Monday, April 6, 2009

Salt. Lots of salt.

That's how the Paris trip began. Who would think that our journey to the city that made light an aspiration would be made possible by the lowliest of minerals?

Sometime in the early hours of March 25, thousands of pounds of that crystalline stuff was liberally spread on roads so that we could make it to the airport and our plane could make it down the runway. Before daylight this spring morning, a classic Colorado upslope began dumping snow, on the very day we planned to begin our Parisian adventure. If you've never experienced an upslope blizzard, you've missed out on adventures in continuous snow-shoveling, tree branch-rescue, snow-shoeing for food and survival for days without heat. Until recently, Colorado hasn't been much for plowing roads because the old-west culture was -- “It'll melt!”

Once at the airport, it was a nail-bitter as to whether our flight out would survive, or join the list of canceled flights. It wasn't. A couple of de-icings and news that ours was the last flight allowed out, and fate took over. We made Chicago, met up with Nic and departed over the Atlantic, landing early Friday morning for our adventure in Paris.

The difference between Paris and the wide-open spaces of Colorado that I call home, is a real mind adjustment. Where I live, you can see one hundred miles from my favorite writing cafe, to the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. But Paris....Paris surrounds you, envelopes you, infuses your soul in a way both fragrant and gritty, that I haven't experienced before.

It does this, even though it is, physically, a small city; only twenty Arrondissements laid out like a pinwheel. Arrondissements one through eight of this cookie-cutter-shaped space hold most of the attractions for which Paris is renowned; from the Eiffel Tower to the major museums, the Arch de Triumphe, the river Seine and the great cathedrals. We stayed in Arrondissement 15, bounded on the west and north by the Seine, only a block from the Port de Versailles metro stop.

First impressions: it's an easy city in which to get around. Truly, Paris is meant to be strolled, but if your shoes hurt, your partner's back is protesting, or you want to cram more than three things into a day, you take the metro. It's warp speed, clean, handsome and using it, you're right there with the locals. You can get anywhere and if you get a metro pass as we did, you zip in and out, switch gears from the Latin Quarter to a museum and back again. The U.S has such a loooooooong way to go.

Take it easy your first day or you'll miss the next morning. We were so energized that we set out for the Place de la Concorde to pick up our Museum Passes, retrieved our Metro passes, had lunch on the Rue St. Honore, met our niece who flew in from Edinburgh on her way to Rome and took her to dinner in the shadow of Notre Dame. It was a lovely little Alsatian place on the Saint Louis en I'lle, but we nearly fell asleep in our soup! Nic, for his part took time for lunch with a friend at the American Embassy and he's the one who got up at 4:30 am. to make sure our niece made her metro connections for Rome. I knew we'd raised a gentleman! It was 10:30 am, Saturday morning, before the rest of us roused. From that moment on...we set an exploration pace on Paris.

Even if you never eat bread – eat the bread. The French are so serious about their baking that in culinary school, bakers-in-training have to decide if they want to become a bread-baker or a pastry baker. Seriously! Each morning Nicholas has trekked the couple of blocks from our apartment to the bakery to await it's opening, returning with croissants still warm from the oven. They are so exquisite that they melt in your mouth with the strawberry jelly we liberally spoon on to them. Katie, for her part, buys entire baguettes and carries them around in her back pack to nosh on between museums!

I've gotten both good and bad comments from people about this trip. Most are happy for us, that we have set out to share a precious celebration of discovery before our family moves to its next stage. To those who express concern about this trek in the midst of economic turmoil, about justifying it when my marketing contract work is down, about picking a place that could appear too exotic in today's new these nay-sayers I say, if not now, when? I've economized all my life..when it wasn't fashionable and when many of you were not. I guess I have always “yinged” when others “yanged.” We prayed about this trip...and now was the time, for us. This adventure says the four of us believe in our future, whatever it holds.

Marcel Proust noted that, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

In my case, my new eyes have found an unlimited resource of light....for writing ideas, places to write and small moments to write. But technology, in the form of a malfunctioning transformer, prevented me from posting anything after my first few twitters because my laptop batteries, instead of recharging, were drained dry and would not recharge. (No, my i Phone and Blackberry friends, I don't have an international phone, or a fancy one, so there was no twittering without that transformer.)

So think of this as the one week delay, sort of like old post mail, from a friend who's wanting to share the flavor of a new landscape and the discovery of my new eyes.

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