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Saturday, September 24, 2016

August - In Which we Travel to Paris and try to Settle in

So, in some ways I have put this post off because there are SO many thoughts and so many things to recount.  It's daunting.  Plus, I hate when I'm almost a month behind because then I forget which things belong to which month (aside from the pictures and videos which blessedly have dates).  At any rate, here we go.

The month began with my parents driving up to Utah to help us finishing packing everything away.  It was a short visit.  By then we were just doing the last things.  The day before we were to leave, we decided it might be a good idea to take the Civic in to the mechanic.  It had had its engine light on for a long time.  We'd tried to fix it and it kept coming back on.  We'd even driven to SF and back with the light on, with no issues.  That's why we hadn't taken it in before that point.  But, at the last minute we thought it might be a good idea.  We took it in at the beginning of the day, the day before we were going to drive to CA.  They didn't get back to us about it till the very end of the day and informed us that it needed an important part and that they couldn't find that part anywhere in the valley.  They were going to have to ship it in.  Awesome.  We went through all kinds of possible scenarios and finally decided to leave Tom in Utah and just really really hope they finished in time for him to drive it down to CA before our flight on Saturday.  To the best of my memory, we were originally slated to drive to CA on Wednesday, and it was sounding like the best case scenario was that they would have the car fixed on Friday.  Why does there always have to be some ridiculous situation we are working through?  Why can't it ever just go smoothly?  People are always commenting on how crazy we are, as if we always choose the situations we are in, but honestly people, to some extend we are just cursed.  Topic for another day.

So, we did our final packing and (very sadly) said goodbye to Tom and started the drive to CA.  My parents were in their van and I was in the CX-9.  The kids moved back and forth between the two and sometimes one of my parents was in the CX-9 with me.

It started of pretty well, with E barfing all over himself about an hour in:

He didn't seem to mind and was licking it off his arm when I went back to check on him.  Yum.

Considering the absence of Tom's help and the fact that Emerson was sick, things went alright.  By the way, E is allergic to traveling.  We've done 3 long car drives with him and he threw up on two of them, had possible ear infections on two of them and possibly had roseola on one of them.  I always think, "I'll just keep him happy by feeding him the whole time" then end up stuck with no way to keep him happy because sick babies don't really like to eat.  Plus, he's at a tough age, where he's too old for baby toys, but can't really do anything else that involves sitting still yet (coloring, stickers, even shows).  Thank goodness my parents were there and I wasn't doing the drive alone!!!

We stopped half-way for lunch at my grandma's house.  Always a highlight of the trip:

E was being really funny when we got there and rang the doorbell (probably because he was sick).  I sat him on the doormat and he just played down.  It was kind of funny.
My grandma has this hat that she made a little while back that she let Harper try on.  Harper LOVED it:

4 Generations
After we got to CA life was pretty good.  The kids love grandma's house.

Harp got the idea to dig in the dirt in grandma's backyard and was basically begging me to do it with her the entire time we were there.

One evening the 5 of us went to Yorba Regional Park.  We met a cute puppy.

The kids had a blast with all the grandparent attention:

We also had a little family and friends get-together so I could see everyone before we left:

Ip is actually coming to Paris next month!  Woohoo!
Tom ended up making it to CA sometime on Friday, so that was a big big blessing.  Then, it was off to Paris.  We were both REALLY dreading the airplane and getting to our apartment stages of the trip.  We were right to be dreading them.  Moving overseas with two littles is no joke.

It started off with Emerson completely blowing out of his onesie before we'd even gotten on the plane.  All his other clothes were in the checked bags, so Tom bought him a CA shirt in one of the gift shops, which was waaaaay too big for him.

The arrangement on the plane was that Tom and I each had one kid and we weren't sitting next to each other.  That way, we figured, the kids wouldn't wake each other up.  Tom drew the short end of the stick and got E.  Now, we love E to death, but he's definitely the harder plane kid.  The flight wasn't SO bad for Harp and I.  She watched shows for the first couple hours, then I turned them off and told her to try to sleep.  It took her at least a couple hours to really fall asleep, which I felt really bad for her during, but she finally did and was out until we landed.

