Vacation in Paris Blog

Feeling Tingly

Places To Visit - Posted on Mar 01,2021 by JanSmi

It must hit everybody at the same time –that tingly feeling that says “it’s almost time for baseball.” You feel extra tingly when you’re an American living in France, far from Major League Baseball because you know it ain’t gonna happen here.

But I knew the time had arrived because last Wednesday my husband Don plopped a baseball cap on his head for the first time this year.

Gone was his knit hat, the headgear that kept his ears warm all winter and kept the wind off the bald spot on the top of his head. The French call this hat a bonnet. Male or female, it can be startling to hear yourself called on as the customer in the bonnet when you’re standing in line at the boulangerie or bakery. You look around to see if Sunbonnet Sue has slipped into line behind you.

No such worries now. Don is wearing a casquette (baseball cap). Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but it was the day major league pitchers and catchers reported to spring training that he first put it on.

But something more seemed to be at work. The same day, Don’s grandfather’s baseball bat took up residence in our entryway. It looks more like a caveman’s club than one of today’s baseball bats, so it adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to our décor. Once or twice a day, Don lugs it out to the hallway for a few swings.

Another thing - weighted baseballs made an appearance. Early in the morning, shortly after the 6 p.m.-6 a.m. corona virus curfew is lifted, Don now drops the baseballs into a bag with his glove, puts on his casquette and his mask and heads to the nearby Trocadéro gardens just across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower. It’s an inspiring spot for baseball because the very first professional game ever played in France took place only a few meters away. That was in February of 1889 shortly before the Eiffel Tower opened to commemorate the Centennial of the French Revolution. The game, organized by sporting goods magnate A.G. Spalding, featured the Chicago White Stockings against the All-Americans. The Tower, although it too has had some bad moments, has done a better job holding on to its place than baseball has in France.

For now, Don alone keeps baseball alive at that location. He tries to get to Trocadéro before the gendarmes, or French police, begin their daily rounds, even though he’s found a wall there he can throw against without being stopped by the cops. He learned to avoid many spots after several confrontations a couple of years ago when the police forcefully pointed out that buildings at Trocadéro are National Monuments and are to be protected - especially from Americans wielding baseballs.

Those confrontations were as heated as any Don has had with umpires. After the first, shall we say, tête-á-tête with a pair of cops, he found a secluded place off the main plaza near a public toilet which hadn’t been used in years. No sooner had he begun throwing against the rusted iron door than the same cops suddenly appeared.

“Whaddya want now?” Don said. He was feeling ornery after one meeting with the flics or cops. They were not impressed and told him to stop throwing. “We warned you before,” they said.

“But I’m not hurting anything,” Don replied. “Look, this is a baseball and that’s a damn toilet! A toilet! Do you hear?”

“Yes,” one of the gendarmes said, “but the toilet is attached to the larger building which makes it part of a national monument so you have to stop.”

“And you must be a complete idiot!” Don yelled, forgetting that people in France, unlike the U.S., don’t talk back to the police, not if they want to avoid serious trouble. Frustration had him boiling over. He wanted to play baseball. Only when the gendarmes began advancing did he hold up his hands and say, “Okay, okay, I get it, I’ll stop.” Maybe it was Don’s accent and the fact that he clearly wasn’t French that saved him, but the cops seemed satisfied and finally drifted away. Don drifted home.

Yet there’s even more to this “tingly feeling” that’s hit us in the past few days than avoiding gendarmes and remembering old games. It’s something Mother Nature seemed to feel, too. She suddenly changed course. After the longest spell of really cold weather that we can ever remember having in Paris, last week – on Wednesday to be exact, yes, the day pitchers and catchers reported – temperatures shot spring-ward. All the ice patches melted away and the sun began to shine on the City of Light. Paris found its sparkle.

All that’s missing now is the cry of “Play ball!” and the crack of a bat.

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Our latest guest bloggers - Don and Petie Kladstrup

Don and Petie Kladstrup are authors of two best-selling books, the first being Wine and War: the French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, a best-seller that has been optioned for a motion picture. Their second book dealt with World War I: Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times. Both books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Don and Petie are former journalists. Don was a award-winning foreign correspondent for CBS and ABC Television News. Petie worked for several mid-western newspapers before serving as an assistant to the American ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. They are the parents of two daughters and have lived in Paris since 1978, splitting their time between the city and their country home in the south of France.

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