Friday, July 20, 2012

Table Talk

The most challenging thing about traveling with the boys was that their idea of dining was a bit different than ours.   Paul is a picky eater and Bryan is quite adventurous, but neither of them was into the adult version of a French meal --the slow, languid process of dining.  They were used to eating quickly and moving on with life, while we wanted to make eating a significant part of our vacation in France.

Balance was, of course, part of the solution to this problem.  As adults, we often relinquished our idea of a wonderful leisurely dining experience in favor of a more child-centered evening.  Other times we encouraged the boys to eat a quick meal and then spend their evening with their iPods/iPads while we indulged in a memorable adult centered meal.

But the other part of the solution was to help the boys to see dining as a social experience,  a time when  we all talked together.  It was sometimes a bit of work to get a conversation going, but it was well worth it.    While I occasionally wished I had more time with just Ben, I really loved our "family" meals together.  Hearing the interesting and funny things the boys shared with us and watching Ben interact with them was a real treat for me.

As our trip drew to a close, for instance, one of our table topics was "What are some things to remember?"   Many of the answers were predictable: seeing the Eiffel Tower from so many different sites in Paris;  the great bread; the sewer tour.   But here are some of the less predictable ones:

Paul running his trikke into the back of our tour guide, Martin, during our trikke tour. (Martin sure was nice about it!)

How we almost missed the boat for our champagne cruise on the Seine.  

The friendly waiter at our first meal in Paris.  His name was Lionel and he liked the boys since he had a son about their age. He just barely spoke English and we just barely spoke French, but no matter, we still communicated.  We liked him so much that we bought a very expensive bottle of wine from him and tipped him very well, even though you don't generally tip waiters in France.  

Bathroom matters:  Unisex bathrooms, toilets without toilet paper, squat toilets, all the different ways to flush a toilet; seeing men "doing their business" by the side of the road and having cars honk at us the few times we were desperate enough to do the same thing.

Ben willingly giving up his seat on the place to a father who really wanted to sit with his young family and had somehow been seated away from them.  (Not only nice of Ben, but smart; otherwise he'd have had a little girl's head in his lap the whole flight!) 

Men and women all wearing fashionable scarves, women wearing boots in the middle of the summer, and Mary trying mostly unsuccessfully to take picture of this.  

Ice cream, especially Chocolate Liegeois, a delectable dessert made of chocolate and vanilla ice creams, chocolate sauce, and lots and lots of freshly whipped cream.

The unfriendly waiter who told Ben "It will take you three hours to eat all that" when Ben tried to order three courses.  (I still don't get this; wasn't he there to sell Ben food? Maybe it was a language barrier thing.)

When Bryan skipped a rock so far across the Gardon River that it almost hit a man on the other side,who shouted out a protest that we all understood; no language barrier there. 

The nude man climbing on the rocks and swimming at the Pont du Gard. 

The big casement windows that are kept open without screens,
 making you feel so close to the outside. 
 The sidewalk cafes; ditto.

How, when we asked for the WiFi code in a very nice restaurant, our young and hip waiter looked at us incredulously, laughed, and said "no!"  

The hotel manager who looked like Aunt Jan.   

Our tour guide's wild afro-styled hair, such a contrast to his deep knowledge of prehistoric and medieval life.

When Bryan got locked in the gas station bathroom.

We're back home now.  We're adjusting to the time change, finding things we thought we had lost as we unpack, and getting all the Euros out of our wallets.  

I always love to come home after being away, but I know I'll miss the closeness our little traveling team shared on this big adventure. 

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