with the girl in charge of the area.  Eventually, I left the kids and Kip and went to enjoy the museum. There were some beautiful things. I especially liked some of the furniture.


We opted that night to go watch fireworks from a park in eastern Paris, Belleville.  Everything we read or heard said to get there very early and get a place.  We did, bringing another baguette picnic and card games.  I was tired and chose to lay back and enjoy the view of the evening sky.  The clouds were billowy and the sky was a soft blue.  We had set ourselves on the edge of the flower garden and the flowers waved in the breeze just above me.

The only unpleasantness was that so many people in Europe smoke. We were surrounded by people drinking and smoking.

Before the sun had set, a park employee with a whistle came down the walkway announcing that the park was closing and we all had to leave.  Most people got up to go.  The large group of Parisians next to me didn't budge.  I asked them if we had to go.  They said yes, probably, but made no move to do so.  I waited until the park employee came a second time and Kip and the kids returned from the play area, then we packed up and headed out.  We ended up taking the metro home.  It was good to do before the post-firework-madness.  And we got home just in time to watch the fireworks on TV.  It was fun to see it with the music and in the comfort of my apartment.  Of course, I kept falling asleep. I thought it was better than watching standing outside with only a partial distant view of the Eiffel Tower.

Paris - the arrival

Our first day in France was not a entirely wonderful.  In fact, I spent a lot of the day wondering if it had been a really bad choice to come here.

I get nervous when I travel, uncomfortable. I like to rely on Kip to figure out what needs to be done to get us where we need to be.  But this time, we were in France and I actually speak French, or I did almost 20 years ago.  I felt a lot of pressure to be able to figure out everything we needed to do and I was afraid my language skills would fail me after such a long time of disuse.  So, on arrival here in Paris I was tense and insecure about my ability to succeed in getting us settled comfortably in our new place.  I was afraid I would fail miserably and the whole family would look at me and think that I had let them down.  I was scared.  On top of that insecurity, I was exhausted.  I hardly slept at home the two nights before we came.  I hardly slept on the airplane.  Exhaustion frequently brings depression. Things were pretty emotionally dark Monday.

We arrived at 8 am but couldn't check into our apartment until 2. Thanks to some good internet searching, we had found a train station fairly near our place with luggage lockers.  We got to the airport, bought our museum pass and train ticket from the tourist information location in the airport (thank you, Rick Steves), and rode to our train station, Gare du Nord.


We then had to hunt down the lockers.  We stopped several security people and got directions, in English even, but it was like they were speaking a different language. What they said made perfect sense as they said it and motioned where to go, but then you went there and found nothing that looked lockerish.  We went up stairs, down other stairs, through masses of people that seemed to know where they were going and then to other stairs.  I started to despair, thinking maybe we should skip the lockers and just go throw ourselves on the mercy of our apartment owner.  In retrospect, I think that would have been a good choice.  Instead, by some miracle, we finally stumbled upon the lockers.  We stuffed our things inside and went off to find food and wander until we could check in.



After lunch things got even more tense.  Kip wanted to see the Seine, so we figured out what metro lines to use and bought a pack of tickets.  The metro system in Paris is like a maze.  The lines run above and below each other and the stations involve climbing up and down stairs and wandering in tunnels that snake around below the streets of the city.  I get completely turned around searching for the trains.  And we learned the hard way that when they say the train stops for only 15 seconds it is really true.  The first metro ride took us to a point where we had to change to another train.  We were all enjoying ourselves when suddenly it was time to get off. Kip, Anna and William rushed for the door but Becca and I got cut off by an African woman with rolling luggage. I almost jumped her suitcase, but realized that Becca wouldn't make it.  And I would undoubtably have hurt someone in the process.  Becca and I stepped back and watched the doors close with Kip and the others on the other side.  I stayed completely calm, telling Becca what fun it was to get to go an extra stop and then come back to join the others.  And It really wasn't that bad.  We learned our lesson.  Make sure you get right by the door before reaching your stop.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only metro lesson for the day.  At a later stop, thronged with people, we couldn't get on quite fast enough.  I pushed through the door at the last second as it closed then turned to see William still outside looking shocked as the doors closed between us.  We yelled at him to stay right there.  An English woman with a group of teenage girls remarked that we had the same protocol she does.  I laughed and admitted that this was our second time getting split up in one day.  She remarked that in 20 years she'd never lost a student.  Suddenly, I didn't like her so much anymore.

After those two experiences, I got pretty nervous about riding the metro.  I was physically exhausted from traveling for over 24 hours and then I'd been separated from family members twice while riding. I was scared every time we got on or off after that, the exhaustion and fear combining to make me nauseous. I started to think that maybe we should consider walking more.

The tension of the adventure wasn't helped by the cafe employee who tried to cheat me that afternoon near the Louvre.  We stopped in, exhausted and needing restrooms.  We ordered drinks and ice cream for everyone.  Later, when we went to pay, he asked if I had smaller money than what I had handed him. I said yes and handed it over.  Then he kept it all and gave me change for the small bill.  I called him on it, but when he asked how much he owed me I got flustered and couldn't figure it out.  He got sick of waiting for me to figure it out and actually told me how much he thought he still owed me.  I think it was right, too.  But I felt a mixture of negative emotions from the experience.  I felt stupid because I confronted him but did it in a weak and wimpy manor. I felt betrayed.  I tried to speak French and was very friendly to the people at the cafe and he tried to take advantage of me.

When we finally reached the apartment that evening, my perception of it was colored by the darkness of my mood.  It wasn't a bad place, but it was not fancy.  Paris was crowded, the metro was dangerous, cafe owners were unscrupulous, and our apartment was a little worn.  William mentioned that he couldn't wait to get to our villa we're renting on the mediterranean coast of Turkey and I felt the same.  It had been a rough day and I wasn't sure how well Paris was going to treat us.  We crashed into our beds that night hoping the next day would be a better one.