Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Eight Months Old and Everything Else

Hello again! It's time, already, for another update on our lives with Little Man. I still tell people that William is 6 months old, and have to jog my own memory. Will this happen when he is 18 too? Probably.......

William is just so cute these days. He crawls around the apartment in a very stately, lord of the manner style, surveying his domain. And lets face it, he is lord of the manor! He has quite methodically explored every room, bookcase, and closet in the house. He's not destructive at all (yet) but really curious. My approach has been to permit him to check things out under my supervision in the hopes that he will lose interest after having a good look. I'll let you know if it works! He also pulls himself to standing quite confidently now, and is starting to move between pieces of furniture...not quite 'cruising' yet, but getting there. He can carefully lower himself from standing to pick something up, then stand again. He has started to let go of what he is holding with one hand (while holding tight with the other) and raises his arm in a circus performance style 'ta-da'! So of course we oblige him with big ta-das and a round of applause. No wonder he has also learned to clap his hands! However in learning all these things he has taken many tumbles, and has the bruises to prove it. When he falls, or is tired, or bored, he calls out for "Mamamamaaaa!". My doctor asked me if my heart melted hearing this and I said no 'cause he is usually screaming his head off :) But yes, I love it that his first word was for me!

Our normally healthy boy has had a few health issues this month. We have been noticing that his right eye is a bit lazy, so we took him to an opthamologist. She thinks it is nothing serious, but has given us some eye exercises to do with him and will have us follow up with her colleague to check for an astigmatism. We notice that a lot of little French kids have Harry Potter style glasses on (so cute) and she told me that the French are very proactive with eye care in youth, so fewer people need glasses later. If William does need glasses it seems we are in experienced hands.

The other incident happened at Ikea where I was using the baby change room to change his diaper. The sink was conveniently located right beside the change table, so William of course stuck his hands into the sink area (we call him the tuna cause he is like a beached fish when you are changing his diaper, flip flip flip!). All of a sudden he screamed and I pulled him away. Thinking he was scared, I showed him how Mommy washes her hands only to realize that the water was scalding hot! I whipped William up to the cafeteria to put ice on his little red hands and fumingly told the friend we were with that I would ask Greg to call after work to give the store heck in French. Then I thought, no darn it, I'm here and I'm ticked, so off I went and did it myself! All in French, ha ha! They said they would fix it right away so we will see.......

And finally William had his first illness: roseola infantum. Apparently it is a very common mild version of the measles. As it started simply with a mild fever I thought he was teething, and as a result didn't panic. Then the rash came out! Thankfully a friend had told me about it as it did look pretty scary! William is back to his old self now. First illness: another milestone passed for Mommy and baby.

On a happier note we took a nice family vacation to Aubeterre sur Dronne, located in the south of France, in late July. Sadly the weather was really dreary for the first bit, but this time we were in a little village so there were things to do. We watched movies, shopped for pottery, and drove to nearby Brantome for lunch. When the weather improved, we swam in the river and Greg got to do some fishing.....but no catching! Overall it was a nice trip. Our accomadations were great and the local people extremely friendly. But I think one of my favorite parts was having a dryer again! We went home with every stitch we'd brought fluffed and folded! Ah, soft towels again.....

We are enjoying Paris quiet and peaceful with everyone gone en vacances......I don't understand why Parisians all go on holiday at the same time and to the same place, but I am grateful for the respite from the hurly burly! But they will be back, and so will I with further updates on our intrepid adventures!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Paris

Sometime last year, a savvy-travellin' friend of mine who was visiting said she wanted to visit 'my Paris', meaning the little out of the way places that only an insider would know about, or those just special to me. I had to tell her "I don't have a Paris.....yet!". A year later I realize that I do have my Paris, and here it is:

First time visitors are funny: they all have a list as long as your arm of the places they want to see, usually involving all of Paris and half of the countryside "if there is time". Every single one of them plans to hit the ground running and every single one of them underestimates the jet lag. So my first suggestion is this: sleep. When you wake up take a shower and then we'll have a stroll down to the local boulangerie. It is so fun for me to watch people in a boulangerie for the first time, trying to decide which delectable treat to have and trying out their rusty French. We'll then take a gentle walk around the local park (which boasts a vineyard and apiary and really is very interesting). Then we'll go to the grocery store and pick out some yummy food for the next week or two and you can compare notes to grocery stores at home (pretty much the same but with better cheeses and the odd whole duck). We'll then go back to the boulangerie for round 2 (ding ding!) and to pick up something for dessert. Then home, dinner, wine and more sleep.

