The Face that Launched 1000 ships

The next couple of days were quiet. Michael worked. The baby and I took some quiet time for ourselves at the playground and at the Palais Royal

photo by twiga269 on Flickr

We stopped into apothecaries (which I did just about every day) to snatch up some French oil or lip balm or something I knew I couldn’t find in the states. We browsed in bookshops and hunted down toy stores. We sipped hot chocolate and nibbled on macarons at La Maison Angelina on Rue de Rivoli across the street from the Tuileries. We went to Hédiard, a famous high-end French food shop with these great orange gift boxes.

photo by Suzan Black

We went to the toy department at the Gallery Lafayette to find a little wooden car and discovered this is what it looks like inside…

photo by Tom Golway

photo by Olivier Bruchez on Flickr

By Wednesday evening we were still all pretty tired so we headed to bed early. The boys were sound asleep and I had just brushed my teeth when suddenly…the phone rang. It was the land line…and I thought…uh-oh…no one has that number but Michael and his Parisian co-workers…I better grab it just in case.

I quietly whispered (because 2 out of 3 of us were sound asleep in a 500 square foot space)…”hello?”

Hullllloooo!” the English accent blared through the phone, ‘Um, Elizabeth? I think I’m standing right in front of your apartment, but I don’t know for sure’.

I whispered to myself Seinfeldianly…Rigsby!

I went to the window and looked out to see Nanny Rigsby himself (surprisingly quite pulled together).  He was standing right there across the street looking around aimlessly holding a rolling bag. He spotted me and said, “Hang up! Hang up! This is costing me a fortune!”

Ah yes. He’d come to visit for only his secretary knew how long. We’ll never get the exact length of his stay out of him because he really doesn’t even know what it is. Did I mention the apartment was 500 square ft and already occupied by 3 people? I did? No matter. The fun would be to see all 6’2” of Nanny Rigsby fit into a bathroom made for elves.

So let’s backtrack a little…Michael’s friend, who we call Nanny Rigsby, is from England. They met in Africa on a horseback riding safari. My my. Nanny was in the bathroom of the Norfolk hotel stealing what the English jauntily refer to as loo rolls, but what is also known as toilet paper. This is all you really need to know about him. No wait…I will also tell you that we refer to him as Nanny Rigsby because he truly, truly loves the baby and we are convinced he flies across the Atlantic via open umbrella.


When we first arrived in Paris, two weeks before Nanny showed up on our door step, apparently Michael called him and gave him our address and phone number. He said he would pop over from England that first weekend…and then we never heard from him again.

No, wait. That’s not true. He left us a message at some point to say he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to make it because there was some sort of crisis and he had to have lunch with the Prime Minister. Then he mumbled out…”no no no I’m sorry, did I just say I was going to have lunch with the Prime Minister?? Ha ha ha!!! Oh no no no… I’m kidding. I didn’t mean that. I meant I’m having dinner with him. Bye!”

Then we never heard from him again. I told Michael I thought he had probably been kidnapped.

But he had not been. There he was at 11pm on a Wednesday night, exasperated and bleary eyed sitting on the sofa in our living room in Paris ready to regale us with stories, each one more riveting than the last. We had no choice but to stay up and listen to his adventures. In fact, they were so good, I’ve been banned from retelling them in this blog for security reasons (!?!). But ask us in person…(after you’ve had a thorough background check).

In the morning the baby was nothing but thrilled to see him.

The Louvre

By the time Michael’s 2nd day off came around he was just as pooped as he was on his first day off. So again, plans for Versailles and Champagne were scrapped in favor of a leisurely stroll around Paris with his family. We made no plans but to get a picnic lunch and walk over to the Paris Plage to let the baby play on all the playground equipment.

photo by Jean-Pierre Roche

Newsflash—summer is officially over in Paris on August 22nd, and that’s that.

Not only had someone come to tear down the beaches along the Seine, but you could feel the squeeze of more people around you than usual. Cafes and shops that had been closed since we arrived suddenly opened their shutters and changed the landscape of the streets. Scooters flew by  at any given moment and not just on the streets, they seemed to have free reign of the sidewalks as well. And the sidewalks! They were littered with cigarette butts. I never saw so many cigarette butts. Apparently people don’t die from lung cancer in Paris. That has to be the only explanation.

We decided to go to the Tuileries and I thought after our picnic lunch we could all go on the ferris wheel.

photo by Jean-Pierre Roche

But we forgot!! Summer was over! They were dismantling the ferris wheel when we got to the garden and by the time we finished our picnic lunch it was completely gone!

We were so sad (photo by Michael)

We decided to get coffee and then to head into the Louvre. Getting coffee from Starbucks in a laid back country like France is a hilarious experience. You would think they would tend to your coffee in the same feverish manner they dismantled summer, but not so. There was one person in line in front of us, about 15 people working behind the counter and my cafe latte took 20 minutes to get.

