Saturday, January 28, 2012

Round and Round

It's not entirely clear why we spent much of the afternoon circling Paris on the metro.  Seriously. We went from Villiers to Victor Hugo on the 2 for brunch. Then Boissiere to Place d'Italie on the 6, then walked a bit, then got back on the 6 at Quai de la Gare and took it to the very end at Nation.  There, we got on the 2 line and went about 27 stops home to Villiers.  This is basically what we did:

I'm a genius at Microsoft Paint.
We started our day with a great brunch chez Mr and Mrs Magnum.  When we left to head home, it actually wasn't raining so we decided to do some exploring.  We headed to the 13th arrondissement, primarily because we had just read an article about how there was all this great stuff going on for the Chinese New Year, and the 13th is basically the Chinatown of Paris.  Except its not clear where, when, or what all the "great stuff" was because the Chinese New Year celebration we saw consisted of about five stands of Chinese snack food outside the mairie.  Apparently tomorrow there's a big parade (of course!).

Resolved not to let our extremely long metro ride go to waste, we switched plans and headed to the Marche d'Art Contemporain being held this weekend.  As we walked down a largely empty street to what looked like a row of warehouses, and then walked down a largely empty road by all the warehouses, I was really glad it was the middle of the afternoon and not after dark.  Thankfully, our adventuring paid off with a really wonderful selection of artists showcasing their works, primarily paintings with a bit of scultupre and some random jewelry thrown in.

The artists seemed all to be French, though not all of them are Paris-based.  We had a great time walking up and down the aisles with Baby Oil, who is a crowd pleaser even in a crowd of artists.  Of course, Baby Oil seemed more enamored with the transparent plastic chair at one of the stands than any of the art.  But everyone seemed impressed that we were starting him early on art appreciation.

In the back of our heads, we have this idea about buying a piece of art before we leave Paris and as I've mentioned before, we seem to have a hard time liking the same art.  Today was another breakthrough, however, as there were several artists that we both very much liked.  Anne Christine Wellenstein was one, a woman in her late 30s who does many lovely paintings of urban scenes in Paris and other places like Barcelona.  She was even nice enough to let me try out some of my terrible French on her AND she told me I spoke French very well.  I really do appreciate it when people lie about this, it makes me feel good even though I know they're full of it.
One of our favorites. Le Balcon. Credit: Anne Christine Wellenstein, image taken from her website.

Another one we loved: Bir Ha-Keim. Credit: Anne Christine Wellenstein, image taken from her website.

Jeepy was another great character.  At least, we are assuming his name is Jeepy since his card says Jeepy and his website says Jeepy, though we don't understand what kind of name Jeepy is. But we loved him because he spent at least 10 minutes talking to us about his art, and how he feels about the different ways that light plays a role in his paintings. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what he was saying.  Even though I asked him a few questions in what is obviously beginner-level French, he seemed to oblivious to whether we were comprehending his commentary.  Our constant nodding and stating, "Quelle interesante!" probably didn't help our cause.
Grand Matin. Credit: Jeepy, image taken from his website.

One of the artist's favorite works of his own. Intensite. Credit: Jeepy, image taken from his website.

It was fun to chat with artists, and to see art that we really liked.  Of course it turns out most of the stuff we liked was still well out of our price range!  But who knows, maybe by the time we are ready to buy art we will either a) have achieved our goal of independent wealth, or b) still be pretending like we have all the money in the world to do whatever we want to while living in Europe.
Jamil Amhis, name not listed, image taken from his website.

Lionel Borla, Rhythme Acoustique. Image taken from his website.

In any event, after leaving the art show, we thought it would be fun and/or funny to take the 6 line to the end and then switch to the 2. In part this is because we were unsure of the fastest way home. I think we also believed that this would somehow be an enlightening experience.  And while I love the glimpses of various neighborhoods when the metro briefly rises above ground for a few stops here and there, for the most part underground metro stops all look the same.  We tried, really we did, to come up with pithy observations that would merit the extremely long metro ride.  The best we came up with was, "Well, it's something to do when it rains?"

