First Day in Paris, May 2007, with Jeremy, Christine,
and Bethany

Checked into Citadines, unpacked, then spent a while poking each other up from impromptu naps so that we could seize the day. After picking up groceries at Monoprix, where we spent a lot of time curiously eyeballing the foreign products and discussing our food moods and where we acted like true français by going through the express line for people who had brought their own bags—we headed for la Tour Eiffel. Two surprise impressions: lacy and electrical apparatus. We threaded our way through swarms of tourists and some camo-clad men with submachine guns under the tower, past the colorful carousel and ice cream stand, to the Seine.

At night, the lights on the Eiffel Tower give our rather ordinary hotel room quite the Parisian atmosphere. Every hour, on the hour, the lights shimmy like a dancing DNA molecule or a belly dancer. It’s kind of a manic, jumpin’ jivin’ like a jar of fireflies who’ve just drunk too much coffee, or hey, like those white lotto balls scrambling in the tubes before popping out. Our neighborhood streets, parks, and cafés are crawling with English-speaking tourists, so it is nice to have the ultimate French symbol right out our window.

Oh—on the way to the Eiffel Tower, we whipped over to Rue Cler to check it out, and also the address where we would be meeting our painting instructor in the morning. As Jeremy had learned from his seatmate on the plane, it was a national holiday, so many stores were closed. We did find a cash s
tation though. An older lady walking a cute little cavalier approached and wanted to know if the machine was working as though perhaps she was used to finding them en panne. We tried to make friends with the dog but he wanted none of our antics. I miss Charlie! He’d love being able to go into stores and restaurants here; he’d never make it as a French dog though—not aloof enough.

Day 2 in Paris, May 2007
Our full and fun Wednesday began with a watercolor class. I was so glad to meet the tour company owner, who stopped by the café, and we chatted for a good half hour about all his fun plans for new wine and art tours in various European cities, but that meant I essentially missed the first half hour of the artist Varvara’s watercolor instruction. Oops. Sitting in the café at the Place École Militaire with a cup of hot chocolate, glass of muddied-paint water, and pencil poised over blank drawing paper was challenging. First, because as I looked around, I didn’t see anything “beautiful enough” to paint.
Second, because as Varvara taught me to sketch the foreground and then work toward the background, I discovered so many layers I hadn’t seen before. Third, because I soon began to see si beaucoup de beautiful things in my view—how this transformation happened I am unsure, as it had been an ordinary, frenetic intersection just minutes before, and I’m pretty sure my cocoa had not been laced with liqueur of any sort. And, fourth, because 11:30 came so quickly, and I just wanted to stay and finish and then paint some more, but class was finished and Varvara had to go pick up her daughter.

Day 8, May 14, 2007
Finally, Belle Île, and on a beautiful, sunny day too! On the ride over, the ferry heaved to and fro. And these were relatively calm seas, compared to yesterday. We were all a bit green around the gills and while disembarking in Le Palais, noted the location of the Sacs Mal de Mer dispenser in case the ride back to the mainland was as choppy. In Le Palais we rented bicycles and rode to the smaller port of Sauzon at the north end of the island. On the way there, we took the bike path—against the multiple warnings of the bike rental guy, who had motioned with his hand just how hilly it was. Well, he was right. Our ride was over two hours, perhaps because it included so many uphill walks. The hills didn’t faze Jeremy though—he explored most of the side roads, doubled back, and still beat us to Sauzon. Oh, did we see some pretty countryside though. We stopped to talk to sheep and horses in residents’ yards, and Christine took a photo of the biggest chicken on the planet. We also heard cuckoo birds! I noticed that ferns were thick and lush, not just in the forests, but also in areas completely exposed to the sun. My guess is that those ferns don’t see much sun.

Sauzon’s pastel houses and shutters, cobalt lobster traps, shimmery mounds of silver fishing nets on the quai, espaliered red and yellow roses, and wandering dogs afforded many photo ops. While Jeremy and Bethany biked on to the rocky grottoes on the other side of the island, Christine and I poked around Sauzon with the intent of planting ourselves somewhere to eat ice cream and paint. (That’s paint, the verb, not paint, the noun.) We learned we could not do both in one spot, so we opted for just the ice cream. Shortly, our biker buddies breezed back from their adventure, picnicked on our bench overlooking the harbor, and then we all returned to Le Palais—once again, without having painted, and via the D30 automobile route, this time. We allowed two hours before the ferry’s departure to bike back, but this flatter, less circuitous route took only 20 minutes! So we had time to browse in Le Palais. This time, Christine joined Jeremy for a Citadelle x-treme biking adventure, and Bethany and I knocked around town. It really was a lovely day spent with the kids, with exhilarating exercise and pretty sights. Dare I mention that today in Sauzon, I received my fifth (count ’em again, 5) language compliment from a native French person? The ferry back was sunny and thankfully, smooth. When the ferry did hit the occasional roller-coaster wave, a tour group of older folks in red jackets whoooaaaooo-ed in unison and then grinned at each other. Pretty cute.

The kids jumping in Quiberon is how I felt at being able to see Belle Île —beautiful island—again.