It figures that the first time I would dare to pen and publish a personal piece on 1812Blockhouse, it would be about Paris.
This is Thomas, owner of this fine publication (so admittedly this may not actually be a “guest column”), and I have found my mind traveling a bit this week as the opening of Renaissance Theatre’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame nears. I hope that you’re considering going. The set looks amazing, and I betcha that the performance will be no less impressive. Click here for info and tickets.
The location to which my mind has been drawn has been France in general, Paris in particular, and to Notre Dame Cathedral exactly. The thing is… Notre Dame and I met once. Well, truthfully, more than once.
In this first of two posts, I will set the stage for my ramblings.
For almost two years during my twenties I had the opportunity to live in France, over half of which was spent in metro Paris. For a portion of that time I also worked in the arrondissements (administrative districts) of the city surrounding the Eiffel Tower, commuted daily on the Metro, stopped at the occasional patisserie, and generally soaked in the ambiance as much as I could.
As I interfaced with French people for 10-12 hours a day, I became somewhat fluent in the language. One the most surreal experiences of my life was when, approximately one year after arriving there, I woke from a dream realizing that the entire spoken dialogue was in French. Typical of those who immerse themselves in a second language, spoken vocabulary dissipates more quickly that reading comprehension. Still, a year or so ago I passed the highest level “You Communicate Fluently” on an online evaluation produced in conjunction with the CIEP, an affiliate of the French Ministry of Education (try it yourself – click here).
Days off were wonderful. Opportunities presented themselves to actually visit places I passed by each day, and day trips were plentiful. The first month I was there, I discovered the jewel-box like Sainte Chapelle, which today is a recommendation I routinely share with those heading to the city. Modern Paris shines at La Defense, with superb architecture, the area’s largest shopping center, and a landmark fountain that provides choreographed dances with music (the photo above shows the Eiffel Tower with La Defense in the background). I also entered the other worldly enclave of Pere Lachaise Cemetery where I joined others in following the arrows drawn on gravestones to locate the resting place of Jim Morrison of The Doors (and Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Frederick Chopin etc.).
Tomorrow a bit about Notre Dame.