It's not fair to consider this afternoon an exploration of the 13th arrondissement, but it was good to know that there can be really great art at the end of a long train ride. And also that Baby Oil seems to love riding on the metro.  I have a feeling that could come in handy one day...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Same...But Different

I had a Parisian first today - which in this case means something I did for the first time in Paris - with my first mani/pedi.  I know, we've been here six months. I did have one in Chicago in early September, which only means that my feet need of pedicure.  Mr. Oil, wonderful guy that he is, bought me a mani/pedi deal from Living Social (yes, Living Social has made it to Paris!), and I finally got around to going.

Now, I know I shouldn't judge all mani/pedis in Paris by my experience at Ongles et Beaute on Rue Courcelles, even if it is a fairly shmancy part of town.  And there wasn't really anything wrong with the job they did - my fingers and toes are primped and pretty.  Yet there was some clear differences. Glaring difference #1 - no massage chairs. What! Practically not worth getting a pedicure if there's no massage chair. I think that's at least half the reason I even get pedicures.  Nope, the girl just filled up a metal tub with not-even-warm water, and that was that.  
My feet soaking in room temperature water.

The foot/hand massage part of the experience - which, yes, is mostly a perk, but a nice one - was also totally pathetic.   In addition, I proceeded to giggle the whole time the girl was scrubbing the bottom of my foot, until she gave me a very French look and explained that my feet NEED this so would I please stop fidgeting.  But the primary difference between any American mani/pedi and this French mani/pedi was that the women working in the salon were not Asian.  One was Middle Eastern looking and the other was Russian.  Are there no Asian nail salons in Paris, or was I in some sort of beauty Twilight Zone? 

I was also chastised for biting my fingernails ("BAD." Stern glare.).  But the nail polishes were the same, and just seeing the familiar OPI bottles was reassuring.  Not being able to communicate with the girls working on me wasn't actually new.  The fact that the instant girl #1 finished my feet, she walked outside and proceeded to smoke immediately in front of the door - now, that was new.  Everyone should leave a mani/pedi feeling refreshed and smelling of eau de cigarette.

I don't know whether French women are just uninterested in pedicures, or find the prices atrocious (have I mentioned that sans Living Social coupon, a mani/pedi costs about $50-$70).  I do know that a good pedicure (with massage chair) is definitely going on my Things-That-Are-Better-In-The-US list.

Oh massage chair. How I miss you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Data Dump

I'm afraid this post is going to be a bit of a data dump.  This is what my husband used to call it when I would come home from work and need to talk for about 10 minutes straight to tell him everything in my head.  Now, of course, I don't go to work, and sadly many days Mr. Oil will say, "So what did you do today?"  And I say, "Um...went to the park?  Bought a baguette?" 

In any event.  Last week I participated in a perfume seminar given by the same woman who led the perfume tour in October that I loved.  The seminar was also fantastic - we learned about the history of perfume, and then we smelled 8 different perfumes, some classic (Guerlain's "Apres L'Ondee" and "Shalimar", Chanel No. 5), some modern (Jean-Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle's "L'eau D'Hiver" and Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermes "Ambre Narguile").  The class included six other women, all of whom were at least 25 years older than me.  At one point, one of the women said loudly, "I want to know what YOU think" (pointing at me).  I said, "Huh?"  And she said, "Well, you are clearly from the younger generation so I want to know if you think this would make me smell old."  I am about the last person anyone should ask about perfumes as I have no idea what is considered old-smelling, I only know what I like. 
Personally, I really don't like this perfume. But I get that it is super famous.

