16 September 2005

For the love of gourmet cheese and pretty things to look at...

One day soon, I’m going to the Louvre. I don’t have a ticket yet--to the museum OR to Paris--but Jeremy and I have plans. Sketchy plans, but plans. I have never been to France before, so for the moment all I have are daydreams of strolling past the Eiffel Tower hand in hand, sitting in small cafes munching on French pastries, and of course, chasing Mona Lisa’s elusive smile.

I’ll be sure to visit all of those hard to pronounce places Ellis Paul sang about in one of my favorite songs, “Paris in a Day.” And since Jeremy has been to the city before, he can be my handsome tour guide and buy me a fancy scarf, which I will tie around my neck. I will try my very, very best not to look like a tourist.

Uh oh, what if the fancy-french-neck-scarf is just a gimmick, one of those things that only Americans who are trying to look like they’re French do, and it’s actually a dead giveaway? Maybe French men don’t even really wear berets!

I know a lot of people are anti-France these days, but politics aside, I don’t see how you can be completely against a place that gave us Brie and Impressionist art.

My first and only visit to Europe was about four years ago, to the most breathtaking land on the planet. Italy. I met my sister Laura there, and we spent several days exploring Florence and Lucca, the small medieval town in Tuscany close to where my grandmother was born. On the train, my sister was serenaded by a persistent Italian stranger, who after failing to woo her with his suave foreign phrases, took the intercom hostage and proclaimed his affection with a song for everyone to hear:

Ding, Ding, Ding…”Attenzione Low-ra. I Love You!…When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie….”

(Well, I don’t remember the song exactly.)

I do remember flying by foot through the Uffizi, trying to take in all the Caravaggios and da Vincis and Botticellis, but feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the collection. Room after room after room of masterpieces, and my single little brain to soak it all in.

When I visit the Louvre, I will be sure to take more time.

The experience I remember most came a few days later, after my sister had left and I was in Rome alone. I walked to Vatican City from my hotel near Piazza Navona. I thought about the Pope and the blisters on my feet and how I couldn’t wait to see the Sistine Chapel. It was amazing, truly it was, and well worth the eternal wait in line. But I found myself most captivated by my stop next door, at St. Peter’s Basilica. There, I stood before Michelangelo’s Pieta’, a magnificent, emotional marble sculpture depicting the crucified Christ in Mary’s arms. I think I spent more time pondering that one work of art than I did the entire vast collection of the Uffizi.

In fact, I know I did.

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