‘You’re not in a hurry! Where do you have to go? The Louvre? It’s open until 10! Relax. Enjoy your life.’

They also do not have ‘take away’ coffee anywhere except Starbucks, and no one is eating or drinking anything while they walk around or ride the metro. You sit down for a proper cup of coffee in France. Where do you have to go in such a hurry that you have to walk around while you drink your coffee? Nowhere. That’s where. I pegged myself several times as an uncivilized American by drinking my take away coffee on the metro.

The baby had a blast in the museum, and again as we were on the mommy/daddy truncated tour we only did the basics of the Louvre.

We saw the Winged Victory of SamothraceVenus de Milo and the Mona Lisa

and everything in between those 3 points. I know…there are 35000 pieces of work in that museum, you’d think we could’ve gone a little outside the box, but we didn’t. I think we just enjoyed the inside of the building.  We’d look out the windows into the gardens and pretend we’d just woken up and were about to have tea on the terrace in our bathrobes. We enjoyed the ceilings, the moldings…and we all had fun chasing after the baby.

Musée d’Orsay

I finally went to Musée d’Orsay.  And I dare say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  While I still favor Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir over Monet, I grew to find a little glimmer of appreciation in my heart for him here—as if I was finally able to see the clarity and cohesion through all that messiness!  Now, please don’t go get me a Monet day planner for Christmas.  I’m not there yet. !!  But here are a few of my favorite Monet paintings…

The museum alone is a stunning, beautiful space.  I wish I had a more sophisticated architectural vocabulary to describe the effect it produces.  The works are housed in what was once an old train station that made it more clear to me where the inspiration for Grand Central came from.  It also made me so glad Jackie O. fought to have Grand Central preserved.  It would have been a shame to destroy it and lose that example of architecture.  There were no photographs allowed in the museum, but I was able to dig up a few on-line to illustrate the elegance of the space and to give you a little taste of some of the works you find inside.

photo by Clio20 on Flickr

photo by Mirari Erdoiza

photo by Clio20 on Flickr

Now, in my next life when all my clothes are designer and I have a degree in Art History, I will be able to tell you more about what I saw at d’Orsay, but I was on the truncated mommy tour, so I really just had a brush with the (beautiful) basics while I pulled the baby out from behind velvet ropes before he put his sticky little banana hands on a van Gogh.

My favorite Degas paintings…

My favorite Renoir…she’s a stunner!

But the painting that really took my breath away and had me thinking about it long after I left the museum was by Paul Baudry: La Fortune et le jeune enfant vers 1857.

I know—!!  It’s SOOOO obvious!  But who doesn’t want Fortune to smile on their jeune enfant?

If you have an evening to yourself and want to have a quiet night, I highly recommend going on the website for Musée d’Orsay.  Just click the link.  It’s a very romantic, leisurely way to look and learn about what’s in the museum room by room…Enjoy…

The Longest Day-Part 2

Once we got off of the boat we decided to walk to Place Vendome

photo by OliverN5 on Flickr

so I could show Grammy the Ritz and piece of marble that shows the original Metre.

I actually took this photo

However, I was turned around and didn’t bother to bring a map with me, so we were a little lost and stumbled onto all sorts of things on foot that I had seen already in the car a few nights before. Each time we would get somewhere new we would decide not to take the Metro, but to just keep walking. It was such a beautiful day. But then we got to the point where we were too close to home to take a Metro, but too far to want to continue to walk…ack! Some of what we saw…

We walked from the Eiffel Tower down fancy Avenue Montaigne which is like walking down 5th or Madison—lots of Gucci, Chanel, Dior and the like (and the Canadian Embassy).

photo by Jacques Bravo

This deposited us right onto the Champs Elysee where Grammy got her first good glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe. We decided to walk down the Champs Elysee since it was such a nice day and this took us past the Theatre Marigny on foot so we we could get a closer look at the jewel box theatre where Cabaret will be performed in October.

photo by dm1795 on Flickr

We then walked all the way over to the Luxor Obelisk given to the French by the Egyptians, I believe it is the oldest monument in France at over 3000 years old.

photo by Frederic_WB on Flickr

The Obelisk marks one end of the Champs Elysee and marks the Place de la Concorde which is a famous square where Marie Antoinette was beheaded during the Revolution (gulp).

photo by Brigitte Djajasasmita

Just beyond the square is the beginning or end (depending on how you look at it) of the Tuileries Garden and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel which is a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe (it, of course, was also commissioned by Napoleon), and then the Louvre. So it’s a lovely line of vision to stand at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and look over through the Tuileries, past the Obelisk and all the way down the Champs Elysee to see the Arc De Triomphe.

photo by orangebrompton on Flickr

Anyway! We headed north towards the Place Vendome, past the Ritz, past l’Église de la Madeleine,

photo by gwhalin on Flickr

past the crazy cool subway station spider of pearls that marks the Palais Royal stop.