Which reminds that a full three months after that perfume tour, I finally own a perfume! Very exciting.  I settled on "Bigarade Concentree", from Frederic Malle (by Jean-Claude Ellena, who is generally considered a superstar perfumer, and is a major character in the fascinating book I'm reading about the perfume industry, "The Perfect Scent" by Chandler Burr).  I think it smells like an orange grove and I love it. But I'm also generally in love with all things perfume these days.  It's definitely my latest obsession much like jam was a few months ago (did you know that the most expensive jam in the world in made in Bar-le-Duc, France? And also that Nostradamus provides one of the earliest recorded jam recipes?).  I'm not sure whether its because I live in France, or because parts of my brain are crying out for stimulation (other than building towers with blocks, and making farm animal sounds), but I have never before found myself with so many things I want to learn more, and more, and more about.
Really expensive jam. Like $40 a jar.

My brain did get some activity today, as Mr. Oil and I went to the Musee Marmottan Monet (sans baby - hooray for weekend babysitting!) to see both the permanent collection and the current special exhibition, Neo-Impressionism from Seurat to Matisse.  At least, that's what we remembered it being called.  It turns out it is actually called "Henri Edmond Cross and Neo-Impressionism, From Seurat to Matisse", and was primarily about the life and works of Henri Edmond Cross. Whom we had never heard of. Fortunately for us, Cross turns out to be an artist that we like quite a bit and it was a wonderful exhibit.  The permanent collection, which naturally features a substantial collection of Monets, is also excellent.  It was great to see some of Monet's works after having visited Giverny, though it really made us want to return to Giverny in the summer when everything is in bloom.  And, while I love my son, visiting a museum without Baby Oil is actually much more enjoyable!
It's not like "Henri Edmond Cross" is in a big font size or anything.
I also had my first experience this week with what I will call stay-at-home-mom vigilantism.  I was at an event for families, and one mom who has been in Paris for a while was telling me how she has had only wonderful experiences with the preschools, etc here.  Stay At Home Vigilante walked over and said, "I'm sorry to interrupt but I just want you to know that I just pulled my son out of an halte garderie [nursery school] and I believe that children thrive with one-on-one interactions, preferably with a parent."  She proceeded to frown at the first mom who had been reassuring me as we start our search for a nursery school for next year, after which they basically got into a polite but tense disagreement as they each made their points.  Later, she pulled me aside to tell me that I do not have to give in to the pressure to send my child away. Finally I said, "It was so nice meeting you, I hope to see you around." To which she replied, "I'm a stay at home mom. I'm always around." It was very intense. I am a little afraid of Stay At Home Vigilante.

January is a long month here in Paris.  I can't really complain about the weather but it is dreary that it is so dreary.  And we are making our first trip home since we moved in just two weeks!  My shopping list is getting long....

Woosh. My brain feels lighter now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

6 Months In

Today we have lived in Paris for 6 months.  I could also say, we've survived living in Paris for six months - but the truth is that it has been much easier than I had anticipated. What has made it easier is that it turns out that I love living here.

When my husband came home that night last February, a week after we had put in an offer on our first house, with an 8-week-old baby that we had no idea what to do with, and said that we might move to Paris, I thought I wouldn't be able to do it.  It would be too hard, too far, too new, too much.

And it is true that we miss our family and friends.  Really, we miss you a lot.  But leaving the life we knew in DC has allowed us to learn a lot about who we are, what we want, what's important - and that we can do anything we want.  This isn't an afternoon special - after all, on our first day, we locked our baby inside our apartment and had to get the firemen to break down the door.  I've burned pie, and cried over laundry detergent.  And cried over not understanding what people say to me. And cried over missing friends and family.  There's been crying.

