Frédéric & I had our first Valentine's dinner out in 8 years this weekend. Since our oldest child is only 3, it's clearly not just a babysitter issue, so maybe I should preface this post by explaining why we haven't made a habit of going out for Valentine's Day.
We tried to go out to eat on Valentine's Day 2001, our first Valentine's Day as a married couple. We thought we'd head out a little early since we were going into Paris, and Frederic had to be at work early the next morning. Frédéric's little sister, who was about 12 at the time, was staying with us for a few days, so we got her McDonald's for dinner and headed out.
So we headed down to Chili's on the Champs-Elysées. Only, when we got there... it wasn't there. An Irish pub now stood where the Chili's had been. We didn't have much desire to have our dinner in an Irish pub when we thought we were going out for Mexican, so we decided we'd try Chi-Chi's instead.
We parked across the street and looked at the restaurant, which looked decidedly empty, and it was at least 8 pm by this time, so a normal hour to eat dinner in France. We got out of the car and crossed the street to take a closer look. The tables were all set, but the restaurant was most definitely closed. There were no hours posted anywhere, and it was a Wednesday. There was no indication of why it was closed, but it didn't seem likely it would be opening soon if it wasn't already, so we got back in the car to try plan C.
Plan C turned out to be a very brief consideration of a nearby Pizza Hut, but it was only a take-out. Eating in the car didn't seem like very much fun, not to mention that there was nowhere to park anyway, so we didn't think about that idea for long.
We knew there was another Chi-Chi's in a suburb of Paris, so we headed over that way. When we arrived, we found it in the same state as the one in Paris. Tables all set, as though they would be open any minute... but they weren't. As it was after 9 pm by this time, it didn't seem likely they would be opening later on either, so we continued on our not-so-merry way.
We were starting to get very hungry, so we decided we would just go to the Pizza Hut near our apartment. By the time we got there, it was 9:45 pm, Pizza Hut closed at 10 pm, and the line was out the door! We didn't even attempt it, we headed back home and made dinner there. Frederic's little sister never did understand how we came home from dinner so hungry that we had to make another dinner at 10 pm!
After that experience, we decided to give up on the holiday altogether. (We did find out later that both Chili's and Chi-Chi's had gone out of business in France.)
This year, then, was an exception to our tradition of non-celebration because the teens from the church we're attending in Marseille hosted a Valentine's Day dinner for the married couples in the church. (No defunct restaurants to worry about in this case.) Some made the dinner and served us, and sang for us, and others babysat the kids. I think about 20 couples attended, either members of the church or friends.
Here are our placecards (minus last names for the internet). Some of the kids from church made them earlier in the week.
We had a great time, right up until it was time to go and Benjamin threw a big hairy fit. He was not happy to be leaving, and that's an understatement. He screamed in the car as we drove back to our friend's apartment, and while Frederic took Noah up to bed, I waited with Benjamin in the car until he calmed down enough that I thought we wouldn't wake up the whole building with his wailing and shrieking.
But the next morning he remembered how much fun he had had... when we got to church, he told me, "I want go to church and play games and watch TV!" Um.... I'm glad church is making such an impression on him. Or something.