Paul and I went to Paris for the first time on our honeymoon 13 years ago. It was our first trip over the seas together and it planted something in both of us that has grown.
You know how it’s grown, we have hardly been home since.
We enjoy the feeling of being completely outside of our comfort zone. In fact, I think we’ve become more comfortable in our discomfort zone than in our comfort zone. We’ve fallen in love with the insulation travel provides our marriage and our precious family. We don’t take for granted even one second of the time that gets to be all ours, in a time when life is flying by so quickly, a time when I feel like I’m bursting into a billion beautiful pieces of light every day from the velocity of it all.
The time we have with our children is so short. Maybe we know it better than most because we are the ones who left home. The ones who went far away. The ones who are missing births and deaths and all of the other beautiful passages, the “in-betweens” that I know, in a well, deep down, that I can only hear echoes from, that we’ll someday long desperately to have back. Every single moment of it is so hard to reconcile and yet, travel and our lives as they are defined by it, are the things that keep us buoyant. I’m sure somewhere deep down in both of my parents hearts they know that the reason they held us captive on those endless weekend road trips, family picnics and camping trips was to keep those little moments all to themselves for a long as they could. I know that now. I knew it was selfish, but I also understand why we “steal” love and we “make” love and we “fall” both in love and out of love. The reason those words aren’t more gentle, like you dream love to be is because love is a thing worth fighting for. It doesn’t stick around without the passing of blood, sweat and tears. Scrapes, burns and close calls are all the things that make us appreciate how very sacred it is.
Shit, maybe this isn’t about Paris.
Maybe this is about the justification of our life.
Maybe you didn’t ask for that.
Maybe I don’t owe it to you.
Maybe I need you to know it anyway.
We only had three days, Paul and I. The same was the case when we took the kids this summer. And three days isn’t nearly long enough of a time to scratch the surface of Paris, but we take the time we have. We steal minutes here and there to be in Paris together whenever we can.
The trip was mostly magic, but really only became so when we veered off the beaten path. Reliving our few days there on our honeymoon, as in trying to relive any old days, was a bad idea. Each day is new. Times change and this is the story of our first family trip to Paris.
On our honeymoon, it was all ours. Having fled a restaurant that night that the maitre d’e greeted us in English and handed us the English menu, we slipped out and wandered streets until we spied the twinkling lights of Au Vieux Paris, in an alleyway near Notre Dame. We were seated upstairs, but eventually worked our way outside to a bistro table on the sidewalk when it freed up. I ate chicken, Paul ate rabbit. We took blurry photos of each other with the point-and-shoot camera that Paul bought me for graduation. We felt like we’d discovered something together all our own. Even if it wasn’t ours at all, it felt like it for a couple of hours.
This time it seemed much more found. It felt closer to Notre Dame and to the mass of tourists than we remembered it being, the menu was in English and the patrons were all loud and mostly American. We sat inside because the sky opened on us and dealt hail the size of dates. The kids were good. Although they didn’t get the sentimentality of the place and thought we were more than a little crazy. We ate foie gras and drank wine and the maitre d’e must have caught on, because at some point he pretended to recognize us from 13 years ago. Which is altogether possible, but also not possible at all, sir.
The next day, kids’ choice, they wanted to go to the Louvre. We spent half the day searching for the bathrooms. At lunchtime, when we finally located the bathrooms and had desperately toured most of the museum’s 60,600 square meters, we checked the always surprisingly teeny-tiny Mona Lisa and bounced to find lunch. We grabbed brie and jambon on baguette and found a bench in the gardens. Then it was off to the Eiffel Tower. We walked down the Seine, stopping for ice cream along the way. At some point on our walk to the Eiffel Tower, a very exhausted Clementine dropped to the sidewalk and refused to take another step proclaiming, “I don’t even want to see that stupid tower! I’m not taking another step.”
And so Paul carried her the rest of the way to the Eiffel Tower.
Within the new plexi safety corral surrounding the tower, Clementine and I ate french fries while the boys hiked up the stairs. I’d been up before, and Clementine was hungry and not up for the adventure. We befriended other families in waiting and puddle jumped in and out of pockets of light that streamed through the tower above as the sun faded away. Too exhausted to search for anything else for dinner we settled into a cute-looking cafe near out hotel called LuLu. For reason’s which I cannot explain to you, Clementine’s nick name has always been “LuLu” and she was even excited by our fortune, even through her exhaustion. The design was diner-esque, with chic Parisian updates, green velvet banquettes and a Constance Guisset pendant lamp which I have coveted before and since. We ate and drank and even met LuLu himself, when he sidled up to the bar, and dazzled us with his best Donald Trump impression.
I know you’re thinking, this isn’t Paris, and yet it is. It’s our Paris. This notion of the “way” a city should be seen is positively dead. You do you. That’s how new discoveries are made. Like finding the Parisian Donald Trump, you see.
Day Three we split from the tourist track and headed for the Natural History Museum, stopping along the way for pastries at one of the only open boulangeries we could find and we ate standing on the sidewalk before moving along. Our first stop once within the complex was to see “Trix: A T-Rex in Paris,” to frolic in the ombre flower gardens and to pretend to be dinosaurs as we roamed about the expansive and all but abandoned grounds. Our next stop was the paleontology museum, which housed a skeleton of-like-every-single-animal-in-the-world. Coffee and a visit to the charming and hobbit-like menagerie would cap off the day before we headed back to the Louvre to catch the FINALE OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE YOU GUYS! We didn’t plan it. It just happened. As we jumped up on ledges within the gardens jets flew over emitting red, white and blue and the cyclists made their eight final laps about the Avenue des Champs-Elysées while we cheered like we knew anyone at all. After that it was back to our rooms to pack and snack and head out on the next leg of our journey home. Home.
Adieu Paris. Until next time.