But there have also been baguettes, and croissants, and macarons.  We've gone to Chantilly, Strasbourg, Colmar, Chambord, Azay-le-Rideau, Villandry, Amboise, Mont-St-Michel, Bayeux, the D-Day beaches, Honfleur, Giverny, and Lyon.  We've gone to Portugal. We went to Chicago for five days. We've been to Parc Monceau, Jardin du Luxembourg, the Tuileries, the Bois de Bologne, and Parc aux Buttes-Chaumont.  We visited the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay, the Orangerie, the Grand Palais, and the Musee de la Vie Romantique.  The butcher knows me, and the wine store lady loves Baby Oil, greeting him by name every time we stop in.  I learned to bake croissants, to appreciate the wines of Bordeaux, and a lot of stuff about perfume that I never knew.  There have been wine fairs, good and bad. We've made friends.  We can take the bus and the metro with ease.  Baby Oil learned to crawl, to cruise on furniture, to babble, and to drink from a sippy cup. He turned one and we lived to tell the tale.

I'd like to speak and understand more French, and we look forward to having more established friendships.  But we are settling in, and I have to say, it's pretty amazing.  This city is beautiful though often gray, clean though covered with dog poop, special though frustrating.   Don't worry, family and friends, this doesn't mean we want to stay forever. But it does mean that we are happy that we made the choice to come here, and we feel incredibly fortunate that we've had so much support from all of you as we figure out this whole living-in-France-with-a-baby thing.

Six months in...going strong.  I'm sure because I have written this overwhelmingly positive and borderline cheesy post that something ridiculous will now happen. Stay tuned...c'est la vie!

Macarons, August 2011

Baby Oil discovers nectarines, July 2011

I make croissants, November 2011

Pont de Alexandre

Colmar, August 2011

9th arrondissement

Villandry, September 2011

Lyon, November 2011

Parc aux Buttes-Chaumont, September 2011

Marche aux Puces, August 2011

Honfleur, October 2011

Giverny, October 2011

Parc Monceau, July 2011

Uncle Oil's wedding, September 2011

Parc Monceau, November 2011

Praia de Marinha, Portugal, December 2011

Lisbon, Portugal, December 2011
Baby Oil's First Birthday, January 2012


Friday, January 13, 2012

Foam Quest 2012

It's not my fault that I've neglected the blog for the past week.  The fault lies squarely with Les Soldes.  That's right, it is sale season here in Paris. Twice a year, every store has a huge sale - once in winter, again in summer.  In fact, the term "Soldes" (which means "sales") can only legally be used during these two periods of the year.  We arrived just after the summer Soldes ended so I have been more than intrigued as we waited for January 11 to arrive.

But I'm getting ahead of myself as good stuff happened even before the sales.  Baby Oil turned one!  And as his birthday present to himself and to us, he got really, really sick the night before his birthday.  I even had to cancel his birthday party.  Never fear, he still had cake.  And I know there is all of this mumbo jumbo about what kind of cake you are supposed to feed your kid (when can you introduce chocolate? should it be a "healthy" cake?).  All I wanted for Baby Oil's birthday was a classic photo of him covered in chocolate cake.  Mission accomplished.

My step-mom came to Paris to celebrate the big first birthday (excellent timing as she was here to help take care of sick baby and sick mommy).  After a day of sitting on our worlds-most-uncomfortable-sofa-that-came-with-our-furnished apartment, I told her my idea of trying to restuff the cushions.  And thus, Foam Quest 2012 was born.

It went a little something like this.  We went to the neighborhood with all the fabric stores, and at the first store, used a lot of pantomime and a few words to explain what we wanted.  Finally we were told that they didn't sell sofa cushion stuffing, but we should be able to find another store on the street that did.  At each successive store, we figured out more words that were required until we had mastered what we needed - Nous cherchons le mousse pour le coussin, le mousse en bloque?  (We're looking for cushion foam, specifically solid foam?).  And at each store, the employee would point us further down the street. Then around the corner.  After the third or fourth store, we asked each other whether the required answer to "Where is the foam store?" is "straight and right".  Until we finally found a store simply called "Mousse". 
Foam. At the foam store. It's all foam.

