Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On the bridge

Finally, the clouds broke and the setting sun appeared for the first time today only with only 30 minutes left of light. At that moment we were crossing the Pont Notre Dame and to the east the reflected light in the trees along the banks of the Seine provided a golden glow. To the west the sky gave us the only splash of color that we witnessed all day. It was glorious. The day began in Paris after the 20 minute bus ride and 45 minute train ride to somewhere deep underneath the most dangerous traffic circle on the planet, Charles De Gualle etoile. As we ascended, we noticed the soaked shoes and umbrellas of those descending. Once on the street, the freezing wind inverted our umbrellas as we posed for pictures in front of the Arc du Triomphe. The proof of our presence there now digitized; we raced again down into the Metro with its dry warm, albeit stale air. We now headed for the Eiffel tower, but on the way we were sidetracked by lunch.

To find a good meal in France, go to a non touristy area, close your eyes, and walk until you bump into a building. Then look around to see if there is a café or restaurant is in your peripheral vision. Pick anyone that looks interesting, but it is even better if it is on a corner. At home it is an event to go out for a fine French meal. In Paris, it is all French food. Before you sit down, look for the chalk board to see what the specials are, this is a good place to begin. I started with an entree of saumon au fume with tzatziki sauce, pita and salad. Even the salad was unexpectedly delicious. This was followed by a parmesan risotto with jambon. Tre magnifique! Of course, I couldn’t leave without the requisite crème brule.

I noticed something about France today. Each culture has something that they may excel at. The French, after millennia of existence have mastered the art of subtle accessorizing. This is evident in their cuisine, their décor and architecture and the beauty of French women. The basic ingredients for delicacy begins in nature, however, with just the right modicum of accessory, food becomes fabulous, buildings become more than stone boxes and a woman’s natural beauty is accentuated while still appearing natural. Remember that the word delicacy begins with delicate. Sometimes in America we go to extremes in the loudness and quantity of our experiences. A burger at Carl’s Junior is not enough. We have to make it huge and throw on pastrami or cheese steak so that even the most undiscriminating palate will be satisfied. Somehow, here in Paris they understand that less is more and understatement can say it all.

After a long and leisurely lunch, we rambled to the Champs du Mars to view the Eiffel tower up close in a cold now drizzling rain while we waited for a bus to take us through the middle of Paris. Finally, we found refuge and dryness inside the Cathedral, Notre Dame. It is always mildly disconcerting to me to have a place of worship overrun by tourists snapping photos in an effort to somehow take a piece of that ancient beauty home with them. I was of course, no different. I know that the photos I will look at next month will in no way reflect the workmanship seen in the stained glass as viewed in person standing 20 feet below it.

Finally, back on the bridge, the grey drizzle ceased and Barbie and found ourselves on the same spot, on the same bridge, where ten years earlier a polite Parisian had taken our picture with the river Seine below. It was time to update ourselves in both remembrances and aspiration as we could see where we have been and where we are going. Before it can become a memory, it must first be an experience on our bridge from the past to the future. This is how we subtlety accessorize our lives.



Wendy said...

Ahhhh, beautiful pictures, wonderful description...I'd love to see Paris!

Emma and Dan said...

You guys both look so great and happy. I would love to see the picture from 10 years ago! You should scan it in. :)
I'm so glad that you are having a great trip. Are you heading anywhere else?

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed seeing your pictures of Paris. You both look very happy. We have lots of beautiful snow here in Alaska. Alyeska Resort, the local downhill ski town, reported 100 inches of powder top of mountain in the past few days. I hope to be able to ski regularly there this winter. Unfortunately, Rich had to give up skiing three years ago. He does not have the strength. (also the broken hip a year ago didn't help) Recently we traveled to Seattle for Rich to see a specialist. The doctor told Rich he needed to get serious about his disease. He looked at his watch twice during the 10 to 15 minute visit. We left the Seattle Cancer Care Center depressed and in a bit of shock. Rich and I now joke with each other that he "must get serious about his illness" but it took awhile before we could poke fun at the comment. Hope your trip is wonderful. Again, thank you so much for your sharing with us your inspired writings. All the best, Elle from Anchorage

Rebecca said...

obsessed with the last picture. it's beautiful! miss you guys.

Lydia Dison said...

Beautiful! What a great opportunity! Enjoy, We love you.

Jennifer Brailsford said...

Paris is beautiful in the Fall. We were there in the summer and it does not compare to your pictures. I will have to remember that. Have fun.