Many stereotypes that typify Paris are not actually far from the truth. For example, there aren’t a whole load of smiles or greetings being shared; this perhaps being the reason a lot of people say that Paris is not a very friendly city. In the very touristy areas there are even fewer – I suppose the people working in these areas face the constant throng of foreigners, could that be why? In the streets people seem to generally be in a hurry – except on a Sunday. What bliss! Sunday truly must be the day of rest for Parisians. Most shops are closed and les gens move at a more leisurely pace, if they make it out of their apartment. Mid morning you’ve got young guys sitting on scooters in the street, tiny espresso cup in hand, helmet still on, chatting purposefully. Greetings are more willingly shared; it’s not a work day and there seems to be time for this small yet meaningful gesture. Come mid afternoon the small restaurants are filled with extended families sat at long tables, wine glasses bottomless and discussions heated. Back on the sixth floor you can actually hear that other people live in the building with you; conversation is fluid and unsuspended, eliciting the passion The French are famous for. Perhaps you pass another body in the stairwell – even an unsolicited greeting or a “bon dimanche” is uttered.
A couple of things I’ve learnt after a week in Paris.
We would find it extremely difficult living in an apartment, and I don’t know how parents with toddlers or more than one child do it. You simply can’t have days at home; you must go outside and allow your offspring fresh air and space; of which there is not exactly an abundance. Of course there are windows in the apartment, but of course they function with very little safety in mind and certainly no such thing as a fly screen, not least to keep the children in rather than the flies out. One must always be sure to be within arms reach if a window is open and a toddler is present, especially but not limited to, living on the sixth floor.
There are definitely parks and open spaces around; the council have allowed for city living not to entirely be made of concrete. Walking distance and you’ll find water fountains with petits canards, gravel areas and grass and of course playgrounds. Mind the walk though; a child who is not used to being restrained on a footpath will not enjoy this new restriction on his freedom. Constantly hearing “please hold my hand” or “please hold the pram” or “you must get in the pram” certainly has its negatives, both on the parent and the child. I quite dislike being perpetually worried that my child is going to be taken out by a Vespa or frowned upon by a passerby for “getting in the way.”
At two of the playgrounds we have visited, Arlo has been confronted three times – twice by another boy and once by a duck. The first time a bigger boy shook his finger in Arlo’s face at the same time as saying “non, non, non” as Arlo had harmlessly counted the little cars said boy had flung down the slide. The encounter actually frightened mon pauvre petit and he wanted to be picked up and held whilst he pointed out the boy to daddy. The second time involved physical contact; the other garçon poked Arlo in the clavicle and pushed him whilst also discouraging him to follow him and his peers up the ladder. Arlo, being a quick learner, simply pushed him back and then gave him a tiny little kick. I don’t condone violence by any means, but my son held his ground and I was pleased with that. This was followed by Arlo finding my eyes with his and having a giggle, and the other boy continuing to play, unharmed.
The third encounter was as we sat on a bench seat and Arlo finished his croissant. A medium sized duck made a beeline for us from about 15 metres away, no doubt having seen the delicate golden flakes of pastry dropping to the floor. He wasn’t interested in crumbs, however. He came and stood directly in front of Arlo and eyed him suspiciously, neck craning upwards toward his single point of focus. All too quickly and all at once, Arlo offered(?) his croissant out to the predator, I foisted my hand between the two as with expert speed, duck lunged forward to grab the goods. This whole scene took about 2 seconds and in another 1.5, Arlo was standing up, climbing onto me and crying, in shock of course, by what had happened. Duck did not give up, though, and had to be “chou! chou!’d” away. This gave me a good opportunity to saddle my child into his pram and speedwalk back to the apartment, so no harm was done on any account. Be wary of Parisian ducks!
In Paris, there truly are brasseries, boulangeries/patisseries, fromageries and boucheries on every second corner. In the brasseries you’ll find patrons at any time of the day, smoking cigarettes, talking animatedly and drinking coffee. I’ve had visions of becoming one of those patrons, minus the smokes and probably with a glass of wine, maybe gazing at La Tour Eiffel as the springtime sun gently kisses my hands and face. Well, I’ve got news for me. That sort of romantic idea can’t be realised unless my toddler is asleep in his pram or subdued in some other way – so I’ve accepted that I’ll just look at other people doing that as I chase my child down the street in exploration mode. I’m okay with this, because I chose to become a parent and a child is nothing short of a gift. 😀
So there’s a little update on life in Paris for us, over the last week. We’ve spent an obtuse amount of time in our little apartment, being the sleep-police that Shane and I are, with a little boy who has travelled halfway across the world in 24 hours from warmth to cold, and is fighting a nasty cough. It isn’t bad though; it gives us a chance to reset each day. We go out in the morning to a park or playground or a tourist destination, then go home and eat some lunch, do some exercise, meditation or some journalling. We then have the afternoon at our mercy to get out and about again. The pram has been a blessing; I would highly recommend it for travellers with babies or toddlers. Note though, that it doesn’t fit through le métro barricades, and there are no lifts. So along with the six flights of stairs whenever we leave and return home, the metro stairs with pram and child overhead allow for the daily eating of fresh baguettes and croissants. AND, holy moly. The bread. In short, France gives a new meaning to “bread.” It even feels a bit disrespectful calling it that word. Du pain, rather. That, I shall talk about on my next update.
Bonne journée à tous!