The first week in another country is almost always overwhelming. Our first week in Paris has been no exception.
There’s such a fine line between making the most of your time and running yourself ragged. Perhaps we crossed this line occasionally this week.
Soon, I hope we will find a healthy tempo. With any luck, this new pace will play a role in my feet feeling better.
Our trip, thus far, has been about more than seeing sites. French friends have taken us places they know well and places they have never been. We’ve been in their homes, met their families and eaten their food. One of our friends’ families has connections throughout France’s history. Her grandparents were a part of the French resistance of World War II. Her great-grandfather served in World War I. Further back, her father’s family were French pirates who worked the Mediterranean.
Another friend is an example of the modern-day melting pot France has become – a level of blending of people from a variety of places that I once thought reserved only for the USA. For example, my friend Jean-Claude’s mother is originally from French Guyana. His father is from the north of France. His sister recently married a man from Cambodia. His older brother will marry a girl from Ireland in August.
We’ve spent time in sites that offer as much juxtaposition as our friends.
We nearly froze as we picnicked in the gardens of Versailles, but were warmed as we walked its halls. (In fact, we saw the very bed where four kings of France were born — in public, mind you, as to not leave room for any question about the heir to the throne.) We went to the cathedral in Chartres and walked the ancient labyrinth. I took my shoes off and walked the pathway’s intricacies on the smooth, cold stones laid nearly 1,000 years ago. I saw one of the miniature Statues of Liberty in Luxembourg Garden and reflected on the deep connection between our two countries. We watched the military displays of the Bastille Day parade and the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower that night.
In the not-so-touristy realm, we ventured to the self-proclaimed “world’s largest flea market.” After walking through its endless allies, nooks and crannies, I don’t doubt that it is, in fact, the world’s largest flea market. Additionally, as the fireworks danced in the sky near the Eiffel Tower, we wandered into a Bastille Day “Bal” in a local fire station. I learned that nearly every fire station in the France hosts a Bastille Day Ball. What surprised me at first began to make sense as I considered that fire stations were the only municipal buildings in every neighborhood. The concept doesn’t seem at all odd to the locals because some fire stations host dances every Sunday evening throughout the year. I wonder if such a concept would fly in the States?
Tomorrow we leave for a few days in Normandy, where I’m sure we’ll explore further connections between our country and the one we’re visiting.