Sunday, June 28, 2009

Paris II

It’s 10:30pm, and I’m in Parc Du Champ De Mars, waiting for the Eiffel Tower light show to start. It’s the last day of classes for the students here in Paris, and they’re all lounging in the park drinking wine and smoking cigarettes (and perhaps drinking and smoking some other things as well).  The park is crowded with people.  I originally thought that maybe they were all tourists, but after walking through the park and listening for English, I only found one couple—who happened to be from the Midwest—who were here to see the light show. In about thirty minutes now, the already lit-up tower will mimic thousands of people sitting on every inch of the tower taking pictures with flash.  I saw it last night and it is a wonderful (though brief—ten minutes) event. 

I think I’ll take this time, while I’m finally relaxing and breathing the summer night’s air, to tell you a bit about my experience in Paris so far.

As you already know, this has been quite challenging for me. With a body that works against me everywhere I turn, it is very difficult to keep strong. But I’m doing it, and Paris is a wonderful place.

One of the first things I wanted to go to in Paris was the Louvre. (Laurent got frustrated with me for pronouncing it “loov” because, he says, “the r and the e are there for a reason!” So, “LouvRE.”) Of course I wanted to see the Mona Lisa and the other Da Vincis.  And I wanted to see the statue of the woman with no arms (I still can’t remember its name), and the Michelangelo works…

(I had to just get up and move somewhere different because some guy near me just started playing a drum, which made everyone gather around and start dancing…And here’s little old Brian sitting cross-legged on the ground with his laptop in the middle of them all. I’m in a clearer place now. If they don’t think I’m American, they must think I’m a nerdy French student.)

…Well, I went to the Louvre (actually, the line wasn’t that long for those who didn’t pay in advance, like me) and got my map.  Now, have you know that I set aside two days to visit the Louvre. I was so excited.  I started walking around, lingering at paintings, but every time I did, large crowds of people would crowd by and I’d be distracted. I went to go see The Virgin of the Rocks, a Di Vinci painting, but I had to wait five minutes to get up close to it. I went to the Mona Lisa, and had to wait like ten minutes, trying to elbow my way through a bunch of tourists.  How frustrating. The same was with the no-armed sculpture.

I dealt with the crowds for about an hour more, and then decided to go see the works I wanted to see, and leave. Good thing I didn’t book two days’ tickets in advance.  The artwork was beautiful, though.  Too bad it was so crowded. I like my museum experiences to be relaxing, and this was not that.

I hear Jerusalem bells ringing, Roman Calvary choirs singing...

I walked around Paris for awhile, around the parks and pretty streets.  It was beautiful.  Check out the pics, yo.

Lunch of champions.

As many are, I was mesmerized by the Eiffel Tower.  I didn’t realized how large it actually is.  It’s just massive. My house could fit under it at least four times, maybe five. I think the wonder of it for so many people is how peaceful it looks. And it can’t help to be.  It’s so big that when you look at it from a ways away, you can’t even tell that there are lines and crowds of tourists yelling and taking pictures for facebook and buying key chains underneath it. It was so cool, I had to find a place to fly my kite near it. I was successful, thanks to a friend from choir giving me his camera tripod. Anyway, the Eiffel Tower is just a wonder.  Especially at night…

Oh, here comes the light show. 

Okay, the light show was great.  I hung around the park for an hour and now I’m sitting in a little café, drinking wine in view of the Eiffel Tower.  This is a way to end the night.

After the disappointing Louvre, I walked around the park near the Louvre for a while.  Now that was worth it.  Very…French. I realized after a while that I wasn’t walking but strolling, which made me realize what a privilege it is to be here. Absolutely wonderful. I ate lunch, and desert, and—I think—walked back to Laurent’s when it was dark and I was tired.

The next day I decided to go to the Musee d’Orsay, which Laurent and a friend of mine from the States suggested. This one is less-known and more relaxing, they promised me.  So I got up early (well, planned to, anyway.  I ended up leaving an hour after I had originally planned) and went, thinking that it would have less of a line than the Louvre.


