In the Footsteps of the Génération Perdue (Part Two)

The Louvre, external beauty by night, internal beauty by day. “Miles and miles of hiking before great canvasses,” once wrote Kerouac. “Thousands of clearly defined figures with swords and above them the calm mountains, trees on a hill, clouds…” he continued professing his enamor with Brueghel’s masterpiece, the Battle of Arbelles. The beauty and surreal space—the Louvre itself—is the real treasure. Run past the Mona Lisa, even past the Egyptian wing. Happen upon the hidden treasures of architecture and discreet works. Vermeer’s L’astrologue! The softness of the figure transcends photographs. It is purer than reality, untarnished by blemishes and faults of the natural and man-made world. Jan Van Eyck, never has existed an artist of such precision and skill. The one work, in a room all my own, unassuming, clashing against a tan tasteless wall, presents Van Eyck’s wonderful mastery of perspective. It is a window to the Dutch landscape, one that fails to end.Aspire by API Gap Year Paris Arc de Triomphe Sign

As I depart from my company for the night I head to the Arc de Triomphe. I traverse the underground passage and as I arise from the ground am overtaken by the massive structure. Alone with the eternal flame of Paris and the arc, save two officers and two girls, gorgeous Parisians, casually sitting and smoking on the arc’s side. I feel at peace. It is odd indeed. In the heart of Paris, an area traveled by thousands of tourists, surrounded by speeding cars, it is a moment of surreal contemplation and merging with the city. Alas, for a brief moment I feel that I understand Paris. But that moment is fleeting as reality sets in. Spoiled by cars honking and tourists’ cameras flashing.

I travel down the tourist-overrun Rue Bonparte to Ladurée. Save the handful of filled tables in the café, the counter is empty. The pastries I devoured were fantastic, but what was most memorable was the man I met manning the counter. With a starchiness and formality he takes my order—simply a canelé and three macarons, off his recommendations. As the store is all but empty we begin to chat. He commences the exchange beyond formal customer and salesman by asking of my origins. As the words New York leave my lips, his face lights up. His blue childish eyes and childish face glean with joy and excitement. A distinctly French face, it had the softness and kindness of a young child. His expression, of such joy, was simply reminiscent of a child upon entering a place of wonder—whether that be a candy or toy store. He tells of his trip to the city months earlier. I profess my love of Paris. He laughs. I leave the store and sit eating as I stare at the Arc de Triomphe.

Aspire by API Gap Year Paris Arc de Triomphe Sunset

 

Paris has inspired me to write. I have written draft after draft, paragraph after paragraph for posts over the past weeks. Each one feels unconvincing, whether not true or simply boring. I write when I am inspired, never simply to write. Paris gave more than I could ever hope to write about. A lifetime in Paris, a year in Paris, even a month in Paris will simply be life-changing.

 

This post was written by Spencer C., an Aspire by API student who is currently taking part in a gap semester program in Rome, Italy.  He will be updating the blog periodically throughout his time abroad.

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