Thursday, May 10, 2018


We spotted a skunk in our backyard this morning before school. The kids were excited until they realized that they would eventually have to go outside to get to the car. They kept concocting ridiculously elaborate plans to do so that would, in fact, expose them even more to the skunk. These ranged from Julia's ("We'll run to the end of the block and you pick us up there") to James's ("Do we have an axe? What about a really sharp knife? Don't worry - I'm not going to kill the skunk. I'll just go into the attic and make a hole in the roof and climb out to see where the skunk is. Then we'll take a ladder down to the car.")

Of course we got to the car just fine. And then Julia realized she forgot her library book so I had to go inside and get it. It would have been funny if the skunk had then shown up in the front yard while the kids were stuck in the car, but of course no skunk was spotted (just striped!).

In our backyard. If it's nested under the deck we'll just have to move.

Some choice quotes:
James: (In planning our exit) "Wait, where are the walkie talkies?"
Julia: (Once we all got in the car) "Quick! Lock the doors!"
Julia: "What if the skunk follows our car to school?"
When we got to school James joked that everything was okay, and there weren't any little pawprints left from a skunk hanging off the license plate. Julia went to check anyway.

And that was our excitement for the day.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Paris Epilogue

James waxes poetic on his final night of the trip about how his heart is being tugged in two by Paris. One wants to stay so he can run across the street and play in the rain, and the other wants to go home and play video games (notably “Stardew Valley”). He turns his thoughts into a poem. (James says he got the idea of his heart being tugged in two from a "Chicken Squad" book, but the illustrations are all James.)
(I considered cropping the poem about two-thirds down because I think the beginning is better. But sometimes it’s nice to have some insight into the mind of a 7-year-old, like about how he misses his favorite video game and his stuffed golden retrievers, Bowser and Goldie. “D. Dude” is what he calls the dalmatian “tattoo” on his arm. Also, if I cropped it early you’d miss out on the drawing of the smiling heart back together again at the end.)
James has said since the beginning of first grade that he wants to be a poet when he grows up. Despite my angsty high school days editing a literary magazine, I assure you I’ve never encouraged him in this direction. I think it’s because he likes rhyming words. This poem is the first he’s written where he didn’t.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Day 15: Au Revoir…

I’m determined to make an Eiffel Tower run the morning before we check out, so I wake early, hike to three bakeries to get pastries for breakfast (the first two are still closed from Bastille Day. The French are pretty loose about things like shop hours.), and pack three suitcases. Mark questions whether we’ll have enough time for the Tower, and I’m like, “After all this you’d better believe it!”

Julia reads a book to James on the ridiculously tacky chair in our Air BnBrothel.
After we Uber there we have at most 20 minutes. We don’t have enough time to go to the
Trocadero but we do walk around next to the Eiffel Tower and the nearby bridge crossing
the Seine.
Kathy, Mark, James, and Julia next to the Eiffel Tower and the Seine.
What usually happens when Julia and James stand next to each other for a picture.
We fly home and we all wake up between 3 and 4:30 a.m. because of jet lag. The next day we go to dinner at Burma Ruby, which we’ve been craving, and although the kids are awake when we arrive, they fall asleep before the entrees (James, before the appetizers), and we end up carrying them passed out to the car. It looks like we tranquilized them for date night. James has no memory of even being there.
Mark and Kathy in Charles de Gaulle Airport
In retrospect, going out to dinner a few hours before bedtime the first night back might not have been such a good idea.

Julia’s favorite thing of the day: Eiffel Tower, sleeping in own bed (she’s not a fan of sleeping with James)
James’s favorite: Eiffel Tower

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Day 14: Bastille Day, Schmastille Day

We’re in Paris for Bastille Day (and were in London for the Fourth of July), which sounds great except things don’t work out so well. We try to walk across the Pont Alexandre III, regarded as the most ornate bridge in the city, but it’s closed due to either the earlier military parade down the Champ Elysees (of course Trump was also there) or the fireworks that evening. Next we find out that the area by the Eiffel Tower is closed and so is Trocadero, the best picture taking spot. (No “squishing the Eiffel Tower” photos for us.) I had planned to go here the previous night after our tour but forgot about it once the tour was cancelled, so we never did get to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. I’ll just assume this qualifies as another “Curse you, Donald Trump!”
Julia and James run across some nets by the Seine.
The Eiffel Tower was at the end of the street where we had lunch. Sadly this is the closest we could get.
Kathy holds her model of the Eiffel Tower... or does she?
Kathy, James, Julia, and Mark in their requisite Eiffel Tower picture.
James and Julia liked sliding down this bike ramp.
Homeless Chewbacca has seen better days.
Since we can’t get close to the Eiffel Tower and we’re already in the neighborhood, I subject everyone to walking around to look at Art Nouveau architecture instead.
Art Nouveau building, 29 Rapp, from 1901. From my guidebook: "Art Nouveau to the extreme , with colourful glazed ceramic tiles and an extravagant doorway representing an inverted phallus inside a vulval arch." Of course.

Standing at the outside edge of the roundabout encircling the Arc du Triomphe, we are blocked by the unbroken, eight-lane stream of traffic with no apparent way to get across. Mark wants to try to run across and repeatedly suggests that we “just Frogger it.” (He later claims that he was joking.) Fortunately we eventually notice a staircase to a tunnel below the traffic and we take that instead.
Mark carries James around at the Arc de Triomphe.

We take Metro to Jacques Genin, a high end chocolatier for a chocolate snack. Julia is unhappy at first (as you all know by now, she hates chocolate), but then gets free pâtes de fruits from our server. We drink our third hot chocolate of the trip and finish our snack at 7 p.m. And dinner is still to come after 9 p.m. - such is our schedule in Paris.
Our dinner in Montmartre is a salad topped with fried potatoes, our restaurant’s specialty.
You got potatoes on my salad! You got salad on my potatoes! Mark isn’t as impressed
but I declare it the best meal in Paris. We walk all the way up to Sacre Coeur and
scramble to find a spot to see fireworks. We had heard this was a good place to watch,
and we had zero interest in the other suggested spot - camping out by the Eiffel Tower
in the mid-afternoon and waiting until 11 p.m. for the fireworks to start. We are baffled as
to why this is a popular firework watching spot since the fireworks are really far away
and we can’t even see the Eiffel Tower. We leave before they’re even over. Le letdown.

Julia’s favorite thing of the day: Eiffel Tower
James’s favorite: Winning Street Fighter game at Publicis Drugstore (It’s a drug store
we went inside to buy some water and discovered a Joel Robuchon restaurant and a
Pierre Herme macaron counter. What kind of crazy drug store IS this?)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Day 13: Foiled by Trump!

We discover that our Behind the Scenes Eiffel Tower tour is cancelled (and can’t be rescheduled) because Trump and Macron will be there. (If you saw the picture of them eating dinner in the Eiffel Tower, know that it was at the hour we were supposed to be there!)
We eat lunch at Pirouette and bunny-lover Julia is not at all happy to see that rabbit is on
the menu. On the way there we see actual mimes performing in front of Pompidou
Center. The night before, Mark’s mom asked if we’d seen any mimes and I foolishly
scoffed at the idea.
Julia wanted to hug me and never let go. Please tell me they'll always be like this.
We spend our day on the two islands in the middle of the Seine: Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis. We begin at Sainte Chapelle, a 13th century church with one after another after another of amazing floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows. It’s definitely the underappreciated gem of Ile de la Cite compared to the other more famous church.
Sainte Chappelle
James is awed by Sainte Chappelle.
Next we arrive at Notre Dame (that would be the other more famous church) to find a long line snaking through the courtyard. We’re told it moves fast but it seems to be at a standstill. We hear that Melania is inside with Macron’s wife (I can’t shake a stick in Paris without hitting a Trump. Watch out, Eric, you’re next.) so we opt to return later.
We walk to Ile Saint-Louis to relax inside Berthilion with some of their famous ice cream and
Parisian hot chocolate. When we return to Notre Dame the line isn’t that bad, and we notice
that the gaggle of Americans behind us in tube dresses are not allowed inside. Notre Dame:
Slut shaming since 1345. The kids are really disappointed because we planned to climb the
tower but they closed that area off early. Thanks, Melania!
James drinks his second hot chocolate of the trip at Berthilion.
Julia climbs the gate of Notre Dame.
Julia shows James some sisterly love at Notre Dame.
We cap off our day with an encore of Breton-style crepes at Chez Imogene near our apartment. I realize when we get home from the trip that eating dinner each night in our neighborhood away from the center of things might not have been the best plan. We never really experienced Paris as “The City of Lights.”

