Sunday, April 11, 2010

April in Paris with Parkinson's

Normality disappears when you travel. The last 14 days remind me of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Everything changes. Denial of the new reality is possible for a short time but is ultimately overwhelmed. There is no normal (at least not for very long).

Weather also becomes a major factor in determining the events of each day, whereas in a normal day at home, weather it is little more than a sidebar to the established routines. For the first 10 days of our European adventure, the weather had been a significant deterrent to most, if not all, venturing into the unknown territory of each country and locale we visited. This limited outdoor activity was further deterred by our sneezing and wheezing, all of which made for a less busy time and, perhaps, less enjoyable sightseeing than might otherwise have been experienced. Our time with family and friends, together with the odd experience or daytrip explained in other postings, became our saving grace. It proved to be providential that we did not come to Europe for the sightseeing!

Leaving Antwerp's beautiful train station, the weather finally broke when we entered Paris and found a cab outside the Gare du Nord. The sunnier skies were welcome, as these were the only days that we were without relational support from friends and family.  Further, we were obliged to make it on our own with me translating a language where my competence is questionable. Having taken no French since grade 12, you can imagine how rusty it has become when only used, like my old dusty high school dictionary, every few years when I had the occasion to visit Québec or France.

However, Paris was a very pleasant surprise. Our accommodation, L'Hotel de l'Empereur was nothing short of enchanting. What our room lacked in size, it more than made up for in terms of the view. Two large French windows swung open from both the bedroom and bathroom of our 3nd floor, room 23. This revealed a Parisien streetscape filled with the mysterious activity of everyday life during the day and early evening, while proudly displaying the newly bursting chestnut blossoms just like in the old Doris Day song from the movie of the same name,"April in Paris". At sunset the shimmering reflection off the Dome of Napoleon's tomb shone into our windows as if to betray the brilliance and splendor of the historic events this city has seen. At night the streets became quiet, except for a few late nighters strolling home, and the same golden dome lit up the sky in our full view.

Nearby Rue Cler became our daily haunt for its popular restaurants and friendly shopkeepers. We experienced some of the best French food, café au lait, croissants, cheese of every variety, and simply drank in the French daily life. While this was not our "normal", it was clearly that of the French denizens of this upscale neighborhood. It would take too many words to describe (even inadequately) the many images and experiences. Yes, we saw the incredible Versailles, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Champs Elysees, and Sacre Coeur, but it was the everyday adventures of getting places, meeting people, struggling with my French, and just enjoying being together that made our 5 days in Paris so enjoyable.

While there were more than a few occasions when my Parkinson's disease caused me to slow down the pace, fumble even more than usual with figuring out the foreign currency, and shake excessively when seeking to use my high school French in conversation, I never did have to explain in French that "J'ai le maladie Parkinson's", although I practiced the phrase from time to time just in case, without knowing whether that was an accurate description. Having a nap each day helped, including one where I tucked into a corner of the Louvre and slept for an hour while Renae visited a few sections that I had seen before and felt too tired to visit again.

As wonderful as our time was in the French capital city, we were looking forward to our week in beautiful Provence.

1 comment:

  1. Have I ever told you that I have been thrown out of the Louve twice? Once it was my fault - should touch the paintings. Second time it was because my son tried to bring in a skateboard!