Saturday, December 11, 2010

Paris, this time

It's been a few years since we've gone to Paris. Isabel has been their twice. Once in my belly, and once when she was two. She's five and three quarters now, and ready to take it in- at least as visual flash cards in her conscious memory bank. Since we moved to LA, we haven't travelled that much as a family. Certainly nothing like we did when in NYC. Here, there is not a desperate need to escape the city, and Europe is no longer a skip across the ocean. In theory, my new goal is to go somewhere, ideally somewhere far away, at least once a year. While Paris is not a new destination for us, it offers new things and new places each time. Often of the delicious kind.
Paris, this time, was FREEZING. I never knew Paris got this cold. And I have admired how lovely and mild it is this time of year before. Oh, weather! What a boring complaint. And a complaint about Paris? Le pauvre. Pas de tout! We had a great time. Let's just say the experience was different. One of the gifts of travel, right? Exposure to different things. Instead of the usual carefree romping around for hours, stumbling on new places while seeking the beloved favorites, this time- the overriding theme was: seek shelter. How long could we last outside before we had to dart into the nearest cafe, museum, bistro, shop, cathedral or monoprix? We basically ate and drank our way through the city, gazing at art and resting in the warmth of churches in between. Notre Dame, a family favorite, was a saviour on several occasions. Outside, with her back to the towering gothic wonder, Isabel and her friend Noa oogled at the gigantic Christmas tree. "Prrreetty"! Our friend Ethan duly noted, " Santa Claus: 1, Jesus: 0". Inside, I felt safe and sound, and I didn't want to leave the loving harbor of the lord. My father would be proud. The girls were happy to stay for a while too. Lighting candles, making "wishes" and gazing at the nativity scene awaiting baby Jesus. After loosely explaining the meaning of Christmas I said, " But, not everyone believes in Jesus". "Well, I believe!" Isabel said. Noa, clearly a modern jew, said, "I believe too!" Then Ethan said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a tie".
As always, the Christmas decorations were insane. The French don't mess around with their decor. It's never your typical commercial fanfare with Santa and the sleigh and red bows (which can be great too). No. This, is pure magic. Snowflake light sculptures dancing up the sides of buildings, grand clear bubbles with white fairy book trees inside, shop windows with trippy light shows and music around every corner. It's the stuff that makes eyes open wide, and it certainly distracts from the snow collecting in the creases of your neck.
The beauty and the flavor never fail. We ate some wonderful things. The bread! Ooh la-la. The cheese. The soupe de poisson, the pot au feu de boeuf and the potatoes cooked in fat. Isabel delighted in her daily pain au chocolat and her chocolat chaud, while I devoured the croissants and the butter and the plum jam. Cafe cremes and vin rouge were the boissons du jour, and plenty of them were consumed throughout the day to keep our spirits warm and cheery. Riding the metro, drawing in cafes, watching videos at the Jeu de Paume, strolling through Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Modigliani and Kertesz, and browsing (and smelling) the books at Shakespeare and Company, were some of the indoor activities we embraced that kept us happily amused. We intended on hiking up The Eiffel Tower this time ( way too cold), and Notre Dame too (closed due to snow), and riding around in that boat around the Seine (nah). Instead we rode the Ferris Wheel at Place de la Concorde because it was semi-enclosed. It provided a glorious, sparkling view of all, with a super euro-techno soundtrack to boot. Paris, nous t'aimons!
We are back at home now. The California sun sure feels good, even if it doesn't feel right this time of year. It's 10:30 am and it's 80 degrees. We're heading to the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular show downtown. Ooh, La-la land.