It was a billion times longer. 

Okay, maybe not that much, but still.  It was long. But the wait was definitely worth it.  There were a bunch of Monet’s, and Van Gogh’s…two of my favorites.  I spent as long as I wanted, which ended up with me making sure I saw every room in the museum at least once.  Some twice. To be able to see the actual brush strokes in such famous paintings was so incredibly moving. 

Hey sexy.

After that, I went back to Laurent’s for a break.  I talked to my lovely girlfriend on Skype, took a shower, and went back out.

I returned to the park near the Eiffel tower to read for an hour or two.  Since I don’t really have a plan here and I have such an open schedule, reading in front of the Eiffel Tower was exactly the thing I wanted to do. Once it started getting colder and darker, I started to walk to the Metro station, but was distracted by a cute little café near the Tower. Figuring that a day completely and confidently by myself was worth celebrating, I went in for some banana flambé and some wine.

Best idea I’ve had yet. 

The flambé was delicious, and so was the wine.  There’s something about drinking wine in Paris that makes it taste so much better. I tried to take a picture of me toasting my mom (who, by the way, is traveling vicariously through me with wine…she buys wine from the country I’m in and drinks it while I’m there) but was not succeeding when a cute little Australian couple sitting next to me in the café asked if they could take it for me. I told them why I was taking the picture—and why I had so strangely taken a picture of my flambé, and we ended up talking for a good hour about homesickness and family and the wonder that is France. I had a fantastic time. 

After that, I walked to go see the lit up tower for the first time, and the sight literally took my breath away. I did one of those quick, unintentional sobs and stopped myself.  The sight was beautiful. And as I was standing there, the light show started (my first time seeing it), and it was absolutely incredible.  I took a video that night and tried to say something intelligible, but nothing came out but stupidity.  I’ve found that the videos I take and choose to say something in end up to be really stupid, so I probably won’t show the video from the first night. J

I’ve messed up the order of things somewhere in the previous paragraphs, I know, but it doesn’t really matter. On one of the nights I was in Paris I decided to go look for the Arago line. For those of you who’ve read The Di Vinci Code, they called it “the Rose Line” at the end of the book and Robert Langdon follows these little bronze medallions to the inverted pyramid at the Louvre, and there discovers that’s where Mary Magdalene is buried.

In reality, there is no medallion on top of the inverted pyramid, but there is the Arago line that runs north south along the Paris meridian.  I did some research on it, thinking that I’d want to just find one and take a picture. But the history is that there was a very successful and important astronomer in Paris named Arago, and when he died, someone he knew wanted to commemorate him with an “invisible monument”—135 bronze medallions placed along the meridian line all over Paris. There are three near the pyramids at the Louvre, and I took their pictures, but thought to myself, there’s gotta be some more around here, so I followed the N for north and looked for another. And another. And another.  I ended up finding about fifteen or so Arago medallions, which caused me to get quite lost somewhere in Paris.

At one point I saw a little underground bar along one of the streets with a dog outside (always a good sign) and went in, figuring it was a nice night for a glass of wine. When  I  went in, the bartender said, “Hello,” and—wait, “hello?” no “bonjour” or anything? He said that this particular bar was an American bar. In fact, it’s the only American-owned American bar in Paris. As I looked around, I found that everyone there was speaking English. Two people from the UK, and three from the States. It was nice to hear some English, so I decided to stay.  The bartender (his name is Jeb, a New Yorker who came to Paris for three months and decided to set up a bar ten years ago) poured me a glass of wine and we, his British girlfriend Margo, and a random British man sat and talked for a good two hours or so.  In the middle of it I got done drinking my glass and thought I would go look for some more Arago medallions, but Jeb poured me another one and said, “Stay awhile.  I’ll buy this one as a ‘safe travels’ gift.” So I stayed and talked. About family, about traveling, about social issues, about Christianity, about Paris, and about Blue—the big, shy Dalmatian in the bar who peed to much. It was a great time.

