The first thing you notice about the people of France is that they are so… well… French:
- Waiters ‘flamboit’ around crowded outdoor café tables
- Well dressed business people drop by patisseries on their way home to pick up their baguette, which then protrudes unashamedly
- Young women in summer dresses ride bikes purposefully but ordinarily around bustling streets
- French suave is apparently intentionally oblivious to the hazards of smoking
- Vesper riders abuse delivery van drivers as routine
In Melbourne this would be pretentious, in Paris this is life.
I have found myself searching for an adjective for this incredible city. It’s an ordinary word but I have landed on ‘great’. What does it take to be great?
1. substance and depth
It is a total brain strain to wander across the floors of Notre Dame and wonder, as Maria did out loud, about the stories of the people who have stepped on the same tiles over the 800 years since the Cathedral was built.
And although we are talking Italian rather than French, it was striking to see how ‘small’ the greatness of the Mona Lisa is. I was naively expecting a painting of greater proportions than the small canvas that greeted us. Greatness is not always big.
The French do ‘big’ without doing kitch. The scale and vision of the Lourve is breathtaking. The ‘density’ of the city, with its laneways and 6 storey buildings overwhelms the simple notion of a ¼ acre block to call home.
I have heard many people use emotive rather than descriptive words in reference to this city. Now I know why.