Friday, August 24, 2007

Top 3 Tips for Visiting Paris with Les Enfants

1. Sleep.
Today was much better than yesterday, possibly because after yesterday's debacle, we went home and all fell asleep at 7:30pm and didn't wake up until 10:00am. In retrospect, fighting fierce jet lag and lack of sleep on a 2-day holiday doesn't make much sense. In the future, we'll plan our short sortie on the way home from our longer vacation, once we've already adapted to the time change.

2. Don't plan too much.
Today was a great day, because we simply set out with vague destinations: the Eiffel Tower at some point. We walked the streets (without the stroller, this time) and stopped as the feeling struck: an outdoor cafe where we enjoyed a late breakfast of pain du chocolat and quiche; a few hours later a leisurely lunch at another cafe where the kids enjoyed the French version of chicken nuggets. Since we had no where specific to be at any time, we had time to play in the park and take a carousel ride. We eventually made it to the Eiffel Tower, though Declan was more interested in the dirt underneath it.

3. But plan enough.
After the Eiffel Tower we, well, I, decided that I absolutely positively had to have some macaroons from Laduree, a famous bakery/restaurant/tea cafe on the Champs Elysees. Well, I was pretty sure it was on the Champs Elysees. I justified it by saying that I thought Declan would be impressed by the long display of pastries for sale, and the rainbow of macaroons on offer.

It turned out to be a miserable trip. It was easily 2 or 3 miles, it was raining, and we didn't have a stroller. The kids would only walk for short bits. We stopped in a wine shop and while Matty was browsing, Declan got mad and hit him, which wouldn't have been so bad if not for the strategic location he struck. Needless to say, we didn't get any wine. Declan fell asleep soon after in my arms, so I walked the last mile carrying him and trying to keep him dry. It was close to 7pm, we hadn't eaten dinner, and I was starting to wonder if this was such a good idea.

But it was. We found it, the case just as impressive as I remembered (even though Declan slept through it). Ronan was impressed, though, and even scored a free macaroon (no small feat, since they cost 1.40 euros each). Matty loved the place and we left with a small box of macaroons. We were wet and hungry and tired but we had found what we were looking for. And we were happy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

We'll Always Have Paris

When we told our friends we were spending two days in Paris en route to visit family in Ireland, everyone had the same response: With the kids? Aside from the obvious logistical question--What on earth else would we do with them? Stow them in a locker at the airport?--there was the question of pride. Maybe other people couldn't enjoy the world's most romantic city with two toddlers in tow, but we certainly could.

We were lucky to have use of a cousin's flat while in Paris, so after a somewhat successful overnight flight--both kids slept soundly on the floor of the bulkhead, though the airline broke our double stroller--we dropped off our things and headed right back out. It was cloudy and drizzling, but we braved the city's decidedly un-stroller-friendly Metro (hundreds of stairs and no elevators to speak of) and got off to stroll the Mouffetard, a quintessential Parisian street, cobblestoned and lined with patisseries, boulangeries, and every other kind of -erie you can think of.

We began to feel smug in our worldliness. Both kids fell asleep in the stroller (broken, though still manageable) and we found a tiny cafe where we could sit at a table outside and park the stroller alongside. We dined on rustic pate and duck confit and drank wine. It was perfect. Even when it started to rain.

We continued to stroll the city through the sprinkles of rain; the kids nibbling hunks of crusty baguette and eating grapes we bought from a street market.

But, like all idyllic fantasies, this one came crashing to an end. The stroller was far more broken than we had realized, and soon became impossible to steer. The kids had slept well on the plane, but only for 4 hours. And the small plastic cover we had borrowed from our hosts to keep the rain off the stroller proved to be no match for the torrential downpour that befell us just as we were about to stroll along the river and past Notre Dame.

Less than an hour after our wonderful lunch, we were huddled under a narrow overhang, desperately trying to stay dry (did I mention that we forgot to bring an umbrella?).

I was still trying to stay optimistic, until Declan began to cry.

"I want to go home!" he wailed. "Right now!"

Matty and I looked at each other. So did we.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Mama Bear

I'm sure most moms feel this way, but when I see Declan get slighted or insulted, I get really, really upset. Even when he doesn't seem to mind.

This happened a few weeks ago when the family of one of Hilary's friends came over. Hilary and her friend, a 4-year-old boy, were playing in the pool, while Declan sat by the side, trying to play too. He wasn't welcome, however, and Hilary and her friend started throwing water at Declan. Not an obvious, soaking kind of water-throwing, more like an, "oops, we spilled a bucket of water on your feet, and oops, we did it again." The parents weren't paying attention, and I was at a loss as to what to do. Declan responded as any toddler would: he snatched their toys. So they threw more water. After a few minutes I scooped Declan up and took him back to the house. I was angry and insulted and let Declan watch tv.

Last night Matty, Declan, Erika, Hilary, and I were in the car on the way to watch Amy and Andy in a tennis match. Declan had woken up from his nap a bit cranky and sad, so he was just sitting quietly sucking his thumb. Out of the blue, Hilary said, "We hate Declan."

Matty and I looked at each other in shock. Declan didn't say a word. Matty and I took turns lecturing Hilary, telling her what she said wasn't very nice, telling her she didn't mean it. Erika chimed in, and forced Hilary to apologize many times over. Declan continued to sit in silence, and soon began to cry. He ignored Hilary's apologies and Erika's ministrations, and just sat, sucked, and sobbed. My heart broke. I began to cry too.

A few minutes later, Declan threw up. He was sick, not irrevocably insulted.

I'm such a sap.