Treasure hunt organiser Daisy de Plume recalls a short but magical jaunt with her son
Strangely, my Paris magic moment was in fact really just a mundane work chore in the 8th arrondissement. At the time, I was pregnant, had two jobs, one kid and my good-natured in-laws visiting from Buenos Aires – a very long way away, requiring a very long stay for all of us whenever we visit each other. We all love each other, but a full month of everyday visits is enough to drive anyone batty, let alone an only child unused to family and, at best, a version of Spanish resembling Tarzan’s chest beating.
We lived in a small, two-bedroom flat on the boisterous market street of Faubourg-Saint-Denis, two blocks from the Grands Boulevards in the 10th arrondissement. It was a light, lovely eyrie on the top floor of a typical 1810 building. Our place was double- exposure and had plenty of skylights to let the comforting grey of Paris seep in. But in addition to that cold, northern European light was a tin-clad roof that served as a giant dish attracting every particle of Saharan sun that arrived from Africa. This heat lasered in on us whenever Paris was experiencing la canicule, the savage heat that occurs every now and then. And yes, it happened to be during a late-July canicule when this mundane chore took place.
Our flat would have afforded space for drinks (just!) for the four of us, plus my ever-energetic four-and-a-half-year-old imp, Storsh. But what tipped us over on the crowd factor was my growing company, THATMuse (Treasure Hunt at the Museum). Our living room had mounds of highlighted Louvre maps, stacks of various themes on museum treasure hunts, all meticulously piled on top of each other in carefully colour-coded files, next to bowls of branded pencils, heaps of envelopes for answer sheets, and the all-important boxes of chocolate coins (prizes). As if that weren’t enough, the centrepiece of our living room was a big old clunker of a printer.
It had been a pretty apartment when we’d bought it – before THATMuse, before Storsh – but now, five years later, we were testing that bohemian Paris charm. And to top it off, the decision had been made that we’d be eating in tonight. Too many cream pastries and rich fish sauces had caused my mother-in-law’s stomach to feel funny. Just the thought of pulling out our heavy, expandable table, moving the talking, jamming printer, let alone rearranging my carefully piled arsenal of treasure hunts, sent me stumbling for an excuse to get out of there.
In September, we were expecting 65 Canadians for a corporate team-building treasure hunt at the Musée d’Orsay. The client had asked if I could suss out some restaurant in the 8th, near where they were staying, which coincidentally happened to be where my other job was. Now was my opportunity to grab Storsh and hotfoot it on this suddenly urgent task. Sluggish air met us in the street, but as soon as we got on the métro, life lightened. The wind of metallic air that’s pushed through the Paris tunnels cooled us, and the excitement at being alone together, which we hadn’t been in an eon, added to it.
Being at the local école maternelle two blocks away meant that Storsh didn’t ride the métro all that often. Having an accordion player alight at Miromesnil added to our ebullience. By the time we reached the 8th, an arrondissement I went to daily and found pretty, yet dreadfully dull, Storsh and I were beside ourselves in ardent Francophilia. Life was grand, we were free, the air was cooler, the trees were bigger, the pavement wider. By the time we found the over-crowded, somewhat pretentious restaurant, we were dancing; nothing could keep us down. Quickly I snapped photos to send to the client and then whoosh, Storsh and I sailed about on cloud nine, running and jumping, playing tag and tickles on those stately boulevards lined with Haussmannian elegance.
We only quietened down upon reaching the Arc de Triomphe, where hordes of foot-traffic sobered us up. After a quick dip through the tunnel to see the underbelly of the arch and feel the weight of that enormous French flag above us, it was time to go home. But that was okay: we were entirely refreshed from our magic moment in the elegant eighth.
From France Today magazine