Together, insieme, ensemble, juntos, issho ni

In Paris, we have done many of the expected, “top 10” things. The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, a walk along the Seine, the devouring of crepes and baguettes and cheese and wine. We will see Notre Dame, sure, and we’ll take another stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens. It has all been magical

But the treasures so far have been the walks, the unknowns, the selection at the Carrefour and in the markets, the conversations I’ve managed to have in extremely broken French and their excellent English with the woman in the Montmartre shoe store and the owner of the wine store in the 11th, with an Uber driver we had today when the boys could not walk another step, and with the man toggling this evening between my fresh crepe and the Lebanese meal he was preparing a emporter for a local.

The treasures, for me, are when I feel connected. Not as an obvious tourist, which is one of my least comfortable sensations and one of the things I most avoid, but as someone with even a toenail inside a place, a culture, a way of life. Perhaps it’s not connection; perhaps it’s a sense of peering behind a veil I’ve just ruched to the side. Then again, pulling away the screen of disconnection allows for interaction with its antipode; I crave such experiences. I will make and take them whenever I can.

Yesterday, near the Rue des Rosiers, traditionally an artery through the Jewish part of town, there was a lesbian bar directly across the street from a kosher butcher. Today, we pilgrimaged to a cave for a specific bottle of wine. The Uber driver’s name was Mohamed Ali, not even kidding. He drove through one of the most severe traffic jams I have seen; in fact during it, I learned the phrase for rush hour but also the French, which I cannot relay in words here, for many roads bottle-necking into one.

Why were we schlepping to the 11th for wine? Well, we had emailed the L’Ove winery after enjoying a glass of their white the other night and were told that Le Sourire au Pied de l’Echelle  (literally the longest wine store name I have ever encountered; it means ‘the smile at the foot of the ladder,” referencing a wine-maker’s ladder to access the tank…). We walked in, I asked for the wine and also a bathroom for Ol who was code red in need, and Tom and I ended up having a delightful talk with the owners of the store who seemed surprised but happy that we knew of the wine and had made a trip for it.

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The point is that my photos of (the incredibly fantastic) street art here, and the lost meanderings through Paris’ neighborhoods, and the food tour, and the cave, and falafel and Mohamed Ali, and the lesbian bar sharing immediate real estate with the kosher butcher are as valuable as seeing Winged Victory and Liberty Leading the People in the Louvre and summiting the Eiffel Tower and appreciating the flying buttresses at Notre Dame.

What binds all of that jumble is those who have created it, past, present, and future. It is the glue of togetherness, of forcing stickiness even when the adhesive was sometimes old, dry, unwanting, and frail.

Don’t get me wrong. France has its problems. Hallo, Marine Le Pen  and youth unemployment and shootings.

I’m not arguing France vs America. And I’m not talking about over-zealous evangelism which, in my opinion, is repugnant in any presentation.

I’m making a point about the mad richness that comes from a thrilling diversity of people and backgrounds and culinary and artistic traditions. From acceptance and the vibrant sardine’ness that cities force. I’m making a point for all who have fought to be recognized and valued; their courage and fight bring vigor and newness to places in the most enlivening ways.

Against the glory of Bourbons and Napoleon and kings butts the glory of the Third Estate and exiles and immigrants and poets and outsiders. The winemaker at L’Ove is a woman, Céline Oulié, who has faced and pushed forcefully back against the old, male, established “right way” of doing things. Her wine, her way, is spectacular. The Eiffel Tower was first considered a heinous eyesore of embarrassment; today it is a beloved marvel.

Pushing the limits advances us all; recognizing the potential in others, same and different, opens the world to infinite possibility and growth. That, to me, is the point of travel. It is why I consider travel to be the ultimate education. It is why the top tens are of value but also why leaving those behind is as remarkable.

If you ever see it, buy and drink it!

If you ever see it, buy and drink it!

Paris, days 1-4

As Paris is utterly spectacular and noisy and vibrant and expansive and cozy and full of cheese and baguettes and street art and epic works of art and a river and traffic jams and music and old people and children hand in hand, we are having a grand time. 

More details later, but for now, pictures. 

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the Seine

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Rue des Rosiers, near L’As du Fallafel

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St. Germain/Odéon 

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in the Luxembourg Garden  

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Les Halles

Saint-Germain des Prés  

Saint-Germain des Prés  

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La Tour Eiffel

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keys in Montmartre

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goat cheese with ash from La Petite Ferme d’Ines in the Marche des Enfants Rouge (he oldest market in Paris) 

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Les Halles

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dancing with bubbles in Les Marais

Ol is ten, Roux is Ruthie, NZ's PM shows real leadership, and away we go

My baby turned 10 this past Sunday; both boys in double digits now, and soon, Jack will be a teenager. This year, Oliver wanted a cake that pulled together much of him: our cats, St. Patrick’s Day, his love of boxes and Star Wars. And so I crafted cats from fondant, and made a square layer cake, and frosted it green and decorated with tiny gold shamrock-bedecked coins, and topped it with a cool banner I ordered from Etsy. He loved it, and I am glad.

Ol’s 10th birthday cake

Ol’s 10th birthday cake

my darling boy

my darling boy

Jack has spent this week at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia on a space research trip he applied for through school. He and his group have been taught how to use the 40-foot steerable radio telescope to collect data, got to meet NPR’s Ira Flatow and hear his presentation as he was being honored with an award, and even visit Polyface Farm in Virginia. I have always wanted to go to Polyface and cannot believe the remarkable educational opportunities the boys’ school provides. I am exceedingly grateful. Two of Jack’s science teachers are chaperoning this trip, and while they have little connectivity in Green Bank, we’ve gotten some updates and it sounds like the trip has been incredible. They return home today.

As it turns out, Roux has gone completely by the wayside and even Tom is calling our new cat Ruthie. She is such a spritely, darling little peanut, and it just fits perfectly. Do y’all know that she chirps like a bird? It is priceless. Little chirpy trills emanate from her all day.

Nutmeg is still not interested in being her friend, but he’s calming down, and I think they’ll find their way.

The horrific attack on two mosques in New Zealand has been hard to ingest. But I am grateful for the leadership the Kiwis have in PM Jacinda Ardern. Did you see she has already announced a country-wide ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles? She has also enacted a buy-back program: “‘the government will create a buy-back program to pay owners "fair and reasonable compensation," which she estimated could cost the country between $100 million and $200 million. She said the guns will eventually be destroyed. She said no one will be prosecuted over any weapons they turn in. "Amnesty applies. We just want the guns back.’“

Not a week later, and NZ takes decisive action to protect its citizens. What inspiring leadership. If only we could see such leadership here.

Tomorrow commences spring break, and we are lucky to be heading to Paris. It will be so nice to get out of town, out of country, out of context for a bit. Y’all keep your fingers crossed our housesitter doesn’t need to mediate any feline mayhem.