Thursday, September 6, 2018
High up in our tiny one room apartment in central Paris, I am looking out on a sunny fall afternoon over the Fontaine des Innocents, the city’s oldest fountain, constructed in 1550. We are 6 floors up, 101 (!) wooden steps in a circular staircase with natural light sifting down the landings. Though we are only a 10 minute walk to the Seine and the Louvre, in the courtyard the laughter of children playing, pedestrians chattering and the occasional police siren give the sense of being in the centre of things without the harsh noise of cars and smell of exhaust.
In the square a blues singer with liquid fingers is belting out traditional blues as well as “House of the Rising Sun.” Yesterday a tuba broke the afternoon crowd noise and was joined by 11 other band members with lively klezmer music. We forget how much music enriches our daily lives especially when it is unexpected and part of the fabric of community life.
When we arrived we took the train into Paris. Just outside the airport the banks on either side of us were planted with waves of wild plants and flowers, including lavender. So very French.
Yes, we saw the Mona Lisa along with several hundred other people. No, it was not a life enhancing experience. The Louvre was built as a fortress in the 12th century, became a royal residence in the middle ages, and has been expanded as a museum now covering 15 acres. We were surprised that the Egyptian wooden mummy burial cases were more brightly coloured and of much higher quality than those we saw in Cairo. No doubt French archaeologists spirited the best ones out of the country in the 19th century.
The sheer enormity of the collection makes a day trip an overwhelming experience. We enjoyed a 3D presentation of the development of the building and walked through what used to be the original moat now drained. The last major expansion was by Napoleon III in 1870.
On our way home, tucked into a laneway beside the Protestant Church in Paris was a poster display marking the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the French Assembly in 1788. Here is a quotation by the French philosopher, Voltaire: The supposed right of intolerance is absurd and barbaric. It is the right of the tiger; nay, it is far worse, for tigers do but tear in order to have food, while we rend each other for paragraphs. (my emphasis) The display was a reminder of the importance of the inherent dignity of all persons, the value of tolerance as a civic virtue the necessity for courageous truth-telling and most of all for living lives that radiate peace. And that is hardest of all.
Geoff discovered one of Paris’ hidden treasures, Le Brun restaurant within a 10 minute walk. My bream with carrot and coconut puree and slivered marinated vegetables was exquisite; Geoff’s risotto with chorizo cream and shrimp was similarly delicious. It will be a change to be cooking out of a tent for the next 6 weeks!
2 thoughts on “Paris, France”
I can certainly see a book in the making with your words; it’s almost like me being there with you! Safe travels!
Hope you are having a good time .Safe journey