“When you get an idea into your head you find it in everything.”
― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
I favor places that are neither too clean nor too dirty, that possess layer on layer of stories, histories, coupled with the feel of something new building on the old. In other, words, Paris.
Paris is everything you think it is: Your fantasies of well-dressed women and swarthy Frenchmen, stunning architecture, amazing street markets, and blocks steeped in beauty and history, tinged by that hint of decay--a slight garbage-y smell, a decrepit balcony, urine-soaked metro, and the hint of a more interesting past impeding on a struggling present. It's a dream, a fairy tale in itself.
E and I arrived in Paris in September, a birthday trip for her. While we've been gorging ourselves on Madeline books, I've always been more intrigued by the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (we've seen the Disney version, and, as with most cartoon interpretations, the original Victor Hugo novel has much darker edges). Quasimodo loves Notre Dame's bells as much as he loves La Esmerelda and Frollo, and all of those loves are fraught with as much hate as love.
On arriving at Notre Dame, we were greeted by a flock of nuns. I heard them speaking French, English, German, Italian, and I don't know what else. I'm not sure if this is normal at the cathedral, but it heightened the sense of making some kind of pilgrimage. The interior of the church floored me. It literally brought me to tears (which is a feat, if you know me). There is a sense of the enormity of faith and belonging to something larger than yourself and a workaday existence.
E and I also did our share of "Frenchy" stuff--sitting in cafes (every waiter flirted with my four-year-old), strolling through the Louvre, shopping in the Marais. We walked everywhere. Even though I ate about 10 pains de chocolat, carrying a four-year-old from the Eiffel Tower to the Tuleries Jardine will keep you fit.
Paris still has its fair share of gypsies, and if any of them are saving proverbial "monsters in attics," I don't know, but I hope we can mimic their passionate spirit to preserve what we love about Paris.
And, just because I love this movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMyNkHIlaCc