Coco & Gabs in Paris! … Day Two

The Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel is a very business-class, modern style hotel so not for you if you’re looking for boutiquey Parisian romance, but it was perfect for us for it’s amazing proximity to it’s namesake landmark. It was a little run down in some places, (like if you looked up to the balcony above – but why would you?!) but Gabs loved it and I have to say this: The bed was AMAZING! I had an unbelievably good night’s sleep and only struggled to get out of it the next day because we had overdone it the day before. I really wanted to make the most of every minute before our train back to London for Gabi’s sake, so had set my alarm for 07:30 (06:30 GMT) so we could go out early. Ha! Fat chance. And although Gabs got himself up at 8am and, unbelievably for him, dressed himself! I quickly realised I wasn’t the only one who was feeling it, as you can see from his face! …

 I was going to take the boy out to a café for croissants and chocolate milk but he had got the idea stuck in his head that he had to have breakfast in the hotel, so down we went and it was actually really great. He stuffed himself with mini-pain au chocolats until he couldn’t move and I had sausage and scrambled eggs, a bucket of cappuccino and a lot of very good, freshly-squeezed orange juice. Like that helps you climb 704 steps…

When weIMG_0179 first looked out on our balcony, the top of the tower was completely shrouded in fog! It had never occurred to me that could happen and we were both delighted with how creepy cool it looked, though it had mostly cleared by the time we got there.

Having done the trip to the top by lift in the night time, our plan (devised by Gabs) was to take the stairs to levels one and two in the daylight. First, we walked round the park to get a really good view of the whole thing and I was so happy to see Gabs just as excited about it as the day before and talking all the time about how amazing it was. Then we climbed the 704 steps to the second floor, which for a little boy with hyper-mobility issues who usually whinges about pains in his legs when walking, he scampered up remarkably quickly! There is a staggering amount of steel inside the tower and Gabi was fascinated by the fact that it all comes from Romania (where his Daddy’s from) and pondered how they got it all over here without the ship sinking…

The view of Paris was a little foggy and Gabs wasn’t that bothered by it anyway, he loved being inside the stairwell the best so we went down to the first floor which is all redone since I was there last. Gabs was really disappointed the ice-rink is only there at Christmas time as he liked the sound of trying it out, but 30 seconds later he was distracted by the gift shop where we got gifts for Daddy and Luci. The great thing about the new first floor is the transparent floor, which made me dizzy but didn’t bother Gabs at all who was just fascinated by seeing people like ants on the ground below. Apparently it was even scarier when they first put in completely clear glass and people were getting freaked out by vertigo so now they have tiny little dots in it so you can kind of tell you’re standing on something.

Skipping back down the steps Gabi saw two young, friendly-faced Japanese boys, maybe 20-25 yrs old, one of whom wore a bright-red jumper. Don’t know what possessed him but he stared the guy straight in the face and said in a loud voice, “Hel-lo, ‘Mr Tomato’!” The guys looked taken aback but laughed and then a few steps later, still in their ear-shot, Gabi noticing the “600 steps” mark on the steel cries out, “600 steps to go??! NO! That is just an INSULT!!!” I tried not to laugh and said that if anything is was an insult it was probably the “Mr. Tomato” comment. If you like travelling incognito and doing your sightseeing without attracting too much attention, Gabi’s probably not the person to go with…

So Gabi said his goodbyes to the tower and we pootled off down the very pretty Avenue de Suffren back to our new favourite place where we’d had dinner the night before. The same smiley waiter greeted us and I was really proud of Gabs who is – mystifyingly for a half-Romanian – massively resistant to speaking any foreign languages at all, for managing to say, “Je voudrais un chocolat chaud s’il-vous-plait” (and it was one bad-ass Parisian hot chocolate the like of which I never tasted in my life) before falling asleep – again! – under my coat, to the bemusement of our waiter who remembered us from the night before. At lunch time ‘Saffren’ is full of well-dressed native Parisiens and business people sharing a bottle of wine (why am I only person holding up my end of that convention in London?!) over giant platters of glazed spare-ribs, lobster-and-oysters or steak frites. It was nice to be surrounded by natively-spoken French and you know you’ve found a good-‘en when the locals eat there.

