TG Sans Turkey

Is that even possible? is the question I posed on the eve of a day slotted for merriment and gluttony. The morning of, 0715 brought me to wake then open my shutters like a good French girl. Traces of the words “H.TG.” were forbidden from my mouth lest all the associated memories spill over and wash what little sanity I had. Under the rare and sunny sky, this day would be and had to be fantastic, an answer to mine and mom’s and everyone else’s prayers for joy that overflowith like gravy over turkey. 

My apple tart rested between my little gloved hands during my 15 minute walk past the glass music hall, the train station, and post office. In passing, many stares were garnered and a man even condescended to say “bonjour” and see if I were sharing un gâteau that morning. The excitement over understanding a stranger for the first time without requiring a second listen nearly convinced me. But my name was already put to the desert column for the class luncheon. How could I forget all my new friends, three whose birthdays required une fête!? 

A snippet of us that attended the class partay.

 Around noon, everyone sat at down to a thick clump of desks and paper-plated Spanish and Texan appetizers. Our Vietnamien nun had outdown herself with shrimp pasta to compliment the Chinese and Tiawanese chicken dishes. Finshing the meal with cafés, we laughed over different food cultures. The shrimp, thankfully, were not traditionally presented–semi-alive. When most had left, a friend mumbled that he felt like dancing. So I poked and prodded until he offered a couple pointers! And making a fool of myself (to “Billy Jean” with a Japanese friend before a clapping, tapping audience of apple tart, prof, a handful of classmates and gawkers outside) ran clear up to the last class!

There remained a get-together at a restaurant that night, the very antithesis of all tradition. But my opinion changed once cozied next to familiar faces under rustic beams in the warmth of English conversation. Oh, the salad with whipped, honey-covered camembert was divine. The duck tender. La tarte tatin impeccable. With rosy wine cheeks, we split our sides over faux-pas in this foreign place and stories of past groups. While no one gave one whit to the time at dinner, I peaked at my watch before falling to sleep. 1230. AM. 

Let the loudness and Americaness echo from the rafters. Le Zinc. TG '11.

That was the same time seen the following night along with 0230, 0430, 0530 until I gave up to get ready for the early train to Paris. At the heart of the city, amidst the pyramids of the Louvre, two dear friends and myself clasped for the first time since May of track season. There are not words for gasping simultaneously at Rembrandts or oohing in chorus over animated Christmas windows. It just is. And somewhere between the Champs-Elysées Christmas markets and a pick-pocketed wallet, I felt like the me of back when… a bit more French, a touch less fanciful, but completely and totally loved all the same.

You only throw it up if you're feeling it. Evidement, a little TUTF in Paree.

Thank you to those you prayed and/or made this turkeyless Thanksgiving quite memorable.

Louvre ’til Closing

Today’s disappointment was finding that our sole goal at the Louvre of France was to study Italian Renaissance art.  If not the whole museum, then we had made it through security, even snuck in an illegitimate guide, for naught. Before the first painting, I found myself actually wrapped up in 13th century Italy–what would one do without a digital camera nor my Asian pic-snap-happy genes? Even the one dimensional, religious art took on new life. I saw how the pointed top lead the eyes to heaven and how the blue sits back while the red of Christ’s blood comes forward. As we followed art through the ages, my thankfulness grew for Napoleon’s ransackary of the Boot.

Les Noces de Cana (facing the wall with the Mona Lisa and her crowds).

It most certainly helps that our guide, Vicki, was nearly kicked out of La Sorbonne. Her prison sentence at that university was illustrated by following example: during her presentation, a student said, “I think that…” The professor cut her short with, “no one asked you to think.” So when God made Vicki, he decidedly added imagination with genius then topped it off with lots of quirk. This made it all the easier for us to laugh over never growing up. I mentioned that my mother forbade me from chasing French unicorns… i.e. my ooh’s and ahh’s in new places tend to get me lost. To which, she smiled, “I am lost more than I am found!”

Our wonderful guide explaining the allure of the Venetian "It-girl" of the Renaissance.

As Leonardo Da Vinci will lead to Raphael, the end of our tour left me with Vicki’s challenge to explore. Only three of us stuck out hunger pangs to see The Raft of Medusa as well as other gigtantic treasures. Despite my good intentions and not one hour since being cut-loose, my two friends were no longer in the imprint gallery or even down at the Greco-Roman sculptures. While squinting over a map, I heard my name–my prayers were answered! A rendezvous time was set for our next separate adventure time. After standing in Napoleon’s antechamber, I sat a second time with Venus de Milo; waiting for those, as I would later find out, merely a room away.

The view from an unknown location on my adventures (third floor maybe???)

Fifteen minutes staring at the same armless statue was too much tempation. I caved to the butterflies and flowers of freedom in a 17th century palace. Up to third floor French paintings then down to medieval jewelry, into the Richelieu wing and about many sets of stairs then under one grand ceiling, I literally could not remember the way back. The Degas simply encouraged me toward the Renoirs who pushed my walk further to Vermeers. From the corner of my eye, I saw the attendants in each room locking up. Marble sculptures in courtyards below hollered out a last-minute invitation which myself and sketching stragglers happily took. And as I gazed up at Minerva and she down at me, I swear–she must have winked.