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(Click the pic for a larger view.)

To begin with, as an America, once you’ve been to Europe it’s easy to want to go back. There’s a breeze blowing in the minds of Europeans that escapes most Americans.

Almost all visits to Europe will start off, go through or lead to Paris. There’s the Louvre, the ever present Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the food, the wine, women’s underwear-art nouveau, Notre Dame and more.

The light of Paris is The Tower, the fancy pants the Louvre and Notre Dame the ‘rock’.

Notre Dame: a world of History to browse.

 

We entered Notre Dame just when a singing mass began…that gal’s voice was shipped from heaven.*

My thoughts drifted back to this historical shrine many times during our visit to Paris while my eyes fell upon the Eiffel Tower as often. This massive structure is taller than you think.

Here’s a shot of construction.

 

(May, 1888.)

The Tower looms over the city’s skyline and by night it beams lights for five minutes upon the hour to demonstrate Parisian’s will to survive any test.

Thanks to my wife for catching this unforgettable moment.

Napoleon’s Tomb was a shocker; a golden dome repeats the sun outside and inside floors of intricately cut marble boggle the mind. Napoleon’s tomb is no less astonishing to see and informative as well.**

These columns, everything, is different colored marble or gold gilt.

 

The marble floors are seamlessly joined as if they were interwoven threads of a Peruvian rug.  

And the inside ceiling dome is no less enthralling.

Paris is art to the heart. A never-ending display of what might be done if only mankind would.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a doll house? Streets are lined with bigly baskets of floral arrangements as though a wedding was taking place on each one.

If your hustle causes you to miss a statue you’re sure to catch the ones on the next corner. And about those fountains…there are one million of them, all enhanced, again by more statues.

The Eiffel Tower looms over your wanderings as they take you to the Louvre.  (Hot tip: First-go to Paris in September; second-go to the Louvre when it’s closed so your completely bummed like us…then, be nearby on the next night when it’s open and go! No one is there to speak of, and you can walk right up to the Lady.) The Mona Lisa is more than you will expect. I promise.

 The entrance to the Louvre is a grand, striking glass pyramid that provides the correct ambiance and protection its holdings deserve.

We meandered around and past ancient Roman and Greek statues, even those that predate the periods,  ones we could walk up to as though a conversation might ensue. Soon, we came to a wide stairway blessed by The  Winged Victory of Samothrace masterpiece.

The absence of people contrasted the magnitude of people who flock to this same spot everyday of the summer. I don’t know how a marble statue can appear to have flight, but this one does. I longed to see the missing head and arms–sigh.

Steps by works I can’t describe with any astute justice frame the route to the room where the Mona Lisa waits. Truly, I’d expected the work to be small, and that only an inquisitive adherence of my attention would bang against this canvass. Oh, how wrong…

We entered a room almost void of tourists and took our place centered before the Mona Lisa only three rows deep. I’d cleared to the front of the line within minutes and stood but fifteen feet from the herald painting. I stared at this painting and within one minute it felt as though I was communicating with the portrait. The brow was different from so many others I’d seen in paintings just prior in our walk-a-bout, a bit shaded upon the upper right from my view, a touch that gave a cerebral hue to the work. The background to each side held a stream to the left and a montage of floating sky and movement to the right. The smile, as so well drummed, had an inescapable ambivalence that lay open to so many interpretations.

It seemed I could talk with the Mona Lisa.

It caught me that my lips were moving with my silent thoughts and in a glance I saw the guard, a women in her younger years who sat by the painting, was watching me with some concern, or was it interest. I retreated back though those who waited to be first in the line but then stopped. I eagerly returned to the crowd and ventured off to the left side of the painting, the guard aware of my every foot step. I once again stood in front of the line but far off to the left of the painting. Mona Lisa’s eyes were staring at me  with the exact intensity I’d experienced while standing in front of the portrait!

Mona Lisa’s eyes remained on me from all viewing angles and this sighting etched my head forever.

I ventured into a street shop selling wine: “I’ve no idea about wine, but I want a red that isn’t’ too expensive, and I’m only here for three nights.” The shop owner showed me a 5 dollar bottle of wine that turned out to be excellent, even by my world-traveled sister’s standards. So get a hunk of cheese, crackers, wine and grapes for breakfast while there-it’s great fun.

We stayed in an Airbnb centrally located within the city. The back featured a two level outside porch surrounded by plantings and fresh air, the perfect place for us to enjoy along with my sister, my wife’s cousin, Anne Claude, her husband Noah, and my brother-in-law and his wife.

