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! ❤

2013 Review

I remember the 1st January 2013 very well because I spent a lovely, happy day with my boys watching DVDs at home and out in the park in the mild sunshine and I thought at the time it bode well for a good year ahead… which for the most part it was, despite tiredness, some sadness and plenty of challenges. Here’s a quick look back at the highlights of life at Casa Azoitei through my eyes…

January

Gabs had been given planets and planet decals and a globe for Christmas and from the moment they went up in his room, his Space/Astronomy obsession ramped up a notch and hasn’t come down since. The boys played a lot of violin and we had a lot of snow:

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February

On 2nd February, my heart stopped when I read that a fellow blogger’s baby had died of SIDS. The blogging community rallied around her and somehow Matilda Mae’s brave mummy Jennie and I became friends and supporting The Lullaby Trust in Matilda’s memory became a new passion. My obsession with work, and indeed anything else fell away and all I cared for the whole month was spending quality time with my two beautiful boys and counting my very many blessings every day. We spent most of the month in the park, on the swings and painting…

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March

My March started super-well with two nights in Paris with Remus where we got snowed in and did zero sightseeing but had a wonderful time. I worked as a violinist a bit mostly with BBCCO, did a concert in memory of Matilda Mae for Mother’s Day and raised £200 for her Bliss Charity Precious Star Fund and Classical Babies turned 3 years old. Remus found out he was to be decorated Officer of the Order of the Royal Crown (a kind of Romanian MBE) by King Mihai of Romania! But mostly my theme of amazing time with my boys continued, the firsts signs of Spring appeared and Lucian’s terrible twos kicked in.

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April

I spent a week in Cornwall at my parents’ with the boys having fresh air, R&R and some amazing Reiki sessions which put paid to my cluster migraines. April continued trickily for us, with a major errm, I shall call it ‘misunderstanding’ (!) with a family member in Romania whose privacy I’ll respect because it’s not necessary to name them and anyway, said relationship looks to be going forward positively in 2014. But it happened to occur just before we left for a family trip to Bucharest and caused stress and sadness for all of us, not just at the time but subtley in the background for the rest of the year. However, we did have incredible weather over there, the boys had a brilliant time bonding with their cousins and Remus played some great concerts. In the end a trip I had to literally force myself to take ended up being pretty great! This was also the month Remus played an amazing Lalo ‘Symphonie Espagnole’ with the George Enescu Philharmonic and was decorated by the King.

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May

On 2nd May I drove down to Kent to meet Jennie, Matilda Mae’s mummy for the first time at the Matilda Mae Mile in Memory Walk and I played and took little violins. Lucian and I reached an emotional end to our breastfeeding journey when he had his last ever feed the day he turned two years old, 18th May. He also had a wonderful Winnie the Pooh party and got a scooter. Generally the combination of his terrible twos and Gabs’ above average naughtiness just about gave me a nervous breakdown for most of the month, yet somehow we still had a wonderful month.

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June

Nothing much happened in June. We took a lot of sunny walks around my favourite streets in our lovely neighbourhood and enjoyed what we didn’t yet know would be our last month there. We all stayed up late to watch the Super Moon. Gabs enjoyed his last month at the nursery he loved. June was sun, playgrounds, ice creams, lollies and Regent’s Park. The boys ran, and ran. It was just perfect.

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July

July was just NUTSO. The 1st was my birthday. Remus was away but hid my new violin case in the wardrobe, I had my last acting class before  a 6 month break and did this scene from ‘The Graduate’. The 3rd was Gabi’s last ever day at nursery and the day we found out we had to move. The 4th was our Gabi’s 4th birthday, his first morning at primary school and the day we found our new house! We threw Gabi a kick-ass Space Party, went for a holiday in Cornwall with my parents – got detoured to N. Ireland when my Grannie died, then back to Cornwall. Remus and I spent our 5th wedding anniversary apart while he packed up our entire flat in London and I holidayed with the boys on a Cornish beach. I was attuned to Reiki Level I, by an old family friend in the village before travelling home. I took the boys and the violins down to Jennie’s for the twins’ Gruffalo Party and also played at the BBC Proms in the Concert Orchestra. Crazy, crazy month.

