Cold, Rainy Days in Paris

The last time we were in Paris it was over a long Easter weekend school break. We did a home exchange with a family who also had small children. It was cold and rainy the entire time, and our girls, then aged 7, 5 and 2, didn’t want to do anything. With home exchanges you usually get something comparable and familiar to what you’re offering. We felt comfortable exchanging with a family who had kids, feeling confident that their home would be more kid-friendly. In this case the home was perhaps a little too kid-friendly. Our girls were quite content to just play all morning with these “new”, unfamiliar toys. By the time we could cajole them into getting dressed and out the door, we would leave too late and arrive at our destination close to lunch time only to find long entrance lines and end up having to bail on our plans altogether and look for a place to eat instead.

But I had a trick up my sleeve.

A year or so before, on a solo trip to Paris, I’d arrived at the Châtelet metro stop and while transferring to another line, was drawn to the sound of wonderful classical music. At some point I turned a corner and down a set of stairs was a full orchestra – a really good orchestra at that. A handful of people stopped to listen. Others seemed annoyed that their commute was disrupted. For me though, as someone who wasn’t exposed to this on a daily basis, I thought it was wonderful, and as I listened I contemplated how there are so many beautiful, random things in the world that people miss because they are too busy to stop and pay attention. This was definitely one of them.

So, fed up with not being able to see all the attractions we had hoped to see and spending loads of money eating out and repeating, “this is the LAST time we’re going ANYWHERE with you girls” about 10 times a day, we decided to change our course. We set out in the rain, stopped at a sidewalk crêpe seller for a cheap lunch on the fly, and with a handful of extra large crêpes wrapped up in foil we set off for the nearest metro. We took them underground, settled somewhere with a good view and good acoustics and ate our crêpes and listened to Bizet’s Carmen.

It might be a touristy thing to appreciate, as most residents would take it for granted, but I thought it was a great afternoon: cheap, delicious, cultural, and unique to Paris.

by Steven Brenner

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