We are in Paris!!! (I am actually writing this on the eurostar home.) Gabi, who has been obsessed with the Eiffel Tower specifically, and with Paris in general for about a year and a half now, has finally achieved his dream of visiting it, IN REAL LIFE!!! For about a year he was constantly talking about it, drawing pictures of it, zooming in on it on Google Earth and asking to go. Then eventually he stopped asking to go but we would find pictures like this lying around:
(I asked him what the building was next to the tower and he said, “My Hotel”.)
And when nothing happened for a year, he just stopped altogether. Except on the last day of term after we had already, unbeknownst to him, booked the tickets, when he burst into tears and wept all the way to the car, “You promised me a year and a half ago we would go to Paris and we still haven’t been, that means I’m NEVER going to go!!” So he had basically given up on it when we gave him the trip for Christmas in the form of a Paris-themed box of gifts including a miniature Eiffel Tower, a Paris calendar to mark off the days until his trip, passport holder with his new passport in it, and his tickets in a gorgeous little fake-book box with the Eiffel Tower on the front.
Finally, 50 days and a hell of a lot of red pen later …. So, yesterday morning, we woke up at 6:30am and Daddy and Luci dropped us at the tube station to go to King’s X-St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar. Both of them were clearly a bit emotional, Daddy because he wasn’t going to see his Gabi’s face when seeing Paris for the first time and Luci because he wouldn’t get “cuddle with Mummy” at bedtime. Luci cried all the way to nursery 😦 But we knew nothing of that, we were off to Paris!
When I originally booked the tickets I did something so stupid; I booked for the wrong week by mistake and had to call in an embarrassed flap saying, “I thought it was half-term, it’s not! Please can we move the booking to real half-term!” And it was lucky I did, because the lady on the phone was so chatty and nice and upon learning about one 5 yr old Asperger boy’s dream trip, made sure we had not only the right time and day of the freaking week but also two forward-facing table seats right next to the buffet car on both legs of the journey.
Consequently, Gabs was an angel for the whole 2 hrs 50 mins, reading, drawing and playing on his Samsung tablet (what the hell would we do without that thing, eh?), being cute and funny and impressing the man opposite with his bizarrely adult vocabulary and amazing knowledge of chemistry (the plus side of Aspergers).
Unfortunately, 2 hrs 50 minutes turns out to be exactly his limit, because the second we hit the ground at Paris Gare du Nord, he immediately turned into a noisy, stimming, fidgeting, flapping nightmare, just as I was trying to figure out le metro map (the other side of Aspergers). After managing to narrowly avert a falling on the tracks disaster by grabbing his hood, we made it on three metro trains from Gare du Nord to Bir-Hakeim without incident and without drawing any more attention to ourselves than Santa Claus might at a BBQ pool party.
We got a thrill when we were trundling along in the metro and suddenly, through the window, this appeared:
and then, just a few steps around the corner from the station, we saw our hotel… RIGHT next to the Eiffel Tower! Gabs was beside himself when he saw how huge it looked from our balcony!
He loved the novelty of a hotel room and wanted to stay, but we were starving (3:30 Paris time, 2:30 GMT) and had to go out for lunch. More highly AS behaviour followed, I struggled with him knocking things over, repeatedly over-loud voice-level and him being over-emotional and misunderstanding and misinterpreting everything I was saying and crying loudly, basically being impossible to keep calm or still in his seat. I felt like I was having a heartattack from all the stress and teeth-gritting, so after a quick trip round the corner to check out the tower, it was a relief to get him back to the hotel for a nap while I took a shower.
I let him watch TV for a bit until it got dark, as we wanted to catch the lift to the top of the Eiffel Tower after dark to see the lights of Paris! So we queued ‘at dusk’ – I’ve always wanted to use that in a sentence! – in time to see the lights come on. The queue for tickets was all right but it takes forever to get everyone in to the lifts and up to the very top of the tower. People are so very un-British here; when they queue they stand so bollocking close to each other I could probably have lifted both feet off the ground without falling over. It was OK for me, because it kept us all warm in the bitter winds whipping around us, but poor Gabs permanantly had his face in someone’s arse and no amount of me elbowing people made them stop. It made me cross and I was surprised he didn’t have a sensory-overload panic attack but he was just amazing. It helped that I’d dangled the carrot of a large Eiffel-Tower lolly as a prize for getting to the top.
It was painfully, harshly cold at the top because a stinging wind whips around you and you are just so high up with no protection from the elements, but Paris is Oh So Beautiful at night!! I have been up once before and I don’t remember being so impressed. Maybe the company of a little boy who was loving it helped. Gabs was for once quite quiet which means he was taking it all in but you can tell from his face he was a very happy little boy indeed. Dream fulfilled.
My Gabi ❤
We phoned Daddy to say, “We love you!” from the top, and looked at the view all the way round and then Gabs was very firm that he had had enough and was frozen and wanted to go back down. It took even longer to queue to get down and by the time we reached the bottom we were both exhausted and freezing, but somehow elated and hyper from the blissful feeling of a dream having been realised.
Then, just as we thought we were tired enough to be over the whole thing, this happened…
We walked a long way up and down Rue de Saffren trying to suss out the right place to eat because we had been a bit disappointed at lunch time and wanted ambience and proper French food. I also had three top requirements: champagne for me, steak for me and crêpes for Gabs. I found all those things at a great brasserie restaurant called ‘Saffren’ where all the nicest people seemed to congregate. The smiliest waiter in Paris looked after us and made jokes, a gorgeous Spanish couple loved Gabs and ruffled his hair and the energy in the place was golden.
At 10pm French time, I woke Gabs up to walk home and he started to say he felt homesick, because “at home there are lots of birch trees, and here are spruce trees and birch trees are so nice and spruces not so nice.” So after two minutes to appreciate how very lucky we were to have this view from the hotel (thank you Daddy for pulling out all the stops), we snuggled into bed the very best kind of tired after maybe the most magical day in the life of my boy.
Thank You, Paris! ❤