While Gabs slept and I had coffee and crème brûlée, the waiter came over to chat and tell me about his son who is studying at a university in London. It was clear that he missed and was proud of him, and it seemed to me that he felt, through talking with us just before we went for our train he was making some sort of energetic contact with his son, through us. Such a look of fatherly love mixed with sadness in his eyes, like he wished with everything he had he could jump on that train in our place. We will go back and find him next time we are back in Paris.

Meanwhile, Gabs played Atlas with his mini Eiffel Tower in the lobby while I charged my phone and then it was time to say goodbye for the last time to his beloved steel monument (even I got a bit emotional, his obsession has rubbed off on me and after so many hours spent with that bloody tower, I started to think of it as a person – what the hell?!). Then a tired boy rode the metro back to Gare du Nord and was, again an angel all the way home. The journey home was as beautiful as the rest, with this sunset appearing as we travelled through the French countryside to the tunnel, and Gabs was good enough that I could sneak off the buffet car for a last glass of bubbles…

At this point, before we make our return to London and real life, I have a confession to make: I never did give much of a crap about Paris, as a concept. I mean, everyone always falls over themselves to get to kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower, Americans in movies shriek with excitement when they get to go, and I understand it’s atmospheric and beautifully constructed, but I just couldn’t make myself want to go. I don’t know why! Well, I don’t know what Gabs has done to me, or if it was the wine or being at the le tour itself for so many hours and it just grew on me, but first of all it is just a spectacular piece of art and the longer I looked at it the more it fascinated me, and second of all I started to feel at home in Paris and suspect that it might be just a tad friendlier than it dares to let on. Maybe it was just being in such good company and seeing it all through my Gabi’s eyes, but I really started to fall a little bit in love with this city… Paris, we will be back! ❤

And LOOK what was waiting for us at London Kings X-St Pancras!!!

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Nothing Paris has to offer could be more beautiful…

Coco & Gabs à Paris! Day One…

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:

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(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 …. IMG_9793 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! IMG_9811

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! ❤

Hello from Paris!

Bonsoir! So I brought my laptop after all, snuck in under the premise that we can watch DVDs on it in the hotel, instead of French television or CNN… Sneaky 😉 So after a little cry this morning when I fed Lucian in bed and worried about leaving him, we got here and low-and-behold, it turns out a mini-break with no kids is awesome and we’re having the most relaxing time EVER.

Important exception: If you ever take the Eurostar TAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE on board with you. I queued for 35 minutes, standing up for a horrible latté that tasted like I made it in my microwave at home, and a stale crusty croissant. NOT ok, Eurostar, not at your prices. And don’t get me started on the leg-room. I’m only 5’4″ with very short legs, I shouldn’t have to contort my body like a cirque du soleil performer to fit in my seat.

However, even in the rain and cold, Paris is Paris. Hotel: tick. (Hotel Le Clos Medicis – a bit shabby-chic but really central and very sweet and they give you bathrobes, which I’m just crazy about. I could live in one:IMG_4151).

Little cornices and balconies on all the buildings: tick. Moules-frites lunch with a Stella Artois: also tick. Espresso and crêpes: Erm, Yum.

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Now, you would think we had come to Paris to see some stuff. Maybe the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, L’arc du triomphe? And we did plan to. But we just thought we’d have a short nap after lunch and woke up at 7pm. Who knew we were THAT tired?? Now it’s raining so we’re off to get drunk and then sleep some more.

Of course we could have done that at home… *Shhhh!*

Now, I’m going to get off the computer and give my lovely husband some of my limited attention that he’s so starved of at home, because I’ve just had a chance to remember, with no little boys jumping up and down yelling in my ear, what a very wonderful man he is. 🙂 xx