Friday, February 28

nothing new and nothing old

adventuring takes effort. resources. time. it means pausing the usual and taking up with unknowns.
when I travel, almost everything shifts. the first-person present-tense narrator in my head steps back and the place becomes protagonist. everything about it comes up to the foreground. elements I wouldn't blink at back home seem exotic and fascinating here. metro billboards. sidewalk paving stones. rooftops. raindrops. clouds. it's all different because it's here. the here-ness of it is the whole reason you've come.
so many traditionally Parisian things both were and were not what I expected to find upon meeting this new place. one hears about Notre Dame, its bells, its mythos--but those things are not what it's like to wake up across the Seine from Notre Dame, its bells gently chiming as the sun pinks the sky behind all that intricate stonework of gargoyles and buttresses.
one hears about the cafes and the shops and the smell and the French. but none of that can ever be all of what visiting Paris is.

nothing I'll write here will capture the fully expected and the unequivocally unexpected everything that kept brushing up against itself as I walked around Paris. the Seine is muddy and green. practically everyone in Paris is practically always smoking. French food is generally exquisite. (here and here most particularly.)

this tower--as cliche a symbol of France as anything could ever get--both is and is not exactly what you think it will be when you arrive to meet it in person. from our seventh-story balcony in the Latin quarter it looked as quaint and delicate--and as distant--as on any little postcard or glossy travel poster. but walking up from the Champs de Mars metro station, crossing a few short streets, rounding a few dark corners, and being confronted with this strikingly tall, sparkly slice of iconic Parisian architecture for the very first time--that is a moment and a thrill I only have this picture and now these paltry words to re-evoke.

No comments: