After posting from the bathtub, where I was trying to pass my insomnia time without waking the children, I came back out in to the room, hoping to slip in bed for a 6:20 AM nap... no such luck. Max and Maria are stretched out, back to back and crosswise across our double bed. Alex is in a single and Geoff and William are upstairs each enjoying their own beds. I am sitting here with the lap top perched on the mini-fridge... greatly sloped because of the uneven floor.
I do not speak French. Badly... I mean my unFrench ability is really bad. It is humbling. It makes me feel actually stoopid. I think it is extra frustrating because I can manage some Spanish and I always thought in time I could learn Hawaiian, but no matter how I try, French baffles me. Why do they insist on using so many letters they are never going to pronounce?! It seems so wasteful, so frivolous. Such wanton and liberal sprinklings of unspoken consonants.
I try. I read the phrase book. I listen and practice, but when I am face to face with a Frenchman and asking about the one week metro pass, it becomes an out of body experience, and my spirit watches from my own shoulder and says, “You are babbling. Say something. Dear, that was Spanish in a bad French accent... that does not count.” I try again and the man behind the counter winces. Was he sympathetic or have I managed to confirm all of his beliefs about American tourists? I am so confident, in spite of all contrary evidence, that I should be able to communicate in this vaguely familiar Romance language that I blurt another nonsensical inquiry...
S'il vous plait. Parlez-vous anglais? Mooah soy un Amercain ignorante y quiero comer pronto. Merci.” Then I smile. Then I pantomime a family of six buying metro passes, with a discount s'il vous plai, and eating dinner, then I say “Pardon. Tres bon. Mele kalikimaka. Then I grin and try to look confident, yet humble, and smart... in spite of all contrary evidence. We may starve.
Alex in Asia gave us some great tips in her comment, and we went straightaway to practicing the very useful: Sorry. I am an @ss phrase she suggests we employ, but it feels kind of redundant admitting we are sorry and need to be excused for being a bother. It seems so obvious we merit excusing. Now I regret more than ever that we forgot to pack the Obama stickers Phil sent us. Every time I try to communicate and I get the look, I could whip out an Obama sticker and say “I voted for this guy,” as though to say, “Aloha, I am smarter than you think. Please find us food and the stop for the Batobus. Merci.”
Remind me and maybe someday I will tell you about the time in Avignon when I translated French for a Frenchman. It was a whole other level of me being stoopid that cracks me up every time I think of it.
Oh man. They're still hogging my bed.
Our first morning in Paris is beginning slowly. I have been awake since 4 AM, and it 8 AM now. Still no stirring from Alex, Max or Maria. Still no peep from the upstairs crew either. It's just me and the construction crew outside the window... I am getting a lot of local color and sensory stimulation jack-hammered in to my morning. Bonjour!
On our walk to the hotel we went passed a marche... a stall market, very traditional, like the kind I know in Mexico. But where? We followed Geoff dragging luggage and we moved at a pretty quick pace, zig-zagging from Rue to Rue. I already checked the map, but it does not show up. I am just thinking of breakfast. I could buy bread and fruit, maybe some formage, more water.
Today we have tickets for the “Hop on-Hop off” boat that serves as a kind of water bus on the Seine. It travels from the Eiffel Tower, around the two Iles, passed the Louvre, and as the name implies, we can get on and off through the whole day. I thought it would be a pretty and fun way to get an overview of the heart of Paris. Looking forward to this. I think we may try the Notre Dame tour today too. Alex and I have been talking about climbing the 387 steps up the north tower for the views of Paris and more gargoyles. I think a tea at Angelina's would make a wonderful break. Tomorrow the Louvre, maybe the Eiffel Tower. Alex wants to go to the Flea Market, Marche aux Puces, on Saturday. Maria wants a single scoop from Maison Berthillon, on the Ile St. Louis.
And still ahead, we are going to Brussels, then the Netherlands. I am making the most of the big cities and all the amazing sights and opportunities, but I am really, really looking forward to our mellow little rented cabin in the Holland countryside. We found a very family receptive place, where rented bicycles await us, where there will be swimming and walks in the woods. I imagine we will relax and have time to process all the newness and wonder we have been absorbing. And rest we should, because we have a whirlwind kind of tour of Germany, then Switzerland, and a night in Avignon before we arrive in Barcelona.
Another thing, about Saturday in Paris... we leave that day for our drive to Belgium, and we will just miss Laura Jane... *sad face.* She's traveling from her home in Australia and arrives in Paris the day we leave. It would have been so amazing to meet face to face. We are so close! We'll try to warm the place up for her, so her visit will be extra grand and memorable.
Speaking of missing friends, I think it's Karen's night hosting MNO. Hopefully, I will be asleep when it 6:30 PST, but when it is dinner time here I will raise my glass to toast my dear friends. Anne, you let them know I am thinking of them... tell them we are moving here and starting an urban chicken farm, that we can see the Eiffel Tower from the barn!