At 14 weeks pregnant, I was still feeling very sick. April 8th was looming on my calendar and I felt totally unprepared for it. That was the day we’d marked nearly 6 months before as the day we’d be embarking on an international adventure, meeting up with 7 friends and family members (but no kids!) to take the Paris marathon by storm.
Somewhere along the way, I had the brilliant idea to save money on airfare by flying IcelandAir, so naturally we planned a stopover in Iceland for a few days as well.
From the beginning, I was hoping to be pregnant at the time of the trip (though my plans had me safely out of the sick zone by then) so I opted out for the marathon. Scott was in for the run, the second largest marathon in the world. He wanted to follow up his first marathon 3 1/2 years earlier with a sub 3:30 time. He tightened up his diet and followed a schedule from Run Less, Run Faster (great book). As conscientiously as he prepped for the race, though, he put as much effort into prepping for Paris.
He learned French using Duolingo and resources from the library, practicing every single day for months and months. And if you know Scott, you won’t be surprised that he also spent many hours on the computer poring over food blogs and recommendations for the finest pastries in Europe. He stocked his gadgets with great apps to help navigate the metro and seek out open boulangeries. He bought us each a scarf and splurged on some new trim clothes to help him blend in. This guy was ready for the trip!
I, on the other hand, hadn’t packed a thing for myself as of the night before. The kids were all packed for the stay at their cousins’ but my suitcase remained completely empty. At one point Scott even suggested that since I was so sick, maybe I’d prefer to stay at home. I considered that for a fraction of a second before deciding that being sick at home with all the kids by myself didn’t sound quite as restorative as being sick alone in a quiet apartment in Paris with a constant influx of excellent pain au chocolat.
Shortly after this conversation, in what must have been a direct answer to prayer, I started feeling better! I actually smiled as I packed my awkward early-maternity wardrobe into the suitcase.
After work on April 8th, we made the long drive up to Scott’s sister’s house in Washington and were welcomed with open arms despite the very late hour.
Their cousins know my kids well: Their very own princess cardboard boxes awaited them to sleep in that night. Mackenzie thought she was in heaven, and Caitlyn was so tired she didn’t question it, she just curled right up in the box and fell asleep. :)
*Gratuitous Scott story: I was exhausted when we arrived and ready to climb into bed, but Scott got right to work unloading kids and luggage. I went to grab a bag myself and turned around to see Scott carrying a suitcase in each hand and wearing no shirt at all. Apparently he saw his teenage nephew wandering around without a shirt on and decided to follow suit to give him a hard time. Just the kind of random thing I love about my husband.
I’ll save the trip journaling for, well, my journal… but I’ll share some highlights here:
Top 13 Moments in Paris, not in order
1. My birthday concert.
On the spur of the moment while waiting in line to see Sainte Chapelle, Scott checked if there were tickets still available to the concert advertised for that evening. He scored primo seats and we were blown away. My dad, Scott, and I sat in the front row (alone) in this intimate setting with a wonderful string quartet and we all cried during the concert. It was so incredible to feel like that venue and that glorious, timeless music was just for us.
The picture makes the chapel look large, but it’s very small compared to any other European cathedral I’ve been in, so the acoustics were nice for the concert. The sun was just setting as the concert began and those gorgeous windows were the perfect backdrop.
Flashback 6 years to the first time we were in Sainte Chapelle, with 1 year old Mackenzie in tow:
2. Our walkabouts at night.
I have a thing for walking around at night with people I enjoy talking to… we can walk and talk for hours and see so much of a city in a unique way. Conveniently, my dad has a thing for searching out light at night and capturing it in photographs.
(We were both holding our breath for that picture. Paris is a little bit of a stinky city, particularly down by the Seine.)
The source of all Scott’s super powers. He gets recharged at the Louvre periodically.
3. Spectating the marathon
I’ve spectated many races in my life, and I’m pretty darn good at it. I realize running the race is probably somewhat more demanding, but quality spectating demands its own kind of discipline. Despite a totally overrun (ha!) city, I found Scott at miles 5 and 19 to hand out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oranges, and high fives. I even caught all 4 runners in our group amongst the tens of thousands of people finishing.
Scott had a much earlier start time and a faster race time so he ran alone (well, alone in a teaming mass of athletes speaking dozens of different languages and crowds of Parisians lining the course.)
My sister-in-law and her sister ran with my dad and their experience was beautifully captured in this video: Paris Marathon 2015. Scott gets a hilarious mention at the end as well as we’re swapping war stories from the race.
I was very proud of Scott’s effort during the race. We learned he prefers smaller races(!) and that we shouldn’t count on electrolytes being provided on the course. He had massive cramps starting at mile 15, which he’d never experienced during training. As a result, he had to alternate massaging, walking, and shuffling the rest of the race. His first half was done at his goal pace, and the second half was slow enough that his final time was just under 4 hours. He pushed through pain and discouragement and was there at the finish line to cheer the others.
I took this picture just after the finish and you can see the pain and the profound relief at being DONE!
4. The times Scott was mistaken as a Parisian
He was stopped on the metro and asked, in French, for directions. Woop!
(I think it was the scarf. Or the shoes.)
(There’s a great story behind that picture but it’ll have to keep.)
