Monet and Meltdowns in Paris

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If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I can envision my conversations with God during the one-on-one meeting in heaven when He’s deciding what/who I’ll come back as.

God: So what would you like to be?

Me: Well, what are my options?

God: You were pretty honest and considerate during the last life, so I’m thinking of giving you a slight promotion, though I only have a few openings. One: You can be a white rat saved from medical testing by PETA and destined to live in a verrrrry comfy rat sanctuary your whole short life. I know you’re terrified of them, so it would be good for you. You’d learn that they’re actually pretty terrific by being one of them. Karma, and all that. (Plus, their DNA is close to that of humans, so you get the intelligence benefits without dealing with traffic and enduring the consequences of the Global Warming you contributed to during the last round.) Two: You can go back as a female human again, and you’d be born into a really wealthy, influential family on the French Riviera. The source of their money is questionable, but you’d live the good life, have your own private jet and mega-yacht, and be waited on hand and foot your entire life. The third option is not great. In fact, I’m embarrassed to even mention it; but it’s my policy to always offer three choices, and it’s the best I can do at the moment: A lampshade. You’d be dumb as a brick, bored to tears and possibly catch fire at some point.

Me: Good God! (Oh, sorry, Sir. Uh, go ahead and take that literally…) Well, take the r-a-t option off the table. That’s a nonstarter. As you can see, I can’t even say the word. Now, regarding this French diva person…Would I have to start fresh as an infant? In other words, would I have to go through puberty again?

God: Duh. Of course!

Me: Oh, forget it, then. Make me a lampshade.

What does this have to do with Paris, you ask? Everything.

Traveling with two adolescent girls going through that most difficult time of life can be very interesting. You just never know what you’re going to get. Boys punch a wall and are done with it. Girls, on the other hand, are more complicated. Add jet lag, lack of routine, lack of friends they know and love, and lack of anything familiar. Now you have a recipe for big ups and big downs at any given moment.

Welcome to our world.

All things considered, though, we had a lovely time in Paris. It’s such a great city that it’s almost impossible not to (except for my first trip there as a backpacker, but we won’t talk about that now…).


The girls were both excited to visit Paris and had a few must-see items on their lists. Everyone was in a great mood. The first stop was the Arch d’Triomphe, so we went to the top for some gorgeous views.

Things quickly turned sour when we heard a bang sounded like a bomb. This really unnerved my husband, who had been reticent about visiting high-profile tourist cities and sites all along, due to recent terrorist events throughout Europe. The scene turned a little crazy with police running around and sirens blaring. However, we never did find out what had happened, and it didn’t seem to make the news (which we kept checking on our phones). We told ourselves that a car must have backfired. It was really the only way to carry on with our day (and our trip) with peace of mind.

Our outing that day ended with a nice long stroll along the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde, where there is an ancient Egyptian obelisk and gorgeous fountain.


Another on the list was the Eiffel Tower. The day we were to visit, we got a late start, as usual. IMG_1963We had lunch at the quaint cafe near our apartment, Le Naguere, enjoying variations on the croque monsieur (French version of grilled ham and cheese sandwich). We spent lunch playing spelling games, and I was suddenly feeling very optimistic about this whole roadschooling thing (which turned out to be pure folly on my part, but we’ll cover that another time).

We knew to expect a long line at the Eiffel Tower. September is still a busy tourist month in Paris. But we were incredibly lucky – there was barely a line at all. The day was clear enough to enjoy wonderful views, and everyone was again in a great mood.

The kids were laughing and carrying on like best friends. Those are the truly magical moments of a trip like this. Or any family trip, really.


Also on the list were Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Louvre Museum. And that’s when we discovered a new mathematical law. Perhaps we’ll submit it to academic journals when we get back. Parents will forever thank us for the heads up. We have named it the Law of Iconic-Site Escalation.

It works like this: On any given day during a family trip, you can expect an exponential relationship between the degree to which a site you’ll be visiting has an iconic reputation (and you’re excited to see it) and the degree to which at least one family member will experience a meltdown. It doesn’t always happen, but be ready. The family member is usually a kid, but the law applies to adults as well.

Without getting into the particulars of the formula or computations, its graph form looks like this:

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 6.56.22 PM

Thus describes our visits to Notre-Dame and the Louvre. The meltdown triggers were irrelevant (and probably incomprehensible, even to us). Suffice it to say that neither visit was boring.  We did get to see what we came to see. And spirits eventually lifted, restoring family members to their usual, smiling and happy selves. Collateral damage was minimal and impermanent.

If it ever happens to you, rest easy, knowing that it’s a universal law, and you are not alone.

Even with some drama, Notre-Dame and the Louvre were terrific. I’ve seen the Mona Lisa before, but I have to say that this is the first time I ever really understood what all of the fuss about that smile is about. I was mesmerized. Wow.


We were in Paris for a total of about seven days and squeezed a lot in without feeling frenetic. There was a fabulous outdoor market near the apartment which allowed us to keep the kitchen stocked with beautiful fresh produce, fish and the like.

We did eat out some and were never disappointed. One night we happened upon a tiny place that welcomed us in from the pouring rain, sat us at a cozy table under the stairs and served pure deliciousness.

One day we took an excursion outside the city to tour the opulent Palace of Versailles and surrounding gardens, all of which the kids just loved.

The kids opted out of sightseeing on occasion, but my husband and I took full advantage, including a wonderful Saturday walk through the bustling 1st, 2nd and 9th arrondissements past the unique Les Halles and down the packed Rue Montorgueil, stopping at a charming Cafe Pouchkine some people watching. We then trekked up to the famed Sacre-Coeur Basilica, followed by a romantic dinner on Montemarte, the large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement.

A sad sight throughout the week were the many Syrian refugees. It was heartbreaking to see mothers with their young children sleeping in the streets. It deeply affected us. It was also a reminder of how fortunate we are and the importance of giving to others in need.

On our final day we visited the stunning Musee d’Orsay museum, housed in a former Beaux-Arts railway station, to commune with the ingenious talent of Monet, Van Gogh, Delacroix, Pissarro, Degas and many others.  Our only disappointment was what a packed zoo this museum has become. Rather than drinking in the art, many people were there to take Instagram art selfies. Meanwhile, they blocked views and shoved to get through. Fortunately, this museum is itself a work of art and was a treat, nonetheless.

We did have a moment of panic when we got separated from our youngest at closing time in the throng and couldn’t find her, not knowing whether she was still inside or had exited the building. After some frantic searching and help from Security, she turned up, and all was well.  But it sure blew out our blood pressure for a bit there.

Leading into evening, we strolled the Tuileries Garden, walked around the city, had one of our all-time great meals at Les Antiquaires, and viewed the Eiffel Tower at night in all of its colorful glory. It was a great way to cap off seven days in this glorious city.

Ah, Paris. What’s not to love?

Next Up: The Alsace Region of France and Why Homeschooling Ain’t for Sissies


9 thoughts on “Monet and Meltdowns in Paris

  1. Love it!!! See you this summer!!

    Andrew Ling Co-Founder & Chief Legal Officer ZipRemit, Inc.

    Sent from my iPhone and Siri can’t understand me – please excuse typos



  2. What beautiful pictures and what a funny story. Kudos to you all for getting through all the upsets to enjoy the beauty of Paris and family time.


  3. You’ve clarified an essential point in family dynamics w/ the Law of Iconic Escalation – brilliant and perceptive (and sometimes funny in retrospect)!


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