Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vive La Illustration



“Okay, okay. I get it. Paris is beautiful. Do they have to keep rubbing our noses in it?” These are the thoughts of an exhausted dad at the end of an impossibly beautiful vacation. We’d been up and down the Sein, raced by priceless works of art to squint at the Mona Lisa, shushed each other at Notre Dame and ate frog’s legs enveloped in second hand smoke from real Parisians.

When Diana suggested we check out a new Paris neighborhood, I balked. Ehh…Is it just going to be another charming street lined with picturesque houses and restaurants? Can’t we just lie in bed and watch that movie about the dog dying over and over Luca downloaded from Itunes?

Diana sealed the deal by saying this neighborhood, Montmarte, featured street artists who would do your portrait for a small fee. Vanity overruled my exhaustion. We cabbed up the big hill and, sure enough, found ourselves immediately accosted by (mostly) men with chalk and rolls of paper.

After some shrewd negotiation where we agreed to the first price the artist suggested, Diana and I, and Luca and Elijah paired off for our sittings. Our artist was just perfect. Rumpled shirt, floppy hat, cigarette stained fingers. Eli and Luca’s looked more like an investment banker on the run from the law, which had its own charm.

I was pleasantly surprised at how serious they were. The artist and the boys. Eli and Luca stood perfectly still, so as not to ruin the artist’s concentration. The boys wanted to present the best possible subject. I was more in the mugging for camera camp. I’m not terribly photogenic, so I didn’t have high hopes for our illustrator.

When our artist was done, he presented a drawing that was definitely of two people. While not exactly Diana and Rick, he had done a marvelous depiction of Obi Wan Kenobi and Twiggy. Later that evening, Diana “accidentally” lost our drawing at a cafĂ©.

Eli and Luca were presented a perfect illustration of two 1970s girls. Much to my utter delight. The boys weren’t quite sure what to make of it, but decided to be flattered and happy. Luca held on to the drawing for the rest of the trip and it now resides in our dining room.

And hopefully it will remain in the family for generations.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Vive La Pee


When we arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport, we realized we had too many people for one rental car with Di’s Dad and his new wife. For a brief moment, we contemplated driving a massive tour bus the rental agency had no problem offering up. Despite Elijah and Luca’s fierce begging, I wasn’t confident in the strange European stick shift. I think it involved the metric system and ravens.

We decided to rent these two little sporty French cars. They weren’t Renault, but they were some kind of brand the makers knew would never make it in the United States. Mostly because the drink holders wouldn’t accept a 14 liter Big Gulp. They were so French they smoked and drank coffee and kind of hated me.

But I simply adored buzzing around the French countryside. The roads near our little farmhouse were built for a single horse, or maybe a single girl on a bicycle carrying a baguette, so they made driving a thrill and a terror.

Paris roads, on the other hand, were designed to welcome invading armies. Huge, sprawling, impossible to navigate. Our little GPS voice (British accent, not Pepe Le Pew) would simply inform us we blew right past our round about over and over. But since it was the most beautiful city in the world, I was enjoying the heck out being lost.

Eli and Luca, on the other hand, needed very much to pee.

As we concentrically circled our hotel, Eli became more and more agitated. “I have to pee. Now!” But there was nothing we could do. Downtown Paris is absent of McDonald’s you could justify peeing in because that’s why they make McDonald’s.

Finally, Diana just suggested Eli go in one of our water bottles. I’m fairly sure this was what he was angling at the whole time. Because there is nothing more freeing than whizzing in a foreign country in a foreign water bottle.

The European bottle opening was elegant, but not conducive to effective waste management. So while I was trying to locate the impossibly narrow alley where our hotel was located, Eli literally peed over every inch of our cool little French car’s backseat.

I shouted, “Not on the wine!” and Luca’s screams are still echoing off the walls of Notre Dame.

However, this pee incident pales in comparison to my own brush with bladder issues a mere 24 hours later. But because I am the writer and editor of this blog, you will never know my embarrassment.