Another time, Scott ordered our meal in French and chatted with the waiter a bit and another couple nearby asked us if we live in Paris. Granted, they were from Hong Kong, but I still thought it was cool, considering Scott didn’t speak a drop of French when we started planning this trip.
I am way too unfashionable to be mistaken as Parisian on my own, but I do think the scarf was a step in the right direction. ;)
After all my worrying, that baby belly went with me on all our adventures and very rarely caused any trouble. I had all the energy and appetite I needed to enjoy the trip thoroughly.
5. Seeing Scott confidently converse in French.
He’s definitely not fluent yet, but everywhere we went he jumped in and was able to make himself understood. A surprising number of Parisians don’t speak much English at all, and all seem to prefer speaking in French with Scott. He learned a lot and I was just so tickled to see his discipline in learning a new language pay off.
6. Walkabouts in the mornings
Every one of our five days in Paris, Scott had a food agenda. We’d often head out early and walk around from boulangerie to patisserie, watching the city wake up.
All the best shops are known for certain things they make exceptionally well, and Scott introduced me to some spectacular foods.
In an unexpected turn of events, my very favorite food in Paris was a chocolate merveilleux from Aux Merveilleux. Heavenly.
7. Poo on the shoe
Life wouldn’t be as sweet without the silly, ridiculous, and embarrassing moments, right? So when we managed to score the last two seats at a super-small and renowned crepe cafe near closing time… a place with only 5 or 6 seats in it… and I sat down and smelled dog poop, I knew this was going to be a memorable experience. It was. The end.
(Scott swears he never smelled it and I very discreetly went outside to try and clean it off but… my pregnant sense of smell was on high alert and I was feeling super awkward the entire time while we carried on polite conversations with the other guests at the cafe.)
8. Reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” every chance we got
Scott and I were both engrossed in this book when we left on the trip after listening to the first quarter of it on audio CDs (narrated by the excellent John Lee). We hated to be separated from it so we snagged it for the kindle readers on our phones. In addition to being gripping and fascinating, the novel was originally written in French and set in large part in Paris.
We’d each whip out our phones on the metro or while waiting in line and instantly be transported to Paris several centuries earlier. We stayed out late nearly every night but the story of Edmond Dantes was too compelling to be put off until the morning, so we’d read together until the wee hours of the morning.
Though I’d been to Paris before, Versailles was a first for me and I found it mind-blowingly extravagant. I was actually dazzled by a building right when we got off the metro at Versailles only to feel foolish when I discovered it was a humble hotel.
The palace was 1000x more grand.
Given the above picture, I’ll include here also that the group we travelled with was lots of fun. Scott and I split off and did our own thing a big chunk of the time in Paris but we really couldn’t have picked more easy-going, enjoyable people to travel with.
It’s amazing, really, given the hodgepodge way the group was formed… but we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with every one along. (From the left, it’s Scott, me, my mom, my dad, my brother’s wife’s sister, my brother’s wife’s sister’s husband, my brother’s wife, my cousin, and my cousin’s husband. Crazy. Fun.)
10. The Eiffel Tower
I can’t explain it. I just love it. We could see it from the great apartment we rented and we went and marveled at it at nighttime. Every single time I’d look out the window of the metro and see it, or catch a glimpse of it as we walked around the city, I’d have to pause and gape.
My sister-in-law even brought a specific dress just for my cousin to wear for a photo shoot in front of the tower:
Last time we were in Paris, it was blue (and so were my lips because it was at Christmastime!):
11. Honorable mention goes to the Musee d’Orsay
It’s my favorite museum in Paris and Scott and I had a great time critiquing the artwork this time around. We love guessing each other’s favorites and least favorites in a given room, assigning (sometimes ridiculous) captions to various pieces, and soaking up the ones that speak to us.
We were both amazed by how poorly people seemed to paint and sculpt children during the time periods showcased in the museum. One exception was this sculpture, which I loved:
It allowed for this beautiful contrast in age, rather than portraying babies as miniature adults.
12. Missing my kids – but only a little!
Scott’s fabulous sisters jumped at the chance to take care of our kids for us (angels, no?) and I had zero concerns about their well-being. That’s saying a lot for someone who rarely gets a babysitter and who is with her kids nearly 24/7!
This vacation was in no way an escape from the life I love surrounded by little people, but it was an adventure that simply couldn’t have been had with kids along. It would have been a very different kind of adventure! Still good, but I relished the time alone with Scott and the extra freedom we had to keep the hours we wanted and be more spontaneous.
One day we walked across a “lovers’ bridge” where couples had fastened locks on every available inch.
I knew my kids would get a kick out of that and right away a lock with “Caity and Dan” on it jumped out at me, so I snagged a pic to show Caitlyn and Daniel. I loved that I could be thinking about my kids and eager to share our adventure with them, but still be completely in the moment while they were on the other side of the world. I’m really grateful for that.
13. Cheese security.
When we flew to Iceland on the return trip, several of us inadvertently brought liquids through security without raising any red flags. But Scott was brusquely ushered off to one side. He had packed a bag full of fabulous french cheeses and breads for our lunch at the airport and apparently after passing the bag through the x-ray machine, it required further investigation. He waited patiently while several people in front of him had bags searched as well.
Finally, the security worker undid the tie and looked at Scott questioningly, “Baguette?”
Scott responded in French that it was bread and cheese for lunch for him and his family.
The man nodded approvingly. “C’est bon!” :)
And it was. Yum.