Sep 20, 2010

Salted butter and Bordeaux

I can't believe it; nearly a month has passed since we arrived in Paris (with too much stuff!)...The time has passed so quickly and I've had hardly a moment to tell you that our lives, for the most part, feel settled. We have a routine during the weekdays. Jon goes to the archives and Maggie and I walk to the playground near our apartment. We play in the sandbox, kick a ball around, take Maggie's doll down the slide a few times and then sit on a bench in the sun and share a baguette sandwich. After lunch we return to the apartment, and if we have time, draw or add some things to Maggie's scrapbook. Then she takes a nap, and for that 45 minutes+ I write/read/knit. After nap we play around the house. I make maggie a snack, drink some tea, and we wait for daddy to return. Typically, he's home around 4, and at that point we often take a walk together. Sometimes we go down to Rue des Abbesses and Maggie takes a ride on the carousel. We do our daily grocery shopping. We might go back to the sandbox, or sometimes we get on the metro to explore other parts of Paris. Life, for the most part isn't very different.

Except that of course it is. I could tell you the bad parts of living in Paris; that it is in fact a city, and that we often return home after being squeezed together on the train and up the cramped elevator at our metro station that smells, quite frankly of piss and sometimes vomit, and after a day surrounded by wafting smoke, I lay my sweet girl down for the night and kiss her forehead and she smells like cigarettes. And although in my heart I'm a country girl who longs for some land and maybe a nice cow, and sheep and horses and a garden, and nights on a porch with my kids running around, there is no denying the charm, magic even, of this city. it is amazing.

It is no secret that Paris is amazing--even if you haven't been here, you have most likely seen pictures or movies. And I have to report that it is just as amazing and romantic as you might imagine. Yesterday, Sunday, we went to the Marais with the intention of ending up at L'as du Falafel for dinner. I've been going to this delicious falafel spot since I was here ten years ago, and it is still as good as it was then (and affordable!) We stepped off the metro and the Marais was busy. The streets were filled to the point where no car dared drive on the them, as most people had given up trying to walk on the narrow sidewalks. We walked into a museum (free for a european heritage day) and there in the courtyard a choir was singing. We strolled through rooms filled with art and furniture representing the history of Paris. Then we walked towards Place des Vosgues, stopping to listen to incredible band playing in the street. At Place des Vosgues Maggie went on the see-saw then built a sandcastle and then we all lay in the grass looking up at the sky.

It was an amazing day, although I must admit this kind of magic seems to surround us here. Dare I say ordinary? No. Which is why I need to turn the conversation towards food. This is what I've really wanted to talk about all this time (get to the point, right?)... Food. Butter, and baguette and divine milk, "Lait cru" is incredible whole, raw milk. It tastes so good. And the salted butter? Can I please stuff a whole suitcase and bring that home with me when I go? And pastries? Ok I haven't even touched chocolate or wine yet. Divine. So good. After maggie went to bed the other night we each had a glass of this incredible Bordeaux and then ate some Maison du chocolat. I got up and started twirling around it was so good.

I can't help but think Jon and I are living our very own "Eat, Pray, Love;" Paris is our eat, Senegal will be Pray and Aix en Provence will be Love?? Ok maybe it doesn't fit exactly, but there is definitely some eating and indulgence happening here.

Now to change the subject again. Check out my two year old. She puts outfits like this together herself. Insists on pulling her own backpack at the airport. Holds on the railing on the train "all by myself!" Attitude and cuteness and talking, talking, talking.

Sep 13, 2010


At two years old, Maggie has done a considerable amount of travel, and I have to say, she is a champ. When we packed up our suitcase to make another trip only two weeks after arriving in Paris, I told maggie that we were going to London to visit nanny and baba and benny and heather. "Like Katy in London!" she said enthusiastically, referring to a book we have read often and loved.

She immediately ran out of the room to tell her dad. "We're going on an aventurrr!" The fact that we were taking the train, through a tunnel under the water no less, only added to the excitement. So on Saturday of last week, we boarded our train for the two hour ride to London.

I was equally excited, although not for the reasons you would expect. It was not Big Ben or Buckingham Palace or even the promise of tea (oh delicious tea), but the excitement of seeing my family. It had been only two weeks and already I missed everything and everyone. Mountains and ocean and eucalyptus and friends and maggie's friends, and of course, my family. All this seems even more important now that I have a daughter.