Sunday, August 6, 2017

Vive La Bee



We rented this impossibly French little farmhouse when we were in the Loire Valley. Next door to the hilariously small beds and showers with impossible controls, there was a little enclosure with two goats, a handful of chickens, and a donkey who would love nothing better than to eat you. When we were checking in, the owner of the house pantomimed losing a finger when referring to the animal. The boys loved it and took every opportunity to pet “Mr. Donk.”

Because of the barn, our farmhouse was also home to 400,000,000 flies. They were everywhere. In our baguettes, our Chenin Blank, our frogs’ legs, and our berets. We didn’t care because we were in friggin’ France and it was beautiful.  So we learned to live with our insect friends.

Except for the bee.

On the second to last night we were there, the families had all gathered at the outdoor big wooden table to eat cheese and drink whatever treasure Diana had found on her daily wine exploration. As is custom, right hand was for wine glasses, left hand was for fly shooing. Luca, who had recently become addicted to stinky cheese, came running up for another fist full of funk.

He grabbed onto my chair and very matter of factly said, “Oh. I just got stung by a bee.”

And for nearly half a second, everything seemed fine. After that half a second, the pain started. His eyes became huge saucers of agony and he grabbed his finger in a death grip. The sound that came out of him was pure horror.

I scooped him up and ran into the house so as not to disturb everyone else with Luca’s screaming. But the farmhouse was seemingly built to amplify children’s wails and I turned and ran out into the field with him.

My heart broke as Luca hyperventilated and screamed, “JE-SUS! JE-SUS! I can’t live! I can’t live! JE-SUS!”

I wondered for a moment if we would be spending the evening searching for a hospital among the tiny little towns called “Blou” and Blu,” but Luca didn’t seem to have any allergic reaction a la “My Girl.”

We treated his wound like we do every Hamann injury: unlimited screen time. My French brother in law also assured Luca that the bee was murdered for his offense. By beheading.

Luca was fine and now carried a healthy, and I’m sure lifelong fear of bees. But not donkeys.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Baby’s First Transatlantic Flight



The Hamanns are going to France! I mean, The Hamanns went to France! I’m in the process of downloading the 4,000 photos we took on our adventure. I have lots of fun stories to tell about wine, castles and at least 2 pee pee accidents.

But first things first. We had to get to France.

By the time we arrived at O’Hare International Airport and Chili’s, I had sunk into a coma-like state of dread. Elijah and Luca were not seasoned business travelers. They did not know how to balance their wine and Ambien intake to get the most grooviness out of their flight. Also, we were flying coach, which is for suckers.

As we made a little pile of lettuce and tomatoes from our airport sandwiches, a dude in a blue jump suit and neon yellow vest approached.

“Do your sons want to come with me to see the cockpit?”

I realized at that moment all you have to do to kidnap my sons is wear a neon yellow vest because I blurted, “Yes!” without even blinking. He told me that Diana and I could come as well and I said, “Oh, yeah sure. That works too.”

The pilot and co-pilot seemed totally fine dropping their pre-flight checklists and letting two knuckleheads yank and push whatever they wanted. We snapped photos and proclaimed our love of American Airlines and eventually found our seats.

Elijah was particularly disappointed we weren’t in First Class. Tell me about it. Luckily, we were in the bulkhead and spread out our seventeen iPads.

Next thing you know, we were in the air!

Things went smoothly for the first couple hours. The boys watched movies and played games and peed many many times. Eventually we beat the sun and the flight attendants turned off the lights. I suggested the boys do like Diana, who was already fast asleep.

Eli pointed to his in flight entertainment and said, “I am not sleeping.”

I had slightly more control over my seven year old. I made Luca a little nest of blankets and told him to try his best to get some shut eye. For the next 5 hours, Luca thrashed in his seat. Occasionally flopping his legs or head into the aisle, or shouting, “I CAN’T SLEEP!”

At one point, he raised his sleepy head up, hooded in his blankets and simply groaned. Eli remarked, “He looks like the Emperor from Star Wars.”

I decided sleep was beyond reach for all of us and caught up on an HBO show I’ve been meaning to watch.

We landed in France, totally shredded from lack of sleep, but excited for our adventure.

More to come.


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