As I sit here in our Swiss flat with the patio door open, an Italian domestic spat is going on downstairs. It’s what we call a “breaking story,” so I’ll report on it in italics (how suitable) as I enter today’s scribblings on our trip to Paris.
It is a testament to spin doctors of all generations that the word “garden” is imbedded in the name Tuileries Garden, which are the grounds outside the Louvre.
I use the word “grounds” deliberately, because it suggests a flat, uninterrupted horizontal space, which is what we found, instead of the expected cultured urban forest.
The woman’s voice climbs upward into an elegant aria, accented by a few words here and there from the man. I have no idea what they’re saying, but it sounds like an argument over him spending too much time on the phone with his mother.
Who would have thought the French would lay a belly of gravel as a garden centerpiece?
The garden (term loosely applied) is almost 500 years old, so we looked forward to strolling beneath broad sweeps of mature shade trees. It was not to be.
Paris must have a very hostile climate, because in its few scattered groves, the trees that it did have were about the size of the cherry trees we planted in our backyard in 2004.
The woman lectures at machine-gun speed, the man responds in short resigned sentences.
A later generation of Tuileries’ garden planners circa 19th-century, probably seeing the trees were not doing so well, trimmed the gravel flats with stone sculptures of human figures in various stages of angst, foreshadowing the postures of modern-day visitors withering under the sun.
A door slams! The woman has left!
How did the sculptors know? We were fascinated by their foresight. Either that, or the heat stroke brought on by standing in the furnace of a stone-and-gravel chamber has rattled our senses.
We now understand the French Revolution in a new light, which had some of its most poignant events occur in the summer heat. Of course the French were cranky. What else could they be?
As for the Italian revolution downstairs, the woman is back. I knew she would be. She tells the man she loves him. He tells her the same. She says something else. He grunts. Her voice goes up – yes, they’re back at it again.
Someone comes into the room – the mother-in-law perhaps? She has a more mature voice. The couple’s tone softens. The woman takes a few cloaked stabs at the man, then, the sound of cutlery, and the older woman’s voice.
Ah, she is solving their argument with food, the force that has sustained Italian culture over the centuries.
Tomorrow: More Paris – the homeless, the fake riot and train-station thievery.
And now, in the spirit of fairness, despite my whining over their parks-board decisions, Paris is beautiful. Here’s the proof: