Day five already? Really? We have been on the road now for a month. It is an amazing feeling; cut loose from most of the anchors of life with the exception of 'us' (that is; the five of us).
Today we were going to return to the Louvre triumphant, ticket aloft, doors open to welcome us. We even woke up the kids with pain au chocolat early to make them get up and come early. Regardless, we didn't get going until late - 10amish.
Off we went to the Louve via the Metro and entered the Louvre not through the pyramid, but through the underground mall. The Louvre is odd - long lines to buy ticket and to go through security and then almost no one actually checks your ticket. We speculated that perhaps you could just buy and ticket one day and go for the rest of your life. But perhaps the system is just more sophisticated than what is immediately obvious to the eye.
Niccolo had decided very early on that he wanted to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. So, it turns out, did ever other visitor. We found ourselves riding a wave of eager tourists rushing, rushing, rushing to Salle 6 and the mythical ML. We stood in front of her. We looked from angles. We took photos (without a flash of course). And then Niccolo said: 'Why is this the most famous painting in the world?' We shrugged. 'Cause it's beautiful', I said lamely. But I did think that it might be worthwhile writing a kid's book called 'Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world?' and provide at least an explanation of this history. Not that I know it. But perhaps the Mona Google does.
We wandered through the Renaissance with lots of saints (that is, on the walls) and God. We all liked the Archiboldo ones. Then it was off to the Venus de Milo. Niccolo didn't query why this one was famous. The rest of us did. She is rather lovely, but there are other lovely marble limbs about (Myles' joke of the day: 'I did find her rather disarming'). Then we walked through the other halls of antiquity, and finally found ourselves in the Medieval Louvre which turns out not to be art, but the sub basement of the original palace. Dig a little here and you have a ready made museum. Our land lady from Normandy said that standard French real estate contracts includes something about anything found in the ground of any property you own belongs to the French government. No fool them.
The kids were running out of steam. It was incredibly hot and there are only so many dead saints to look at. So to fuel and to post letters back to classmates. We fuelled and then returned to the second floor to look at eighteenth and nineteenth century French paintings. We liked the dogs. There was a great deal of still life with dead animals. There is also a lot of fat, pink babies flying around in blue skies. Altogether, it was making me feel a little ill. It was time to leave. Museums are difficult places we have found.
We returned home. We had all be afflicted by some terrible sleepy disease and found we needed an afternoon nap. Which we had. But more than a nap; I think I might have slept for two hours. I felt fantastic when I woke. If only we could sleep as we needed. We would feel so much better. There is a best seller in that; I can tell you.
It was Treat Friday, so we had to get out and 'have' it. So we left as it began to get dark and set off for the Christmas markets at the Champs Elysees. It was all lit up with acres of little wooden huts full of Christmas cheer in the form of food, drink and stuff. The kids began with spanish donuts. Then, the bit that we all dread. We turned for seconds to look at a stall, turned back and there Niccolo wasn't.
Imagine this: we speak little of the language, we didn't have a working mobile phone, it was dark. The only police we could see were carrying submachine guns. Myles went in one direction; I walked in the other shrilling his name into the night. But Paris and Zelda knew what they were doing. As soon as they realised that this might be serious, Paris just ran full pelt in the direction we had been travelling and found him in a few, long, long seconds. Luckily, he still thinks like an eight year old. Niccolo was crying inconsolably; it was amazing that no one had stopped to help him. I had had my adrenalin rush for the day; I didn't need to go on the ferris wheel. Niccolo held my hand in a vice-like way for the rest of the trip. You can't blame him.
Paris and I bought hats (we both wore them immediately knowing the problems with carrying hats and the occupational hazard of loss). We ate more food, excellent sausages and bread, snowballs, and chocolate. I had some vin chard (mulled wine). Then suddenly, to the strains of Bing Crosby, Santa flew over our heads in his sleigh, calling out to all the little children. My kids were a bit ho hum about the whole sight. Then, Niccolo bought a string of elephants with his tooth fairy money.
After two hours, we got back onto the Metro to go home. We were exhausted yet again. Perhaps we need a rest day. It won't happen for a while.