Here I sit, in California, more awake than I’ve been since I got back from the trip. Many unknowns still plague my mind and the question of what comes next is unusually difficult for me to answer. But I’ve got good music jingling in my ears and I want to finally start discussing our trip to Europe. It was, as is true with so many beautiful moments in my life, tainted in some places but still grand.
I’m wondering if there is just a rule that I cannot enjoy myself without someone trying to ruin it for me. Perhaps in the multiverse I am a great villain and this world is my penance, but that discussion and specifically what (and who) I am talking about will come soon.
I would like to start this discussion about my vacation just as I hope to end it, memory permitting. I thank Jeff for watching, feeding, and caring for our kittens in our absence. There is so little I have genuinely taken away from my job compared to the time I’ve put in, but I care about Jeff like I do my own brother. He has joined a small group of people that are not legally kin but I still feel kinship too. Tough to explain, very few people have had an impact on me like he has. But onward…to Paris.
A little taste before the text wall.
I walked more miles in our two days in Paris than I believe I’ve ever walked in any 2 day period in my entire life. Our hotel guy said that we walked half the distance of Paris on the first day which means in the two days we walked the diameter of Paris. Did we see everything? Hardly, nowhere close, but we did see quite a lot. My mood when I first wrote about our trip was one of bemusement, I did not yet know of the looming darkness of the man-child back in the states. I wrote a little joke about what Tourists meant in French.
After all our photo taking I realized that Tourist was French for Asshole. That isn’t to say that we were above such titles, indeed there were times where we were tourists. In almost all my photos you will have trouble finding genuine French people, but tourists are drawn to the camera. They see you lining up a shot and run into it. There is nowhere they wish to go, of course, they just wish to stand in the middle of your shot. A tourist doesn’t leave the shot until a large army of people are coming. Their job is complete and they can go on happy.
I wonder how many gigs of images from that trip were not taken by us but have us in them? How many lives have we stealthily entered into? Am I sitting in the background of an image on someone’s coffee table right now? Do they notice me? I wonder what I was thinking when the shot was taken.
Our first few hours in Paris were tough. Every building is a hundred miles long and air conditioning is not only unseen but actively combated against. The airport and bus station were a hundred thousand degrees as was the case with nearly any indoors area we came across.
Our credit card was locked and the collect call number on the back was blocked (thanks Capital One). I ended up having the (I think) clever idea of calling through Skype to their US number. It cost me all of 0 dollars and I am almost willing to forgive Skype for being terrible in every other respect. I told the agent on the phone that they were blocking collect calls on their number and he seemed indifferent, I found that to be a bit disappointing.
Once our funds were squared away we began walking. We walked and walked, mile after mile, it began with a walk down towards the Louvre. You might think you have an idea for how big the Louvre is but I will tell you that you are wrong. “But I’ve been to it.” You might retort, still I believe you haven’t a genuine clue. Neither do I, it seemed to go on forever in each direction. The Louvre was very near our Hotel (Hotel Crayon) but that only meant you had its great girth to traverse before you were close to home.
On the first day I actually did not have a Camera with me, either this or I was entirely drunk on the moment. Foreign names, grand buildings, and a deluge of tobacco smoke had overwhelmed my senses. There is a syndrome commonly associated with Japanese tourists that describes an unquenchable depression one has when they realize that Paris is no different than the rest of the world. I’ve been to both Japan and France now and I must say I’m not sure how such a syndrome is manifest.
Paris is not the same as the rest of the world. It is not heaven, nor hell, nor is it somewhere I’d wish to live. But it was special, a unique experience that I feel bettered me as a person. I was thrown into the alien and had to figure out my way.
Something I found exceptionally interesting was their trash cans, not exactly the most exciting thing in the world but they are worth mentioning. The French, or at least Paris, do not use cans but instead have bags hanging from a ring.
It seemed to be a great system. I never saw a ripped bag, an overfilled bag, and the little around the bags was nearly nonexistent. You could argue that perhaps the French are just less litter prone than Americans and that this is why our cans tend to stand in the middle of great dirty mounds but that didn’t appear to be the case either.
Litter was very common in Paris, enough cigarette butts to build a skyline and even dog poop seemed quite happy sitting there in a busy walking path. The novelty of the bags never wore off, reminding me that I am incredibly easy to amuse.
Paris is full of amazing architecture, buildings that up until that point were difficult for me to comprehend. It is true that in the US we have very tall buildings but there is something genuinely awe inspiring about the scale of the everything in these churches and palaces.
My picture taking skills aren’t the greatest and the camera I was using only had a back panel for viewing, which works great anywhere as long as it isn’t bright or the outside, or the inside, or really basically anywhere. But if you have made it this far then I guess we are doing ok.
I actually didn’t take all that many pictures inside of the churches, I’m not a conventionally religious man by any stretch of the imagination but I also understand that in a foreign country you don’t want to get in trouble in a religious building. Compound this with the eerie cold and silence we met in most of these old stone buildings to churn up the ultimate humility or at least complacency.
They were not all silent however, one of the churches we entered had this beautiful song playing from a pipe organ high overhead. For a moment I could see how this sort of thing could entrance someone.
It was interesting to me just how much violence can be found in Christian churches. Every inch of every wall in every church was covered in death, murder, or betrayal of some kind. I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would want to be enveloped in such a thing all the time. I also wondered just what kind of people this sort of atmosphere generates, if we are so worried about violence in video games…what then of thousand year old buildings seemingly devoted to it?
A discussion for another time I suppose. They were beautiful places and I highly recommend them to everyone. It is amazing what the human mind can achieve when it is lost in wonder. These buildings were all so immaculate and massive that I couldn’t help but be impressed.
I’m not sure what this is. I’m assuming it is a memorial for the Patron Saint of Ants.
I really enjoyed the wildlife in the city as well, I made it a point to snap a shot of any bird I saw while on the trip. Perhaps I’m an ornithologist at heart?
That last one is a little tough. The French pigeons can be a bit shy on camera. I suspect the scorn of the reconstruction work being done in Europe is all heaved upon the birds. They even gave some of their statues antennas to fend off the fowl.
Then again I could be desperately wrong and maybe he just had antennas in real life? It was painfully obvious that the birds just ignored the spikes on most of the statues. Lots and lots of poop…so…much…poop.
A few of the bridges in Paris are covered from end to end in locks. I don’t know the story on how this started but it looks like people largely use it now to profess their love. Maybe the belief is that the love will be as unchanging and eternal as the locks? I’m uncertain. I did manage to find a few relevant locks that matched our travels.
The latter of the two is a bit too good to not use as the closer for this post. So I think we’ll have a second recap on Paris next time. A few more images and some last thoughts on that particular part of the trip. In the end I left Paris with a headache, a mild sunburn, and a very pleasant calmness.