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Northern Wildflower: Good food, tourist traps, the Mona Lisa and the Paris Metro

My daughter was already missing her cat by this point in our trip to Paris. We ate at a cute little cafe decorated from floor to ceiling in yellow flowers and drank rich hot chocolate with a huge dollop of whip cream.

My daughter was already missing her cat by this point in our trip to Paris. We ate at a cute little cafe decorated from floor to ceiling in yellow flowers and drank rich hot chocolate with a huge dollop of whip cream.

We didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night because our jet lag was too much to bear being that we were propelled into the future with the time change, and we fought the urge to fall asleep early but lost. The next morning, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, which is a very industrial looking monument. It was hard to fathom why this big brown structure made of metal had built up so much hype around the world. Did it do anything for the good of mankind?

After lingering on the grounds under the tower and taking numerous photos, we had a coffee at a cafe nearby where it cost $30 for two cups. We were sucked right into the tourist trap, and I fell for buying little trinkets and souvenirs for our family back home. I made reservations for us to eat at a very upscale restaurant where the likes of famous writers like Ernest Hemingway once frequented but was disappointed with the food.

Then my daughter reminded me: “We’re street food people, mom. What did you expect?”

We gave fancy French food one more chance on our last day in Paris and we weren’t disappointed. The Caesar salad was exquisite, and the chicken club sandwich paired with a tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce that my daughter ordered was one of the better chicken sandwiches she’s had (she’s on a mission to find the best chicken burger in the world).

On our last day in Paris, we decided to go look at some famous artwork. The crowd to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum (which sounds like the ‘loo’ in French) might very well have been the worst line up we had to wait in of all the line ups. It was uncomfortably warm in the room where they kept the small iconic painting to preserve its quality. Thankfully, the zig-zag train of people moved fast as everyone stopped and raised their phones like they were in a concert to take a picture of one of the most recognizable faces in the world.

Being in another country where hardly anyone spoke the same language made me feel vulnerable and very far away from home. It also made trying to find our way back to the airport quite stressful. We could have easily turned our Metro travels into an all-day event without want, so we left extra early to make sure we were on time for our flight to Italy. We had to stop and ask the police for directions as they ignored the passengers who jumped over the metal guard rails when their tickets didn’t work in the machine.

We had all our bags with us as we piled onto the packed train. My daughter was wearing her new sweater that spelled out “Paris” in big letters and had an open tote bag on her shoulder with a pair of fuzzy slippers inside and her phone sunk way down at the bottom. As much as I thought I was aware of our surroundings and on the constant lookout for danger, I had no idea that right in front of me, my daughter was about to be the target of a pickpocket.

The man put his arm in front of my face so I couldn’t see what he was up to as he held onto the pole that we all shared to help us stand as the train violently stopped at each drop off point. With his other arm he reached into her purse. She felt him rummaging through her things and her first reaction was to elbow him hard in the chest just as the train doors were opening at our stop. She moved through the crowd to get away from him and I tried to follow her but there were so many people in front and in between us and the man was still standing in my way. I ducked under his arm and saw that my daughter had tripped and all of our luggage spilled out onto the cement landing outside of the sliding train doors.

We quickly picked up our things and I asked if she was okay. She turned around to point to the man who tried to rob her but he had already disappeared into the concerned crowd, some asking if we were alright as the doors automatically shut. It all happened so fast. Literally within seconds. Thanks to my daughters quick reflexes, he didn’t get away with anything. I’m just thankful she had enough sense to defend herself — all those years of sibling rivalry must have paid off. After that, we opted to spend a little extra on a cab instead of the Metro.

Next column, I’ll tell you all about the magical city of Venice.