At the cafe

I only planned one museum visit for this trip because I knew that Eric would not likely be a big fan. Still, I love the Musee d’Orsay, and I haven’t been to Paris in 15 years – 15! – so I couldn’t resist. We had tickets for the earliest admission time and, after an extremely quick walk through the temporary Gaudi exhibit, we headed directly for the Impressionists to take advantage of our morning energy and the relatively smaller morning crowds.

Eric didn’t last long, Monet be damned. In fact, he quickly determined that he preferred the benches to anything else. (Granted, the benches are art in their own right – “Water Block” by Tokujin Yoshioka – but I’m pretty sure that’s not what attracted Eric.) He looked at the paintings for a room or two, then raced ahead to the end of the exhibit. There, he waited a few minutes, then returned to complain politely, then went ahead again. This cycle repeated several times. Each time, I showed him one piece or offered one idea; he listened & then left.

Portrait of an 11 year old at the Musee d’Orsay

On his third return trip, Eric told me that a) he needed something to drink and b) there was a cafe at the end of the exhibit and c) it opened at 11. I agreed that we could go, suggested that my mom catch up to us after she looked at some more art, and wandered towards what I assumed would be an overpriced bottle of water and a Fanta at a museum kiosk thing.

A casual glance upended my expectations: sunlight spilled into a large, open room through the giant clock that dominated the far wall – a reminder that the museum was originally a train station. The yellow walls seemed luminous and everywhere bell-shaped pendant lights covered in golden squares glowed. As Eric dragged me into line – of course there was a line – I worried briefly about what I had just agreed to.

The photo from TripAdvisor is better than what I took

Minutes later the cafe opened, and we were shown to a table. Since we were among the first to order, we snagged some of the croissants and pain au chocolat to accompany our drinks. Our server poured our drinks with a flourish, teasing Eric, and we felt well looked-after. As I finished my tea (Eric’s Orangina was gone in a flash), an older man at the next table asked my mother, in French, if Eric was her grandson. I translated, she said yes, and the man told her that he was beautiful – he repeated it carefully in English, to make sure she understood. He struck up a conversation – much to his young nephew’s chagrin – and, although he was from Brazil, insisted on speaking French to Eric. Eventually, we called for our bill, and as we left, the gentleman told Eric that he must see Manet’s The Fifer before he left.

Was it the croissant? the cafe? the man who took the time to notice Eric and talk to him? I don’t know, but we managed to enjoy another hour of the museum – statues, models, and paintings, including, yes, The Fifer – before it was time to move on. My guess is that Eric will remember the setting and the conversation for at least as long as he remembers the artwork. I suspect I might, too.

The setting, the kid & the croissant
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