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August

August. Moving month. Emotional upheaval. Endings. Gabi’s nursery ‘graduation’ on the day we moved. We explored our new home and garden, Childs Hill and Golders Hill Parks and Gabs and I had a series of “Mummy & Gabi Days” before him starting Holy Trinity Primary in September. I pretty much “love-bombed” him (as I later found out it’s called!) and loved every minute of it. I also played a second Prom with the BBCCO.

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September

There’s only one event that stands out for me in September and that’s Gabriel starting school. He was so, SO excited and really loved it. Because of his Aspergers traits we started to have more and more trouble with him as more and more children joined the class until it was full (they stagger the start dates with the youngest first) and he got overwhelmed. It took him a long time to settle but the school were fantastic and proactive about getting him assessed and on the special needs register. The month was full of meetings, form-filling and ‘incidents’ but somehow his enthusiasm hasn’t waned. We threw Remus a 42nd birthday party with the biggest violin-cake you’ve ever seen! and I played solo in the Vivaldi A minor double concerto at St. Martin-in-the-Fields with Remus in the audience watching me for a change!

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October

With Gabs at school I started enjoying some time alone with Lucian which I hadn’t really had… ever! He’s a cheeky little monkey when he’s out of Gabi’s shadow. I was out a lot playing with the BBCCO and working incredibly hard for Classical Babies. The excitement of the month was two days in Reykjavik with Remus seeing his recital and one of my bestest old friends Silla, who I miss so much. I love Iceland, we will go back soon. We celebrated Halloween.. some of us enjoying it more than others. 😉

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November

The 1st was the end of half-term and I took Gabs to Tower Bridge. It was a wet but wonderful day. We got soaked but he absolutely loved it. 2nd November was a special day. I went with the boys and some wonderful friends who agreed to play in a quartet with me at the Matilda Mae Welly Walk at Beale Park in Reading, to honour 9 months since Tilda died and to raise money for The Lullaby Trust. It was a truly fantastic day. We filled most other weekends with trips to our local park and messy play like Leaf Rubbing, painting and playing in the garden. On 28th Nadine and I went, as Classical Babies to the Theo Paphitis #SBS Winners’ Event in Birmingham and met the man himself!

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December

My first school nativity! Gabriel was an angel – “double irony” as Mrs Pillay and I both said … Oh how we laughed!! Despite his struggles to blend in to the class this term, he sat nicely, did all the actions and sang all the songs. I was most proud. I bravely took both boys to the school Christmas Disco and started to really feel part of the school community and felt truly at home and settled in our house for the first time all year. We got a kick-ass Christmas tree and posted a stupid number of photos of it on facebook and ate a hell of a lot of sweets. The Classical Babies Christmas Concert and Party 2013 was a great success with 56 people turning up with kids attached (that’s over a hundred bodies in the room!) … coincidentally the same number of times we watched ‘The Snowman and Snowdog’ on repeat. We had an amazingly quiet and happy Christmas at home just the four of us and I nailed Christmas Dinner. Yeaaahhh! What a fabulous end to the year.

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Happy New Year 2014!

Hello London!

So we’re back from Paris and I have to say, I didn’t miss the boys like I thought I would! I feel so guilty about that but it’s like the second I tasted a bit of sleep and that gorgeous, melting feeling of “free-arms” I forgot all about them….Is that terrible?! My God, I enjoyed it so much, I must have needed it. The fact that it snowed and so we did very little except walk a bit, eat and drink in little brasseries (wine for lunch followed by a nap, anyone??) made it even more perfect and we agreed next time we don’t need to go anywhere as glamorous but just out of London a bit to a spa hotel where we can hole ourselves up in a room with a DVD player, a big bed and lots of alcohol! I would feel guilty about being so lazy and uncultured in my holiday-ing style, but we are violinists and I’m studying acting so I think that’s enough Art anyway. If I was really going away to enrich my normal life somehow, I ought to go to a maths camp or something.

It was LOVELY to come home to my two boys though. Look what greeted us!

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They had a wonderful time with Nana Pip and Grandad. They were well slept, well behaved (the boys too :P) ALL my washing was done and the place was clean and dinner was cooking. My Mum is unbelievable and I don’t deserve her at all.

It’s lovely to be back. Paris was lovely, but home is better.

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