Kari and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on October 11, and I surprised her with a quick trip to Paris and Tuscany. I bought a cheap camera phone before we left, and learned how to use it en route. Reproduced below are a few of the photos that survived the trip.
What a magnificent city is Paris! I can see why the world flocks here. The culture, the palpable sense of artistic freedom and creativity, the reasonably-priced armadietti in the larger train stations. We had taken a bus from the airport to Gare de Lyon station, then hiked nearly a kilometer to Gare de Bercy, where we were to catch the overnight train to Italy, then hiked back to Gare de Lyon when we discovered that Bercy didn’t have any lockers in which to stow our bags. Kari loves this picture, because it captures her hovering just off the ground while she sorts out what we want to carry with us on our ten remaining hours in Paris. Probably her ability to levitate led to her unfortunate choice of footwear on this particular day (see the post Kari’s picture probably turned out better…” below).
The classic tourist image of another tourist (Kari) taking a picture of the same thing. When you factor in Kari’s shadow, we get a tantalizing glimpse of infinity…. We had set out on foot from the train station (after checking our bags) to start our touristing-in-earnest at Notre Dame. There it is, at last! It actually wasn’t that long a walk–just a couple kilometers–but it seemed longer due to lack of sleep and food, and inadequate footwear. Kari had never before had trouble with her comfy clogs, but on this day she quickly developed a blister which she didn’t notice until it had burst with alarming amounts of multicolored fluid and pain. Note the sock on her right foot: I had a Curad brand adhesive bandage in my pocket, but it wouldn’t stay on without help. I’m sure the two of us represented our nation well, wandering a foreign capital, each of us wearing a single sock, apparently to designate our non-dominant foot.
As we entered Notre Dame, we saw the first of many posters announcing concerts, performances, etc., celebrating Mozart’s 25oth birthday. Just before we left home, the North Salem High choir director had asked Iain to portray the composer as host of the NSHS Fall Concert, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Mozart.” Perhaps it’s because we were tourists and therefore somewhat more likely than most to be visiting “cultural” sites, but Europe seemed to be much more aware of the anniversary than, say, the central Willamette Valley in Oregon, where we hadn’t heard a thing before Iain received his invitation.
We were headed for the Eiffel Tower, and had just hopped off one of the “Hop On, Hop Off” tourist barges that ply the Seine through the center of Paris, when I thought I would attempt an artistic shot over the shoulder of one of the sculptures on this bridge. There’s one of the Batobus barges in the shot, just beyond the next bridge. From this perspective, the Louvre Museum is on the right bank, behind us, and the Arc d’Triomphe is well off to the right (we never made it that far).
We stepped off the train from Paris in Florence (Firenze) shortly after 8:00 Saturday morning. Just a few blocks from the station was this magnificent cathedral, the first of many in this history-packed city. Just to our right, out of frame, is the octoganal Baptistry in which the young Dante attended church services as a boy. As an English major and minor history buff, I’ve spent years studying works of art and literature that drew influence from Dante’s vision of Hell in the Divine Comedy, but sitting in the Battisteri and gazing up at the enormous painting of the Last Judgement that loomed over the priest’s pulpit, I was struck by a vision of the preadolescent Dante sitting in the same spot, bored by the Latin sermon and not at all interested in the risen dead being welcomed into heaven by angels, over the priest’s right shoulder. Any 10-year-old boy of my acquaintance would rather have been fascinated by the horrible scene painted on the other side of the priest, al sinistra (to the left), in which the dead are dragged from their graves and welcomed into hell by Satan and all his fiery demons…. Now that’s an image guaranteed to get a young boy’s attention, which was undoubtedly its purpose. So, there I was, looking at the very picture that inspired Dante’s own vision, 800 years ago….