Last time we left off, I was indubitably unnerved by the flight to Paris. But since that time, I have been traveling with a caravan of students and professors to three major cities. Suffice to say, my attitude has changed quite a bit.
Arriving in Paris, we had the fortune of taking a boat ride (tour) of the Seine. It was quite wonderful to see the different buildings in the dusk light. It was not great, however, to almost develop hypothermia as we rode around the freezing city while the winds blew around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nevertheless, it was a great sight to see. Over the course of the next few days in Paris we saw many monuments, historical sites and numerous public displays of affection. Seriously. Every, and any time I took the metro, I saw people locking lips. Three emotions ran through my mind each time (in this order): disgust, curiosity, envy. I should think that a French girl would be interested in a strapping American lad, non? Either way, the city of lights was as elegant as it was cold.
I was able to make it down to Shakespeare and Company as well. It is a bookstore that the expatriate community of the 1920′s often spent time at writing and reading, as well as toss back ideas between young, prolific writers. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein. I felt smarter just standing amongst the superfluously anachronistic shelves lined with books that have changed the world.
We also were able to have lunch at a mosque! We ate couscous, chicken and vegetable stew. And there were birds flying around the restaurant too. Yes, you read that correctly. OSHA intervention anyone? When I questioned the necessity of birds flying around the restaurant, a head-strong young lady (clearly in the throes of a deep torpor) didactically replied that I’m so “American,” that, I did not understand true European aesthetics.
I turned to this pseudo-intellectual and simply said ok. I think that fear of a bird defecating in my food, is a worry independent of any culture. But I guess maybe I’m just not ‘cosmopolitan’ enough to understand the value behind worrying throughout the entire lunch that one of these little creatures will dump a package on my head, or in my stew.
Anyway, Paris is Paris. Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, they were all great. But the best part by far was meandering around the city. Actually I should say, sauntering throughout the city (sauntering comes from the two French words sans terre, meaning “without land.” Isn’t your life complete now that you know that?) This is truly the best way to familiarize oneself with a strange land.
Thoreau spoke of the importance of walking, and now I understand fully what he meant. Walking all day throughout the city is the best way to learn and see. I feel that I truly got so much out of Paris in too short a time period. Off to the pharmacie to get ointment for the blisters on the back of my heels.