Day 15 – sixty-seven remaining – Saturday, June 12 began early. The next week will count. June 12. Julie had arrived the night before and was sleeping in the guest bedroom. William had a boy scout CPR training beginning at 8:00 AM, Olivia had a softball game, and we had to be at O’Hare to catch our flight to Paris by 3:00 PM. It would be a busy day as the kids met and shared some time with Grandma J.
I had packed Friday and been looking to Saturday all week long, but there were details I needed to attend to and I tend to over pack. Olivia woke up early and lay down with Ivy and went back to sleep. I later found out she wanted to stay up and wait for Grandma and me to come home. When Julie awoke, both, Olivia and Ivy greeted her enthusiastically. We had breakfast and got ready for Olivia’s softball game. After school ended, Olivia took a park District class for softball skills and the focus was evident in her hitting and fielding. She was excited to show Grandma J she could play softball! The forecast was for rain and we only got an inning in before the rains stopped play. Olivia did get a hit and whacked a couple of foul balls to show she could hit the ball well.
When we got home, Olivia and Julie worked on a puzzle Olivia had started Friday night. She was having fun with it. Beth made rhubarb crisp for after lunch and worked on a few loose details. William came home from scouts very excited about his CPR training and we all had lunch. It was 2:00 PM before we knew and we had to load the car and make our way to O’Hare for the flight.
Airports are always fun. So much to watch and see it is so much fun with the kids. Though we do not travel much, William and Olivia love the airport. When William was younger, we would come to O’Hare to each plans land and takeoff sometimes even walking the terminals to get a closer look at airplanes. 9/11 changed that adventure forever. The Air France line was long but moved quickly and we had two eager helpers, they were so good. After checking in, we were ready to go through security and to our gate. We said our goodbyes and were on our way.
I took pictures of planes from the gate, I finished my post from yesterday, and I answered a couple of e-mails and sent a goodbye e-mail to Beth, William and Olivia. Looking back at yesterday’s post, I realize I did not answer why I was going to Paris. Well, it is a long story. My dad was an adventurer but not in the sense, you might think. He enjoyed an urban adventure with an international flair. My parents married in 1960 and I was born a year later in North Carolina. My dad’s job as a chemical engineer gave him the mobility he wanted and we moved to Alabama and Texas. Each time they added a child: Warren in 1963 and David in 1964. We settled in Texas where we would live for many years. Dad and I are the only ones who left Texas behind. In 1966, dad took a job in Paris and we lived on Boulevard de Grenelle near the Eiffel Tower for six months. I remember long walks and trips to the airport to watch airplanes take off and land. The framed picture of me from this time with the Eiffel Tower in the background is in my bedroom and shared yearly with my students. When we returned to Texas, we remained except for a year when we lived in Venezuela where my dad had a job. My parents divorced in 1975 and my dad left Texas to live in Saudi Arabia. He married Julie in 1975 and over the next 23 years, until he retired in 1998, he would live in England, France, Norway, and Venezuela. He travelled to many other places too numerous for me remember. Along the way, Julie travelled with him. Paris was his favorite and he lived there for many years. I visited several times and each time developed a love for this beautiful city. Before dad retired, he invited all of us to come visit him. It was during my last visit in 1997 that he decided where he wanted to spend the rest of his life and picked a quiet place for his cremains to be left eternity. As we settled into our seats dad was with his on his final trip to Paris.
The plane raced down the runway, lifted into the air, and we were off. I nodded off during the climb and before we knew it, the cabin crew served dinner and it was night. Night on a transatlantic flight is short. The airplane races toward Europe, the earth spins beneath us, and the night is short. I nod off after dinner but do not sleep much. Julie beside me does not sleep. Lift the window shade and watch a new begin with the sunrise over the Atlantic. In is a beautiful sight. We talk, share memories, and watch as we approach Paris. The pilot announces we are descending into Paris and the plane flies through the clouds and land comes into sight for the first time since the other side of the Atlantic. It is now Sunday.
