Saturday, July 9, 2016

That was WAY more stressful than I thought it would be...

Today was amazing and overwhelming and beautiful and stressful.

Paris is so different than anything I have ever seen or experiences. The tall off white buildings, with black iron gated windows romantically decorated with drooping flowering plants, loomed around me taking me back hundreds of years. It wasn't hard to imagine women hanging out of the windows, yelling down to neighbors as they passed.  Strolling down the street, lost in another world, the sound of passer-bys babbling on in French danced in my ears to the tune of a street performer's guitar, like a love song meant only for me.

The subway took me, as if moving in an underworld, swifty to the Eiffel Tower. But this story isn't all romantic past century stuff. Upon resurfacing, the reality of a few (eight?) months ago immediately smacked me in the face. Police were everywhere, carrying guns, something they apparently do not normally do. Army men walked by with very large guns, their finger hovering just on the trigger. I've been around police and I've been around army men. But never like this. This was something different. This was driven by fear inducing acts of terrorists.

A Fan Zone was set up for the Euro Cup (soccer!!) which meant the large park in front of the Eiffel Tower was blocked off and heavily guarded. It also meant none of the gorgeous far away pictures from the end of the park. We walked up to it and just relished in the beauty and enormity of it. We had tried to buy tickets that morning, but alas, none were available so last minute. I should have planned that better.

From there, we walked along the Seine via the Quai d'Orsay to the Esplanade des Invalides and finally the Musee de l'Armee (the Army Museum). Although not my "thing", it was neat to walk around and see the different perspectives on each major war from the French view as well as learn a little about the different wars that France was involved in that aren't part of the American narrative, and therefore, are not taught in American schools.

After, we headed over to the Tomb of Napoleon, which was actually my favorite part of this leg of our journey.

The French really idealize this guy. He was a god to them, shown around the bottom of the tomb in a neo-classical style, making connections between the old and new (Roman law used to create Napoleonic code, for example). And his tomb sits down below in an underground level, where the light breaks through the windows from above and shines down on him. Side note: Did you know that Napoleon wasn't really short? That was just English propaganda. Who knew?

We had a lovely lunch of baguette and cheese in the park before heading to the Musee Rodin. I love Rodin. I had no idea how awesome he was. His sculptures are mind blowing.

The museum in Paris is housed in the Hotel Biron, which was used as his workshop from 1908. He agreed to donate his sculptures to Paris as long as they housed them in the Hotel Biron, turning it into a museum of his works. I want that kind of sway.

The Museum Rodin houses some of his most famous works, including The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell, all there of which are just stunning in person. The collection also includes some work from Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir which were part of Rodin's personal collection. There is a huge garden out back housing several other large Rodin sculptures, as well.

The day was dwindling away, so we made our way to the Pantheon for one last visit before things started closing. Originally built as a church, the Pantheon now functions as a secular mausoleum for distinguished French citizens such as Voltaire and Rousseau. We were very excited to see Marie Currie and her husband, Pierre, also in the Pantheon. Beyond the crypt below, the building itself was gorgeous. Huge domed ceilings and intricate statues and gorgeous paintings surrounded us. Breathtaking architecture. We just don't make buildings like this anymore.

We decided to take a Literary Walk, found in the Paris guide, to visit some of the places Hemingway and Joyce lived, as well as a Hotel where the Beat poets hung out. We only got four stops in on this walk before the kids had had enough and demanded dinner. Kids and their food needs. Ugh.

We stopped at a restaurant for some snacks, only to find that when you sit at a restaurant in France, or at least this restaurant in France, we had to order dinner. We rolled with it and I had a delicious asparagus risotto.

Because the sun sets so late in this part of the world, we had plenty of time to make our way back to Montmartre to the top of the hill at Sacre-Coeur to watch the sunset over Paris. A perfect ending to a first night.

While the day was amazing, the language barrier, at times, created stress. My fault. No one else's. Traveling abroad for the first time is a wake up call that your "normal" isn't normal at all. There is an entire world out there to explore that will open your eyes to different cultures and ways of living. And the things you take for granted aren't normal at all. We should all travel more if only to break out of our narrow view of the world. It is a beautiful thing... 

1 comment:

  1. I love your thought here:
    "Traveling abroad for the first time is a wake up call that your "normal" isn't normal at all."

    You said it well. Every time I travel I experience multiple realization moments. I remember last summer walking around a small village in Greece. I saw family after family hanging out, talking, and laughing well after 11:00pm. Almost every one had three generations present, all together, enjoying time outside. Their houses were basically shacks, but with just some patio furniture, great weather, and each other- everyone was having a great time. It hit me how our culture in America misses out on these interactions sometimes (we move more often, and it isn't as common to live in multi-generational houses). It was a cool perspective on another way to live, and it has really stuck with me since.

    Keep up the great work! It's SO hard to write while traveling. Props to you for keeping up with it! Safe travels, and hopefully you get a few more moments like this one! Don't sweat missing out on things because you could have planned better. Setting up an extended trip is a TON of work. Your plans never seem to cover as much as you think (at least that's how I always feel). Y'all have covered a TON of ground. Mad respect! Enjoy France. Hopefully they'll be able to recover from that loss yesterday... was hoping they would get a win for you guys!