An American in Paris
Williston Park is your typical suburban American town. We have our yards, the basketball hoops in the driveway, our CVS on Main Street and our Dunkin Donuts too.
In America we have wealth, we have comfort and we have safety. Pretty lucky all in all. But we also know that there is more to the world than Mc Donald’s.
As the character asked the narrator in Our Town “So what about culture? What do you do to find some culture around here?”
Well Thornton Wilder’s Out Town the narrator remarked that “folks around here like to watch the seasons change and they like to listen to the birds in the trees.”
Well who am I to argue with Thornton Wilder. But every now and then I yearn for something more. So I booked a ticket to Paris this summer to see if there is more to life then suburban lawns and baseball.
Paris magic drew American writers like Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller and F. Scott Fitzgerald to its soul and I was interested to see what the allure was.
I prepared for my trip by reading Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. And what I learned was that Paris is beyond a doubt the world’s greatest dream. The amount of beauty you see on every corner is astonishing. I was staying at the legendary Intercontinental Paris Le Grand which is the heart of Paris and right across the street from the Opera House.
On my first afternoon I went to visit The Louvre and when you walk through the plaza the feeling of charm and excitement was incomparable and from that moment on I gave myself over to Paris.
Too bad for me that it was Monday and closed for their Independence Day. But that is all the better because the secrets of Paris are not hidden in museums but are on every street corner.
Walking along the Seine and headed for the Ile de La Cite and Notre Dame makes you simply feel like falling in love with life.
All the people picnicking on the river or holding hands. And when you arrive at Notre Dame and look up at it you think to yourself that here is certainly the world’s greatest gift to mankind.
You here the bells chime and you think of Quasimodo up in the tower swinging on his Marie.
And there is nothing to prepare you for the sight of the Eiffel Tower. You see how incredibly huge it is and at the same time the most delicate and most feminine structure imaginable. And these are merely the most well-known sights in Paris.
All the buildings are from the 17th century, no building is allowed to be higher than six stories and they all have wrought iron fences around balconies and are all in gray or beige. No neon, no McDonalds and no mega stores.
It is all subtle beauty. The buildings are like perfect flowers that have been groomed and worked on and fussed over for centuries.
The Champs- Elysees has a sidewalk that is 75 feet wide (I measured) and it is filled with cafes and gardens and trees for shade. They say it is the grandest avenue in the world.
I was taken to the famous pastry shop Laduree to sample their goodies. Endless lines of people from all over the world pointing at the pastries, and buying boxes upon boxes of the world’s most delicious macaroons and Napoleons. Do not think for a moment about your diet when in Paris. If you do you miss all the fun.
Even their traffic lights are elegant and unobtrusive. They are only five feet tall and the light itself is only four inches wide.
One reason I wanted to stay at the Le Grand Hotel is because it has the most famous café in Paris. You sit at you small table, you sip hot chocolate and you watch all of Paris stroll by.
My waiter was Jean Claude and he was fun and helpful and charming. By the way, for some reason all French men are slender.
Not a pot belly in sight. except when I noticed myself reflected back in a mirror.
I was in this dream called Paris for one week. What I learned is that Paris is filled with high culture, beauty, breathtaking architecture and culinary delights.
And the shopping was mind blowing. They have a department store called Galleries Lafayette which was right down the block from Le Grand Hotel.
It’s a misnomer to call it a department store since it looks like a cathedral with its stain glass windows and ceiling. It’s filled with boutiques with names like Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany.
And if you like assignments here it is. Go to the library and take out the Hunchback of Notre Dame and read it. It is a book about peoples unending search for love and beauty.
And when you finish the book buy a ticket to Paris and go live the dream yourself.
We are very lucky to be in America which is a land of amazing abundance and wealth.
But it’s important to use that wealth wisely.
The best investment you are likely to make is to go find yourself some bonafide culture in the city of love. ‘Ah Paris, c’est incredible!”