The rest of the visit is up to you but here is what I suggest: the 'big' monuments are all worth a look, but for the creative (or cheap) there are options! Rather than go up the Eiffel Tower (which is truly astounding and I never get tired of looking at it) go up Tour Montparnasse. It is one of the only ugly buildings in Paris, but is very high so if you take the elevator up it then you have a fantastic view that includes theEeiffel Tower! Since it is off the tourist track there is hardly ever a lineup and there is a descent cafe for a cuppa while you're uppa.

My favorite Monument Day starts in the Latin Quarter where we wander the antique alleys searching for a crepe, followed by a browse in the uncomparable Shakespeare and Company, a must for bibliophiles. Across the street from this is Notre Dame. To me the prettiest part of the church is its setting so a walk around it is nice and great for photo ops. Behind Notre Dame is the little known but haunting Jewish Holocaust Memorial. It is free and far more spiritually sobering than the oversubscribed church next door. If you have frisky feet, we can walk rue de Rivoli (great shops) for a look at the Louvre and its pyramid, then stop for lunch in the Tuileries Garden (Marie Antoinette's last home was once here). From here we can walk up the Champs Elysees (which is a dirty, noisy, strip mall in my opinion) to the Arc de Triomphe which is well worth climbing up to witness the crazy traffic rond point below.

Paris is, of course, an art lovers dream. The Louvre tops most people's list but I must fess up and tell you that I have only been once...its just too daunting! The Mona Lisa is completely over-rated: she is just a tiny, weird looking lady hanging on a big wall with way too many tourists around her. Winged Victory is pretty. But consider instead a visit to the Petit Palais, a gorgeous jewel box of a museum only a few blocks further down the Seine and free! It holds, as Rick Steeves sneers, the 'second rate art' but they are all the same big names as in the Louvre. It features a lovely painted ceiling, pretty garden, clean bathroom (good luck finding that in the Louvre) and a nice cafe: thumbs up in my book! Similar good value can be hd for modern art lovers at the Musee d'art Moderne, which turned me into a modern art appreciator, something that the Pompidou cannot claim.

The Orsay is a different story. It is an accesible collection in an architecturally interesting setting. You can see most of it without killing yourself, then have a great lunch in the swanky restaraunt.....or push it and go across the Seine to see Monet's enormous waterlily canvasses at the Orangerie: totally worth it if you are a fan. One day soon I want to go see Renoir's ubiquitous painting le Moulin de la Gallette and then go to the Moulin de la Gallette restaraunt in still exists!

Speaking of Montmartre I really love it there. It has retained some of its bohemian spirit despite the throngs of tourists. Sacre Coeur is worth a look but mostly its just fun to wander. Have your portrait done by a starving artist, check out Picasso's former atelier and witness the last windmills that speak of a bygone era. One of my favorite things to see in Montmartre is its heard me! French graveyards are so interesting, like little villages of monuments. You can celebrity hunt for famous dead people (Monpartre graveyard holds Degas, Nijinsky and Dumas for starters) or just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. I think it would be a great place for a picnic!

If you still have time, and energy, getting out of Paris is a refreshing change of pace. The French countryside is truly beautiful. Giverny is popular, but really pretty. I went on a bike tour there, a very fun way to see the area. Auvers sur Oise, resting place of of van Gogh is worth a visit as is Senlis, former seat of the King of France. Versailles palace is really over the top, but the gardens are free and very pretty. We once spent a pleasant afternoon wandering painter Gustave Caillebotte's former estate, where you can rent canoes and fish. Chantilly and Provins are still on my list....I'll let you know what they are like!

An offbeat thing to see is Basilica St. Denis, burial place of kings. Marie Antoinette and Louis 16th were eventually buried there, amongst their peers in the peerage. It is up in the North end of Paris, which is like visiting a different city in itself: we got there on market day and it felt as if we'd gotten off the Metro in Marrakech! The sarcophagies in the Basilica are really interesting, and there is a great audioguide to explain what you see. We rounded out the day with lunch at the Roi de Coucous, where the owner told us he would be buried in the Basilica one day too!

So far, that's my Paris, at least from a touring perspective. One of the nicest things about this city is just sitting back in one of the many cafes and people watching, or wandering the quiet back streets in search of hidden neighborhoods. Who knows, you may just find your Paris while you are here!