Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I love Paris in the springtime....

Do you remember Meg Ryan in French Kiss (one of my favorite movies, by the way), hunched down in her airplane seat, fingers gripping the arm rests with white knuckles, eyes squinched tight, voice squeaking as she bravely sang those words? Now I find myself wandering around singing them as well. Or rather, my version, which goes "I miss Paris in the springtime...."

Sigh. I miss Paris. For that matter I also miss London. And Edinburgh. Glastonbury. The Cotswolds. Wales...... But for some reason I'm mainly missing Paris. I have been trying not to mention it because it sounds so spoiled and sort of snotty. (Said in a high falutin' voice - "Oh my yes, the Riviera is soooo lovely this time of year!") I mean, not everyone even gets to go to Paris in the first place, allowing them the opportunity to miss it!

Making matters worse, it seems like Paris is a recent theme for products. Y'know how manufacturing industries, the fashion industry, etc., they get together and decide on a theme each year? You didn't know? Well, they do. That's why some years everything - plastic picnic ware at Walmart, sandals at Payless Shoes, t-shirts at JCPenney's, lawn furniture at Home Depot - all come in yummy sherbet colors. Then the next year everything is India rattan, monkeys and elephants, and jungle prints. The year after that it's 50's retro. Yep, it's all planned. Anyway, it seems this year that it's all about Paris. It might, of course, just be my imagination, but I don't think so.

I went through my travel pics to find some that would capture the feel of Paris for this post and was rather amazed at the things I didn't think to take photos of when I had the opportunity. There's really not a single picture of the sidewalk cafes stretching to infinity on every street. I didn't take a photo of those wonderful art deco "Metropolitian" signs. Crowds full of scarves and smokers. Let this be a lesson to all you future travelers - take more street photos, crowd photos. You never know what you'll capture.

It's not just Paris itself that I miss, really. I miss..... I'm not exactly sure what it is. It's hard to explain. It's not even traveling for it's own sake. I'm actually quite happy to be home, puttering, watching leaves come back on the little plants I put in the ground last week, surrounded by my own pets, family, dust bunnies, mountains. I want to say I miss the "cosmopolitan-ness" of it. But that's not quite it either although that's one of the things I miss. It's also something about being somewhere where I can't take anything for granted. Where my brain is set on "high level input" and I'm learning, integrating, absorbing something new all the time.

It's also about the feeling of being connected to the rest of the world on a grander scale. The visual assurance that this entire planet is filled with the capacity for beauty, laughter, art, comedy, and human connection. Yes, I know, there are far too many parts of the world where it's just the opposite - it's primarily about pain and war and hunger and the inability to understand one another. I think that's why I am so hungry for another global connection "fix", to counteract that very frightening reality.

Mormons traditionally send their young adults on a mission. I don't know if it's one or two years, but I do know it's a rather long length of time, and it's to some place far away from their home. Wouldn't it be great if all American youth went on, not a religious mission, but a cultural mission when they came of age? It would be much more difficult to think of people in different countries as "them" in contrast to "us" if we'd all lived and worked in a different culture.

Instead of having just a military service, maybe we could have an alternative cultural service, where you were sent places to be of help around the globe. Yes, there's the Peace Corps. But most people don't join the Peace Corps. What if George W had been sent at age 18 to work in a small village in Africa for a year, cut off from his wealth and connections? Okay, so I'm just dreaming.

I could never understand how retired folks, finally able to rest and spend time with their families, often chose to take off to someplace far away. Now I totally grok it. Most of us spend a lifetime carving out a life for ourselves, but like anything one carves, the results are rigid. Solid. Sharply defined parameters. Familiar. Predictable. Going someplace new recreates the stimulation, freedom, and new learning that we associate with our youth. I suspect that travel in the second half of our lives does more then make us feel younger. I bet my bottom dollar it actually keeps us from growing old. Or at least, slows down the process considerably.

I'm imagining myself not only traveling more in the future, I'm picturing myself living in different places. Not forever. A summer here, a winter there. Two months or four or six. Long enough to rent a little flat or cottage, get on a first name basis with the folks who own the corner market, learn enough of the language to get by. Little did my hubby know he would create a monster when he sent me abroad, eh? I still smile every time I think of his comment, on our return, something about how it never occurred to him that it would be a life changing experience for me. He had thought of my role in the whole thing as simply being a chaperone for William to have a life changing experience.

Of course it's not as simple as opening up a world atlas, closing my eyes, pointing, and then planning the trip. This spring's trip was paid for by the sweat of my husband's brow. It was his idea, so I don't feel guilty about it. I feel blessed. But if I plan any future traveling, at least extensive traveling, I think it's up to me to plan how to pay for it as well.

In the meantime, I'm very selfishly missing Paris. I miss the jigsaw puzzle maze of streets. I miss a good cappuccino. I miss the French children. I miss statues on every corner, heck, let's stick one right here in the middle of the street. I miss the tiny cars, and the bicycles. The rows of chairs in front of every eatery. The language, both spoken and visual. The bread - oh the bread, my gaaaaaawd, I miss the boulangeries.

I miss Paris in the springtime..... I miss Paris in the fall........ I miss Paris, why, oh why do I miss Paris?.....

Stay tuned, next week I'll whine about how much I miss London.


Blogger Deb R said...

I miss Paris now too and I've never even been there. Sigh.

9:28 PM  
Blogger kristen said...

there is a gallego term for this kind of missing -- it is called moriña. actually, gallegos say that you can't truly understand it until you have been to galicia, but what your describing, sounds like it to me.

i've only seen paris via the metro and train station....much like i've only seen london via the tube (that's right, isn't it? or is it the underground? shit. can't remember) and the airport.

but i do have moriña for galicia and my friends and the rest of spain. ahhhh. someday.

8:54 PM  

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