To be sick and in Paris is never a good combination. My head feels like a balloon floating along Macy’s Day Parade (due to the pressure and the fact that I’m am thinking of how I can prevent my sickly, coughing frame from falling up the stairs; which is entirely possible, it’s been done before.) No matter how many Pharmacies are scattered along the streets with their flashing green crosses, I find no relief. France is the most medicated country, according to some culture book from 2000, adoring their medicaments and tonics, but all they’ve given me are these lozenges that look like a cross between Alka-Seltzers and Tums but taste like off-brand ibuprofen. These leave only my tongue anesthetized–perfect for slurring my bonjour’s and merci’s.
What little comfort is that my sniffling has been unheard during our recent travels. Versailles is packed to the gilded rafters with tourists, and understandably so. The gardens alone are worth a day’s walk and the Orangerie and fountains and my favorite Galerie des Glaces. On the following day, our lovely director decided to traipse all about Paris in order to explain the French Revolution. It’s not enough to wrack our brains with bloody years of revolt, but also torment our little feet. Because we were so good, our reward was Parisian bonbons from Pierre Hermes. I could have died of chocolate mousse and gone to heaven but le Panthéon and all the famous/famously dead people would not wait. (Yes, Alexandre Dumas was there!)
Yesterday was about discovering the old galeries, French strip malls which gave birth to the modern mall. To top our miles off, a break was taken at the top of Le Printemps, under a stained-glass dome of blues and greens. I’m glad I didn’t die the day before as my next stop was the Opéra Garnier. Wow. Like V-fib wow. The gold and marble and chandeliers were a never ending display of Charles Garnier genius. My theatre major friend pointed out the highlights and even joined in a few numbers from Phantom of the Opera (not anything close to Christian Vaflor, mais, ça suffit.) As I sat under the Chagall ceiling, that my baby cousin could have crayoned, the lights let up then down and over and over as a dancer did a little practice routine.
I had to write an essay about that as well as many other things, six total. There is something terribly difficult about writing in French when one can barely remember fragments of high school grammar. My last string of identical, so-so grades must be connected to my lack of syntax. Sentences in English don’t work in French. It is literally a chasm of ignorance, thousands of years of words with connotations that could never be learnt in two weeks. And that is why I cry. One of my newly made friends told me that my note-taking in the streets of Paris makes her want to take notes or wonder if she isn’t working hard enough. “I know your French will take off when we get to Tours,” and she added ever so sincerely, “because you try sooo hard.” And that is why I cry.