Playing in Paris

8 – 0ctober – 2011

After many complaints about the weather, I must tell you that I witnessed the warmest weather England has seen in late September in over 100 years!  Truly record-breaking, the thermometers topped 85 degrees for three glorious days in a row.  Newspapers featured images of men diving into the Men’s Pond at Hampstead Heath in their scivvies.  “Absolutely brilliant” (as the Brits would exclaim!)

Under this banner of sunshine, we headed down to Paris for a trip built around Katie’s field hockey tournament. I traveled down with the team Friday and then decided to leave Katie to her game and to take advantage of a free afternoon in Paris.  I walked for 5 hours, covering the heart of city from the L’Arc du Triomphe to the Rodin Museum to the Tour Eiffel.  I couldn’t get over how different Paris feels from London…its architecture so elaborate, its statues so gilded, its fountains so flowing, its people so chic, and its food so fussy.

My walk down the Champs Elysees was quite eventful.  First, I encountered a long line of lingering tourists anxiously awaiting entrance to a door with lovely gates on either side.  Perhaps there was exhibition worth waiting for – I got a closer look. I couldn’t help but notice two handsome, preppy, plaid-shirted boys at the entrance.  As I drew closer, the Abercrombie and Fitch logo appeared stenciled into the gate…you must be kidding!!  With all the magnificent monuments and  museums, people actually decide to stand in a queue to buy overpriced ripped jeans that make you look homeless.  Incredible!

Even more incredible, as I continued further along toward the Place de la Concorde, I noticed a very dapper blond gentleman approaching.  He looked so familiar…could it be….YES!  Randy Atcheson, my piano teacher from Greenwich, was strolling toward me!  Talk about a small world.  For those who know Randy, he was perfectly coiffed in a blazer and purple tie with matching purple loafers to complete the look.  An Austrian wool blazer was nonchelantly draped off his back.  Despite the 85 degree heat and beating sun, he was not perspiring and looked fresh as a daisy.  I, of course, looked wilted and sweaty, but I was thrilled I’d opted for my cotton dress instead of shorts, though the Fit Flops were still disappointing!  Vacationing for the week, Randy was on a mission to find a pair of bright orange “performance” pants to wear on stage.  His wife, Laurie, had texted him the location while she was out sourcing antiques.  Again, for those who know Randy, this makes perfect sense!

I am glad I got all my walking in on Friday because once the rest of the gang was with me, there was little interest in that kind of exploring.  Specifically, Jackie wanted to get ice cream and nothing else, Katie was exhausted from field hockey, and  Jeff “hates the French” and could not ever find a cab when needed.   Ah, the joys of spending time with family!

Luckily we were good at sitting down for meals together. We dined at a restaurant called Les Ombres one evening with stunning views of the Eiffel Tower in all its alighted, sparkling grandeur.

At ten minutes past every hour, the Tower glitters in twinkling lights that are captivating and entrancing.  The “City of Lights” indeed!  The next afternoon, we dined inside the Tower at the Jules Verne restaurant with sweeping views of the city beneath us.  I must take a moment and comment on French food.  Honestly, I find it extremely challenging to find something appetizing on a menu that consists of (and I quote):

deviled lamb kidneys

snails on toast

crispy pig tails

wild rabbit pie

and my favorite…. wood pigeon with cobnuts

It’s the cobnuts that really get me!

Lucy was left behind with dear Alexa, who was thrilled to spend time with her “gorgeous girl”.  In my absence, Lucy was up to her old tricks.  I received this email while in France – see if it sounds familiar:

Hi Cathy

I hope that you have had a great time in Paris.  Lu was wonderful,

however she did have a mad moment when she jumped into the Serpentine at Hyde park and went swimming after the geese.  My heart sank as I knew exactly what Lu had seen and exactly what she was going to do!!   It was only 8.45 am so the park was very quiet…not for long! Within moments I was in among a swarm of flying screaming geese.  As soon as they had all subsided, Lu stopped and we looked in front of us and further down about 50 metres away was another gaggle!  It is like my mind and Lu’s mind were thinking exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.  We looked at each other, and that was it — she had gone full steam ahead to terrorise the tranquil birds. Her little head bobbed above the water as birds flew in every direction.  I got to the water’s edge, and as soon as I called her, the naughty lady came back.  She looked very pleased with herself, until I put her on the lead. Honestly it was like something out of a comedy sketch show!  

You will all be pleased to know that the “naughty lady” as Alexa puts it (replacing the  “gorgeous girl” moniker), now has her own passport and is free to travel with us throughout Europe.  Perhaps we should warn all the waterfowl in greater Europe and beyond.

Back in London, I have not yet run into Sir Paul who lives in the neighborhood, but I did meet his wife-to-be, Nancy Shevell.  She works out with my trainer, the touchy-feely guy who I have come to greatly respect.  Anyone who can get me to do a pull up is nothing short of amazing!  Anyway, according to Sean, the wedding is scheduled within the week and “will involve a bikini” – you heard it here first!

Last night was truly  memorable as I got to see my vocal hero, Idina Menzel, perform at the Royal Albert Hall with the London Philharmonic directed by Marvin Hamlish.  That woman is “umlimited” in her ability, and her multi-octave voice truly does “defy gravity” (sorry, for those who love Wicked as I do, you will understand the references).  I was absolutely amazed by the beauty of the Royal Albert Hall and cannot wait to return soon.

Today I took my first “country walk” with several friends.  I deliberately put the word, country, in quotations because this particular walk took us through a very industrial area – think Billy Elliot without all the ballet.  You know you are not quite in the country when the guidebook warns to “be careful of forklifts when passing hidden driveways”.  What?!  Two of the women have lived here for many years, and this year they are tackling the London Loop which involves 16 different walks that encircle the outer city of London.  We started with the first one today, taking the tube to a train to Erith, England. Lucy accompanied me and is becoming an expert companion on public transportation.  The only tough part is carrying her up and down the escalators – her 50 pounds of dead weight nearly crushed me as we descended  the third escalator IN A ROW!  My arms ached more than my legs after the 9 mile walk.

Tomorrow, we head over to Prague for the long weekend.   After the girls’ indifference to Paris, I have now instituted a new rule that they must do internet research on every place we visit and determine one thing they want to do or see or buy on the trip.  Anything to engage them in the process.  True to form, Katie came back with a detailed map of the city, highlighting an ancient castle and a bustling market place.  She even found a river cruise for dinner.  She proudly made her mini presentation and provided copious materials and visual aids.  El Gagnon  would have been proud.  Also true to form, Jackie passed me a piece of paper with a picture of a roller coaster.  Apparently, her quest for culture led her straight to finding the one roller coaster in Prague.  Needless to say, we will be taking a spin on the Cyklon this weekend!

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