Word of the day: Luce

Luce (LOO-chay): light

We have enjoyed two fantastic days in the City of Light. During the day time you can see why it is called that, as the boulevards are broad, with enormous promenades on either side, leaving lots of open space and light from the sky. Here, pedestrians don’t have to compete with cars for space and the result is more polite drivers and pedestrians than you would find in Florence and most other Italian cities. There are also lots of green spaces, large and small, places to sit and watch passersby. We walked part way through the Tuilleries Garden, which is enormous and light filled. The most spectacular chapel I’ve ever seen (Saint-Chapell) was a hymn to light, with its gigantic stained glass windows that turn the whole chapel into a lantern of light and color.

And then there is Paris at night. The beautifully lit Eiffel Tower with its golden glow is a beacon of light all across the city. In fact it has two powerful search light type beams that send light out over the top of the city in the evening. Every hour, on the hour, the tower performs a light show of twinkling lights, top to bottom, that make it shimmer and dance. This lasts for exactly five minutes, enough time to get a good photo. The facades of churches are lit as well, adding to the city’s glow. Cafes and restaurants are open until the wee hours, sending light and laughter out to the streets, welcoming you in for coffee or a drink.

Yesterday we visited the Louvre (actually a very small portion of it) and were wowed by the grand glass pyramid which creates a solarium of light to the floors below.

Brilliant works of art, with contrasting light and dark hues, continue the theme of light into the life of the mind. From the small Mona Lisa to the huge Wedding Feast at Cana on the opposite wall, the statue of Winged Victory riding atop a ship’s prow and the tiny figurines from ancient Egypt, the luminous Botticelli’s and the glowing skin of Titian’s nudes, the soft glow of innocence and the dark violence of war, every work invites us to ponder the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. The light show continues over at the Musee d’Orsay, where impressionist art is all about the play of light.

The Arch d’Triomphe gave us a spectacular (though cloudy, windy, and cold) view of the city, its cathedrals and skyscrapers, tree-lined streets, and distant hills. Even the Deportation Museum, the memorial to the over two hundred thousand French citizens who lost their lives during the Nazi holocaust, featured the light of hope shining at the end of the dark tunnel. A small crystal of light for each of those two hundred thousand lives lost, sparkles in the underground memorial.

Of course, we have only just scratched the surface of all that Paris has to offer. Two days is  but a brief introduction. Tomorrow we will spend a few brief hours up at Montmarte visiting Sacre Couer and wandering the streets. My stereotypes of Paris were of charming, though dirty, streets and aloof, unfriendly locals. My experience has been quite the opposite. The city seems luxuriously large and well kept, and every single Parisian I have interacted with has not only been friendly, but has gone out of their way to be helpful.

Have I mentioned that it is spring? The blossoms and leaves on the trees all add to the soft play of light and sweetness that I will carry from here, back home to Florence and to my travels beyond. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Paris, but I have. I realize that it isn’t ALL sweetness and light, but I am choosing to let the light in and treasure these brief glowing days of discovery.

Now if I could just convince Parisian restaurants to lower their prices…

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2 thoughts on “Word of the day: Luce

    • Thanks, Karen. Paris is so amazing, that for the first time ever, I want to learn French. George and I have agreed that we must give Paris (and France in general) more of our attention. We’re thinking a couple months in Paris at some point, to really get to know the city well.

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