The cafe was buzzing, my mind swimming as I tried to cling to words I understood and bits of conversations I’m sure I misheard (no, a flowering shark is not what the customer ordered… of that I am pretty certain). I sat quietly at our table, wanting to blend in, wanting to connect in this moment with my husband and daughters, all the while feeling immensely overwhelmed with the vast beauty and availability of inspiration in this place and just outside and in all the streets and avenue that surrounded us – a kaleidoscope of dizzying beauty and humanity. The sweet smell of jam and thickly buttered bread and rich coffee bringing me back for a moment. I was frantic to catch it all, but trying to keep calm all the while. “act normal”, we said. We failed at this and at many other things. But Paris is a gentle place in which to fail.
We were at the very beginning of a month of travel, loosely planned. Just the four of us (and a baby tucked within my belly), off to see and learn what we could and to enjoy each other in the process. The girls were surprisingly good at city-walking, never wandering or trailing off on their own (thank goodness). Their stamina amazed me and I was pleased to do my best at keeping up with their eager little feet. We walked something like 5 or 7 miles a day, rian and cobblestone streets and swelling baby-belly and all. Beauty is a great motivator and there was much of it to keep us going.
Food is also a good motivator.
There is a certain lost-ness mixed in with the overall thrill of travel. Displaced and scattered, you are able to see things from the outside-in; through a filter of new-ness. Last time I came to Europe I felt lost (in an exciting way) and like part of my heart was missing – left at home with my two girls and husband. This time they are with me, little hands in mine; we are getting lost together, exploring, becoming new. This is a grander adventure.
We took much delight in Paris in particular – it feels so lush and so stately but with a pleasant dappling of street crepes and rain puddles to splash in. Paris warmed us, even though it was brisk and drizzly – as Paris should be – whetting our appetite for weeks of adventure to come and settling us into some sort of pace-of-life that we found mildly sustainable (although every night we slept like rocks and every day began with good coffee out of necessity)
Paris changed us.
Even now, weeks later, when the rain is just right, my girls walk around on the rocks outside our home with their eyes closed, cuddled under a solo umbrella, pretending to be in back in Paris. I join them in my mind as well. Often actually. This city has a way of getting messing with you.
It was the first step in our month-long adventure. Traveling with children kept us nimble and joyful – breaking frequently for pastries and lemonade on the sunny days. Our absolute favorite adventures included “foraging” for good food (not hard in this city, but fun nonetheless), lingering in cafes (our noses stuck in good books), and wandering the streets in search of, well, nothing really, but also everything.
And on these long, rambling walks, we found exactly what we were looking for: a better sense of the world and a deeper love for each other.
A few (just a few – there are hundreds) Paris highlights:
Musée Marmottan Monet – visit in the morning, before the crowds for a nearly spiritual experience.
Fragments Cafe – we visited this shop so frequently. Delightful food (although a bit pricy) and amazingly good coffee / flat whites.