Monday, June 04, 2007


Shakespeare and Company

Fellow blogger Will and his wife were recently in Paris and discovered the bookstore Shakespeare and Company. (The store's link is working now.) This brought back memories of my first trip to Paris in the summer of 1989. I had just graduated from LMU and had been planning this trip for a year. Six of us flew over together, back packs at the ready. We spent about four days in London, then two split off to go to Brussels and the core four of us went to Paris.

The trip was a standard backpack-carrying, train-riding, youth hostel-staying, Let's Go-toting journey through most of europe. Our plan was to be there for 2 months and the longest we stayed in any one place was maybe four days. (This is was okay for a first trip, before I knew my travel style, but I don't do that kind of travel any more. I like to go to one place and stay for a while, get a feel for the place, become a local at a food store or cafe, pick up the necessary words.)

In Paris the highlights were:
--The Eiffel Tower -- I was surprised by just how huge it is. I expected it to be much smaller for some reason.
--Getting gassed in the Metro (tear gas or something--never found out where it came from)
--Seeing the scale models of french countryside the attic of the Musee de l'Armee. (I had read this amazing biography of Peter the Great and in it he describes coming to Paris and seeing these scale models. I loved seeing something that Peter the Great also stood next to.)
--Meeting a friend at Shakespeare and Company.

Back in the dark ages--you know, before the internet and cell phones--arranging to meet someone in a foreign place was challenging, especially when we were traveling without specific dates or places to stay. But also so much fun. This friend, Bob, was a teacher at LMU, a young hip guy who was teaching a summer class of some kind in Monaco and would be in Paris around the time we figured we would be there. So we set up a few meeting times and "2pm on July 4 at Shakespeare and Company" was one of those times. The four of us got there and I saw him first and ran over to meet him.

Okay, full disclosure -- I had a huge crush on this teacher. He was funny and a "grown up" and had spent many an hour at the coffee place on campus just talking to me like another grown up. I had told him how excited/over the moon/beside myself I was about traveling to europe. So to meet him, an adult who shared my passion for travel, in Paris was some kind of dream come true. (I am finding it so hard to describe how it felt.) Just being in Paris at all was a dream come true and then meeting up with someone who I had talked to so intensely about how much I wanted to travel and see things, someone who encouraged me and understood this passion, that was not icing on the cake, but more cake on the cake.

But back to the moment. I saw Bob and ran over and probably yelled his name and he greeted me with a huge hug and a kiss. Everyone greeted him and we walked over to Notre Dame to look inside. From my journal:
I walked alone with Bob, John, Katie and Vince went ahead. It was cool to chat with him about traveling and what I'd seen so far. He complimented me (a lot actually) with saying I make a good traveler, not a tourist. Very cool. He also said I was one of the few people he really missed while he was teaching in Monaco. I like Bob, he's quite an interesting guy.

(okay, quick aside to my 22 year old self -- what other compliments did he give me? Why no more detail on that? Sheesh.)

I loved that moment with Bob, that afternoon in Paris. Someone outside of my normal group saw me as a traveler, saw my passion and reflected it back to me, making it all even more real. The moment was significant, but oh so fleeting as soon we said good-bye to Bob and were back onto our trains and off to the next town.

Thanks for that moment Bob. It still means a lot to me.

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