Monday, September 27, 2010

Explained by an
Ignorant American

Basically, there are three types of buildings in Paris.

First, there are flats and apartments by the zillions.

The average home dwelling is approximately 400 years old, features ceilings made of plaster and enormous, dark wooden beams that make railroad ties look like puny little 2x4's.

Some of the more modern flats have elevators, but Parisians seem to take great pleasure in dragging themselves up and down dark, narrow stairways--the more floors the better.

We rented a flat on the third floor, sans elevator, which meant about 150 stairs ascended and descended several times a day, usually en route to a metro with another 500 to 1,000 stairs to contend with. Then you have to walk to wherever you're going, stroll around for five or six hours, then descend again into the bowels of the nearest metro.

Next come the churches, basilicas, cathedrals and other religious structures.

Not churches in the conventional American mega-church sense, these churches are usually one floor but 10 stories tall, with soaring ceilings covered with gold leaf, hand painted frescoes depicting the history of Jesus and every priest and nun from the last 2010 years, angels, cherubs, life sized statues and enough stained glass to cover the entire state of Rhode Island.

In some gigantic church near Notre Dame where they house Jesus's original crown of thorns, I could almost swear I was developing a touch of stigmata on the back of my hands.

If metropolitan Paris has 2 million residents, I suspect 2.5 million of them are Catholics.

The last time I cried in a church was pretty much never.

At Sacre Coeur, approximately 15,000 stairs straight up, I found myself bawling like Jimmy Swaggart caught with his zipper down at a whore motel. The grandeur was overwhelming and I sobbed thinking how much I wished my Mama could have lived to see it. Big Sis and I clung together like two rhesus monkeys, oblivious to everyone around us. It was a great cry.

The third set of Paris buildings were the monuments.

You cannot swing a 5 euro bill without hitting at least three spectacular monuments.

You see, the French are a compact, wiry bunch of easily insulted warriors.

Each monument seemed to boil down to this:

Someone insulted a Frenchman, or even worse, a group of French men.

They went to war with the insulting party or parties, kicked their asses, then built another spectacular monument to commemorate le royale ass kicking they gave le enemy.

About 10 or 20 centuries ago, a 19-year-old French chick named Joan inspired Frenchmen to fight for their nation and their rights. She was very compelling, so the French enthusiastically complied.

Then Joan, who apparently lived in or near a town called Arc, said she heard God's voice compelling her to compel the French to action.

Apparently, the French do not like people claiming to hear the voice of God, so they killed her.

Joan of Arc still had her fans, however, so the French guys who killed her made amends by building her a little memorial church they called Notre Dame.

All this time I thought the dame in question was Mary mother of Jesus, but nope, the dame was Joan, from Arc.

And do not get me started on Emperor Napoleon and his monument. That's a whole 'nother blog.


nonnie9999 said...

you need to write travelogues.

Fran said...

First of all, @nonnie is right. But then again, she pretty much always is. Let me rephrase... She is correct; not right!

Oh KZ, KZ... I love your descriptions here. Those stairs, flats, metros and more. It is a very stair-y place. I recall my first visit in 1979, walking up the many steps in a dank and unsavory building where my friend Abbe lived. I burst into tears because I was only 21, overtired and American!

Speaking of stairs, Sacre Coeur. You speak of a place that touched me, when I was at my most un-Catholic and a place that years later, touched me again and unknowingly sent me back into the fray.

No, I am not predicting the same for you!

South Austin Viceroy said...

Ditto to Nonnie's statement.

Also, we in South Austin are glad your home and sharing these wonderful stories about your experience. You were missed.

Do the French have cupcakes?

bigsis said...

I'm with SA Viceroy on the cupcakes and even pointed out to Zip during our trip that of all the pastries in Paris, we saw NO cupcakes. I think they'd be a huge hit and you know the French would doll them up into some kind of elaborate extravaganza.
The other thing is breakfast tacos. The French could take the common flour tortilla to another level of elegance. Evidently they don't value protein for breakfast but they could add some cheese and maybe a wisp of that great jambone and butter and viola, the most perfect breakfast on earth.

KarenZipdrive said...

After much serious contemplation, I have concluded that breakfast tacos, juevos rancheros and so on would be totally ruined by the French.
As masterful as they are at cookery, I suspect the intricacies of TexMex cuisine would be messed up with too much extraneous stuff.
A simple pico de gallo would turn into a mass of weird herbs, mushrooms, saffron threads and other oddball components that would render it unrecognizable.
It would be like Thai Tex Mex--which would be a major crime.

Lulu Maude said...

Did you pay your respects to 27 Rue de Fleurus?

Gertrude & Alice's place.

Karen Zipdrive said...

Nah. There was only so much time and I forgot all about making a pilgrimage to see where the old girls lived.
However, I think I may have spotted Gertrude's doppelganger hanging out in a doorway of some ancient lesbian bar in Chinatown.