I have to admit the idea for this mid-life adventure started six months ago when I read an article in the Travel section of the New York Times by Stephanie Rosenbloom entitled “Solo in Paris.” She began the article . . ..
” Some go to La Coupole, the 87-year-old Art Deco brasserie in Montparnasse, to commune with friends; others, to dine with ghosts — Picasso, Piaf, Sartre, all former patrons. I went alone, to live in the present.”
I’ve been on a lot of park benches lately. All of the pictures in this chapter were taken while sitting on a park bench.
Lots of my friends advocate this outlook in some form or another. I know it dates back to when Buhda was a pup, and I guess I can accept the notion. However, I’m a bit skeptical of any philosophy which is a “synthesis” of older, more time tested models, made popular by a fella who had an epiphany in the middle of the night, woke up (literally and figuratively) to find heavy traffic blissful, and went on to make gazillions pedaling that awakening to folks stuck in heavy traffic, (both literally and figuratively).
Still, I think it’s a good outlook which, so long as one doesn’t use it to abdicate personal responsibility, has a lot going for it.
So I read on . . .
“It was easy in Paris to surrender to the moment. But why? What alchemy transmuted ordinary activities, be it a walk across a bridge or the unwrapping of butter, into a pleasure? . . .This was not simply because I was in Paris . . . it was because I was there on my own . . .’ [There] are innumerable sensual details — patterns, textures, colors, sounds — that can be diluted, even missed, when chattering with someone or collaborating on an itinerary. Alone one becomes acutely aware . . . ”
Here, Stephanie is spot on (imagine translating that expression?….”Vut eeze dees “spaught own, Robe?) That is one virtue of traveling alone. One does notice details one might not otherwise observe.
I too shared the “unwrapping butter” phenomenon just this morning at Les Deux Maggots. I ordered my usual “show-co-lot” and.. . .at least I thought I ordered . . “Toasts brioches avec beurre Echire” when the impatient waiter, no doubt annoyed with my lousy accent, followed up with,”confecture?” I responded saying yes, with a bit of a “mais oui” tude of my own. (Take that Claude!) He responded, “seulement?” . . . Okay, now I was winging it, I admit it, since i didn’t have a clue what “seulement ” meant. . . And said “oui, seulement.” Claude looked at me puzzled, shook his head, walked away and returned with my hot chocolate and a tiny jar of jam on a plate. That’s it. A little jar of jam on a little plate. (Apparently “seulement”=”only.”)
But I digress. The butter in France is really good. They give you a pad the size of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapped in gold foil, and Stephanie is right , it is fun to unwrap.
Stephanie is also right about the travails (this language is easy) of traveling with others. We’ve all been on those family trips where most of the morning is waisted as polling takes place and a consensus is hammered out on what to do in the morning that was just occupied by polling and consensus building. Traveling alone, one has only oneself with whom to argue.
The trouble is there are a whole lot of “ones” in that last sentence . . . “alone” . . . “one” . . .”only” . . .”oneself.” (Here the reader will note the change in photographs to the plural, rather than the singular.)
A park bench, while a nice place for “one” to rest, is much nicer if shared. Listen, I know. I’ve been to New York and Paris. Trust me on this one. What makes this world a wonderful place is not the point of view individual perspective permits, but the joy of figuring out where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going with others.
Be it a team,
Be it friends.
Be it a family
Or best of all, with someone who speaks your language in every tense, past, future, and . . . yes . . . even present.