Friday, July 8, 2011

A Room Full of Naked Women (Euro Vision Part I)

“Forgive the analogy,” my landlord said, “but it’s like being in a room full of beautiful naked women.”
A daffy, middle-aged sailing bum, he stood next to the washing machine, chatting with me about Europe. I've just returned from a four-cities-in-two weeks blitz with my kid brother.
The daycare near our hostel
in Paris showcased an awesome
animal jam band.
My first thought was that the naked ladies analogy was kind of weird, given my landlord’s rhetorical situation. But I also saw where he was coming from. So much to look at, and in such a short time.
Given the number of art museums in Europe and the ample representation of nudes alongside waterlilies, self-portraits, and fruit, "a room full of naked women" is a handy metonymical tag for the place.
I know in my last post I promised tales of secondhand Paris fashion. Alas, the exchange rate crushed me, and the vintage boutiques were beyond the reach of my experience except as small museums. 
I'm not sure what's so risque about this
dry cleaner's but I can't resist a
provocative awning.
There was so much to look at on this trip. And a feast for the other senses, too. If I hadn't forgotten my audio recorder in the luggage room on our first day in Paris, I might have recorded: men (only men) jangling half moons of tiny Eiffel Tower keyrings like tambourines, a pack of orange-brown windup dogs barking on a blanket near the Seine, a 7-piece band playing "If I Were A Rich Man" in a metro tunnel, a busker on Champ-Elysees with quite a crowd for his Phil Collins/Sting medley, giggly field trip kids everywhere.
If I had a smell recorder, I would have saved the bakery and the little fish market near our hostel and the lavender at the Jardin des Tuileries near the Place de la Concorde.
Even though three or four days are far too quick a stay to exhaust a city, this trip gave my travel muscles a serious workout. (Travel, like flirting--and here’s my own questionable laundry-room analogy--is a muscle, with the same use-it-or-lose-it urgency). When not drinking espresso, I was reading maps; speaking embarrassed monkey language in the stead of foreign language proficiency; chanting “easygoing and joyful” to myself when the museum/church was closed/hard to find/crowded; shrugging off idiot taxes like the unforeseen extra charge to sit outside in a café; celebrating the small victories of finding a laundromat and achieving clean clothes.
One more analogy (why not): As soon as I finished my first marathon a few years ago, I had the  following thoughts: where are the bagels, that was a crazy experience, and I want to run another one.
Now that I’m home, unpacking, sorting photos, and trying to reacquaint myself with the notion of work, I’m already looking at the calendar for my upcoming breaks. Already I’m making a wish list of guidebooks, angling for the next trip. Someday I'll be one buff traveler.
Who can resist a shot of the Eiffel by night? Emerging from
the metro earlier that morning, I smelled croissants and saw the tippy top of the
Tower in the same moment. Instant Paris!

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