Ah, beautiful Par-ee.
The park is where we spent our first full day in France. We joined friends from Germany to help celebrate one of their birthdays (as a bonus, the weekend also fell close to Stelian’s birthday). As soon as we entered the park, our friends knew where everything was, which I found strange, because I didn’t think any of them had visited this park before. It was then that one of them informed me that all Magical Kingdoms have the same layout. For some reason, the cookie-cutter quality of this creeps me out. I also learned that because the particular park we visited is in Europe, and has to compete with real châteaux, its crowning castle (pictured above) is larger than the ones in Orlando or Anaheim.
Our day there was enjoyable. We rode a lot of rollercoasters, which sadly I have become quite intolerant of since my teenage years (read: while on the ride, I apply a Vulcan death-grip to the handles, squeeze my eyes shut and count the seconds until it’s over). But was the visit magical? Well, it was interesting for Stelian and me to reconcile the reality of a Disney theme park with our respective childhood conceptions of it. As a child, I never had any kind of fetish for the parks, or any real desire to visit them, but I did imagine Disneyland as a place where children went to be treated like little kings or queens and to frolic with costumed characters. Stelian recalls having a book about the Disney parks as a child, and thinking of them as an enchanted place that he’d never be able to visit.
But I think I can tell the truth here: there’s nothing magical about the crowds, the long lines, the many kids who are crashing from sugar or over-excitement, the endless processed food and cheap souvenirs being proffered at every turn. Perhaps the aura of magic still somehow materializes for the children who have been dreaming of visiting for so long. I hope so, but I fear not. And this has caused an interesting question to linger in my mind: Is it sometimes better not to visit a place about which you have developed a beautiful, magical dream?
Anyway, the next day we went to real Paris. We’d visited the city once before, but this time we stayed in Montmartre, a part we hadn’t visited on our first jaunt. Montmartre is home to this:
Montmartre perches above the rest of Paris on the right bank, and the Sacre Coeur (pictured above) is its crowning jewel. This is also the former hangout of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and other great artists. In fact, one of the highlights of my trip was this:
Our time in Paris proper was short (just two partial days and one night), but still long enough to squeeze in good art, a couple of good salads (I don’t usually order main-course salads, except in France, because they do them so well), and a good visit with an old friend who happened to be in the city. For me, the magic of Paris lies in the quiet interstices of the city’s many hyped-up and “magical” sights, and I’m okay with that.