Monday, May 22, 2006

A day in Paris

My trip to Europe started in Paris with a quick stay with Franck. He’s a rather crazy French kayaking buddy I had met several years ago in NZ. Franck had been a bit of wild child at the time so I felt a real sense of adventure stepping onto the plane. This was my first adventure in Europe, and the first time I had travelled to a foreign speaking country alone.

I shouldn’t have worried. Paris was a perfect start to such an adventure and Franck was the perfect host.

As I stepped off the plane I was greeted by the sights and smells of spring. Paris, always beautiful with many old buildings, was further adorned by flowers of many colours. Spring is always a special, energetic time but after a long Scandinavian winter, spring in Paris is sensational. I wanted to dance in the street, even while carrying my two packs and a paddle!

I eventually managed to navigate both the subway (easy) and the huge railway station (more difficult) to meet Franck at the correct sortie (exit). We then went to his central Paris flat and squeezed both of us and all my luggage into his tiny 1.5 person lift in the middle of the stairway. Then there was time to catch up before eating a fantastic dinner at his favourite local café complete with a drunk French waiter.

The next day Franck was working, so I was free to explore Paris on my own. As an art student I had always loved the impressionists, so I decided to aim for Musée d'Orsay and hopeful check out some other sights on the way.

The day started at Arc de Triomphe This bridge in the middle of a humongous roundabout, is impressive sight. A few moments later you notice the people standing below, and realize it is ten times bigger than you had imagined. “Wow”.

Next I visited the Eiffel Tower, which on first view surprised me by with it’s ugliness. (Well I have been brought up on romantic Hollywood shots of it after all.) However as you come closer you realise just how big it is and how much steel has gone into making it. Standing below, I was impressed by it’s size and strength. Pure and simple, it’s a symbol of strength and that quite appeals to me.

I then made it to the museum and then realised I should have got up earlier! There was a massive queue, so it was off for some bread and cheese to eat while I did a spot of people watching.

I was definitely worth the wait. Art books cannot tell the same story as an afternoon in a gallery.

Inside, I discovered the delicate pastels of Degas, the glowing pointillists pictures and the energy of Monet’s Bastaille day painting. I also discovered the importance of space, the areas in a painting without paint. My art teacher had tried to teach us this exact thing many years ago…
By the time I left the museum I felt like both my heart and mind had been on a journey through time and art. Through my own eyes I had seen and felt art process through the years.

On the way home, I visited Notre Dame Cathedral and listened to the organ playing. Inside was still and timeless, outside was metropolitan Paris. There, some inline skaters were jumping a bar well over head height to earn a few euros. The cathedral is also surrounded by a beautiful park with blossom and matching tulips. Here locals would meet, relax, play and read. Here I found, beautiful everyday Paris.

So Paris is more than just the museums and fine wine. It is walking beside the Seine river and admiring the buildings. It about cafes everywhere. And it is about the feeling of wanting to have someone to walk beside you because you’re in Paris and it’s Spring.

But what makes it is best is meeting an old friend and catching up. Then, it is about being kissed by an old friend on greeting, though many years have passed. It’s about visiting his local café and drinking wine and having a drunk waiter. That's Paris from the inside!

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