Long before we got word that life would next take us to Cambodia, I got an itch to explore beyond the African continent. Roger was gearing up for another round of long days, nights and weekends at work in order to finish the judgment so I figured if we weren’t going to see him, might as well see some new sights. As I romantically described my aspirations to eat my way through Paris to our upstairs neighbor, who is German, she suggested I go for it because she would be in her hometown of Freiburg, Germany for the whole month of April with her 1 year old daughter and had a small (200 sq ft) but comfortable flat I could stay in with Millie. Didn’t take much convincing after that.
In mid-April Millie and I set off for Germany. We stayed for two weeks with a quick 4 day trip in the middle to Paris to satisfy my gastronomic curiosities. Freiburg was a great place to visit with a 2 year old. It reminded me a lot of Boulder, CO, but with cobblestones. Lots of people cycling and walking, sunny, a long pedestrian mall but with the added bonus of soft-pretzels for sale on every corner. Most days started with breakfast at home, an early departure into town center in search of coffee and the days soft-pretzel ration, a few hours at the AWESOME playgrounds and then for a long walk around town with the cobblestones lulling Millie into a sleep long enough for me to steal away into a store or two to enjoy some European spoils. We would meet up with our friend and neighbor, Melanie, for visits into the Black Forest (Freiburg is the gateway into the Black Forest), sampling of schnitzels and hefeweizens and celebrating the schpagel season (white asparagus, served, no joke, with white boiled potatoes). Sleep, repeat.
In the midst of all that excitement in Germany, we hopped a train for Paris where I had reserved another 200 sq ft flat for us in the tony Marais district. We arrived at the height of tourist season as well as the first vestiges of spring so EVERYONE and their mama’s were out on the streets of Paris making lines at the museums too long for a two year old. It didn’t matter to us. The pulse of Paris was happening on the narrow streets and that’s where we were gonna be! Truth be told, it was overwhelming at the beginning. So many cafes! So many shops! So many pastries! So many cheeses! Where do I start?
Armed with my gastronomic hopes and dreams of Paris as well as a toddler, I would have to make very strategic decisions about where we would dine and indulge. If a cup of coffee is going to cost me $7.50 (I wish I was joking), I couldn’t be trial and error’ing my way around the patisseries and cafes. After a $45 lunch consisting of a delicious, buttery steak and bottle of Evian water for me and plain pasta with chopped up hot dog on it for Millie, I regrouped and attacked the food scene from a different angle. That night we did the most Parisian thing of all – we foraged around our neighborhood for meat, cheese, bread, fruit and snacks.
Then we hauled our treasure up the four story walk-up (yes, four stories, every day, sometimes 2x/day, with a 30lb toddler in one arm…. despite the unavoidable stair workout, the buttery croissants won out on my waistline!) Of all places (Paris!), Millie was in a non-eating mood and didn’t help me one bit to polish off our treasure, save for a couple grapes. We dined on the floor, picnic style, since there was no dining table and I went to sleep with a very content belly.
We hit all the major tourist sites – Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, the Louvre – but didn’t enter any of them due to long lines and expensive entrance fees. My favorite way of experiencing any city, like Paris, is just to walk and look at the people, see what their wearing, how they interact, how they go about their days and get a sense of what makes the place tick. Its probably what drove me into such a voyeuristic major in college – anthropology!
Other than helping me store up fat for the Arusha winter we’d be returning to, it was also a good orientation for Millie to the wild and crazy transition she was about to embark on in the next 3 months. She became a pro at sleeping in the stroller, taking various modes of transport and most importantly, sleeping on long plane rides. Europe was only a morsel of what she was about to experience.
From the month of April until the very first day of July, Millie and I will have had our feet on four different continents in as many months. We start in Europe, return to Africa, pop over to North America and then eventually land in Asia.