A little over a year ago, I stopped writing what was intended to be a daily post. Shortly before I stopped writing, a volcano erupted in Iceland. While claiming that the volcano’s eruption bears responsibility for my lack of blogging productivity might be a stretch, its a pretty good story…
In truth, my 365 day project ran out of gas. It might have been different if the volcano had stayed quiet. I was scheduled to fly to Paris on April 18, ultimately making my way to Genoa for an inspiring and challenging week long photography workshop with David DuChemin and Jeffrey Chapman. But I stayed in Seattle. I spent a week with a packed suitcase in the middle of the floor. My morning routine involved drinking a latte with a phone to my ear, trying to find a flight from the west coast of the United States to anywhere in Europe that was operating and wasn’t oversold. It didn’t happen. I finally threw in the towel and called in my travel insurance. A couple months later, CSA sent a check for everything I had spent that wasn’t reimbursed by the airline. In the mean time, I stopped writing daily blog posts and confined my disappointment to the pages of a moleskine. While I appreciated the Seattle’s beauty walking through the Arboretum and along Lake Washington, and I tried really hard to recognize that there is a time and place for everything, I was having a really difficult time finding my daily routine as inspiring as France and Italy.
It took a few days before I was ready to start unpacking that suitcase. I carefully placed the bag with gifts for family and friends on a shelf in my bedroom, not knowing when I would deliver them, but vowing to doing so. The suitcase went back to the storage room in the basement.
Fast forward one year: A rolling duffel bag sat on the floor with piles of clothing and camera gear all around it for a week as I decided what was going and what was staying. I finally took the bag of gifts off the shelf, made a nest for it among my clothes, zipped and locked the bag. The heavy pack containing laptop, external hard drive, camera, lenses and other critical items went on my back.
As I boarded the plane in Seattle, I had to pinch myself. After a year of waiting, dreaming, planning, and visualizing, the trip was happening. This year, I added a few more days so that I could hang out with cousins in Lyon and a good friend outside Milan. The other thing that changed was that the photography workshop was in Croatia… on a sailboat.
I’m planning to add photos as I edit, and write about whatever seems relevant as I go through the images. While traveling this spring, I found that I had a lot to think about and reflect on in my journal about travel, culture, my family and friends. Of course the “trip” became a journey that is still revealing itself as I now reflect back on it. The images below are from my first afternoon and evening in Paris.
It had been 11 years since I was last there. When I made plans to spend a couple days alone in Paris before heading south to Lyon to stay with cousins, I was thinking about it the way I always had… as a city where I am completely at ease because I lived there and speak the language. Arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport, it occurred to me that I last lived there over 25 years ago and I don’t use my french all that often. Asking for directions to the Air France bus, the sounds did not roll off my tongue the way they used to, and I stumbled over a few simple words and phrases. It would be easy blame it on the fact that I was exhausted from flying and jet-lagged, but the reality – that it had been a very long time – quickly became apparent when I decided to walk from the Gare de Lyon to my hotel in the Marais, forgetting that I didn’t have a map! Even when I lived in Paris, I always carried a handy street map. The friendly driver on the Air France bus had confirmed that it wasn’t far, but of course I made a couple of wrong turns, and a 15 minute walk quickly became about 30 minutes on a 70+ degree afternoon with a heavy pack on my back and duffel bag bumping over the curbs and cobbles behind me. Without a map, I was forced to ask strangers for directions several times, which gave me at least a start at working a few of the kinks out of my rusty French. Though sweating and exhausted, every footstep felt lighter with the exhilaration of walking down the Rue de Rivoli by myself, in Paris!
Under normal circumstances (normal?), I probably would have taken my time, unpacked a bit and had a nap or a cup of coffee, but the weather forecast predicted an end to the sunshine so I quickly regrouped, and headed back out onto the street (this time armed with a map). A few blocks away is the Place des Vosges, a small grassy square that I used to walk out of my way to sit in when I lived in Paris. I plopped down on the grass, pulled out a bottle of water and took it all in. My whole reason for coming to Paris on this trip was to reacquaint myself with a city that I have loved for a long time. I had no plan but to wander as I was moved, and as my camera led. By 9pm my stomach led me to a small bistro called Le Coude Fou. As I sat, the fatigue crept up on me. Between a couple glasses of wine, a full stomach and many hours since my head had last rested on a pillow, I could no longer deny the fact that I had to say good night to Paris and return to my tiny room, reassuring myself that it would all still be there when I awakened the next day.