Monday, November 5


It's always a bit of a challenge travelling internationally. We began our trip excited and in high spirits.

By the time we made it with our stuff to the apartment, it was a little different story.

But if you can't find energy in this great city, something is wrong. Kate and I recovered by walking around exploring old parts and new of this great city. It was fun to watch Kate recover a language - getting the rhythm of it back. Picking up on the informal aspects. All day and especially at dinner - a great meal we more or less stumbled into on a quiet Sunday night - she was listening to conversations surrounding us for content. For me they were just lovely background to a beautiful place. I was surprised when the very French looking couple by the wall needed the waiter who spoke Italian. Not Kate. When I was signing the Visa receipt while remarking that I would put my "John Hancock" here (hey, it was a little different format), our waitress began calling me John Travolta. I think the Euro gained a bit more on the dollar as I broke into my Saturday Night Fever moves.

So far we've built and decimated our wine, bread and cheese inventory only once.

But when Kate awakes, we will be off to consume the sights and sounds and smells of Paris. It's a place that replenishes me like the Boundary Waters does, but a completely different way. In the BWCA I'm always taken by what a beautiful world this is, and a little struck by how humans in our many influences on it don't really help things. At least for me, Paris shows that sometimes we really do add beauty and not take it away. It's nice to be reminded.


Paris has substance, but it's about style. There are so many things that demand to be really seen. A coffee and a pastry or a dessert aren't just thrown on the table, they are presented.

It's the greatest people watching city in the world, because of the profusion of individual styles. Some of it is probably an attempt to project an illusion. Some not. Some work, some don't.

But it calls out to be looked at carefully. Although we've wandered all over Paris, this is a city that tries to slow you down. That says "take a careful look." Though there were plenty of people at the Musee d'Orsay yesterday running from one amazing painting to the next snapping digital photos, more were actually experiencing each painting. Because these artists were so good that even I could catch a glimpse of what they saw. Renoir turns this

into a woman following her daughter down a hillside. Or maybe he turns a woman following her daughter down a hillside into this. Either way, it's a moment captured forever. Yesterday the painting that got to me most was this VanGogh.

It suggests, and rewards, a closer look.

I'm convinced that I will always see the Big Dipper a little bit through Van Gogh's eyes. But mostly more carefully through my own. So I walk around slack jawed at all I'm seeing (o.k., I always walk around slack jawed. But I am so enjoying the sensory overload). And it's so great to share it with Kate. After 25 years it's still so much fun to share things. She has taught me so much. Her sense of the importance of presentation in food qualifies her as part French (also, the fact that she speaks the language). Perhaps I've taught her a bit about how to look through the lens of a camera. We fill gaps, and help one another see and grow.

And so we're off for another day of exploring Paris. Stiff in body, but ready to see what's there.


There is a balance we all must strike between the past, present and future. Between being like people at a high school reunion ("remember the time when. . .") and kids ("when I grow up I'm gonna . . ."). Buddhists would say, and I would agree, that the present moment is the only moment. But that present has to respect the past and the future. As we get older it's ever easier to speak fondly of the "good old days." One of the things I love about the Train Party group is that, although we have a vast shared history, we never get together to relive that history. We get together to discuss, to experience, to laugh, to live in the present.

Paris has made me think about the past, present and future balance a lot this week. Yesterday we were in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Built from 1130 A.D. to 1500 A.D. But look at the altar in the middle.

Modern. Almost futuristic. And in one of the most famous, historic cathedrals in the world. Or, obviously, the Louvre.

At least to me, it's saying "make these things fit together." Try to get the whole of the past, the present and the future to fit together in one piece. A challenge. But one that is worth taking.


Speaking of styles that work and those that don't -

I was underwhelmed by this woman with some sort of large rodent around her neck in a cafe where Kate and I were having a glass of wine in preparation for heading to the Polidor for a nice meal (and more wine)

I know that I could have utilized a flash and gotten better resolution. But I'm trying to be discrete. Part of me was tempted to go so far as taking a "BarnCam" shot. But discretion reigned. Trust me, this was not a style success.

For the first time in my trips to Paris, the Orangarie was open. In addition to a wonderful collection from Renoir, Cezanne and others, we discovered the works of Chaim Soutine. Great stuff.

But the most amazing were the two large rooms, each of which houses four large water lilly paintings by Monet. An incredible place.

I've had so much stimulus over these last few days that I feel like I need to enroll in a "Head Stop" program. And there is no football on television over here (at least as far as I know).

As our time in Paris has stretched toward its end, the one disappointment up until today was our failure to connect with our friend Chris. Although we didn't get as much time with Chris as we would have liked, we did connect up.

A great friend. Musician. Yoga teacher. But mostly for us, a great guy. It would have been very sad to have missed him. But our inability to reach his mobile phone combined with his computer being in for "reparations" made this apparently simple task difficult for the rubes from Minnesota. But things were resolved. Now when we leave we will have missed a few things - but really just reasons to return. But missing Chris would have been different. A squandered opportunity, not just a missed opportunity. Because even though this is the most beautiful city in the world, it's still the relationships that count. Kate and I were here to celebrate 25 years of wedded bliss. But we don't get many chances to see Chris. Too short a time, but at least we got together for a few laughs and a "pot au feu."

We spent the morning with the gargoyles at Notre Dame.

Not an important reunion, but a good one nonetheless. All in all, a great day.

It's always hard to leave this most beautiful of cities. You want one more look here. And there.

One more meal. One more painting.

We arrived eight days ago, tired and bedraggled from a long trip.

We leave saturated with experience, though still wanting more. A few things missed, saved for next time. Many things that will be missed. But happy to have had another chance to spend time here.


A little postscript to our trip. Maybe in a way you really can't go home again. In any event, eight days after physically returning from France, my body seems to be suspended somewhere around Nova Scotia. Every morning at 4 or 5 my eyes open and I'm awake. Not Paris time, but not Saint Paul time either. Even though I was in a foreign speaking land where it would seem I should have felt less at home, I really felt at home in Paris. As I do in Saint Paul. But I can't seem to get my body to come all the way back to Minnesota. Perhaps that's just a sign of a great trip. Or a sign of an old body that can't adjust to change. So I get up and read the paper.

1 comment:

Dan Cross said...

Did Kate order to match her sweater. Or, did the restaurant "present" to make the match?