We are leaving for a month to get perspective. To think and sleep. This is not a typical vacation, no. Just like James Baldwin told a half a century ago, we need leave to understand ourselves and our own culture better.
So, when people ask me about our itinerary, I start getting itchy. I want my kids to see "everything" and we should travel out of the city and maybe pop over to London too, right? I mean, we are weird homeschoolers who can turn a trip to the dentist or watch repair shop into a full blown field trip. We are good at extracting any learning opportunity around.
But sometimes we know better.
Which is why we do Paris, or any place we travel, a bit differently.
We will certainly see some big sites and museums, but probably much like we do when we are home, during off hours and only as long as it holds our interest.
The emphasis will be on what we want to do, not what we should do.
So, our itinerary looks like this:
We are going to the oldest pastel making atelier to buy art supplies from the same family that Degas and Cassatt used.
My daughter and I will window shop and buy nail polish to give each other manicures.
We are going to the bird and flower market for my son.
We are having a birthday picnic for another son under the Eiffel Tower.
I am loading up on European office supplies and my husband will bring back as much food as he can. We are the type of people who bring back flour, salt and pistachios.
We will eat Lauderee macaroons on Pont des Arts. The kids have already picked their flavors.
We will see what is left of the stuffed animals at Deyrolle.
We will spend a lot of time food shopping and park walking. Puppet shows, organ concerts, street musicians, and people watching will be our entertainment.
My husband and I will alternate mornings to ourselves. Solo wanderings, cafe sitting and writing will be a balm for our very, very tired souls.
My kids are learning about a handful of important French historical moments. We have read about Joan d'Arc, Monet, Jacques Cousteau, and the French Revolution. If they come back with real connection to any of these characters (or someone altogether different), the trip will be a success.
It would be so easy to suck the excitement of discovery out of this trip for them (and us). By filling every day with an activity and expectation, we sell the experience short and miss out on the real life changing stuff. Instead of seeing a wide swath of the surface of Paris, I want them to know a handful of locales/flavors/experiences deeply. And being that we a family of 5, if we all have a few things to investigate the sum will be wide enough.
I see travel as a way to open up and reconsider the things we think we know so well. Our own culture, our ways, and our selves. The exploration and the process of seeing with new eyes is the golden nugget, not clicking off sites and memorizing shallow facts.
More than seeing the Mona Lisa, they need to know the way the chestnut leaves flutter in early spring, so light and delicate as if they were made of silk.
We need to enter fromageries and have our breath taken away. By both odor and variety.
I want my kids to turn a corner in the urine-soaked metro only to be moved to tears by an orchestra playing Pacabel or a gyspy kid playing the accordion.
And I want us all to experience something so new and unexpected we did not even know we were looking for it.
So, for the next month or so, most regularly planned broadcasting in this space will be disrupted. I will post from Paris, some images and few thoughts.
If you too are a francofile, and would like to receive some mail from me, I am offering a subscription letter service. I will be writing a dispatch from Paris each week. The letters will include stories, tips, observations, recipes and little bits of ephemera. It is a new project for me, and I am really looking forward to it! You can read more and sign up here.
And please feel free to send me any tips or blog posts that you think would be useful.