IMG_1934I was recently privileged to be in France for a week with 21 teenagers and 2 other adults. It was amazing to be in the company of young people traveling, some of whom had never been abroad or on an airplane before. It had been over twenty years since I had been to France, and that trip did not involve any time in Paris.
SONY DSCI came back considering a few things.
SONY DSCFirst, if you walk 22k steps in a day, it’s fine to eat as many pains au chocolat as you want. Also gelato.
Second, as we traveled in the south, we were in rural areas where there was certainly poverty. It seems that poverty in France has been on the decline in the last 20 years. But I wondered, as we passed through rural villages and run-down farms, where they were keeping their rusted-out cars, old lawnmowers, piles of tires, trash and plastic garbage in front yards, and why there were no dilapidated homes with tarps on the roofs? SONY DSCI know what rural poverty looks like in Maine. Rural poverty looks very different in France and I would like to understand the cultural reason for that.
SONY DSCThird (ha!), there were so many examples of third places in France, both in the bustling metropolises and the small villages. Third places are defined as those which are not home and not work/school, yet are public and accessible to everyone. These are places of connection.
IMG_1985I have been thinking a lot about the role of third places in sustaining a healthy community, as I have been transforming the high school library where I work into a thriving third place for our students.
SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSquares, cafes, plazas, fountains, parks with blossoming orange trees, promenades, benches, seating designed to feel together or alone, these are all spaces that are designed for people to occupy. Mostly outside. Every day between 5-7pm there were groups and pairs, (sometimes singles), walking, sitting, chatting in these public spaces. No one appeared to be in a rush. Sometimes they were reading!
IMG_2285This is definitely not a concept in midcoast Maine, particularly the outside part. Sure we have fabulous hiking trails, beautiful coastline, some amazing parks and beaches and ponds. But are they designed to promote daily socializing and connection, on your way home from work? It felt extremely Mediterranean. And also very civilized.
IMG_2176Finally, the light was no joke. Oh blah blah, you’ve already heard about Paris the City of Light. But it was completely the truth and not just in Paris. It was amazing to capture a few fleeting moments, with the light painting everything. And shutters just mugging for the camera.
SONY DSCI have a whole series of French children, with their scarves, charming coats, and Mary Jane shoes.
I have many photos of beautiful windows, flowers, colors, peeling paint, and rusting latches.
I have a significant number of photos of other tourists taking pictures, because I was annoyed when they were pushing me while we were inside Versailles, and finally decided to quietly protest by taking their portraits as they took photos and selfies (with selfie-sticks) and looked at their phones and posed for each other. It was a relief to enter the gardens, which were stunning. And no one pushed me.SONY DSCI could only imagine that the Sun King was appalled.


One thought on “::abroad::

  1. C’est merveilleux, n’est pas? I was there a year ago, and I agree about the pain aux chocolate, and the piles of pictures of textures, gardens, people, third places.

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