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We'll Always Have Paris

It's bad manners to keep a vacation waiting, so off we stumbled at 3 am hauling bags of clothes we'd never wear, and games we'd never play into the lawlessness that we call the airport. I saw lawless because social rules, graces, and etiquette don't apply beyond those airport doors—and I'm not even referring to TSA. You'll see tired, disheveled people drinking beer at 7 in the morning; poor souls sleeping on their luggage in corners and under chairs; and if you've ever been hungry in an airport you know how far that lawlessness can stretch when you see the prices on a bag of chips!

We finally arrived in Paris. All in all it was a good flight. We didn't get hi-jacked. We didn't crash. We didn't throw up (too many times). And we weren't sandwiched in the middle seat between strangers—making it a pretty decent flight.

Looking as disheveled as our passport photos, we stood in line at the baggage carousel. How is it that the first piece to come out never seems to belong to anyone? Finally our luggage arrived, and we were officially on vacation!

They say you don't go to Paris for the weather. And they were definitely right. It was single digits and snowing. Which is beautiful—in long johns, insulated coveralls, and Muck boots. It didn't take us very long to buy souvenirs—in the form of thicker scarves, warmer hats and fuzzier mittens—and then we were off to see the sights.

My husband and I had been there in 2007 BC (before children), and we were excited to have the kids along

this time. We purchased Metro tickets, and headed off

to see the Eiffel tower. The sheer size of it, massive yet delicate was impressive. “Lacy steel,” the kids called it. But I sure hoped it was more steel than lace as we stepped into the elevator to go all the way to the high-

est toilet in France. I'm terrified of heights, and I could feel sweat starting to roll down my back even in the sub-zero temperatures. We had dinner in the tower's 2nd plat- form in '07. That was as high as I cared to have gone. But that didn't satisfy the kids. They wanted to go all the way to the top. I closed my eyes as the elevator wobbled on its way up to the summit of 906 feet. The wind was bitter cold, and I tried not to think of how many inches we were moving. Thankfully there was a “cage” all around the platform, and it was actually fun to walk around and see the apartment that Gustave Eiffel had built himself. What thoughts he must have had looking out at that view.

We went to Notre Dame, took the kids to the Arc de Triomphe and walked up its 284 stairs to get yet another stunning view of Paris. We went to the Palace of Versailles, and walking through its famous Hall of Mirrors was every bit as amazing as I'd imagined. Every day was like waking up and walking through another chapter of a history book—without the boring parts. We did skip the Louvre though. That was my husband's least favorite part of Paris before. He said he didn't know what was worse, looking at the backs of people's heads trying to see the Mona Lisa? Or actually seeing it. There wasn't a tractor painting in the whole museum. If we wanted to go, we were more than welcome. But he'd find something fun to do instead—like seek out the tractors at the farmer's protest.

But my favorite day in Paris was the one we toured the Catacombs. Ever since I was a little girl, my imagination has been morbidly captured by their stories. The labyrinth of these tunnels is thought to cover nearly 200 miles with less than 1% being open to the public. We bought our tickets, and started down the tiny, twisting staircase of 131 uneven steps then through long narrow, dimly lit tunnels until we got to two big stone entry ways that were painted black and read (in French) 'Beyond these doors lies the empire of the dead.' It

was very somber walking through the bones of what they estimate is 6 million people. Rich or poor, young or old—in death the catacombs don't discriminate—they are just bones. That night, I was glancing over the shoulder of my youngest as he wrote in his journal. “Today, we toured the Catacombs. It was real skeery.” And in a way he was right, although I would have used the word troubling. Life really is so fleeting—and death so long.

At the end of the week as we were packing and reminiscing our favorite places, it was pretty evident that no matter what we had done, Audrey Hepburn was right, “Paris is always a good idea.”

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