photo by G-rome on Flickr

We went into the gift shop at the Louvre and we bought French Children’s books…

Then we finally landed at St Eustace church where the playground lies that we take the baby to every day. We collapsed on benches while we watched him play with adorable French children.

photo by Jacques Bravo

PS—maybe I chose wrong, but I thought about a stop at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz where, aptly, Hemingway used to go. There is some guy there (this guy) who makes amazing drinks at 30 Euro a piece. Meow meow. I perused his menu to find cocktails that didn’t seem 45 US dollars complicated, in fact, one was simply a champagne cocktail. While I’m sure I missed out on the Zelda and F. Scott magic dust, I decided I would just make a champagne, apple cider cocktail myself when I got home.  I’d drink it in the bathtub while I read The Sun Also Rises and project this photo on the wall—>

photo by pablo.sanchez on Flickr

Close enough…!

The Longest Day-Part 1

Today we took the baby on the longest possible excursion you could ever go on on foot in Paris. While the day was beautiful and the tourist attractions were at their best, by the time Grammy left on Sunday I needed to stay in all day and nap with the baby. Let’s see if I can even begin to recount everything we did that day. We saw practically the whole city…mostly on foot. Silly. I’m going to just have to laundry list it…

photo by Brigitte Djajasasmita

First we headed back towards the Eiffel Tower to get on Le Bateau Mouche….the tourist’s standard boat ride up and down the Seine. The baby slept the whole hour. Some of what we saw…

photo by xrrr on Flickr

When you get off of the metro and walk to the port d’Alma where the boat leaves you pass the Flame of Liberty which is an exact replica of the flame the Statue of Liberty holds up on the Hudson. Coincidentally, it is under this monument, in the tunnel that Princess Diana died in a car crash. It is such a morbid thing to point out, but it was brought to our attention over and over again…so…

The photo below is an aerial view of the Seine. This is the river that divides the city into its left and right banks. Rive Gauche, the left bank is known for being quite posh. Rive Droit is known for not being so posh…although, there are some pretty fancy pants areas Rive Droit as well.

photo by Jacques Bravo

Then there are les Ponts. Pont is the term for bridge in French and the Seine has many and they are (mostly) very beautiful and very old.

The first photo is of Pont Neuf , which means—New Bridge, even though it is the oldest bridge in Paris. We took another boat tour after Grammy left and the guide explained to us that the faces on Pont Neuf are carvings of criminals, shop vendors and dentists (!). That’s what she said.

photo by Jacques Bravo

The next photo is of Pont de Bir-Hakeim.

photo by der_dennis on Flickr

The photo below is of Pont Saint-Michel and has the big N’s on it (wonder who they stand for?).

photo by Jean-Marie Hullot

And Pont de la Tournelle connects to the l’Ile St Louis (we’ll get to that later) and has a statue of St. Genevieve, the patron Saint of Paris who watches over all the Parisians (and hopefully the tourists too, but probably not if they don’t at least TRY to speak French). I would love to have a little girl and name her Genevieve. But Genevieve O’Donnell doesn’t really sound right, does it?

photo by Jean-Marie Hullot

Here is a photo of St Genevieve a little closer.

photo by Jean-Marie Hullot

Below is a photo of Pont des Arts. Couples buy padlocks and put their initials on them with a marker and then lock them onto this bridge hoping for eternal love. Michael and I were going to do that before we left, but then we found out that twice a year the police go and cut them all off and throw them away. So we figured, what’s the point? We both already know we’re stuck with each other anyway. Heh heh.

photo by Brigitte Djajasasmita

The next photo is a close up of some of the detail on Pont Alexandre III. This is the bridge I drove over a few nights before that connects to Invalides (Napolean’s tomb).

photo by Jacques Bravo

Lastly is a photo of Pont Royal that connects from Rive Gauche to the Louvre.

photo by Emmanuel Blum on Flickr

There are many more ponts than just the ones I’ve listed above, but I’m only one tiny lady with no research assistant, so google away if you’d like to learn about them all. I will tell you this little story though. There is a small bridge that I believe connects l’Ile St Louis and Rive Droit (?) and when you go under it on a boat you have to make a wish and kiss the person next to you. Michael and I both wished for the same thing and our wish came true the next day. !!

In between all the ponts you get to ogle old structures on the banks of the Seine. Some highlights below are the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette (and many others) was held prisoner before she was executed.

photo by Jean-Marie Hullot

The next photo is of Notre Dame de Paris which they started to build in the 1100s. I think it was finished in the 1300s.

photographer unknown

In the summer along the edge of the Seine is the Paris-Plages, which is a beach made along the river for people to lounge around on when they’re not at a Knight’s house in the south of France. There is lots of fun playground equipment there for kids too.

photo by besopha on Flickr

Then there is the Musée d’Orsay which I’ll talk about in the next post.

photo by edwin.11 on Flickr

So all of this was only one hour of our day…!!! I’ll try to crank through the rest of it in the next post—


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