The morning nestled and yawned before waking me with its elegant whims.
Dressing quickly, and descending the stairs of my hostel, I ate a bowl of cereal and some cherries before venturing into the Parisian streets. The humid air clung to my person, reaching in and sapping the moisture from my body and bringing it to the surface.
On the way to the Metro station, I observed the crossing signals at the crosswalks, but I did not obey them. They act like mere suggestions, anyway.
The first stop of my day was a dream come true: Le Musee d’Orsay. Home of works by Degas, Monet, Manet, and my heart-painter Van Gogh. A revamped train station, the Musee d’Orsay contains smudges and splashes of color, and dried peaks of paint, all epitomizing the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements.
I did not get ahead of myself, but when I saw that I was approaching Van Gogh’s paintings, my heart sped and my attention to other works waned. At last…
Vincent Van Gogh.
Even from a distance the mountainous deposits of paint were distinct. His work drew me in. Closer. And closer. Until I couldn’t go any closer without risking damage to the painting.
After years of marveling over his work in art books and art history classes, I was finally seeing the results of his madness in real life. If free verse were ever turned into painting, it would be expressed as a Van Gogh painting.
After perusing art books in the gift shop entirely in French and understanding next to nothing, it was time for a Parisian lunch.
Near Notre Dame was a small cafe. I purchased some frites and sat in front of the church just looking and admiring. My attention began to wander to all the people–tourists and gypsies. Most tourists looked either confused or in awe. The gypsies wandered from tourist to tourist asking for money, or requesting someone take a flyer. The purpose of the flyers is a mystery.
Then, a stooped person in a grotesque mask. Clearly a man. Perhaps taking on the persona of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo. Jumping and scaring people was his game. But the game went to new heights when he placed himself in between an unobservant mother and her five year-old. Quietly he grabbed the mother’s hand, while hunching as much as possible. The little girl simply hung back. The mother grasped the man’s hand, not noticing the sudden change in size and texture. When she finally looked, noticed the horrid mask staring up at her, she did what any other mother would do: she shrieked and searched for her daughter.
As I watched the spectacle of the masked figure, a gypsy woman made her way closer and closer to me with her eyes on my frites. When she finally reached me, she asked in English if she could have the rest of my fries. “Non ho capito,” I replied. I don’t understand, in Italian. Having heard stories of the lengths to which gypsies are willing to go to get more and more money from tourists, even making chase down a crowded street, I decided to pretend complete ignorance whenever I encountered them. It worked in Firenze. It worked here. She just walked away.
Inside Notre Dame was majestic, beautiful. Of the churches I visited in Europe, it is my second favorite only after Il Duomo di Siena.
Despite the beauty of the rose windows, the flying buttresses, the peace was disturbed by the loud Americans and the haunting voice that erupted from speakers saying, “Shhhhhh….”
My Parisian night was filled with the World Cup: England versus the United States. The bitterness of a tie instead of a legitimate win was tapered by the airy baguette that accompanied my cherries and fizzy lemon water, all purchased up on that hill Montmartre.
All in all, Paris is lovely.