Writer Lisa St. Aubin de Teran offered this insight on travel: “Traveling is like flirting with life, it’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; This is my station.”
Our son Tom and his wife Donatta recently returned from travel abroad. Tom wrote this lovely account for today’s blog as a birthday gift to me. Enjoy!
Next Station: Paris
A cold drizzle covered the city. It may have been a Saturday night, but you lose track of time when you travel. Our destination that evening was the Eiffel Tower. After an early dinner, we meandered through the streets, and stopped by a store selling gifts for the home. There were some pillows that caught my wife’s eye. Slender and white, with the phrase “I’ heart my home” written on them in black. It was a red-shaped heart, not the actual word heart, but there truly was an apostrophe after the I. One of those little endearing charms of Paris that you find everywhere.
The store owner was a short, energetic woman in her 60s. She began conversing with my wife in English. We find out she spent some time living in California, she loves Paris, and wishes her kids would visit her more often. But such is life, she tells us. My wife asks her if we can walk from her store to the Eiffel Tower.
“Yes, of course you can,” the owner said.
“How long is the walk from here?” We ask.
“Maybe 45 minutes,” she replies.
My wife and I look at each other. We had been walking all the time, so perhaps this wasn’t too far-fetched. My wife could see the expression on my face and turned back to the owner. “He likes to take the metro everywhere. Is it better to walk there or take the metro?”
The owner lets out a laugh and I can see a twinkle in her eyes. “Of course you should walk there! You two are both young, and healthy. You will see so much of the city by walking.”
We join in her laughter. Maybe this was my wife’s plan all along, I thought. The owner gives us directions, making sure to point out that we walk along the left bank of the river to get a better experience. “Au revoir!” She says with a smile. And with that, we departed. Into the streets of Paris we went.
There is no other way to put it; the owner was right. Walking along the river afforded us an excellent vantage point. We stopped and took pictures at a memorial to Thomas Jefferson. We marveled at the sights and sounds of the city, and then, there it was. Off in the distance, but unmistakable, was the Eiffel Tower. Its tall figure, shimmering in golden light, rising up against the backdrop of the night sky.
From there on, it was an easy walk. Once inside, we ascended to the 2nd level. A howling, blustering wind had shut down the top and was there to greet us on the 2nd level too. But the image before us was far more captivating. From horizon to horizon, the city stretched out below us. I spotted the Notre Dame, where we had been earlier. A random soccer game taking place under fluorescent lights. We took pictures, huddled together while the wind whipped our jackets, and savored every moment.
Standing there, peering down at a plaza below, with its large, ornamental statues, I understood another aspect of why Paris is so unique: its culture. Yes, I can talk about the pace of life, the food, the art, but that is for another time. For here I am now, reflecting back on that evening, and I still feel that sense of wonder. Paris is a city imbued with an expression of culture.
by Thomas Nemecek