There is a seven-hour time difference between Chicago and Paris. It was morning in Paris but my body and brain were at midnight. The plane landed, taxied and soon we are at the gate. Passport control, baggage, and customs went quickly. Julie exchanged money and we decided that we could not wait for Warren, David, and Trish and we took a taxi ride to our hotel, the Hotel Paix Republique near the Place de Republique is just north of the Seine River. Warren, David, and Trish arrived after we checked in we decided to take a short nap.
I decided to have a cup of coffee and worked on post cards. I always send post cards to William and Olivia when I am away. They really enjoy the thrill of getting mail. I keep trying to tell them that they way to get mail is to write folks and then they will write you back. I am trying to teach them yet, I do not do such a good job of it myself. Technology has made it easier to send an e-mail or make a quick call than to sit down and write a letter. This is my letter from Paris, but I will send postcards! I had been dreaming of a café crème or coffee with cream. It is just so much better on a Paris street. Café crème is served with sugar cubes and I always add one because well, I am in Paris and coffee, I mean café is different here. I finished my postcards and headed back to the hotel as we agreed to meet at noon for lunch.
We met for lunch and decide on our goal for the day – a walk to Notre Dame and dinner in the Latin Quarter at a Greek restaurant. It was fun walking through Paris with the group. Julie brought dad’s cremains along on the trip and we took turns carrying it. We stopped and looked at the buildings. Paris is an old city dating back to the middle ages though much of the city was built in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. The architecture is similar, but each building has its own unique details that make it stand out. We walked to the Pompidou center and watched street artists perform for the crowd. Mimes, actors, dancers performed; there was even a chalk artist that scrawled an impressive Einstein picture on the pavement. Everyone was hoping for donations. There were the mutes – who were asking for money – I donated to their cause, as did the rest of the group. I felt taken, silly me. We joked that we finance our trip but being mutes, too. We know there are several people who donate for us to be mute – even for a moment!
After a long walk, we made it to Notre Dame. The cathedral, commissioned in 1159, and built well into the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, is a famous Paris landmark and still a functioning church. It was Sunday afternoon and two evening services planned. People were snapping pictures and taking in the architecture. We were, too. I spoke with two women from California and took their picture for them and shared our journey and one shared she was wearing her recently departed father’s wedding ring who had lived in Paris at one time. We are all on a journey with one end certain. We got in line to enter the cathedral, the line moved quickly and we entered. The service was about to begin. Inside the cathedral, there are alcoves or mini-chapels, where visitors can light a candle and say a prayer. Each has its own stained glass window illuminating the area. We stopped at one and each of us lit a candle and said a prayer for dad. I remembered the reason for our journey and prayed for strength and guidance as we worked our way through Paris. The service began with organ music and singing. Incense and chanting, and prayers followed. We watched, listened, and remembered dad. We kept a close eye on Julie as she was visibly emotional. All of us were tired from the trip having not slept much. We had walked quite far today and the walk and the church service and experience had taken a toll of J. She stopped and lit another candle and said a prayer for dad. We did, too. Notre Dame was a moving experience and we all remembered dad.
The final stop for the day was dinner and we walked to the Latin Quarter across the river from Notre Dame. It is narrow alley with Greek restaurants and tourist shops. Dad brought me here in ‘83 and we had a great dinner then and talked about politics and dreams, two of dad’s favorite topics. I had been back since and introduced Beth to it when she came to Paris in ’86. Tonight was no different with the display cases full of inviting brochettes and owners hawking their restaurants to the passersby. We stopped and the manager lured inside with the promise of a round of cocktails. Which is not much considering two of our group do not drink. We sat down ordered and had dinner. We were all tired and I was nodding as we waited for our food. We talked about dad and the area. We laughed and thought about what he meant to all of us. The waiter delivered our food and we asked him to take our picture – it looks good, though we are not that alert! We ate dinner talking and sharing throughout. We finished dinner and decided to head back to the hotel. We tried a taxi but five is too many for a taxi, so we got Julie to a taxi and David and Trish helped her home. Warren and I took the Metro home and walked back to our hotel. I started the day’s post but did not have the energy or the concentration to finish. I called it a night and fell asleep. Two days counted and they counted; four days remaining in Paris and sixty-two in the summer.