I never before even realized there would be a store that sold nothing but foam. The foam guy was very friendly and after we drew him a picture of a couch with cushions, the language barrier was no longer an issue.  I should also point out that since we don't have measuring tape, we measured the dimensions with a string, then marked the string with a pen. They looked at us like we were a little crazy when my step-mom whipped out this string when they asked for the dimensions. I also never knew that foam is expensive!  Our new coach cushions cost over 100 euros, but it so worth it to have a couch that you actually want to sit on. I am thinking right now that either a) I'm not sure I did Foam Quest 2012 justice in this re-telling or b) most regular people (I'm now assuming that you, dear reader, are a "regular person") do not find this story as exciting as I do. It was pretty awesome.
Foam guy cutting our foam.

But as I mentioned at the start of this post, my delinquency is telling the world about the wonders of Foam Quest 2012 is all because of the Soldes.  On Wednesday morning, Baby Oil and I went down to Printemps.  Mistake #1 - do NOT take baby with you to go shopping, least of all on the first day of the sale!  Printemps was a zoo, with huge lines at all of the designer sections and pretty much all of the cash registers as well.
The blurry yellow signs are actually huge and bright and pretty cool. They say "SOLDES". And a loud voice comes on every few minutes in Printemps to announce "Soldes Supremes!".
My take on the sales is that 50% of crazy expensive stuff is still expensive, but not crazily so. And it is 50% off!  Of course, the item that is 50% off (as opposed to 30%, or 40%, or only a measly 20%) is probably not really want you want.  But if you are willing to do anything for Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Chloe, Paule Ka, etc at a discount, then its worth braving what seemed like a significant portion of the population of Asia and a huge amount of Russian tourists.

At one point, I picked up a pair of Jimmy Choo's and thought, 50% off 230 euros isn't bad!  And then I realized - 230 euros was the after sale price.  Not my ballpark.  We did pick up a few gifts for Baby Oil's first first cousin who will be born in March and the salespeople in the children's section were relatively patient with us when Baby Oil pulled an entire row of socks off the wall, and then tried to eat the labels.

Mistake #2 was heading across the street to C&A. This is the only store where I actually buy clothes for Baby Oil because it is actually fairly inexpensive.  So 50% off of cheap clothes is actually really cheap.  Which is clearly what the heavily immigrant crowds (think many African women dressed in their typical bright colors, with small children attached to them with more brightly-colored cloths) also realized.  Every person in line had at least 15-20 items. Stubbornly, I waited to buy the three things I found.  Baby Oil was not impressed.  

And just when I thought I could not learn more about Paris in a given week, I discovered the smoosi.  Our local grocery store now sells a ready-made smoothie drink (ground-breaking, I know) called "Smoothie".  Seems straight forward, no?  For those French unfamiliar with smoothies, Monoprix has kindly explained on the labeled that you should pronounce this word "Smoosi."  Happy birthday Baby Oil - I raise my smoosi to you!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lovely, Lovely Lisbon

It is rare to arrive in a new city and within 10 minutes, be swept off your feet. Yet that is exactly what happened to us in Lisbon.  After a 4 hour train trip (note: do not advise with almost-one year old.  Baby Oil wriggled around most of the time, and really tried to get his hands on the laptop and cell phone of the guy sitting across from us) and a brief taxi ride to our rented apartment in the Graca neighborhood, we headed out to walk to the Castelo.  One block from our apartment, we stopped in the neighborhood pastelaria for our first Pasteis de Nata, the classic Portuguese sweet custard tart.  That first taste - especially given that it was about 2pm and we hadn't had lunch - was one of the best tastes ever.  Mmmm.  One block further and we found ourselves at our first miradouro, or overlook of the city.
Pasteis de Nata

Lisbon, if you haven't been there, consists of many connecting neighborhoods on hills that surround the small valley of the downtown.  All of it sits on a huge and beautiful river with a lovely bridge that is reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge. The city has a large tram network, as well as an underground metro and funiculars to get up the really big hills.  So there are numerous overlooks throughout the upper neighborhoods providing glorious views onto the red rooftops, beautifully planned downtown, winding streets of the old Moorish sections, or the river.

