Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Sounds of Paris

At times I have wondered if I had to choose losing my eyesight or my hearing, which would it be? My eyes have given me problems for unknown reasons (backpacking in my youth; smoking parents; asthma treatments or all of the above) but with surgery and lens implants, my beautiful blues no longer need glasses or contacts or even reading glasses. When premature cataracts began taking my sight and the world looked like it was smeared with Vaseline, I had such thoughts. As a sidenote, after visiting museums in Paris and seeing the great Impressionists' work, I am completely convinced that Monet, if not all of them, had cataracts.

But without being able to hear, my daughter's piano music would be beyond me as would her singing and her moving character interpretations. My son's viola music would be non-existent as would his hysterical impressions. He does a great Bill Clinton, George Bush and his newest before he left for France was MSNBC's Rita Cosby. This must have something to do with his language abilites which in large part is mimicry.

Anyway, when I travel, I try to use all of my senses to experience a new place. Paris does not sound the same as Mukilteo at all.

1. The Sirens. I love hearing the European sirens when I first arrive. They make me feel like I am in a movie. However, they were not so romantic at 4:30 AM on New Year's Eve after hearing them for an entire week.

2. Multiple Languages. Paris is such a global city. New York is probably similar but I have been to New York only once and I have been to Paris many times. Within five minutes on the sidewalk you will hear French, Spanish, German, and Italian.

3. Little children speaking French. There is something completely adorable about listening to toddlers speak perfect French.

4. Dogs who understand French. The French love their pets. It cracked me up hearing old French ladies speak endearingly to their beloveds at the intersections. Dogs are allowed everywhere--in the fancy department stores and in the restaurants. Our last night in Paris was New Year's Eve and we splurged and ate at a rather nice place. People were dressed up and there were white table linens and fancy little foods between the multiple courses.

In walked an older couple dressed in evening clothes with their dog. Was it a poodle? Mais NON! It was a yellow Labrador Retriever as big as my Apolo and he was NOT a service dog. The waiter seated them at the table next to us and that darling puppy behaved himself perfectly under the table until midnight.

At a busy brasserie one day at lunch time (where I had the best omelet I have ever eaten in my life), a young woman enjoyed her meal with her large German Shepherd at her feet. After she finished and left her table, Mr. Very Large Dog's nose came perilously close to the baguette on a nearby table. The diners were unfazed.

Our Apolo behaves horribly and all of this made me feel like a terrible dog parent. We have to shut him in the laundry room if we want peace and quiet at dinner time. He snatches our napkins and artichoke leaves and licks the butter if it is too close to the edge. And he barks at us when we are finished to put the plates in the dishwasher so he can lick them. If we'd had Apolo in that brasserie in Paris, more than one baguette would have instantly disappeared.

5. Church Bells. Our apartment was located between Sacre Coeur and Trinite cathedrals. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the bells tolled calling people to mass and it sounded like Christmas.

Ten years ago, when we stayed in France for several months, little Lucas heard church bells in a village we were visiting. He grabbed the camera to take a picture while the bells tolled. We teased him about that but you know, every time I look at that picture now, I hear the bells.

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Sacre Coeur