France Day 35: L'Arc de Triomphe
This was the day we began the last leg of our trip: a week in Paris. When I was growing up, I recall my brother having a little pewter model of the Arc de Triomphe in his room. It's now on my dad's dresser. I'm not really sure what the story was behind it, nor did I ever ask. I suppose someone brought it back from Paris, probably my dad. He did a fair amount of traveling before I was really old enough to remember. But I'd known about this place, well, most of my whole life...
Such a strange thing to know about a tiny spot on the Earth for such a long period of time having never been there. So many spots on the Earth, most in fact, are never celebrated or known, and perhaps there are places never exactly crossed by human foot. But certain small places like this are human ant hills of space and time, tourists moving in and out and through and about and trodging over where so many have been and so many will thereafter, even just in a day. A place so well trodden seems only to offer disappointment merely by being so well-known. Surely something I'd known of all my life wouldn't seem so large or significant once I actually saw it.
And then we floated up the stairs out of the Metro stop, and the low afternoon sun glowed from behind the Arc, right there. That was it. I was unaware we would come right out to it, and I was unprepared. The sight of it was not insignificant at all. Nor disappointing, nor small. No, it commanded respect immediately, ready or not.
I cried, having now been to that tiny pewter place I'd held and seen and known and scratched with my nails to feel the resistance of something significant under my fingers.
My experience there was no less impactful.
Immediately, a guard, seeing our two very small children and my now obvious pregnancy, ushered us directly to the elevator...we certainly couldn't have made it up all the stairs safely. And even still, we had to climb a flight or two of stairs once we arrived near the top. The roof opened up through a narrow stairwell. Everything was golden, and despite the number of photos being taken up there, there was a palpable respect.
Twelve long roads outstretched beneath us, and there, towering nearby, le Tour Eiffel. Tres bien! Behind us, the sun set at the horizon of one of the roads and lit it on fire like a golden stream, evening cars floating in a river of diamonds and chocolate shadows. Each sliver of city between the roads seemed to teem with life and promise, yet in a way that preserved things all the while. And despite the amount of traffic, there wasn't a detectable rush. The only destination is a lovely way of life...whether people are travelling for love or food or necessity. I didn't sense that pursuit of wealth itself was much of a passion here - only the pursuit of something better, however that may be defined.
Inside was a museum with a brilliant interactive display that allowed you to scroll around and view up close various scenes from the reliefs carved into the side of the Arc. There were stories and explanations about each section, and much to read about. There was a charming gift shop where one of the children had an epic meltdown over a small pack of fabric markers with a color-by-number tote bag. And then we left.
We took the Metro home and continued moving into our apartment for the week, arranging things and cooking. The heat was growing, and we had no air conditioning. I soaked the sheer curtains with water and hoped for a favoring breeze. Pregnancy was beginning to wear on me physically after over a month of going, going, going on a nearly daily basis.
There are so many adventures to be had in Paris, and my friend Jenna Reich was to arrive from Germany with her daughter the next day! I was so excited. Jenna is a long-time friend I met when Butterscotch was a newborn. Jenna was in the mom-baby circle with me at the Tucson Birth Center, because her daughter is barely a week older than Butterscotch. She also happens to be a wicked talented photographer, shooting for clients, selling her personal work as stock, and mentoring professional photographers. Her business is called Life Aglow, and if you're a photographer yourself, she's definitely worth following and studying. She's shot for our family on more than one occasion, and I've yet to find another photographer to photograph our family since.
Here are the photos from our first day in Paris...the first one I think is the moment Butterscotch fell in love.