Well, I thought for sure that I would be able to get my pictures and posts from Europe up in no time, but apparently life in the States kept right on trucking without us, and it felt like we hit the ground running as soon as we got off our plane in Charlotte. All three kids are playing baseball, so the ball field is our second home. And we celebrated Will’s 7th birthday yesterday, so that and his party on Saturday took a little planning. I told Sam we’ve been home 10 days now and I still haven’t gotten all the suitcases put away. It’s hard to blog when you are living in chaos, but I don’t think it’s getting much better anytime soon, so for now I’m ignoring the travel debris scattered throughout the house and just writing for a little bit.
The last thing I wrote had us in Germany getting ready to get on the train in the morning to go to Paris. Friday morning Jeff loads all the luggage up and drives it down to the village train station, and the rest of us walk down the hill to the same place. The walk was very steep! But atleast we were going down and not up. We catch the S-bahn (suburban train) to Frankfurt and get to see our first real train station. It is very cool! People are rushing around, some are running to catch their next train…alot of excitement. We had our own little excitement because the boys developed a sudden powerful aversion to escalators in Frankfurt. Now, remember we are from Boone and the kids have had minimal exposure to steps that move, but we were in a bit of a hurry and had no time for drama. I got Jack on by picking him up by the arm and physically placing him on the step, and then looked back and poor Mom is stuck with Will who is adamantly opposed to getting on the escalator. Mom is trying to reason with him and I yell as we drift up the next level, “Push him! You’re going to have to push him!” Now while this seems harsh, remember we are all pulling atleast one or two suitcases and wearing backpacks. There is no room for coddling and minimal time before the train to Paris departs, so sympathy is just not an option. If I remember correctly, Mom’s arms are full (she has Will’s backpack plus her own luggage) so she just kinda knees him on to the step. At that same time, Jack loses his balance (we’re still on the escalator too) and starts tumbling down the steps. I look up to see we’re getting close to the top and say sweetly, “Get up! We’re almost there!” I’m surprised I didn’t include, “you little wimp!” but somehow I managed to restrain myself. Anyway, we get up to the top and see that there is another escalator immediately ahead, but everyone does better on that one. Then we arrive at the main level where the big express trains pull into the station, and it is so cool! We (I say we, but please know that the Kendricks were like sheep and Ann and Jeff were the shepherds) find our train and the proper car and plop down into the seats. The German ICE trains are sooooo nice. Leather seats, all tidy and wood paneled, clean and convenient WCs, nice little attendants who give you snacks and speak English…we learn to appreciate this by the end of our trip, let me tell you.
Katy and Emma, Will and Mason sit together and promptly begin DSing (is that a verb? Nintendo-ing?), but Jack is enthralled with the train. Once we get out of Germany, the train starts going really fast ( like 200 mph I think, but it was all in kilometers), so fast that your ears pop. Ann gets out the celebratory champagne and we toast going to Paris! Ann needs very minimal excuse for pulling out the champagne, I have found out. Even less for a bottle of wine. I think really the question is, when is it not a good time to have a little wine? And the answer is, I can’t think of any! We actually go through the champagne region in France on our way to Paris, and get to see our first vineyards, though the vines were still dormant so there wasn’t much to see. The countryside in that part of Germany and France was very picturesque on the whole, though. Everyone lives in villages and goes out to their little patch of green to farm, instead of living on the farm, which makes for lots of greeen space and then these cute little towns with the ancient church as the centerpiece. We also got to see some castles, or castle ruins I should say. It’s hard to imagine living somewhere where you would pass a castle everyday on your way to work.
After a pleasant four-hour train ride, we arrive in Paris at the Gare de l’est. We run the gauntlet of more escalators and hop on the metro to the Place de la Bastille, which is the stop closest to our apartment in the Marais neighborhood. We get off the metro and I will never forget the feeling of walking up the steps from the metro and finding ourselves in the middle of Paris, at the spot where the Bastille once stood! It was beautiful, even with all the cars and scooters whizzing past us, and I knew I would love Paris. Justin and I looked at each other and he said, “We’re in Paris.” Neither of us could believe it. But there was no time for gazing around in amazement because our death march leader (Jeff) was already a city block ahead of us, leading us to our next destination.
The destination was our apartment in Paris, which was fabulous. We get there and meet Paolo, who is still cleaning it. I am so excited to meet a Frenchman and think I will understand everything he says, but I’m so disappointed when I can’t understand anything! Ann, however, understands alot and Paolo speaks pretty good English. He is delighted with Ann and I think begins to flirt with her – it’s hard to say, but I know that he appreciated her French comprehension – and acts like she’s been holding back because she says she can’t speak alot of French and then she does! He wags a finger at her and says, “Madame White!” I try to call her Madame White after that as much as possible. Because the Kendricks are staying at the apt and the Whites and Majo are staying at a hotel a few blocks away, Paolo leads me thru the apt. to show me how everything works. I follow him around and nod as he explains, but actually get very little of what he’s saying. At the end he says, “Any questions?” and I shake my head no and he says, “Really? I have never had anyone say they have no questions!” This concerns me, but I still can’t think of any questions to ask, so off he goes. After the other group drops their luggage off at the hotel, we decide to venture out. It is raining and very windy, but we are undeterred. We push our way through the gale to the Ile St. Louis and find a sidewalk cafe with heaters(!) overlooking the Seine River and Notre Dame. A sidewalk musician starts playing an accordion, the rain tapers off and the sun comes out, and we are basking in the glory of a late afternoon in Paris. We walk over to the cathedral and the kids frolic in the park while I take a bazillion pictures. Then we walk around to the front of the cathedral and go inside. It is just as amazing inside, and the whole thing seems so surreal. I’m in Paris! Looking at the famous rose window inside Notre Dame! We walk around a little bit more and see the Hotel De Ville and let the kids ride a carousel. Then we go home, play cards, and call it a night.