Admittedly it was a relief to arrive in London, a place where at the least they speak english. And it was comforting to see, as we sat in the taxi on the way to our hotel, that unlike Paris, not everyone in London was impossibly well dressed, polished, in dark tones of black, grey etc. Don't get me wrong--I happen to love neutral colors and think the french have incredible taste--but so much perfection? The woman in black heels in the sandbox? The kids in shades of grey, tasteful, tucked, braided? How could it be? I was happy to see color, messiness. I relaxed.

Ok. So its true that when we got the taxi it took me a moment to figure out how to open the door, and Jon went around to the trunk of the taxi to put our luggage only to discover there is no trunk, and the luggage goes up front with the driver, and this little thing where they drive on the left side of the road, which sounds like no big deal, only you realize everything is reversed and therefore your whole world feels mixed up. Really, no big deal. I had been to London a couple of times, and while it is, culturally speaking, closer to America than France or Italy perhaps, it is very different.

But then we met my family at Liberty's for the Cream tea and oh! Tea and scones and clotted cream. Clotted cream! That stuff is divine. I mean why don't they serve that everywhere, all the time? If I think back to one thing about London it was this daily ritual.

Maggie, on the other hand, enjoyed the scones and cream and strawberry jam, but I think I can safely say the highlight for her was the guards. More specifically the horse guards. Our first full day in London Jon, Maggie, my dad, my mom, my brother and I walked through the park to Buckingham Palace, and because we had missed the changing of the guards, continued on to see the horse guards. After the obligatory photo with one of the guards, we continued through the archway, hoping to catch a glimpse of the horses or even the stables.

What happened next was a big event, at least in the mind of a two year old, and I think she will be talking about it for some time. A second guard was standing near a gate, behind which, we assumed was the stables. Maggie loves horses. So do I. So does my mother. We peered around, hoping there was some way to get in. THen Ben stepped right up to the gate, to left and behind the guard.

Suddenly we all heard the guard yelling in a very low, loud voice. He drew his sword. For some reason I remember him pointing it out in the air towards Ben, but everyone claims that did not happen. He did begin to bang the sword on the ground and continued yelling, although honestly it was difficult to make out what he was saying. "Sir, step away from the gate!" something to that effect. We were all a bit shocked, and I'm afraid to say, not entirely intimidated. Maggie was frightened. She buried herself in my chest, and began to tear up a bit and so I led her away and explained that everything was ok.

I wasn't sure how she would react to the incident, but her fear only seemed to make her more interested in the guards. She began to tell the story to us all the time. "The guard got mad at Benny. He said aghh aghh aghh aghhh." In later versions of the story, when the fear was not so fresh in her mind perhaps, she added "the guards are so funny."

So we spent the rest of the week looking for guards. We watched the changing of the horse guard, we went to Saint Paul's Cathedral, we went to Windsor Castle (more guards!), and many other things. Being a tourist is pretty exhausting, but on the last night, after Heather had joined us and we were having another dinner past Maggie's bed time, we walked back to the hotels and prepared to say goodbye.

Up until recently Maggie has been particularly sensitive to anyone but Jon and I holding her. Even with family, who she saw quite frequently, she would cry and want mommy. Only recently has this changed. At dinner I explained to Maggie that the next day we would be leaving. We would go back to Paris, and Heather, Benny, nanny and baba would be leaving to go somewhere else, and we wouldn't see heather or Benny for awhile. She immediately went to sit with them and give them kisses.

On the way home she did something that made me tear up a bit. Heather was holding her and whispered to her that she could lay her head down if she wanted and Maggie put her head on Heather's chest and stayed that way for the whole walk home. It was such a sweet moment, not only because we were leaving and wouldn't be seeing them for awhile, but because I saw how lucky Maggie is, how lucky I am too, to have so much love around her. She has grandma and grandpas, and aunts and uncles and nieces and a nephew who all adore her, but she also has friends from her playgroup and their wonderful mothers, who I know hold and love Maggie in just that same way as Heather did then. SO much love!

Sep 1, 2010

Montmartre, Je t'aime, but why all the hills and stairs?

We live in paradise. North of sacre coeur. Lamarck-Calaincourt. Ill admit that now. There may be 92 steps up from the metro, and stairs and hills everywhere, but look at this. this is where we walk each day.
The last vineyard in paris:
steps like this everywhere.