Paris is one of the most-visited cities in the world, and after spending a few days there at the end of April and beginning of May, I definitely believe that! I was blown away by the frenzied crowds of people everywhere we went and the extraordinarily long lines to see any of the most famous attractions. I have to admit that I had some naive expectations about the city based on movies like Amelie and Midnight in Paris, and we had to try very hard to find the quieter spaces where one might have a thoughtful or whimsical interlude like in those movies. So we didn’t end up seeing some of the things I had planned on seeing, because we didn’t want to put ourselves through waiting in line for hours to climb the stairs to the first platform of the Eiffel Tower (and there was no hope at all to get to the top because some of the elevators were out of service). Similarly, we weren’t so interested in waiting in a long line to get into a fabulous museum, only to be followed with fighting through massive crowds to get a glimpse of a corner of artwork. Instead, we walked along the Seine for hours. We wandered around the charming hills of Montmartre.
We found a rare quiet spot near Sacre Coeur.
We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe shortly before it closed for the night…
…and were rewarded with a lovely view of “The City of Light” at night.
It is often said that traveling is an excellent opportunity to learn – not just the history, details, and culture of the places that you’re seeing, but about yourself as well. I think Jeff and I learned here how much our preferences for our surroundings have changed since we lived in Boston. We now treasure the quiet pretty spots, and sightseeing in Paris turned into sort of a quest for quiet and seclusion.
We did wait in line to get inside Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. We admired the Eiffel Tower from the bottom. We appreciated the romance of the love padlocks on the Pont des Arts. We were charmed by the accordion player busking on the metro train (although the charm wore off quickly – accordions are mighty loud). We found the Moulin Rouge and the cafe were Amelie worked in the movie. And we tried to escape the crowds with a day trip out of the city – more on that in my next post!
I liked this mural on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Do you recognize any of those faces? From left to right, they are Woody Allen, Edgar Allen Poe, and Herman Hesse. I couldn’t fit the entire mural in the photo (it’s just a quick snapshot from the car), but Franz Kafka and Anaïs Nin are to the right of Herman Hesse.
And here’s some of Woody Allen at his finest:
Ever since I read Reading Lolita in Tehran a few months ago, Daisy Miller by Henry James has been on my reading list. I’ve stopped by the library a couple of times in hopes of borrowing Daisy Miller, but it’s a popular book and hasn’t been there. I grabbed James’ Washington Square the first time, and found it to be a good read – nothing too extraordinary, but good. The second time, I borrowed James’ The Wings of the Dove. I knew it had been made into a movie, so I figured it must be good. Well…I found this book to be unreadable. After struggling to read about forty extremely convoluted pages, I had a muddled idea of what James was trying to describe, at best. To decide if I should persevere with this rambling, confusing book, I read some reviews on amazon.com, and found others who seemed to have similar feelings about The Wings of the Dove.
From Amazon reviewer JAD:
In this work dating from 1902, Henry James writes favoring obscurity over clarity, circuitousness instead of directness and vagueness rather than subtlety. When the reader struggles valiantly onward, it is much as if one were to attempt to hack one’s way through the trackless Amazonian rain forest using only tweezers and butter knife, all the while, wondering whether is it worth so much to learn so little. It is a question each reader must answer for herself or himself…..Kudos to all valiant readers who persist to the end.
From Amazon reviewer J. Breithaupt:
It’s astonishing to me that this thinly plotted, atrociously incomprehensible tangle of verbiage ever gained a reputation for being a ‘great work.’ Sadly, this was my first reading of James, and I’m powerfully dissuaded from wading any further into his inky depths. What a craven mess…..Meanwhile, for those interested in a far superior example of American fiction in the immediate post-Victorian era, try Edith Wharton’s brilliant and deeply moving “The House of Mirth,” which appeared just three years after “Wings…” With the former, you’ll occasionally re-read its sentences because you’ll want another taste of their construction and underlying wisdom, not – as with the latter book – because you are trying to decipher their unintentionally elusive sense.
This book is only the second in my life that I have given up on (the first being A Tale of Two Cities), and absolutely deserves the literary smackdown those reviewers gave it. I’m going to rent the movie and move on.
I love this website featuring photos of classic Hollywood stars riding bikes. Of course, this is my favorite photo posted to date:
I started going to the local showings of the Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour when I lived in Pittsburgh and have continued the tradition in Halifax. I highly recommend checking it out if the tour comes near you. They always show an excellent mixture of films from around the world that portray mountain sports or mountain culture. Some of the films focus on adventure and fun and some focus on ecology or society, but they are all great.
We got the Despicable Me DVD for Christmas and we thought it was such a cute movie! I think we enjoyed the movie a little extra because so much of the cast was people that we love from TV shows (especially Steve Carell, Jason Segal, and Will Arnett). The clip below shows some of the cutest parts of the movie.
Here’s a bit of a retrospective movie review list of the movies I’ve seen so far this year:
Up in the Air – I had high expectations for this one, what with all of the Oscar nominations, and it seemed potentially interesting and funny. In reality, I found it boring with a side of predictable and depressing. I don’t think I laughed at all, but I may have smirked a few times. Meh. I give it a C+.
An Education – This one was interesting. Props to Carey Mulligan for evoking Audrey Hepburn at her cutest…I feel it was almost like a 60s “Roman Holiday,” but with the naive girl being introduced to the sketchy side of London rather than the romantic side of Rome, if that makes any sense. It’s not such wholesome good fun as “Roman Holiday” though, you’ll probably feel a bit icky and squirmy while watching the plot play out. I enjoyed the scene with Jenny carrying her cello in the rain, and the fabulous 60s fashion. B+.
Alice in Wonderland – The aspect of this movie that I really felt was special was the seamless melding of totally computer generated talking critters with somewhat or maybe not at all computer-altered human actors. It felt a bit long though. Loved the Red Queen’s huge head and all of the dresses worn by Alice while she was in Wonderland. B+.
How to Train Your Dragon – I thought this movie was very creative and fun! The animation was beautiful. Like many movies aimed at children, it seemed to have a take-home message for its audience. Although obviously things could have ended badly for the kid who tried to train a dragon, I really liked the movie’s ideals of not being afraid to challenge what we think we know, and trying to avoid unnecessary violence. I give it an A.
The Runaways – Well, I haven’t seen this one yet, but I would like to. Have you seen it? What did you think?