Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How to Get Stranded in Europe (part 1 of 2)

(with thanks to Rick Steves for advice on how to write a guidebook, John Rogers for photodocumentation, and Maira Kalman for being kickass.)

First, drive to Washington, D.C. Meet your rockstar Hill friends for delicious lunch and gelato. Discuss their world-changing (yet humble) lives. Park your car at the home of their very generous and conveniently located parents.

Get on a plane. Sleep. Wake up. In France.

Wander through the circular airport. Navigate the train system. Find yourself breathing early morning Parisian air and standing in line to enter the Louvre. Wander.

See the Venus de Milo. The Mona Lisa. Let Marcus Aurelius' eyes stare into your soul and chide you for not taking his advice on meditation when you read it in seminary.

Sit in the Tuileries. Watch people come and go and eat baguettes. Amble down to the Orangerie. Be struck dumb by Monet's Waterlillies. Sit motionless in the oval room trying to take in all the color at once. Fail. Be awed.

Discover a weird courtyard full of columns laid out like a chess board. Sit in a garden and read some Victor Hugo. Make your way to Montmartre and get your hostel bed upgraded to a private room. Sleep deeply.

Awaken to a knock on the door, John's laughter floating in from the hallway. Open the door to the very disorienting sight of your grad school Johnmate standing in a Parisian hallway early in the morning, laughing at you. Hug him.

Take a four hour walking tour of Paris.

See drunken nobles immortalized forever on a bridge.

Hear stories of French political instability. Make fun of the French Academy and their absurd proprietary control of a language (as in, prohibiting French speakers from using the English terms "weekend" and "computer"). Wander around the city.

Eat delicious cheese. And salami. And chocolate. Drink cheap and delicious wine.

Visit the Rodin museum. See the Thinker,

the Hands, the Gates of Hell.

The real Gates of Hell.

Wish you were alive with Rodin and Rilke, creating all that beauty together.

Walk to Notre Dame - all the way along the Seine. Feel your legs get tired, your eyes get full. Take pictures with French and American noblemen.

Have a reunion with your fellow WM alumnus here across the ocean.

Visit the possibly perfect ex-pat bookstore.

Pretend to be a Parisian writer who sits at cafes with Hemingway and toils away on your game-changing manuscript.

Eat street food in a park. Tease the pigeons. Sit in cathedrals. Pray. Watch the light shift and change.

Wonder who and how and why these gargantuan things got built, and if their beauty really is pleasing to God. Sing the Jump Little Children song in your head, and think about home. Get mocked by your supposedly agnostic traveling companion. Keep praying.

Take the funicular up to Sacre Couer. Watch the most amazing street performer juggle a soccer ball while climbing a light post. Gawk at the view.

Eat more cheese. Drink more wine.

Walk through the Musee d'Orsay, slowly. Wish you'd taken an art history course sometime during all the years of your (excessive) education. Realize you should have been doing this, all along. Stand silently in front of Van Gogh's blue house. Get taken aback by his last self-portrait. Wonder why you didn't expect beautiful things to have beautiful impact on your heart.

Wander through the Left Bank. See famous people's houses - where they lived and where they died. Sit in more cathedrals. Pray. Find yourself in the Luxembourg gardens, eating a baguette. Watch the people. Write. Walk up to Sacre Couer and see the sunset. Get rained on. Eat chocolate. See the Moulin Rouge. Drink wine. Eat cheese.

Take the train to Germany.

(to be continued...)

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