Giggles from on high

“If you want to hear the gods laugh, tell them your plans.”

Okay, so perhaps it’s not as grand as Cicero, but we’re pretty sure we hear some giggles from on high.

Plan A: it’s going to be hot, so we’ll go to Jardin D’Acclimatation, a low key and kid-sized wooded amusement park where the kids can run around and play outside. Twist A: It’s going to be insanely hot (93 degrees), and there’s no way any Parisian that isn’t made out of raw baguette will be venturing out.

So we shift to Plan B: we’ll take the metro to the Louvre and instill some appreciation of the great masters in our kids. At least it’ll be indoors, and Jeremy wants to see old swords and battle axes. We get to the surprisingly uncrowded main entrance to discover that… unlike the other museums in Paris, which are closed on Monday, the Louvre is closed on Tuesday. And let’s see – today is, um, right.

Plan C: give up. This one seems hard to beat. We retreat to Sylvia’s place, plug the kids into their respective video ipods and ‘tendos, and hang out in the kitchen. We promise, through the headphone blare, that tomorrow will be better. The rest of the day passes in a fog.

Wednesday begins as the day before, with all good intentions of dragging the kids to the Louvre. D’s getting dropped off on the left Bank with Sylvia to get her once-every-four-years Parisian haircut, so my mother and I have the kids. It’s even hotter than yesterday, so fresh off the curb we head for the underground entrance. Which, depressingly, houses an upscale shopping mall. Even more depressingly, it houses a long unmoving line of people. The line traverses the length of the mall snakes out of view at the end of the hallway. In the direction of the Louvre’s main entrance. Sigh – perhaps not today, either.

Our plans are expiring quicker than goldfish after a school carnival, and we’ve long since given up naming them with individual letters. When the inevitable transpires, we just acknowledge their demise with a simple question: “Next?”

The Orangerie, full of impressionists, is next up to bat – it’s a ten minute trudge through the morning heat, but it’s open today, and surely it’ll be less crowded. Surely. We brave the trek, dodging the heat under rows of Louis IV’s beloved chestnuts and arrive, parched and beaten, legionnaires at the waterhole at last.

It is less crowded, in fact. Much less. Because, due to some strange aberrations in the way local time zones have been drawn (Monet must’ve bribed a cartographer somewhere along the line), the definition of “today” at the Orangerie means “some time much later this afternoon.” Next?

We’ve not given up yet – there’s still the Jeu de Paume, across the Tuleries. We rationalize: we’ve got to go that way anyway, so we’ve got nothing to lose. The kids aren’t complaining, but somewhere deep inside I know that when they read about Bataan in high school, they’ll raise their hands and say “Oh yeah? Well, when I was a kid…”

I’m taking turns carrying M & J as we cross the gravel walkway. It’s not as far as I’d thought, and we manage to stave off cannibalism. The Jeu du Paume is (er, will be) open in only eight minutes. We take a quick poll and decide that we’re willing to suffer the heat for those few minutes, just to have exposed the kids to some great French painting. It’s for the sake of art, for the sake of the children.

We’re out of clever games to entertain the kids. We’re out of energy. We’re almost out of water, but we’re on the verge of success, and that is sweet enough to sustain us. Five minutes, then two, then the casual but impeccably-dressed docent approaches from within and unlocks the double doors. We’re in!

I bolt to the ticket counter, and am second in line, behind a breathless young woman who has apparently traveled far to see the special exhibit now housed here. Special exhibit? Yes, the ticket seller explains to me. They’ve moved all the impressionists over to the Orangerie. What’s here then? Oh, the entire gallery is a Cindy Sherman retrospective: pictures of clowns. Next?

My mother’s phone rings. It’s Eduardo – he’s nearby, heading back to the house, and wants to know if we want a ride back. Within three minutes, we’re strapped into air conditioned luxury on our way back to Sylvia’s, having declared victory at having, um, “seen” the Louvre, Orangerie and Jeu de Paume in a single morning. We promise to clarify that we’d only seen them from the outside, if anyone really asks.


Finally, as late afternoon seeps in, we venture out again, for one last try at activity. Last time we were in Paris, we came across Citroen Park, a lovely maze of different theme gardens (the “black” garden, the “white” garden, the “metamorphosis” garden) with a large plaza at the center. The plaza had a series of fountains that were overrun by kids in swimsuits, and a series of “keep out of the fountains” signs that some people had used to hang their towels.

It was 4 p.m. and the car thermometer was registering 104 F, so we figured that the fountains were as good a shot as any. There was a chance they’d be closed, but we were pretty sure they wouldn’t have been pre-empted by an exhibit of clown photos.

Finally, success. Kids got to run amuck soaking themselves in physiologically-impossible ways, while the grownups hid in the shade of a giant greenhouse of red dust and rock (the “Australian” “garden”).

Caught the metro back, at pizza at our customary sidewalk cafe on the Champs Elysees, put the kids to bed, packed, and collapsed into a deep slumber.

That was yesterday. Today, now, we’re airborne again, somewhere over Bulgaria or Macedonia, 30 minutes from Istanbul. Are we ready for Turkey? Not a chance. But here we go…

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