The first of many rooftops. Paris has amazing rooftops. Why? I can’t pinpoint it. A symptom of the myth(s) of Paris?
Well, here I am in the real Paris, and here I am in the blogosphere (thanks to the invaluable help of the magician Tamera). Why am I here? To spend four months – a Berkeley semester starting in about two weeks – teaching intensive beginning French to students from across the UC system who are studying French history and culture. For the moment, at least, this will be a blog primarily about my experience here, though I will undoubtedly branch out, since I’m incapable of refraining from tangents. You can expect rambling. Lots of rambling.
I want to note right off the bat that isn’t really an “American in Paris” sort of blog, assuming a blog is what it becomes. I am American and this is indeed my first stay of any length in Paris, but I am also French – a péquenaude from the provinces, the Auvergne, a region often mocked in the capital though our food is held in high esteem. So I have American reactions going on, but I also have French hick reactions going on. One of my concerns on this blog will be trying to untangle, as I endlessly do, the lines between France and America and exploring where those lines blur, because I am a site of the blurring.
I therefore come to this city with preconceptions and responses informed by two very different cultures, as well as with memories of brief, magical childhood visits, moments stolen between flights through Charles de Gaulle and Orly on my mother’s and my annual trip home in the summer. Walking through the streets of the Île Saint-Louis eating ice cream from Berthillon, my mother’s love of and awe at this city infusing me; watching the 747s take off from CDG from the restaurant over the runway, with their promise of movement and change; sitting on a bench in the Palais Royale with moineaux (sparrows) eating out of my hands; turning a corner in the Louvre, seeing the Samothrace Victory for the first time and standing there figée while people streamed around me; waking up on fresh mornings in Chartres or Paris or wherever we’d stayed the night and throwing open the window and breathing in the air, oh so different from North Carolina’s, and the attendant happiness.
And there have been fleeting contacts in adulthood: turning a corner on the Île de la Cité on an intensely cold, clear morning, the sky that particular shade of absolute blue, and seeing the edifice of Notre Dame huge in front of me. Walking down le Boulevard Magenta to la Place de la République with my now-deceased closest friend, Timanna, and reading the inscriptions commemorating the revolutions. The Champs-Elysées lit up on the night of the New Year. All glimpses —
Now, no more glimpses. Now I get to sit here for a while and look through the window (Marcel looking through the window of Mlle Vinteuil) and get a real gander. Wanna read about it?