Just as they have done for the past 16 years, the “children” woke at 0500 to see what Santa had brought.
We have my (truly) lovely MIL to thank for this; she instigated this “tradition” when Jack was 5 and it has endured. The children know not to wake either of us until after the coffee has brewed, so right on cue at 0520 came the, “tap tap” and “Merry Christmas” on our bedroom door. This year we also asked the children to pop the Picards Pain au Chocolat into the oven, so with warm chocolate rolls and hot coffee we gathered around the tiny Tannenbaum to open the gifts Santa had delivered. More accurately, to open photos of the presents that Santa had delivered to Vienna and to D.C., knowing that Air France has baggage weight limits and all.
With a protein boost from remnants of the previous evening’s charcuterie, it was time to make our way to the Eiffel Tower. But first, a stop at Pont Bir-Hakeim, featured in the movies Inception and National Treasure. Points only for Jack; Tony drew a blank and Anna Grace hadn’t seen the movies.
The Bir-Hakeim station. Looks like Chicago’s “L.”
The blue skies and sunshine on this morning also made for iconic snaps from the bridge, evident by the wedding parties (real?) and selfie-sticks waving about.
Past the keychain vendors and security perimeter we wove, surprised at the lack of crowds. Had the earlier protests kept visitors away, we wondered? With no delay we boarded the lift to the second level and had the viewing terrace nearly to ourselves. The next few lifts brought more people, but still the visitor count seemed low to us. Jack and Anna Grace, in the spirit of the game, both correctly guessed National Lampoon’s Vacation as the Eiffel Tower scene; and were rather relieved to know that name-embroidered berets had not been purchased for each of us.
On the way down, a stop to refresh our memories in the Eiffel Tower museum, then out past the keychain hawkers we strolled toward one more movie scene (the one I was most excited about) and what became our favorite restaurant meal of the holiday.
At 81 Rue de l’Université sits an unremarkable white apartment building, and not the grand balconied structure from the film, Julie and Julia that I had been expecting. Thinking I had perhaps noted the address incorrectly I looked it up again. Yep, this was Julia Child’s Paris home.
The beautiful balcony scenes were probably set in the interior courtyard, into which I did not trespass. Still, I was thrilled to have finally dropped by. I was the only point-winner in the movie scene game in this round, naturally.
A few blocks away I thought I would impress the history buffs in the family by walking us past the building where the original Brexit Treaty of Paris had been signed in 1783, 58 Rue Jacob. Ha! The commemorative plaque has been removed, leaving just the impression marks on the building façade. But the family was still impressed.
A sign on a nearby building made us laugh.
Lunch. A cozy reserved booth at Les Antiquaires awaited us, and we settled in to this bustling bistro awash with locals (eating cheeseburgers) and a few of us tourists, and with every one of the dozen or so tables filled.
Those at our table slow with the snail-tongs were offered more terrine as a delicious consolation prize, though, in the spirit of holiday giving. And then the plats, Duck Breast with Balsamic and Honey; Steak with Bernaise; Saffron Risotto with Prawns; and Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb. We blissfully lingered over lunch for nearly two hours.
One more movie scene awaited us, and we walked off all of those delicious calories en route to Place de la Concorde and the fountains, where Andy from The Devil Wears Prada dumps her cellphone after becoming disillusioned with the direction her life has taken. Anna Grace scored the point here. The boys cried, “Foul” over a chick-flick they’d not seen, until they were reminded of their Inception win. In between, lots of sunshin-y snaps of Paris.
The afternoon waning, the winning suggestion was to pause for a coffee. At a café somewhere near our flat we sat beneath the warming heat lamps and equally warming beverages, recounting the day and otherwise enjoying family time. Back in the flat, a change into loungwear to watch a movie before dinner.
Then. The Head Cold from Hell infused me like Voldemort’s spirit. In full clothing, my down parka and wool slippers I sat wrapped in a blanket next to the radiator that Tony turned to full bore. And there I remained for three hours, watching It’s a Wonderful Life from across the living room and giving directions to Tony and family on how to steam the lobster-like langoustines and bake the pretty Christmas tree-shaped potatoes; and how to whisk a French vinaigrette for the beautiful salad greens. I joined the family at the table for dinner but Could. Not. Eat. One. Bite. Jack volunteered as tribute and ate my langoustine while I sipped tea, thoughtful son that he is.
Not how I would have plated dinner, though I am happy the family thought to take a photo.
One more day remained on this holiday. Would I be joining the family fun?