But the best day they had in the city was a total accident. Chris's
friend told him about a miniature train by the Concorde Hotel and,
after realizing it was a long walk from where they lived, they
decided to give it a try anyway. "So we get on, and the train stops
at this station, and everyone gets off. And we're like, 'Okay, I
guess we're going to get off the train.'?" It could have been a
disaster. Except the stop turned out to be an amusement park, Bois
de Boulogne, on Paris's west side, which Gwen had been trying to
get them to visit.
"I knew about it, but I didn't know where it was," says Gwen. "When
we got there, I thought, 'This is where I wanted to go!'?" They
spent the whole day in the park, eating ice cream and trying out
all the rides. It was the kind of serendipity that only happens in
movies. Or, as it turns out, in Paris.
But with knowing only a handful of French phrases between them,
city living wasn't always easy. "On the first day, I went to the
grocery store," says Gwen. "And I came back after an hour and a
half in tears." Most of that time was spent trying to figure out
how to get a shopping cart, which required a euro deposit. It's
given Gwen, who grew up in San Antonio and was, according to her
husband, an "Air Force brat," a new perspective on being a
foreigner - and an American. "We've been talking about sending our
kids somewhere to learn a second language when we get back," she
says. "I want that for them, because if you wait too long, you
visit another country and realize, 'I'm the idiot American who
speaks only one language.'?"
At the end of the evening, Chris and Gwen return to their
apartment, and the kids race for the old, creaky elevator - which
they call the lift - and ride it up to the second floor. "This is
another game for them," says Chris. The elevator lumbers to the
next level, as Gwen and Chris saunter up the winding staircase,
beating their kids to the front door. Chris opens the elevator, and
Joshua and Taylor tumble out, giggling.
"Everyone's like, 'I can't believe you're not taking a nanny to
Paris,'?" Chris says later over a glass of wine. "Well, first of
all, we don't have a nanny. We have this really crazy concept of
raising our own kids. Second of all, it's been challenging, but
it's been amazing." Neither Chris nor Gwen traveled much as kids.
But their children have already seen more than Chris had in his
first three decades - not the least of which is living in
"To watch them running around the Trocadéro playing tag in front of
the Eiffel Tower …" Chris says, shaking his head. "It may not make
a difference to them, but, as a dad, it makes a big difference to
me. Who knows what they'll remember of this? But I'll always
remember eating a chocolate crepe on the steps of the Eiffel Tower
with my son and daughter."