Julia pretends to eat a macaron magnet.
Julia’s favorite thing of the day: Sainte Chappelle

James’s favorite: ice cream

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Day 12: Lovin’ the Louvre

We take the Louvre’s Muse tour with our guide Guillaume. The cost at first seems rather exorbitant, but it’s highly recommended by two friends (Suzanne and Hera), and is named by all of us as a highlight of the Paris portion of our trip. The tour is organized as a treasure hunt where kids solve clues along the way. Highlights include the Code of Hammurabi, the Arago line marker (basically the French version of the Prime Meridian before it was moved to Greenwich), and my favorite, the massive Mesopotamian sculptures. The latter I would never have thought to go out of my way for, so kudos to Guillaume. After the tour we play the card game Guillotine (appropriate for Paris) for a bit, and then attempt to see the Louvre on our own. We have a new appreciation for how easily Guillaume maneuvered around the complicated museum layout. Eventually we find the Egyptian sarcophagi, but by then we’re DEAD tired…
Julia and James in front of the Arc du Carousel.
Julia on one of the Arago medallions marking the Arago Line in the Louvre. The Arago Line was the French rival of the Greenwich Meridian. Funny that we also visited the Royal Observatory at Greenwich on this trip!
James touches the upside down Louvre pyramid.
Can you tell Kathy loves mustard? (But not French's. That's an abomination.)
From the Louvre we pass through the gauntlet of Eiffel Tower replica sellers to the hedges of the Tuileries Garden. James LOVES hiding inside the hedges and to his delight we agree to play hide and seek. During the game we keep stumbling on replica sellers peeing in between hedges. (Le gross.)
Mark channels Sean Spicer. James: "What was Daddy doing? Peeing?" (This would be because of the number of people we stumbled upon peeing in the hedges.)
James plays hide and seek in the Tuilieries Garden.
James and Julia run to play hide and seek in the Tuilieries Garden.
Dinner is at Le Petit Cambodge, a hipster Cambodian restaurant in our neighborhood, recommended by new best friend Guillaume.

James: “I can balance my fidget spinner on one hand for 74 seconds.”
Julia: “So? I can do 75 seconds.”

Julia’s favorite thing of the day: Private tour of the Louvre, the “Mona Lisa”

James’s favorite: Dog painting next to the “Mona Lisa” (the first known painting where dogs
were the protagonists)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Day 11: Sailing Boats and Shell Games

We start the day at Le Jardin du Luxembourg, and the kids sail boats in the pond. It is the highlight of Paris for me. Mark and I simply relax on chairs to watch and it’s so peaceful. An American tourist asks to take a photo of our kids, and I wonder if it has anything to do with them being dressed in an old-fashioned way (beret! driver’s cap!) for an old-fashioned activity. Could they think Julia with her beret is French? For the record I only spotted one beret the whole trip (on someone who wasn’t Julia), and I think it was a tourist.
James and his boat. He chose the Argentine one in honor of his Argentine friend back home, Matias.
Julia sails her French boat.
Big boats can be hard to carry.
Kathy, Mark, Julia, and James with their French and Argentine boats at the pond at the Jardin du Luxembourg
I have such slow walkers who have to climb everything they see, it feels like everything perpetually takes longer than it should. And as I think this I notice Mark balancing while walking on a raised curb. I wonder where my kids get it.
Mark and Julia goofing off in sync. (Also, right about now I was like, "We have a lunch reservation!")
We have our first of two modern French meals at highly regarded restaurants that are kind of let-downs. We make the mistake of ordering cuttlefish for one of our entrees, and discover we are not fans. It’s like eating scallops mixed with rubber, with a tentacle for effect. Thankfully, James doesn’t mind it (we don’t call him “the garbage disposal” for nothing), and we happily pass off the cuttlefish onto him, while we dig into the steak.
Kathy poses with her new enemy, cuttlefish.
Thankfully James tolerates cuttlefish.
We eat a snack at an Algerian tea house (Tea: you can take the girl out of London, but you can’t take London out of the girl), and sip mint tea and try all sorts of Algerian sweets.
On the Pont des Arts (and basically every bridge in Paris afterwards) we see a shell game
being played. It’s pretty easy to pick out the shell game guy’s friends as the ones actually
playing the game. Shell game guy tries to get Mark to play, and when he demurs the kids
keep asking, “Why not?” As we explore Paris, this is Mark’s Achilles Heel. Between Mark
stopping to watch every shell game and the kids having to climb everything, it’s a wonder
we ever see anything.
Locks on the Pont des Arte. A few years ago they cut off all the padlocks on the bridge because of the structural damage they were causing. When we visited, the locks were only visible on street lamps and on a thin pipe on the stairs underneath the bridge.
Right after I took this photo of a shell game on the Pont de Arte, this guy told me "no pictures." (A friend said, “He probably wants you to shell out for the photo.”)
Julia climbs on one of the many rings on the wall next to the Seine. They were constantly drawn to these like moth to flame.
Julia’s favorite thing of the day: Boats at Jardin du Luxembourg (especially the “boat fight” between her French boat and the U.K. one - their boats briefly got stuck together)

James’s favorite: Boats (especially his boat fight with the U.K. and Russia. I termed the fight
between his Argentine boat and the U.K. one “The Falkland Islands War, Part II.”)