God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April in Paris

Not the most creative title but certainly très appropriate!

Paris is big, noisy, crowded and most definitely unique. It appears as a place that knows its own mind, propelling itself, day in and day out, along courses it has designed and created for its own pleasure and personality.

Neighborhoods with distinctly different characters--a few quiet and withdrawn but most bustling with energy and apparent purpose --merge into and through each other in maze like proximity.

It is a rich city that holds much history, bloodshed, intrigue, beauty and grandeur. It is unlike any other place I know. And--it is not my favorite place.

Florence draws even the stranger into its mystery and past. It has a history colored by centuries of turmoil, romance, intrigue and upheavals and yet it shares all freely with the citizens of the world. There is an openness and comfort with itself that enters into the soul of the visitor and traveler.

Paris does not do this--at least for me. That great city seems to "show off" its features--wide boulevards, regal architecture, enormous palaces, impressive cathedrals and churches. It is a place where you feel the outsider role rather than an embrace.

We have been to Paris before and I do not remember it this way at all. Perhaps because it was many years ago, before travel became everyone's obsession, when days could be spent in leisurely strolls, uncrowded museums and quiet window shopping. Or maybe because we did not have an eight-year-old in tow then.

Having lived in a very pastoral setting for the last many months, I wasn't prepared for the multitudes of yellow and red and blue open-topped buses possessing the streets, or so many tour buses disgorging so many people--tourists like us so I surely can't cast stones. Taxis cruise and fill the wide boulevards. People rush and run and hurry wherever they are going. And-lines, lines, lines.

We enjoyed the Louvre, the Musèe Orsay, the Picasso Musèe, the Jardin des Tulieries and walking--well, sort of enjoyed that part. For a brief review of our museum experiences, check out Casey's take on them in KZ in Toscana and see his budding artistic talents. It's a pretty good read.

I know that France values and protects its language--even having an official government agency to make sure it is not encroached upon or compromised by foreign intrusion. I know there is a great fear of the prominence of English world wide--the language of the rabble. But--in their zeal, the keepers succeed in keeping their history and richness to themselves--not taking the opportunity to educate the non-French speaking world citizens about their great past, art work and events. I do understand the argument that one should know the language of a country and if not, too bad. I just don't think it is a reasonable argument in a world with 1000's of languages.

Signs in front of buildings, in museums or other places of note are never in English--a language that many, many tourists can read regardless of nationality. If there is a common language today, it is English. So, although I am interested in the history of Paris, have read much and am at least minimally knowledgeable, I would have liked enlightenment about specific buildings or artists or places and events. I did not leave as enriched with a broader understanding as I would have in Florence or Rome. It is interesting, though, that English is utilized in the interest of money making opportunities.

With all this said, it was fun to watch Casey when he saw the Eiffel tower lit up at night and when he stood under it, looking upward in awe. He will always remember having fun and laughter with children of the world in the Tuileries. Seeing a place through the eyes of a child is very special--even when he gets to the point of "I'm bored." It seems that the Orsay is just a little too much--once through Cezanne, Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec, the park sounded good to him. He loved the Picasso museum and now sees himself as a budding Picasso. The Mona Lisa, which was high on his short list of must-sees, disappointed terribly. The guards allow children to go right up in front of the ropes so that they can look and look. Casey tried very hard to walk in such a way that her eyes would follow him but, to his dismay, they didn't move.

We ate well for the most part. The weather was wonderful; trees were beginning to bloom and flowers in the parks were colorful and lovely. Paris is a city of parks and that is nice. Maybe next time, its magic will prevail for me.

And, finally, apologies to my good friend Ann, who loves Paris, and to others who, I am sure, profoundly disagree with me.

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