If delicious pastries and fantastic views aren't enough, then there are the tiles. Many buildings throughout Lisbon are decorated with various tile patterns and colors. This makes any given street even more interesting because you are looking at storefronts, at the buildings themselves, at the whole scene, and at the tiles.  For Mr. Oil, it was a "photographer's dream."  Seriously. In 48 hours, he took over 400 photos.
One of his first shots


More tiles

Even more tiles
Considering we had a baby in tow, we did good with our two and a half days there.  We hit the castle, the Alfama neighborhood (the original Moorish neighborhood, and the only neighborhood to survive the 1755 earthquake), Baixa (the downtown), Chiado (the ritzy part), the Gulbenkian Museum (Armenian oil magnate who settled in Portugal, created what has to be the most amazing private art collection, now a museum - everything from Greek pottery to Persian rugs to Chinese vases to English portraiture to Monet to Lalique crystal), Mosterio de Jeronimos (15th century monastery), and back to Alfama, which was the part of the city we really, truly loved.
Praca do Comercio, downtown

Alfama, being Moorish in origin, has the winding feel of eastern cities (I would imagine Marrakesh, though I haven't been there, but I can say not unlike Jerusalem's Old City or Acco).  Many of the streets are simply too narrow for cars.  There are stairways and alleyways and dead ends.  There are kids playing soccer and elderly women doing marketing.  It feels real.  Though it is certainly on the tourist map, and we were not the only visitors clicking away on over-sized digital cameras.  Alfama has an authenticity to it because you also see actual people living actual lives in this fascinating labyrinth. 

Don't worry, we weren't without our parenting foibles. The most memorable is the Giant Poop of Lisbon.  We had decided to take a tram from downtown up to Bairro Alto, the neighborhood across the valley from where we stayed.  Baby Oil was grinning away on that tram ride, and we smelled a suspicious yet unfortunately familiar smell. No worries - we are pros at this diaper changing business.  Except that my packing strategy had not accounted for Baby Oil's excessive diaper requirements earlier in the week so we had been forced to purchase Portuguese diapers.  And when we went to the store, naturally they did not have the correct size.  Given the options of too big or too small, we opted for too big.
See that smile? It says, "I have a present for you!"

Well, we got to the top of the tram, and thought we'd pull a quick change-a-roo right at the top of the steps.  I reached in to unsnap his onesie, and quickly withdrew my hand - covered in poop.  Disgusting. How did that happen?  Oh, easily enough when the too big diaper got pulled in a funny way and the entire poop MISSED the diaper.  Yes, that's right. No poop in the diaper.  Only poop on the clothes.  And now on my hand.

Our quick change plan disintegrated on the spot as we were forced to strip our baby naked in not-the-warmest-weather, figure out what articles of clothing had little or no poop on them, and then re-dress him with de-pooped clothing.  Not our finest hour.  At least there were pasteis de nata to eat later (did I mention that our neighborhood pastelaria also had them with a layer of chocolate cream on top?).

We also made time to stop at a playground and a park for Baby Oil.  Who, I have to say, is pretty cute in Lisbon.
Gratuitous cute baby shot

Gratuitous cute baby shot #2

We never could quite put our finger on what it was about Lisbon.  The diverse neighborhoods, the feel of the city that was both European and not, the fact that it is WAY cheaper than Paris (10 minute cab ride in Lisbon costs 3 euros!), that we had almost no expectations for the city to begin with. We very much hope to get back to Lisbon one day - we know there is much more to see.  And there are other parts of Portugal we'd love to see - Porto and the north, for instance.   All in all, we consider our first journey out of France to be a huge success and it is an incredible perk of our time in Paris to have our child be so freaking well-traveled.   Later in life, he'll beg for a trip to Europe, and then we can say, "Nah, you've already been to all those places!"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Welcome to Portugal - You Suck As Parents

Portugal was our first big vacation with baby.  And we were quickly and clearly informed by the Portuguese as to the mistakes we were making as parents, as well as figuring out a few of our own.  After an easy flight to Faro and a 40 minute cab ride to Lagos, we checked into our hotel and went to explore the town in the last hour of sunlight.  It was cool but not cold, and we had Baby Oil in a thick fleece in the Ergobaby.  I was carrying his hat.  About one block from the hotel, we saw an elderly Portuguese lady. She took one look at us, pointed at Baby Oil, and started saying loudly, "Frio! Frio! Frio!"  This was, naturally, accompanied by a truly dirty look. Because only terrible parents take their baby out without a hat in 60 degree weather.