I felt really bad for her though, because she was clearly super uncomfortable.
I mostly spent the time watching things and reading.  I don't really sleep on planes.

Poor Tom got blown out on AGAIN.  This time it got all over Tom's favorite jacket, which he ended up throwing away.  So sad.  E slept a little, but not the whole time and it was pretty touch and go.  Rough flight.

Once we landed the next challenge was getting to our airbnb with all our luggage.  We had originally planned to take the metro (which we've done with our luggage on our other travels).  We finally realized that this time was going to be different, with MORE luggage and 2 littles.  We ended up taking a taxis.  What was the wrench that got thrown in this time?  Our airbnb was on the 7th floor with no elevator.  Woohoo!!!!

Once we got into the room, that was a bit of a relief, but the fun wasn't over yet.  That night we got almost no sleep, because the kids were jet lagged and in an unfamiliar place.  Plus, the apartment was really small, with creaky floors and our noise machine broke (that night), so if 1 kid woke up everyone woke up.  I have rarely seen Harper so sound asleep as she was when the sun finally came up that morning.  

We had to be out of the airbnb by 11am, so unfortunately we had to get going first thing in the morning.  We got breakfast and packed everything up.  We decided to put E down for a quick morning nap, thinking he surely wouldn't get to sleep long because he'd wake up with all the ruckus of us packing up.  No no.  That kid was OUT.  Even when we had all the luggage out and I opened his door and started loudly cleaning up toys in there he was out.  Even when I shook him, he didn't wake up.  Poor thing.  Speaking of toys, that apartment had a cute little kids' room with adorable classic French toys.  Harper LOVED it and I think she was pretty disappointed that we weren't staying.  Those toys came in very handy during the middle of the night wakings.

Even though we had to be out by 11, we weren't meeting our landlord until 2pm.  This presents a challenge when you have 9 bags, 2 kids and it's going to possibly rain.  We went through a lot of scenarios of what to do and finally decided to have Tom stay with the luggage in the entrance area of the airbnb apartment building while I went to a park with the kids.  See, apartment building here usually have a door that leads from the street to the building.  Right inside the door is the mailboxes, then there's sometimes a courtyard and sometimes not and then there's stairs that lead to all the apartments.  So, we could be out of the apartment, but still in the building, which is way better than being on the street with all our luggage.  

When it came time we took another taxi to our apartment building and met up with the landlord.  She showed us the apartment and everything and we were super anxious for her to go so that we could all (especially the kids) eat lunch and nap.  We hadn't had time to grab anything to eat and we met up with her at 2pm.  Finally, around 3, she left and we ordered some Indian food from the place right downstairs with us (which, in turns out, is really really good) and took naps.  

We could tell the landlord though we were crazy for moving into such a tiny apartment with two kids.  We thought we were crazy too, once we saw it.  It was a little scary at first.  Smaller than I imagined it would be, and that's saying a lot.  But, we didn't have much choice at that point and we were also just glad to be somewhere that we could unpack.

Harp napped with Tom, on the big bed.
Everyone sleeping:

There were definitely some big big blessings about the apartment, for all that it lack in size.  For one thing, the couch folds out into two twin beds.  That means Harp gets an actual bed and one of us can sleep next to her (and one of us always does because otherwise, when she wakes up there's no one there to keep her quiet.  We all get more sleep this way.).  The other was that the landlord provided us with a pack n play.  We'd been a little stressed about having to get a crib/packnplay for E right away, with all the other necessities (grocery shopping, unpacking) that you need to do when you first move in and with him still taking two naps and with us not having a car and all that.

Anyway, we got settled in, figured out sleeping arrangements, went to the store, started unpacking, and so on.  It was all so HARD at first.  We couldn't really do anything while E was napping because it was such a small space and he would wake for any noise.  And yet, we had so much to do!  Plus, the kids both woke in the middle of the night and were up for several hours, for several nights straight.  We definitely had moments during those first few days when we considering packing up and heading right back home!  If it weren't for the plane ride...

