Saturday, April 14, 2007

Are We There Yet?

April in Paris is such a cliche. But what a great one. Today Paris was sublime, although really more like August: almost too hot to stand in the sun while waiting for the No. 69 bus. That glorious bus route is one of my favorites, mostly because you see so many different parts of Paris, lots of monuments and the Seine. It starts at the Eiffel Tower and winds up at Gambetta (where I was headed for lunch), next to Pere Lachaise. For 1.4 euros it's hands down one of the top sightseeing bargains in the City. And today's sights included the lilacs and spirea softly bursting into bloom in the parks.

So imagine my reaction when a whiny 7-year-old American mini-tourist was drooping upside down and backwards over the seat in front of me, complaining with the classic "Are we there yet?" to his mother. I wanted to straighten his little t-shirted shoulders and say, "Yes, we ARE there yet, junior -- we're in Paris. Look out the window!" But as the mother of a former 7-year-old boy, I knew better. I leaned over and said in a stage whisper, "You know, a really good trick while riding the bus or walking in Paris is to see how many lions you can count." OK, I have to pat myself on the back for that gem because immediately he and his older sister and their father were sitting up tall in their seats, craning their necks to find stone lions. "There are 4!!" they shouted at the Hotel de Ville. So until they got off the bus they were busy and happy campers.

Funny, I would have thought the parents might have nodded a knowing little "thank you" in my direction as they departed. But no. Oh well. I don't need the adulation, but appreciation is ... appreciated. After all, I not only was inventive but I also offered a helpful age-appropriate and instructive activity for the little whiner's scavenger hunt, on the spur of the moment.

I mean, there are other sculpture and bas-relief objects to search for on building facades and statues. Gargoyles or rams or fleur de lys and so forth. But also more PG-13-rated sculpted figures, like naked ladies. Of course I didn't suggest that theme to the little kid. Those folks are Americans. Nor, obviously, did I recommend another favorite, immortalized in a witty coffee-table book, Les Zizis de Paris, by Sergio-Neptunio Martin. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there are many classical zizis on statues that are in the public view in the US.

Ah, Paris. No fig leaves here -- just April leaves. And how.

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