The other day we got off the train on one of our day trips from Paris and I did a little dance, the kind kids do when they’re eating something particularly delicious. Mark gave me a look and a laugh and I said, I can’t help it, I just like places! My initial thought was that it was a stupid thing to say, but now I stand by it. I really do like places! Especially (to awkwardly paraphrase Gertrude Stein), I like places where there’s a there there. My grand ambition these days is to spend as much time as possible walking around and looking at things. Without further ado, here are my 2 new favorite full of place-ness places.
Rouen, man. I’d been there before, almost 25 years ago. I remembered nothing. Except the cathedral that Monet painted a million times. It’s also where Joan of Arc met her end as a femme de foyer, a joke so terrible I’ll spare you the translation. There’s was 5 euro bus, so we went for an overnight. Next time we’ll stay longer. The center is largely timbered buildings from the 15-16c. It’s a University town so there’s a lot to do, and it has a great cafe culture. I could almost see living there. But like many places I fall for, I could live there with some reason: a job, a school, some external commitment. So far the only place I could live in for no other reason is Paris. Paris doesn’t need a reason, Paris is the reason! But we loved it, and spent all our time gawking around.
Everything is delightfully cattywampus. There isn’t a right angle anywhere.
The museum of education was unexpectedly fascinating. We went inside just so we could seen the building, but we got an added bonus of a special exhibit on paper maché botanical models from the mid 1800s. But the coolest part was a film of how they made dismantleable life-sized, and oversized anatomical models for medical students. Before refrigeration, studying anatomy was much more, shall we say, difficult?
The second of my new favorite places is close to home. When Mark and I need to get a snoot-full of green, we head to the Bois de Vincennes, one of the former royal hunting grounds. It’s an easy bus ride away, on the southeastern edge of Paris. But tucked in the corner is the garden of tropical agronomy. It’s where they held the Colonial Exposition of 1907, and then it was converted into a sort of lab for studying economically valuable tropical plants The exposition buildings and monuments are still there, utterly dilapidated. Insert wry comment about empires and colonies and decay here. Creepy cool.
That’s all for now. We’re going to do our best impersonation of real Parisians and clear out of town for summer. Next stop, the US. See you all soonish!