Our beautiful courtyard.  I LOVE it.  The window  on the second floor, all the way to the left in one of ours.  Harper calls it our treehouse because of all the ivy on the walls.
One of our beautiful windows.  It is wonderful to have these big windows with full curtains that look out onto a pretty courtyard and have beautiful ivy creeping over the edges.

I also love our door.  This is the door from our apartment building to the street.  Many of the times the doors to the street are beautiful.  They are colorful and have nice details.  One of the lovely things about Paris.

The thing about having little kids is that you can't just get all the moving-in stuff done really quickly. You have to stop and go to parks and take naps in-between.  In some ways, that's good because it allows you to rest.  For me, though, it's really hard.  I'm definitely the type that would rather go-go-go until it's all done, and then take a much better rest, with my mind at ease.

However, one of the places we took the kids to during this time was the Louvre and Tuileries.  Honestly, we took them to the Tuileries pretty much every day at first.

That brings me to our area.  We are in an AMAZING area.  Like, I'm not sure I could have picked a better street.  We are on this quiet, calm little street that happens to also be right by everything.  Well, everything but a cheap grocery store.  We are within walking distance of the Louvre, Tuileries, Musee D'Orsay, Palais Royale, Invalides, Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, Pompidou Centre, Hotel de Ville, Bibliotheque Mazarin, a ton of playgrounds, a ton of patisseries, a ton of adorable amazing shops that I want to buy everything from, but can't, and a whole lot more.  

Found this little guy in our apartment courtyard:

Tuileries playground.  Harp LOVES this thing:

I told Harp that if she slept all the way through the night, without waking up at all, she could have her very own pastry.  When she finally did, I let her pick out a pastry from Eric Kayser (our corner patisserie) and we went down to the river and watched the boats while she devoured it:

One of the biggest challenges the first month was that we had all these things we needed to buy (toys, hangers, sippy cups, highchairs, and on and on...), but all the shops were closed.  In Paris in August everyone goes on vacation for the whole month.  I'm not exaggerating.  I read about it before we came and vastly underestimated the extend to which Paris becomes a ghost town.  Nearly every single shop on our street was closed down.  I'd say probably 2/3rds of shops were closed.  There was also no way to know which shops were closed without going to them and many of the ones we needed were at least a bus ride or a loooong walk away.  This meant that we spend our days traversing the city with two littles to try to buys things and 2/3rds of the time the trips were in vain.  Can you even imagine???  It was TERRIBLE.  

Here's Harper on the bus.  We ventured out, just the two of us, to check out a toy store:

We passed this view of the Sacre Coeur on our way to the toystore.

On the metro, on the way back from IKEA.

One particularly terrible trip was when we tried to go to IKEA.  All the IKEAS are in the suburbs, but we thought it would be worth it to go since they carry so many of the things we need, and for so cheap.  We looked up how to get there and it was going to take something like 3 metros and 1 commuter rail.  Then, to make matters worse, when we were buying the tickets the ticket lady gave us different directions.  We decided to follow her directions and only realized after making 2 or 3 metro connections that she was wrong.  That meant we had to backtrack 2 or 3 connections and then start all over.  Did I mention that every train connection involved picking up the stroller with Emerson in it and carrying it up and down the stairs?  It was SO FUN.  Finally, after quite the commute, we got to IKEA only to find that it wasn't even a full IKEA!  I didn't even know those existed!  The areas it didn't have (kids, for instance) were the areas that we need most.  We walked out of there with barely anything and made the track back home.

The other thing that made settling in hard was that we are in pretty much the most expensive area of the city, but we're super poor.  We kept taking trips out to other parts of the city, in the hopes that we'd find things for cheaper and that's part of why we had so many fruitless trips in deserted Paris in August.

An example of how expensive things are?  These CARDBOARD children's hangers, 3 for 5.90 Euros were the cheapest ones at BHV (a big departments store).

Just going back and writing about all of this makes me so stressed.  And the thing is, it's almost impossible to fully explain to someone who isn't us, how hard this all really one.  It's making me grateful for where we are now though (at the end of September) because (spoiler!) we're doing way better.

Random, but I love that yogurt often comes in little glass jars here.
One of the things that we were very grateful for during those rough first few weeks was the abundant, beautiful and fun playgrounds that dot Paris.  There are several within 20 minutes walking distance of us (at least 7).  Often, when we would trek across town only to find that a store was closed we'd just head to the nearest playground so that at least the kids were happy.  What a blessing!

My favorite, so far, is the playground at the Luxembourg Gardens.  It is MASSIVE and has pretty much everything you'd want a playground to have (except swings.  Parisian parks NEVER have swings.  Bizarre, huh?).  Plus, it's shady and pretty and there are a zillion benches (something that is usually the case at playgrounds here, which is great).  The only downside is that you have to pay to enter (the only one so far).  I can see why.

Jardin Catherine Laboure (one of my other favorites):

Random park we went to after a failed trip:

On our way back from the Luxembourg Gardens we passed Eglise St. Sulpice:

And we stopped in at Pierre Herme.  Oh my goodness.  I love Pierre Herme.  This may have been the best pastry I've ever had.  Pierre Herme is an experience.  Tom says it's like the Apple Store.  The pastries (and chocolates and caramels, etc.) are amazing, but everything also LOOKS amazing.  And the staff is very nice and helpful and professional.  And the packaging is even amazing.  Basically, if you're ever in Paris, go to Pierre Herme.  I've been to quite a few patisseries thus far (even lots of famous ones) and Pierre Herme is my clear favorite.  That said, I still have a lot of patisseries to check out!

It may not look like much, but I was very surprised upon taking my first bite.  Just, wow.

The macarons are amazing too, but I'm more of a pastry gal, so that's what I gush about.

We were still pretty exhausted at this point.
One nice highlight of the first month was that we went to the Louvre and got an annual membership pass.  How many people can say that they have an annual membership to the Louvre?  Pretty awesome.  Honestly though, you need an annual pass to get through the whole thing!  It is SO big.

As I've gone through the Louvre, I've noticed that there are a LOT Of bizarre painting there.

Note the creepy hand coming up from behind, on the top right.  Also note the random bird in the bottom right.  And, you know, all the other weird things about medieval paintings.

Yes, those are eyeballs in the bowl of soup.

I like to carry a creepy miniature lamb in my books.

Security is much more amped up in Paris these days.  I see these guys everywhere.  They patrol the city and can be seen walking around in groups of 3 or 4 on any street corner.  This time, they were at the Louvre.

Nothing like a trip to the Louvre, followed by reading a good book, with a good pastry in a pretty little nook of the Tuileries:

When we need to get out with the kids and don't want to go far, sometimes we take them down to the river where they have various activities, like these shapes and letters that Harp likes to play on:

Another big thing that made the first month really hard was that we all got sick.  There was at least one of us sick for at least the first 3 weeks straight.  First, it was E, then Tom, then Harp, then me.  I have to say, the week that I was sick was one of the worst weeks of my life.  It happened to coincide with Tom's first week at school.  Not only was it his first week, but it was an accelerated week.  So, on a normal week he has 12 hours of class.  This week he was in class from 9-5ish, plus homework.  Plus, it was the height of the heatwave.  And I was REALLY sick.  I had a terrible sore throat, headaches, fever, fatigue and some bad medication reactions.  And remember, we have to walk everywhere.  Plus we have to go grocery shopping every day because our fridge is tiny.  Anyway, so many things.  It was SO terrible.

Our first Sunday Tom and E stayed home (sick) and Harp and I went alone.  The walk to church takes about 30 minutes and we pass lots of cool stuff along the way like the Hotel de Ville:

and the Notre Dame (among others):

Went to l'As du Falafel on one of our trips and really enjoyed the vibe of the area:

Another amazing pastry, this time from Patisserie des Reves.  It's a layer of puff pastry on the bottom, topped with two eclairs, topped with cream on the one side and creampuffs on the other side and a caramelized shell on top.  Mmmmm.
Another trip to the Louvre:

We finally made it to the Eiffel Tower:

