Browsing "Lacoste"
Apr 26, 2010 - Lacoste    2 Comments

Space to be: Space for me

On this first day back from Paris, I am inundated by folders upon folders of photos on my hard drive. So this blog entry will be more in immediate response to my experiences rather than depicting/documenting them visually.

Paris… was not what I expected. We left on Wednesday at 6:30 AM and got back to Lacoste last night (Sunday) at 11 PM… at which point I fell into bed. After hauling my luggage up the hill, I barely had enough energy to shower and unpack enough to be able to function.

My stay in Paris was not pervaded by as much fear as I would have expected. The first day? Sure. So many new things! A desk man to collect my key from daily, food to purchase throughout the day, transportation – maps, crosswalks, the twenty Arrondissements, the underground maze of Metro stations hidden below the streets of Paris. The walk from Gare de Lyon to the hotel was beyond exhausting with so much weight cutting across my back, but it offered a 30-minute visual overview to the massive complexities of inner-city life. Fruit stands, complicated intersections, bike lanes, gelato and crepe stands on every corner… the Seine and its peddler people. We WALKED by Notre Dame. That one got me. I’ve seen the rose window, the flying buttresses, the recessed doorways for years and years in textbooks- but while walking to our hotel, we just stumbled upon it. A shock to my senses. History suddenly snapped into the context of the present day, present geography, present existence. Such a strange feeling. I experienced that at the Eiffel tower and at Versailles as well. Too many stories. I shall save those for later.

I was blown away by the nightlife of Paris. My latest night was the last night – Saturday. We spent all day at Versailles – RIDING BIKES in the glorious afternoon sun – watched the sunset, then visited the Eiffel Tower in the late evening. Between 12 and 1 AM we were stumbling around in complete exhaustion and delirium from the day’s adventures, looking for a bite to eat on the way back to the hotel. I was shocked by the level of activity I witnessed closer to home – everyone was out! Drinking, wandering the streets, skating, perusing, snacking, smooching – everywhere! The city was by no means as tired as I was. Every night I was able to get the full sleep my body demanded only because I packed a pair of ear plugs.

Paris was an absolute whirlwind… and I actually haven’t had the opportunity to write about my experiences and reflect on them much until now. Even amid all the chaos of tourists packed into galleries, shoving past paintings, obscuring the glory of the Hall of Mirrors… I managed to find a place for me to be. Some of our required visits and field trips helped with that… I got to engage with professional artists working in Paris – an art critic and collector, the keepers of the National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale), book makers, and a printmaker. I got to meet these people, see their workspaces, meet their families (even a very young grandson – sweet Benamy), enter their homes, view prints and photographs I have only seen copied in textbooks – now inches from my face, my breath.

The city overwhelmed me at times. But there was something utterly fascinating about the rapid pace of it – the enormity of it! How a simple Metro ride could transport me from the gypsy-infested courtyard of Notre Dame – all the toursists, the pigeons, the schemers – to the quiet residencies of actual Parisians. I walked past their laundromats, their caf├ęs, their markets, their office buildings – not places a girl with a heavy backpack and camera is expected to pass through.

So much variety. I have shared the tiniest tidbit. My five days in Paris were jam packed with all sorts of small accomplishments and failures. Just the exposure to the city was worth it – I knew I wouldn’t see it all. I will miss the Metro system, though. That small confidence in transportation. The wonderful smells of food wafting about, enticing my ever-growling stomach. Walking in and around history, not knowing what you’ll find. And most of all… that sweet afternoon wandering. Whether at Versailles or around the Seine… when the sun sinks low and the air is perfect – when all duties for the day are complete and you are free to take in the life around you. The spontaneity that can be lacking in a perfectly scheduled day of visits and checkpoints. Mmm. I miss that feeling.

While my feet are recovering and my shoulders are healing, I will reflect some more on my experiences. And next time I should have plenty more photos to share.