A year ago I was in Europe and lately I’ve been thinking over some of the places that were the most memorable from that trip. If you read my travelogue posts from back then you already know the details of each place I visited, but I thought I’d do a series of short writing pieces over the next three or so weeks where I give my thoughts on particular cities or regions as a whole. I’m not going to talk about every location; just the ones that have been on my mind. The order that I write about them will be in the approximate chronological order of when I visited and each writing piece will feature two locations with a photo from the trip to accompany each of them. As a bonus, at the end of each writing piece I’ll note where I was, one year ago that day.
Paris is one of those cities you can keep coming back to over and over again and it never gets old. I’ve been to Paris on three separate occasions and at the end of each time I was thinking about when I would next be coming back. There’s so much to see and do, but at the same time it’s one of those cities where you could spend a few hours just wandering and not feel like you had wasted your time. On one particular day I walked from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, to the Louvre, to the Bastille, to Notre Dame, and finally getting off my feet at the Chatelet metro station (that’s a 6.5 mile circuit, in case you were wondering). Paris can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a hectic sightseeing marathon, or it can be a mellow lifestyle of slow meals and leisurely strolls along the Seine. When I remember Paris I often think of the first day of my first visit, when I hiked up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower in the late afternoon and then stayed up there for two hours. I was sitting on a bench on the second level, watching the setting sun bathe the skyscrapers of La Defense in a fiery glow. The lights were starting to come on in the city, a cool breeze was blowing, and I knew I would soon be making my way down the tower, but I didn’t want to leave, so I sat there and savored the moment as long as it lasted. It was a good beginning to the week I would be spending in Paris.
The Normandy region of France is something of a fascination for me. As a student of history there are certainly plenty of things like D-Day and William the Conqueror that I’m interested in, but there’s something about this rural, rainy, and profoundly peaceful part of France that I gravitate towards. While Paris is a city that I could enthusiastically visit many times over, if I actually lived in France I would pick one of the towns of Normandy as my home. Green pastures. Gentle hills. Smaller towns. Not the sort of place you might think a city boy like me would choose to settle down in, but especially if I had a family I could see myself buying a house in a place like Bayeux and laying down roots. The land is good and the people are friendly. The weather is a lot like the Pacific Northwest, but that’s price I’d be willing to pay.
On this day, one year ago, I arrived in Venice and commenced the standard Venetian process of setting my wallet on fire.