A few days later, Baby Oil took a nice public tumble at a little outdoor cafe in Silves.  I was watching, but in the split second when the plastic chair tipped over, I couldn't stop it, and he hit the ground.  In front of a table of six elderly Portuguese men and women.  They were not impressed.  Baby Oil was screaming (he's fine) and Mr. Oil was freaking out (first big clunk in his presence) and I was getting a tableful of dirty looks. One man helpfully stared me down as he patted the back of his head.  Yes, sir, I do know that my kid hit the back of his head on the pavement.  Got it, thanks.  Yes, I realize it hurt.

We also managed to miss the memo before arriving that Portugal is an hour ahead of France.  Had no idea on that one.  So while it originaly seemed manageable to participate in the hotel's Christmas Eve dinner (also, no restaurants were open) that began at 7pm, it quickly became unmanageable as our poor baby sat in his high chair, eyes drooping shut, half asleep, well over an hour past his bedtime.  Oh, and did I mention that he was sick?  Yes, we are awesome at this parent thing.

One morning I decided it was time to check out the beach. Having grown up in Oregon, chilly weather + beach is normal for me, and I was excited to be near the ocean.  We walked to Meia Praia, the biggest beach in Lagos.  Yes, it was a tad chilly and the sand was cold, but it was lovely.  Baby Oil HATED it.  Wanted nothing to do with the beach.  Yet I tried to make him enjoy it anyway.  Didn't work.
Baby Oil screaming his displeasure with the beach.

But in between these parenting faux pas (and I haven't even gotten to the Lisbon poop story), we truly relaxed.  Lagos is a cute place and in the off season, it is absurdly peaceful.  We explored the town, and the beaches near the town.  We heard Portuguese Christmas carolers. We swam in the (indoor) hotel pool.  We napped.  We ate cod (they are really into cod in Portugal).  We drank beer (Sagres, the Portuguese beer, is excellent). We rented a car for a day (turns out that they only have forward-facing child seats in Portugal, so then we had to debate whether we should even rent the car at all, but since we are terrible parents, we did, and I drove very slowly).  We celebrated our birthdays (which are two days apart).  We discovered yummy sticks (we think the actual name is lacos de mel), which are the second best pastry in Portugal, and the best in Lagos.  I can't even tell you what they are, or what they taste like, but they are delicious.  We ate at least one a day while in the south.  Every day was sunny and comfortably cool. 


Praia de Marinha

As first time parents, we of course fell pray to the souvenir monster, and felt it necessary to buy our child what every child who comes to Portugal wants and needs....a potholder that looks like a fish.  Aren't we the most generous, thoughtful parents around?  What actually happened was that we were in a store looking at a tablecloth and Baby Oil was really enjoying playing with this fish potholder.  Possibly chewing or drooling on it.  And it cost 5 euros so we said, heck yeah we'll take that potholder!  We named it Bobby. 
Baby Oil and Bobby

The beach made a comeback with Baby Oil, however, and by the time we hit Praia de Marinha - a simply gorgeous cliff-backed cove - he was down with the beach scene.
Who loves the beach now!

More to come as our love affair with Portugal only intensified once we got to Lisbon...though its unclear whether our parenting improved...

PS That beautiful blue-ish photo of Silves above? Mr. Oil would like you to know that he doesn't like the photo (which he took) because it wasn't supposed to be blue, but I insisted it on posting it because I think its awesome.