Wednesday, 7 June 2017
This was the day of The Big Bus and the playground.
It seems that the world's iconic cities all have some manifestation of this concept or maybe this company... It appears to me that some sightseeing company figured out that it would be lucrative both for itself and the cities to offer a form of pseudo-public transportation so that tourists could get to the iconic cities' iconic places. (At least, I know they're in Washington, DC.)
Our Paris tours agent lined up a one-day pass for each of us. It's a "hop off, hop on" service, so you pick it up at any of its stops and either take the full tour, or get off and walk around a bit, then get back on to take you to the next place or to your home base.
The three of us picked up our Big Bus at the Opera (the one with a big chandelier and a phantom in it), near our hotel, and off we went.
The tour took us to the Louvre, past several more museums, the Assemble National, Place de la Concorde, the Eiffel Tower (where I snapped this not-so-marvelous photo of a guy mowing the lawn), the Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, les Invalides, and back round again to where we began.
We stayed on for the second loop until we got to (of all places) the Notre Dame Cathedral again. Some friends had tipped us off to a playground that would be around back, and we decided to take advantage of some time that would be specifically gratifying to Gwen.
There was toddler play equipment along the south side of the building, and we felt a bit worried that we had miscalculated. But at the east end, in addition to a sweet garden with a fountain, we did discover some pieces of play equipment suitable for children Gwen's age. In fact, there were some children playing on the equipment when we arrived.
They seemed to be part of an after-school child care program. Their adult monitors sat watchfully nearby - two women with snacks for the children. The young people, none of whom was older than Gwen, climbed on bars, swung on a large disk suspended between two poles, and spun on another disk that was tilted at about a 30-degree angle.
With our encouragement, Gwen climbed aboard the tilted circle, then jumped off to get it spinning when Coco wore out. One rambunctious boy lay for a time spread eagle on the disk so that others had difficulty climbing on. There was a lot of youthful negotiation in French. Eventually one of the monitors told him to go and play on another piece of equipment, so he went off to monopolize the swing.
Meanwhile, Gwen had become acquainted with some of the girls who wanted to have a conversation with her. So, she asked me over to interpret what they were saying. The monitor who had just removed the boy turned to me and said of one girl, "Elle veut savoir si votre fille voudrait etre sa copine." I said to Gwen that the girl was asking whether she would like to be her close friend.
"How do you say, 'Yes'?" Gwen asked.
"You know," I said.
"Oh, right." Then, turning to the girl, she said, "Oui." The two of them smiled.
The monitor said, "Elle s'appelle Amelie."
"Her name is Amelie," I told Gwen.
"Elle s'appelle Gwen," I told Amelie.
The next hour was sublime. Coco and I became introduced to the adult companions (and to some of the children as they came for snacks and drinks), and the children played until it was time to go.
As we walked away ourselves, Gwen said giddily, "Do you think we could come back here, tomorrow?"
"No," Coco replied, "I think we have a pretty full day at Versailles, tomorrow. I doubt we can come back then."
"I think I told Amelie that I would meet her here again, tomorrow. I only know how to say, 'Oui.'"
"That's OK," I said. "They can't expect that you'd certainly be there. We're tourists."
"But I told her I would." Both Coco and I could hear the emotion in her voice, at the thought of making a new friend and not being able to keep her.
"Honey, you'd have had to say goodbye to her eventually. That's what happens when you travel: you meet new people -"
"And then you never see them again?! That's terrible! I don't think I want to travel anymore."
Read all my Sabbatical 2017 postings.