Afterwards, I said goodbye and went on my way to find more medallions, but the wine had made me really sleepy so I went back to Laurent’s for one more night.

Anyway, I’m here at the café, and I think I’m done telling this story. Tomorrow is Giverny, where Monet lived. An all-day adventure.

Miss you all,



A cool street act! 

Yes, I saw the massive Arc. 

And I had a delicious crepe along the way!





  1. Cheers, Brian! I'm having a glass of white French wine while I'm reading your post and looking at the picture of you in that little cafe raising your glass to me. I'm raising my glass to you, too. Right now. Any you're does taste better when in vicarious trip through Europe has been wonderful. Your pictures are great and your stories keep me in laughter and in tears....sometimes at the same time.

    Cheers to you...for your strength...for your courage. Cheers to the many many many friends and family that are sending your their support and love and prayers.

    What a wonderful world....


    Love you!


  2. I enjoy the sporadic nature of this blog--writing about two different experiences at once. It's very entertaining! Hahahah including the part where you get interupted by a drummer.

    And I am very sorry the Louvre was lame and crowded! But I'm so glad you had an art experience SOMEWHERE! :) I've never spent a day in an art museum and seen everything. It sounds wonderful.

    The Eiffel Tower is beautiful! You can probably guess which picture is my favorite... the one with you flying your awesome kite!!!

    Crepes and french wine sound exciting as well!
    Oooh and I love your adventure following the Arago Line! What a fun spontaneous thing to do! I'm extra excited about it right now too because you haven't told me this story yet! :) Plus the dalmation is precious.

    And the Arc de Triumphe is awesome too because it was on your must-see list for Paris!

    Love hearing about and seeing parts of your adventure! I will keep praying for you, though you should know you are AWESOME. (Think about this... you've already done enough to write TWENTY-TWO blogs! It barely even seems like it's been that long yet!)

    love you always,

  3. oooohhhhhh no! just spelled my OWN name wrong!

  4. heehee...thanks Christie! Now I don't feel so bad about the two glaring typos in my note! (Did you do that on purpose?)


  5. OMG, I'd be so upset with those museums too. It seems here they kind of control when people go through an exhibit.

    I think it is so cool that you spent time searching out the Agro Medallions, but even better was probably the time you spent hanging out at the Eiffel Tower.

    In the "Lunch of Champions pic it looks like the girl in the middle is peeing...sorry bathroom humor.

  6. Hey Brian,
    I just read your two paris posts and I am sorry to hear of your trials but gladdened to hear that you were able to work through it. Moms are the best!! (I am not biased heehee)
    Anyways, just a few random observations here: Who knew the Louvre would be so crowded?? I would never have guessed that it would be quite like that.
    I also never knew (or really thought about) that the Eiffel Tower is so huge! But of course if I thought about it I would realize because the only time I ever saw it was from a distant highway that goes around Paris and it still looked big from all those miles away.
    But, back to moms, my favorite picture is the one of you toasting your mom! Its so cool to see how much you guys love each other :)
    Take care! I am adding my prayers too...

  7. Hey you. It is so wonderful. Did you think of going to Versailles? These postings are so wonderful. I shared with the French teachers and they are so envious. This is so incredible. I imagine what park you were in, etc oh and by the way, it is the Venus de Milo - no arms statue. did you see the George Pomidou building? I loved the Arago adventure as well. You are unbelievable. Love you. Bergum

  8. Par-lee-vu on your Fran-say! Yepper, it's your Dad sportin' his French. (Believe it or not, I'm self taught.)

    I know, my comments are a tad late, but had to chime in.

    Nice to see you're eating your crepe like a taco.

    Why do I feel the need to do a typo? :-)

    Cool you saw the brush strokes on some of the paintings.

    Chris, I appreciated the bathroom humor. Don't tell anyone, but I saw the same thing.

    Liked the Arago walk. I'm going to have to learn more about these buggers especially after reading DaVinci Code.

    Again, the tower video was really cool. Heard from others that it's huge as is the Arc.

    Love you,