So Saturday morning, as we were drinking coffee and trying to pretend the boys weren’t tormenting one another in the adjoining room, Mr. UN says, “You know, Monday is an Islamic holiday.”
"Hmmm," I replied, without the slightest enthusiasm. "So?"
"I have the day off."
While Mr. UN will be working Thanksgiving, a non-religious holiday celebrated by but one of the UN’s 192 member countries, he enjoys Islamic holidays recognized in all corners of the globe.
"So what are we doing here?" I asked.
This is where my stateside friends are wondering what planet I inhabit. “Why would you want to leave Paris?”
Because for every Parc de Bagatelle, Louvre and melt-in-your-mouth croissant, there are 1) the ubiquitous smell of human piss, 2) judgmental old bags who don’t understand why two-year-olds occasionally cry and — OK, I’m just going to say it — 3) the nauseating stench of crotch sweat on the overcrowded Metro. The School Calendar Masochists (pretty sure that, or Masochistes du Calendrier Scolaire, is the official name) must feel this way too, which is why for every six weeks of school, there are two weeks of vacation.
So I asked Mr. UN — who is between weeklong trips, the next to China — to rent a car, and I started throwing random clothes in a bag. Before the coffee was cold, we had a gite reservation an hour north of Paris, and I was frantically sending the car seats down the elevator.
I can now report that Giverny, home of Claude Monet, is stunning, and that the French countryside, especially with fall colors, is capable of readjusting even the most wretched soul.
Ah, the Bois. I needed to see the ducks, the swans and the beautiful pines today.
And the prostitutes, the bottle caps and the used condoms.
“I was also sick of my neighbors, as most Parisians are. I now knew every second of the morning routine of the family upstairs. At 7:00 am alarm goes off, boom, Madame gets out of bed, puts on her deep-sea divers’ boots, and stomps across my ceiling to megaphone the kids awake. The kids drop bags of cannonballs onto the floor, then, apparently dragging several sledgehammers each, stampede into the kitchen. They grab their chunks of baguette and go and sit in front of the TV, which is always showing a cartoon about people who do nothing but scream at each other and explode. Every minute, one of the kids cartwheels (while bouncing cannonballs) back into the kitchen for seconds, then returns (bringing with it a family of excitable kangaroos) to the TV. Meanwhile the toilet is flushed, on average, fifty times per drop of urine expelled. Finally, there is a ten-minute period of intensive yelling, and at 8:15 on the dot they all howl and crash their way out of the apartment to school.” (p.137)
— Stephen Clarke, A Year in the Merde