These past few days, I've been away from my computer, on a very special mother-daughter trip. I took Ayla to Paris!
This was to continue a little tradition I started with Baz... when he was 6 years old, I took him on a trip to Germany. This was back in the days before we were on tour, and I was desperate for some travel, and to visit old friends. Once we started with Cirque, I had no idea how I could replicate something like this with Ayla. But this 3-day trip was the perfect opportunity. It required some babysitters, some funding, and a lot of cooperation from Dad, and we were able to have a wonderful adventure together.
I have to confess that it did not begin auspiciously. Sitting on the train at St Pancras station in London, Ayla bit into an apple and one of her wiggly teeth came out. There was blood. I calmly gave Ayla tissues, wrapped up the tooth for her, and then lay down across her lap and fainted.
(for those of you who don't know me that well, this is not that uncommon of an occurrence for me. But I've only fainted three or four times since having kids, and I keep hoping it won't happen again).
My little girl seemed remarkably unfazed by this turn of events. I was able to rouse myself, and over the course of the two hour trip, slowly pull myself back together. By the time we got to Paris I was ready to start fresh. We checked into our woefully-low-budget hotel (paper-thin walls. barely-working fixtures. on the 7th floor, elevator broken).
...we immediately hit the town. Day 1 was Notre Dame & Ile-de-la-Cite, cafe-sitting, and the Quartier Latin, where we shopped for used books and had dinner and a movie.
Day 2 was jam-packed... Eiffel Tower, Les Halles, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees, Seine boat ride. Unluckily, we could only go up to level 2 at the Eiffel Tower - top closed for renovations! But we did have the delightful surprise of a free ice-skating rink, mid-way up. So of course we skated. How many people can say they've ice-skated on the Eiffel Tower?
We also gave a very thorough going-over to the Louvre. We went to all the biggest must-sees (Mona Lisa. Venus de Milo. Mummies) and tramped up and down the stairs of this gigantic place for hours. One of our favorite galleries was this hidden out-of-the-way place called the Tactile Gallery. Apparently designed for the blind, it is the only place in the museum where you are allowed to touch things. After a long day of admiring from a distance, Ayla and I both loved the chance to use our hands to explore these marble sculptures - all of which were also helpfully themed around children.
Day 3 of our trip was spent entirely at Versailles. I wasn't wrong when I predicted that Ayla would love this place, and even though it rained all day, we still managed to walk around the gardens and over to Marie Antoinette's estate. The photo is a cart that Marie Antoinette gave to one of her children as a toy. It was pulled by a goat!
Ayla is a really easygoing travel companion - enthusiastic to do just about everything, but not horribly crushed when not everything goes to plan (as proven numerous times on our trip). It helped that we stopped frequently for French delectables... fresh bread, pain au chocolat, chocolate mousse, crepes. She was also proud to keep practicing her French, and though she was too shy to speak to strangers, she and I chatted away in French a lot throughout the trip, and every spare moment on the Metro we read French kids books together.
We were both utterly exhausted by Tuesday night. We managed to miss our train home due to confusion about Eurostar, but caught one an hour later, stumbling in the door at 11:30pm. We are still recovering, but Ayla is enjoying her souvenirs and her stories and pictures of the trip.
I think what makes these kind of journeys so special, at least in our three-kid-household, is that it's a time for the child to have my full, undivided attention. I spent more time in these three days really listening to Ayla's thoughts, and letting her make the decisions about where we would go and what we would do, than ever before. I marveled at her littleness and her bigness. It has certainly made us feel closer. There are not many years left to enjoy her as a child, and I am so glad we took this time together.