Sunday, December 19, 2010

The best thing we did in Paris

What a title!  But it's true.  Ian, this is for you!

In preparing for our trip, I researched things to do with kids in Paris.  One interesting thing that popped up was to meet a photographer and have great pictures made.  Now, we haven't had pictures made of our family in about five and a half years.  My children are sadly undocumented.  We have of course had the church directory pictures made, but somehow those cameras have the Lutheran lens on them, giving us the too-much-coffee-and-Jello-Salad pallor.  They don't count.

My rental agency provided the name of a photographer who turned out to be booked while we were in Paris, but she gladly suggested Ian Holmes, a British photographer living in Paris.  I contacted Ian and he was available on our first afternoon in Paris.  This was perfect, so we arranged to meet on Monday.

You have probably seen so many family portraits where the family has reasonably matching clothes, everyone's hair is trimmed and neat, the kids look like they actually like each other and Mom looks relaxed.  If you have one of those, my hat's off to you.  I can't.  I've tried, but I somehow grow three heads, start screaming at everyone, forget items of clothing, discover two children's clothes don't fit, lose a shoe, and then forget how to put on my own makeup.  Not pleasant.  But this time would be different. (Don't laugh, Ian.)  The magic of Paris would put a gloss on all of it and we'd have one set of perfect family photographs.

Well.  Monday morning we did the first thing on the kids' to-do list:  we climbed the Eiffel Tower to the second level, 669 steps.  (I'll post pictures of that next.)  It was windy and quite cool, really a typical November day in Paris.  We had fun, looking all around the Tower, and then walked back down for a yummy lunch in a neighborhood bistro.  Our waiter was fun and our food warm and tasty.  All of a sudden I realized we had 45 minutes to meet Ian at Palais Royal, about five metro stops and a train-change away.  Yikes, time to get moving.

I got moving, but getting the others going was like pushing string.  "Mom, do I have to wear this?"  "It itches!"  "I'm cold."  "Are you sure we have to do this?" "I don't want to brush my hair."  "This doesn't fit."  He was right, there.  The new shirts I'd bought didn't fit!  Zut alors.  But if the boys didn't wear their new shirts with dress pants, they'd be in jeans, and I didn't want jeans in the pictures.  Then my husband asked if we'd be inside for pictures.  Um, no.  "But then won't we be really cold?"  Zut encore.  The kids' coats still had the ski tags from last year, and D's pink coat was starting to show the Metro grime after just one day.  And I realized that no matter what I did with my hair, or the girls', the wind would just promptly undo it.  Surrender.  "Guys, just wear what you want, but WE HAVE TO GO NOW."

We got off the Palais Royal Metro stop at 2:50 or so, late for our 2:30 appointment with Ian.  He had very helpfully emailed me a photo of the place to meet him:

The problem was that when we got off the Metro stop we couldn't find it!  I decided that if we stood there long enough looking lost that somehow a cheerful looking Englishman carrying photography equipment would speak to us.  I was right!  After two or three minutes of looking clueless Ian tracked us down and we got to work.  I was so frazzled, and convinced right from the beginning that the pictures wouldn't work out.  After all, look at my motley crew.

Only kidding.  Ian took that picture.  Ian is amazing.  He put the kids at ease right away, taking us to an art installation very close to the Louvre and letting them run around.  Bill is always photogenic, but it took me a good bit longer to relax.  I'm not a natural in front of the camera anyway.  Here are some pictures around the Louvre:

As you can see, the pictures are truly wonderful.  Then we took a long walk through the Louvre courtyard, stopping for a moment:

before moving on to the Tuileries:

In between, he raced with the kids, caught M and Bill doing a runway-model walk, and let Bill and me have a nice calm (romantic!) stroll through the Tuileries gardens.

Then it was down to the quai by the Seine for some more photographs:

We walked across the Seine on a charming pedestrian bridge.  The locks you see on the bridge are left by lovers, who write their names on the lock and throw the key in the Seine.  How romantic!  One of the many little things Ian shared with us that afternoon.

We ended the afternoon in a St. Germain cafe, a wonderful 100-year-old place where we all warmed up with chocolat chaud.  Ian traded stories about his dog Sherlock with the kids while they asked him all about life as a photographer and snowboarder.  What a wonderful, warm memory, and we have the pictures to show for it, too.

Somehow at the end of the day it didn't matter that we didn't match, that we looked like we'd just gotten caught on film while we were out enjoying Paris as a family.  And in fact, that was kind of how the afternoon unfolded.  Natural, but in the very best light.  All of our pictures are just so much better than I would have ever hoped.  Thank you, Ian, for some amazing photos and even better memories.

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