I’m happy to say that we went the whole week without turning on our cell data. Yes, perhaps one reason is that I was being “financially conservative”and couldn’t bear the thought of adding an international data plan to our phone bill.
But really, I also think vacations are a perfect time to take a mini phone holiday. Do I need to check Facebook while I’m in line for the Louvre? Or Instagram as we wait for our omelets? Not really. And while functional cellphones would have been mighty useful to reconnect each day, I reminded Mom that surely she had somehow been finding Dad for their 30ish years together before cellphones.
So when Dad wanted to see medieval art at the Cluny and Mom and I wanted to see the prison where Marie Antoinette had spent her final days, we picked a time and place to meet up afterwards. The old-fashioned way. We met at the Sainte-Chapelle, a medieval, royal chapel with beautiful stained glass windows.Though I knew Dad would be there, it was still exciting to scan the tourist crowds and “find him.” Afterwards, we headed to this cafe for lunch where we had quite the Airplane moment with the waitress due to the language barrier. Mom: “What is the entrée?” Waitress: “An entrée is a little dish before the big dish.” Eventually we got everything sorted, and enjoyed our lunch on a rainy afternoon. (I can’t remember who Dad was imitating here, but as we’ll see he’s never shy to employ many hand gestures.)As it was our last day to use the all-access museum pass, Dad headed straight to the Louvre and Mom kindly helped me find the store Sezane. We planned to meet at an ancient greek statue on an elegant staircase of the Louvre. After too many wrong turns, we ended up forty minutes late to the statue. Here, cell phones would’ve come in handy. Instead, we had to put ourselves in Dad’s mind.
Mom thought he would say something along the lines of, “If you’ve made it that far, go find the store … I want you guys to be happy … I’m content to study this statue and people watch.” And I thought he’d be thinking, “Oh no, they’ve been kidnapped! No wait, maybe run over by a Vespa? Surely robbed at the very least.” Turns out, we were both kind of right. He had figured Mom had slipped and broke a bone, but he was not upset at all that he was left waiting. What a guy. When we finally arrived at the statue, he was gone, so we headed to another wing we guessed he’d be at. We walked around and around and couldn’t find him, but just as we were exiting we ran into him in a doorway! It was a vacation miracle! We should really abandon phones altogether because the thrill of finding someone on your own is so, so great. After losing him a final time because he refused to get on the elevator, we “found” him again and headed to the Mona Lisa. Despite making fun of tourists and their silly selfie sticks, we promptly took our own selfie with Mona.
Now we come to my collection of “Dad pointing at art” photos. Which are, mind you, completely organic. He was never posing, he just really, really likes history and art and was a kid in a candy shop as he pointed things out to me. It was honestly more fun to look at him look at the art, than to look at the art itself.
While I know the Louvre is not relaxing during peak season — especially near the Mona Lisa — due to all the tourists, on a chilly February night, an hour before closing, the place was quiet and peaceful.
We had whole benches to ourselves to relax with unobstructed views. This late in the day, Mom decided all her favorite pieces were those located across from a chair.
At 9 p.m. they herded us out of the Louvre and our museum visiting responsibility had come to an end. We had the weekend to relax, shop and eat.
On Saturday, we boarded the bus for the most-visited cemetery in the world, Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Thankfully, we had the place mostly to ourselves as it was grey and drizzly.
The temperature seemed to drop ten degrees the second we entered the gates. But we trudged along finding the tombs of the more famous residents, with the help of Rick Steves. Visitors leave kisses at the grave of Oscar Wilde. And Jim Morrison’s grave is so popular it’s blocked off by barriers. Later, Dad commented that he felt like he was most “in Paris” while wandering around the cemetery.
Mom’s somber-cemetery-walking-face. And her happy-cemetery-walking-face. Dad only has one cemetery-walking-face. There’s not all that much to read or do exactly in a cemetery so as we walked we mostly asked Dad questions and marveled that all those facts stay in his head. “Who was the King of France in 1742? … Really? Ok I’ll trust you on that one … Well then who was the King of England in that year? … How do you remember that?!” Apparently, when something is as interesting as that it’s no effort to remember. This is embarrassing, but we somehow went to McDonald’s three times in Paris. The Parisians must’ve thought we looked so sad, as though we Americans can’t go a week without a McDonald’s fix. Though in reality, I never go in America. After mass at Notre Dame on Sunday, we strolled around a little aimlessly. We weren’t even bothered by the drizzle, because: duck-handle umbrellas. We picked up little treats along the way, and popped into little stores. This trip showed us that Paris deserves a visit no matter the season. I will surely be back some day in the summer, but a February week offers so many perks; cheaper flights and hotels and fewer tourists to name a few. Even under cloudy skies, the unique charm of Paris shines through.