Life after Paris

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“There were no problems except where to be happiest” – Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I spent three nights and four days in Paris last week with my students. All of my travels, trips, and excursions in the States and abroad will hereafter reside in two categories: Before I first visited Paris, and After. After around 72 hours there, it is far-and-away my favorite city in the world. I’ll do a rapid fire of pictures, and then I’ll write a bit about why I loved it so much.

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^ The main entry-way of the Louvre. To say that the museum is big is an understatement. It’s scope and breadth is simply unbelievable. I was tired before I even got through security.

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^ A picture of everyone else taking pictures of a famous picture.

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^ One of the many looooong Louvre hallways.

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^ One of the famous panels of Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musee de l’Orangerie, which was my personal favorite of the museums I went to in Paris.

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^ Not sure why, but this one (Konto by Kazuo Shiraga) really grabbed my attention. I stared at this for a couple of minutes, completely perplexed yet totally captivated.

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^ The amazing stained-glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle.

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^ The best food I’ve had yet in Europe. The schawarma pita sandwich at L’As du Fallafel. Simply perfect.

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^ My students at our awesome, memorable evening picnic on the lawn right next to the Eiffel Tower. A couple of students and I simply walked down the street, found a butcher shop next to a bakery, and told them we wanted to have a picnic. They loaded us up with a variety of meats, cheeses, and breads, and we were not disappointed.

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^ The view from the mid-way point up the Eiffel Tower. From here, we made our way to the very top, just in time for the first twinkle at 10pm. It was a very long process from getting tickets to actually getting to the top (about 2.5 hours), but my students were thrilled and it ended up being worth it.

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^ And, of course, Shakespeare and Company, which might be the most famous bookshop in the world. I was in there three times during my trip, and each time I could have stayed longer. It oozes literary history, and the collection of books (although over-priced) is superb.

Many authors have written about the allure of Paris. I’ve read so many of these, and I’ve never been able to quite understand what it was about this particular place that was so special. Now that I’ve been there, I still don’t quite understand it completely, but I know exactly what they mean. There’s simply something about the city that is perfect for someone like me: someone that appreciates food, art, literature, and more food. Paris is a huge city, and I know that residents do not spend every day walking along the Seine, reading great novels, and eating expensive meals. They have jobs, they have problems, and they have the same daily aggravations that we all have to deal with. But, as a tourist, the city is absolutely perfect. The options for places to eat, drink, and/or read are endless. I spent time outside of cafes right next to the Louvre eating cake and reading; I spent time in the Tuileries Gardens sitting by a fountain enjoying lunch; I spent hours walking down the river, listening to music and browsing through the bouquinistes stocks of old books and random posters. All of this time was peaceful, and somehow I was able to feel comfortable, unhurried, and even uncramped. I don’t know how this is possible, because there were people, cars, and movement all around me. But something about the river, the old buildings, and the cafes creates some sort of subconscious peace for someone like me. To put it simply, it was exactly what I’ve always hoped for in a foreign place.

Most of my students are equally enamored with the city. We didn’t see a fraction of what Paris offers, and most of what we did fits squarely into the “classic tourist-y things in Paris” category. That didn’t matter. We all loved it. We did a Fat Tire bike tour; a boat ride up and down the Seine; and we went to the top of the Eiffel. We ate lots of great food, walked around 35 miles total, and overpaid tremendously for canned sodas. We were able to sit in the same spots and walk through the same door frames as the people we’ve been reading in class, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Baldwin. All of these experiences together created something that I will never forget. I hope they don’t, either.

– – – – – – –

This is our last week in Oxford. The plan:

  • Tonight: Dinner and then Much Ado about Nothing at Wadham College.
  • Tomorrow: Walking tour of New College.
  • Wednesday: A visit to Wheatley to find a specific sandwich shop, and then an attempt to find C.S. Lewis’s house and/or grave.
  • Thursday: Farewell dinner at the Trout.

Once my students head to Heathrow on Friday morning, I am catching a train to Cardiff, Wales for the weekend. I have absolutely nothing planned, but I’ve been told that it’s a great city. Back to Oxford on Sunday afternoon, and then one final trip before I return to Texas: I’m heading back to Paris for two more nights. I simply didn’t get enough last week, and I couldn’t resist the chance to go back. More reading. More walking. More food. And, this time, ample libations.

Cheers.

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5 Comments

Filed under Books, Favorite Places, Food, Life

5 responses to “Life after Paris

  1. Darla Smith

    I had a similar experience, the first time I visited the beautiful city of Paris. We were there briefly and did all the top tourist attractions at top speed. When we returned several years later, we stayed for 9 days in an apartment in a neighborhood. It was awesome! I also love Musee de l’Orangerie. If you get a chance to see the Orsay, try to do so. The architecture is spectacular! I am reliving Paris through your post and love the Hemingway quote. à votre santé

  2. Colleen

    I cannot agree more with everything you have written! I felt the same way in Paris. I started my walk through Paris in the evening, not really knowing what I would find, only that I was headed to the Seine. As the sunset and I got closer, without expecting it, I saw the twinkling lights of the Eiffel tower out of the corner of my left eye – I don’t have the words to explain what I felt. Did you walk through the bird market in route to the Sainte Chappell? The Musee de l’Orangerie was also one of my favorites! Absolutely magical. Leigh Ann had asked me to pay particular attention to the flying butttresses at the back of Notre Dame, which I would not have known to do. I have the most beautiful pictures of those flying buttresses and the Cathedral. The people along the banks of the Seine, the bridges, the streets, the Orsay, the parks, the cafés, the bakeries, the Latin Quarter… I think it is inexplicable to those who have not experienced it. I’m so glad you got to experience it! Be a sponge and soak up every bit of it. And by the way, A Movable Feast is my favorite. (Regarding Hemingway, I’ve been to Paris, I’ve been to Carmel, I need to go to Spain and the Keys.)

  3. Jenny Oglesby

    Beautiful post, Todd! You aptly described the beauty and lure of Paris. I wish I were there with you!!

  4. Jeff Womble

    Great description of an awesome city! Sounds like it was the perfect place for an English class to spend a few days. It’s been great reading your blog, can’t wait for the next one!

  5. Sheree

    You have opened my eyes to a Paris I haven’t seen, although I have been there 6 times. Love this piece.

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