Friday, March 28, 2008

Paris in the springtime

Doesn't that sound just fabulous? Paris in the springtime sounded like a dream to me ten years ago. I had a one-year old daughter, and hadn't spent as much time mothering her as I had dreamed of doing, and I had been working on a weekly STAR TREK magazine for over a year and a half without a break. Even when I had my daughter, after 36 hours of labor at home, I was working on that damned magazine 12 hours later. It was a relentless job of constant maintenance. When I took it on I hadn't realized that there would never ever be a break, but I was well-compensated, and my husband had the opportunity to do some commercial directing work for the owners of the magazine. All he had to do was put together a credible script and budget...

So, we planned our trip based on the idea that the money from his directing would pay for the trip since we had to go to London to meet with them. Then as long as we were in London, why not also go to Paris since I had a magazine client to meet with there as well. And, since we were both going to have to work, why not take my mother along to help with our daughter? This all seemed like such a good plan at the time. It would be partially written off for business, and finally I'd get to see the left bank for real!

Of course, the husband completely misread the bosses and created a Hollywood-style budget to beat the band with every bell and whistle included. The commercial was merely $260K over the budget they had envisioned, and they canned him. Our tickets were already paid for though, and I had meetings set up in London with Paramount folks, and in Paris with magazine folks, and so we went on my dime. Couldn't pay taxes now, but what could be done. Husband promised he'd find a way to repay me.

Those were the days when you could bring lots of wrapped items onto carry on, so in the weeks preceding our trip I prepared for traveling with a 14-month old by buying umpteen little gifts for her to unwrap all the way to London. I can't imagine how people travel with young ones today. We sat four across the middle of the plane. Our little girl was so well-behaved and cheerful people got off the plane telling us that we'd changed their minds about having children. I nursed her through the take-offs and landings so her little ears wouldn't hurt her, and we landed in London in the middle of the afternoon to snow falling over the city.

We stayed in a flat in Bellsize, and it was really perfect with a washer/dryer and things we needed like TV to help divert her when I was on the phone working. I worked and met and worked and met, and my mother, my daughter and my husband toured London, my favorite city. I had been there four years earlier and gave them a good list of things to do. I did manage a trip to Covent Gardens, and the bosses took us to Portabello Road, and then also had us out to their country house near Oxford for High Tea. It was beautiful, brisk springtime with lots of green, and that's all I remember about it because I was either nursing or I was working.

So, then we took the Chunnel to Paris which was really cool. We got to our flat in the Mareille, and it was every bit the artist's garret that's been described in every book about being a starving artist in Paris. The husband, my daughter and I slept on a fold out futon that sloped to one side, and my mother slept in the bedroom. I got not a wink of sleep for a week, and subsisted on coffee and pan au chocolat. Of course, this is what my little girl subsisted on too as I was nursing her. So you can imagine how restful it was.

I had my meetings with publishers, and then my husband and my mother decided we had to visit museums in order to experience Paris. So in my exhaustion we went to the Louvre, the museums of Rodin and his lover Camille, the Sacre-Cour (sp?) and on and on, walking and walking. There was dog poop everywhere so my daughter had to be carried and it was just when she wanted to walk. All I wanted to do was go to little book shops and sit and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes in outdoor cafes. I was so tired! I was really on the verge of collapse when my mother finally decided to take Be for the evening while the husband and I went out. Of course, we had to go on the most expensive cruise up the Rhine (is that the river there?), and of course, I paid. We have a photo of us that my daughter keeps in which we look so happy. Well I drank a lot. Still my mother and husband were furious and united against me that I was a sour-puss and didn't want to have fun, and they abused my good will completely to the point where I was considering getting on a plane with Beatrix myself and leaving them to enjoy the stupid museums.

The husband's solution to my exhaustion was to have us meet some professor friends of his parents and then he decided we should take them up on their offer to stay at their country house in the mountains south of Lyons for an extra week away. Which I paid for. I was the FedEx commercial of the little truck finding us at the edge of society, as we stayed at "Les Iris" with me working on the STAR TREK magazine while he went for hikes in the mountains. My mother moped at being away from "culture". My daughter played amongst the irises when it was warm enough. I read endless STAR TREK galleys.

My favorite place on that trip was Annecy. What a beautiful, clean place, where my now 15-month old said her first word -- nur -- for nursing. The canals, the mountain, the lake! We stayed only a day there, in a modern hotel, but it seemed like such a relief for some reason. Perhaps it was the weekend and I had no FedEx's left, and I finally could have a day to sight see and my mother and my husband had never been there before and didn't feel they had to boss me around.

Someday I want to go back to Europe and just see it and have my own way with the place.

1 comment:

MarcusP said...

Zoinks -- that is no way to travel. For what it's worth, I once spent 20 days on my own in England and France, and though it sounded like a great idea when I set off, with no one to talk to about them, the experiences were less compelling than I had imagined they'd be.