We loved this cute little playground by the Eiffel Tower.  There was actually a lot more to it that isn't pictured, but Harp loved the castle.
Another fun little park in a beautiful square (Square Samuel Rousseau) by the Basilique Sainte-Clotilde:

Funny Harper:

Another really hard thing about the first few months was that Harp was REALLY missing her friends.  She talked about them all the time and kept wanting to go back to Utah and play with them.  One of the moms of one of her friends gave her this little photo album with pictures of her and her friends in it.  She was VERY attached to it and slept with it most nights and naps.  It was really quite heartbreaking.  It was one of the reasons why I really wanted her to be able to go to preschool here.  She needed friends!  We weren't sure for a while if it was going to work out, but by the end of the month we learned that she'd be able to go.

Street performers in front of the Musee D'Orsay:

On the Musee D'Orsay steps with her only friend (for a while):

A beautiful street by our house. Rue du Pres aux Clercs.

Another miserable thing about the first month (I swear next month's post will be MUCH more uplifting, haha) was that it was really hot and Paris doesn't have AC, like, anywhere.  One Saturday it was slated to be near 100, so we decided to make a trip over to the Trocadero fountains.  I'd seen online that people get in them and play in the water when it's really hot and I thought that seemed like a good idea.  Well, first the bus we were planning to take ended up being out of commission.  After waiting for it for 20 minutes we finally decided to take the metro.  We carried the stroller up and down the metro stairs and made a couple connections and got to Trocadero.  We carried the stroller up more stairs and past lots of tourists, in the hot sun, only to look down and see that the fountains were completely empty.  Drained.

At least there was a playground, like always:

The California shirt from the airport.

At one point while we were at the playground, E went over and crawled on some random guy's lap and started snuggling with him.  He thought he was Tom.  The guy thought it was hilarious.  When Tom went over and E saw him, he had a moment of confusion, then just started bawling.  It was sad and hilarious.

On the way to church.

A little hint of the current politics on our way to church.

Bibliothèque Mazarin, on our way back from church.

Voltaire's house.

Square Boucicaut

We found this teeny tiny hidden park that's the perfect size for Emerson.  It's called Square Roger-Stephane and it's very pretty.

And I was surprised to find Passion Fruit growing there!  Who knew you could grow Passion Fruit in Paris?

We got Harp two new pairs of shoes and she was SO happy with them.
We FINALLY got E a highchair.  For the better part of the first month he would just walking around the floor and come over to us for bites of food.  Not ideal.

Bizarre little art installation with some (real) shirtless humans looking out onto the street, in the middle of it.
So, to recap, August was HARD.  We had been imagining a beautiful vacation of a time once we got there and had a couple days to settle in.  Instead, it was just miserable.  And it really messed with my brain because I kept thinking, "I'm in Paris, one of the most beautiful and amazing cities in the world.  Why am I so miserable?"  But, it's really been a lesson to me that location is NOT everything.  It reminds me of a book by Alain de Botton, called "The Art of Travel," in which he talks about how our visions of travel and the actual experience are so different.  When we imagine travel, we forget to imagine that WE will still be there.  We imagine the beautiful views and all that, but forget to imagine that our own quirks that make life a challenge wherever we usually are will still be there.  If we get headaches, we'll still get them on vacation.  If we are worried about money, we'll still be worried about it on vacation.  If we don't get along with our spouse, we still won't get along with them on vacation.  If we're pessimmistic we'll still be pessimistic on vacation, and so on.  The truthfulness of this concept was abundantly clear that first month.  But honestly, that's one of the things I love most about traveling.  I love that it puts you in a position to realize a lot of things about life and yourself.  I  always find myself thinking new thoughts about life and finding out new things about myself when I travel.  That first month really got me thinking about lot about "place" and how it effects our lives, a lot about choosing to be optimistic even in hard circumstances, a lot about what Tom and I really want in this life and so on and so on.  This blog post is already super long and I'm pretty sick of writing, so I'm not going to go into all of my thoughts here, but I'll just say that it's been a very growth-initiating experience and that part of it is far from over.

Now to start on the September blog post!  Ah!  At least it will be much more positive.