As you may know, last year we spent an amazing month in Barcelona and loved it and I am now a religious home exchanger! There are really only three ways I will ever travel again ...
a. home exchange (the obvious)
b. on points of any kind - airfare, hotel, coffee card (whatever it takes)
c. camping (I will get back to this one again, but if you read my post about our trip to St. John this January, you know why. Well, the St. John experience is now enhanced and reconfirmed by our amazing, no, AMAZING week at Huttopia in the Loire Valley, which I will review here later.)
This year, we found a nice French family with three boys, who live at 15 arr. (I am not going to spell this out) in Paris. All was agreed on Skype soon after our first contact. The general rule of the thumb is, that if you find some elements of your apartment in theirs on the photos, you will most likely be comfortable at your adopted place.
We exchanged keys at a hotel upon our arrival and here we are!
It's exciting to walk into somebody else's world and imagine and experience what it must be like to live here, to be a Parisian. To run across the street in the morning for a fresh baguette or a croissant, to sit at the corner bistro on one of those charming chairs by a tiny table watching the world go by or to type away on your computer by a desk with a clear view of the open glass doors of the ornate facade of the building across the street and its inhabitants. The young guy in shorts, who is constantly on the phone, the chubby lady in a dress who takes a cigarette break once an hour or the family that hopelessly tries to get their young child away from the open balcony door.
Argh Paris ...
A week and a few days in France and we are all fluent in "Merci", "Bonjour" and "Au revoire".
We walk self-assured, map-less, Lola skipping, London making the sidewalk pillars an obstacle course, camera hiding (mostly) in my large satchel (notice the choice of words here), I-phone ready for a quick photo ... Oh my! We could be easily mistaken for Parisians ... Well, not quite! We need a fashion upgrade! Badly! Ok, so we didn't come for the Dior fashion show that just happened today and J-Lo was there (don't ask me how I know all this and nothing about world news!) but we are far from locally looking. Stretched out jeans and t-shirts (at least no sneakers) ... Is it just me, or the stereotype, or our general, collective lack of fashion esteem that makes us feel somehow less put together, less sophisticated (I mean that girl today with a black hat and style made me want to run back home, paint my nails, get a massage, splatter some Dior 5 all over my body and wear stilettos .. or at least my shiny self-made sequins Dolce fake pumps or something that would put us on the map as a non-tourist type ... I was jealous)
Something stunk in our apartment ... After LoLo tested all the toys, took over a castle in a battle over a princess, built a car track looping four times in the air and managed to find a box of marbles that were now a hazard to life all across the three rooms, we opened the fridge.
Lola, opened the fridge and shining eyes and bushy tailed she whispered in my ear: "Mommy! There is pudding in there!" (Side note: we never buy pudding! .. This poor, pudding deprived child knew that the opportunity was here ... ). Then she closed the door, upon which an odor that would make a skunk seem a desirable perfume of choice took over the entire apartment.
"Was it you?"
We pointed at each other in disbelief at what our noses were experiencing.
"It must be from outside" .. I concluded, until the next time we opened the fridge and started a search of all shelfs, nooks and crannies of the fridge. Our 10 minutes search in t-shirts pulled over our noses (bank robber style) produced no rotten food of any kind or body pieces (as we started to suspect).
It was unbearable! We made cross wind throughout the apartment and proceeded to open the fridge only with extra caution and solely in necessary, unavoidable situations ( f.e. when Lola wanted another pudding).
Until we found it! It sat on the middle shelf, wrapped in perfect crispy paper, in a perfect clean box with some fancy french wording ... It wasn't old, it wasn't bad, though it was definitely dead, it was the cheese the family left us as a gift. I caution you, we are HUGE cheese lovers, we've had smelly cheese, we've tasted a few that made us not breath for a few second taking a chance at fainting or even dying from the lack of oxygen, but never, and I mean NEVER have we smelled anything so atrocious, stomach turning, skunklicious in our lives!
Geoffrey placed it in a plastic bag, tied it carefully and took it to the garbage downstairs.
.. and it still smells!!!
.. Oh ooohh ... but I wanted to tell you all about our first day of adventure in Paris ...
We went to the Citroen Park and took a balloon up in the sky. We learnt that advance tickets are sold out for the entire month for the Eiffel Tower and that lines can be long and quite unbearable, especially with children, who are not so much amused mostly by the height or the construction of the building, so we won't see the tower once again but at least we got to see the city from high up ...
Always a reason to come back!