Ahhh, Parie…..La Ville des lumieres…

Go to Paris; chomp on a baguette. See the Mona Lisa and, if you’re like me, Life may never exactly seem the same after you do. How odd, the force of art and love!

Franque23

*Thanks to my wife for most of the pictures.

** I’d no idea how important Napoleon had been to the development of almost every aspect of  the Paris we now know. The street lay outs, the government, the law, and so much more is attributed to the work of this man done over a span of a few short years. So, the magnificent tomb makes perfect sense.

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Basically, keep it in mind when you sign-up for jet lag that Europe’s a spider’s web of death traps for Americans. Flat out simple, if you do survive being squashed alive in your seat or poisoned by the-this is not food- on your plane, London is waiting for you. There you’ll encounter a million cars ready to run you over as you step off the curb and look left for on-coming traffic as you might in America*…..Thing is, somehow, someway, the English still insist on driving on the wrong side of the road. It all makes sense if you accept that this wrong-side-of-the-road custom dates back to the 1700’s and therefore should be continued. It seems horsemen busy dueling for any reason they might conjure up were mostly right-handed so they needed to pass their foe with swords drawn and their enemies on the right side of their horse for better body piercing.  Today, the English continue to charge ahead the wrong way.

Another warm greeting awaiting you in London is the plethora of pelting rain drops that will anoint your sun-searching eyes should you look up from the puddled streets.

In truth, it doesn’t rain everyday in England once, but many, many times per day. But don’t worry if you leave your umbrella in that last cab you took-you’ll find someone else’s umbrella in about the exact same location on the back seat of the next cab you get.

Be forewarned: those four dollar umbrellas offered for sale in London last about as long as it takes to buy them…

Moving on, bypassing the flood gates of England, you may find yourself swilling in Ireland, Dublin, to be exact. This country has a completely different slant on how to undo the American. It’s called Guinness. You may have tried what you thought was Guinness here in the States and that would be all wrong. No, in Dublin where Guinness has submerged an entire country it’d be wrong to think of the drink as anything but a prelude to another and then ten more. Not that I had so many-I don’t think, maybe.

Typical roadside stop in Ireland**.

So, you missed Ireland completely but for unloading a bunch of money between random trips to the loo. Now it’s on to France with low expectations of seeing lots of underpants. The Follies were not showing during my visit and it was Fall so the sexy part of France was underwhelming- a minimalist’s expose’ of very little, a slip-up with regard to this undertaking. And if you’re hoping to make friends in any of these countries or amends for two hundred years of American warfare forget it. The fact is most people I almost saw as we passed one another along the street had their faces glued to whatever electronic device they held in hand. Those sparkling eyes of all those I’d hoped to meet in foreign countries had converted to bent down heads…

France, or what I imagined to be the land of lingerie, turns out to have its own angle on killing Americans that doesn’t involve deploying undergarments. Yep, it’s the French in Paris with the baguettes-mystery solved. You can’t imagine unless you’ve been, but there’s a quality to French pastries, breads, heck even hamburger buns that will drive even the most savvy American palate crazy. Figure on gaining weight and ordering a larger coffin as you decide what desert to devour next while in France.

I’d once heard the Eiffel tower was erected to reflect the state of most men while in Paris, and that it was fittingly a temporary construction to boot. Now, I don’t know.

History records that the Mongols invaded Paris and ate the baguettes which caused them to run to Ireland and jump off the Cliffs of Moher.*** Those Cliffs are renowned to this day for this reason-I heard this while in Ireland but only truly understood the history once I’d eaten various breads in Paris. I didn’t even care about the missing underwear after that.

Random idea:

The Cliffs of Moher have very little in common with the sunflower fields of Tuscany

Mind you, I loved Ireland so much there’s at least an entire glob coming on that country-and London and Paris and Germany as well.

It’s time to move on to Germany but first I have to end this glob….see you next time through a vat of beer and what about those Oktoberfest outfits!?!?!? New Orleans’s Mardi  Gras has nothing on German’s celebration– honest.

I found the size of the Oktoberfest beers distracting.

cheers

Franque23

  • Sadly, this has happened.
  • A cab driver explained that ten was the magic number of Guinness-just enough to make you forget the night before as you awake the next morning so you have to investigate Guinness all over again the following night. See? It’s the circle of life.
  • This matter is still debated in pubs.

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