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five years ago today

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Do you remember where you were five years ago today? I do... at least, I think I do.

Do we remember things exactly as they were, or are our memories subjectively influenced by our personalities? I would like to think that I am objective, but I realistically know that isn't the case. For example, I am fairly certain that I remember precisely what I was doing five years ago today, and Ithink it probably rates as one of the top fifty or so days in my life... but was it really that enjoyable?

Five years ago, October 18 was a Monday... just as it is this year. I woke up after a great night's sleep. You see, I had landed in Paris the day before, on Sunday morning, and I hadn't slept at all on the plane en route to France. All told, I was probably awake between thirty and thirty-two consecutive hours... this made for a particularly sound sleep.

I was staying with Jem, a friend of a friend of a friend. Jem lives in the 9ième arrondisement, a par five length away from Place Saint Georges, and an uphill stroll away from Sacre Coeur. I looked out Jem's window, seeing trees that appeared to be in bloom (in the fall?), and neighborhood buildings that had to be a couple of hundred years old. I gathered my gear and trudged down the six stories of spiral stairs, and out into the bright Paris morning.

First, I conquered La Poste. The neighborhood post office was down the street, and I mailed some postcards to some folks back home. Next, I dropped in at the café in Place Saint Georges for an espresso and a quick chat with whoever was working there that day. Then I was off to the Gare.

Here is where my memory wavers. Which of the six Grands Lignes train stations in Paris did I depart from? I know it was one of the southern stations... I think it was Gare Austerlitz. Let's say tht it was indeed Gare Austerlitz... I validated my railpass with the kind help of one of the clerks, and I boarded a train destined for Amboise. I was seated on the train writing in my travel journal by 11:45... the train was scheduled to leave at noon.

A couple of hours later, I arrived at the train station in Amboise. I picked up a map of town, and started walking toward the river. I wanted to find the tourist information office to set up a trip to see Chenonceau. The tourist information office was very easy to find because I had a guidebook with very explicit instructions on where to go. (I remember mentally acknowledging my friend's insistance on this particular guidebook with a decent amount of gratitude.)

The next few steps were all shockingly easy... find taxi company, walk to taxi company, arrange a ride to Chenonceau, agree upon a time for the return trip. After all that, the castle was at my disposal.

I generally despise fairy tales, but I must say that Chenonceau was in fairy-tale-like condition on this day... it was still a mostly sunny day, with the few clouds serving merely to break up the monotony of an otherwise royal sky. The sun peeked through the gigantic trees lining each side of the wide path to the castle. Upon cleaing the trees, one could see stables to the right, and it wasn't hard to imagine the pounding of hooves upon the tiny grains of white gravel several hundred years ago. The perfectly manicured lawn looked good enough to serve as a football field (or "pitch", more appropriately said for Europe). There were orange trees out front, each sporting what appeared to be ripe oranges.

After a very educational couple of hours at the Château des Dames and more than an entire roll of film gone (yielding some postcard - quality shots of the castle), I took the cab back to Amboise. I remember taking a picture of homes that appeared to be located in caves carved into the side of a hill. I remember the medieval-looking pennants flying atop Amboise's castle. Mostly, I remember the Clos Lucé.

The Clos Lucé is a house. It once belonged to Léonardo da Vinci. He was invited to move to France by the king. He moved to France, taking his notes, ideas, and a couple of paintings with him. (His most famous painting, La Joconde, known as "Mona Lisa" in the United States, is encased in glass in the Louvre.) Léo's house is charming and quaint. It's basement is its best feature... actually, the basement itself isn't all that special, but the basement's contents are not to be missed. IBM has produced scale models of all of Léonardo's inventions and ideas, and these are laid out in the basement... each model has a detailed description of Léo's original idea, and a description of how the device is used today. I remember being fascinated at how far ahead of his time Léonardo's thoughts were... many of his ideas did not actually come to fruition until the twentieth century... he thought of parachutes, helicopters, moveable bridges, various types of pulleys and levers, and wheeled vehicles (among other things) well before they would come into common use.

After a lovvely day spent in Amboise, I returned to Paris by way of Orléans. I remember having a train layover in Orléans, and I reflected that this was Jeanne d'Arc's hometown. Would she be happy that there is a mall named after her now?

Once back in Paris, I had dinner at Comptoir du Septième, a dark smoky place around a corner or two from the Eiffel Tower. I was seated alone for a few minutes before being joined by a chain smoking Frenchman who liked to chew with his mouth slightly ajar. This was my first experience with the French custom of filling a restaurant by using any and all available seats, even if this requires combining dining parties. It was nice to have company for dinner, even if the man's table manners were less than perfect... I was the first American he'd ever had the chance to talk to at length, and it seemed like he enjoyed our conversation. I was more impressed by our incredibly beautiful waitress and her habit of dancing to the music being played in the restaurant. I can't for the life of me remember what I had to eat (other than the salad), nor can I remember the name of the wine I had, but I remember it being quite tasty.

Before returning to my temporary home, I stopped by the café at Place Saint Georges for a night cap. I would do this every night the rest of the week, and by the weekend, the employees would know me by name. I met a waiter named Hakim there that first night. After one last drink, I trudged down the street to Jem's building and slowly made my way up all those stairs. I was nearly completely exhausted, but it was a good tired... it was a good day.

Yes, to quote Ice Cube, "it was a good day"... but was it as good as I remember? At the time, was it all that fulfilling, or was I in too much awe of being in Europe for the first time to really put things in perspective? Did everything happen just as I remember? I would like to think that it all did.

Created by donetrawk
Last modified 2004-10-18 03:51 PM
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