Last week was a vacation–and not. True, I was immersed in three vacation-y pursuits: inspiring view; regimen of pampering/rejuvenation; even a whimsical lapse of judgment best second-guessed in retrospect.
Translation: I didn’t go anywhere. Activities included re-doing the sewing/exercise/whatever room and coordinating prescriptions, care, and vet visits for a post-operative Scottie dog.
And my Big Regret was deciding a while back that pet insurance would be advisable but not actually signing up for it. (We’ve considered re-naming the patient Princess Cruise.)
On the plus side, Kenna, our little terrier, is again bouncing around, striking fear into squirrels’ hearts–also behaving as a poor but fun role model for Robert, our larger, moodier Scottie. The made-over room looks wonderful; I haven’t skipped a day on the elliptical machine since the place took on a classier tone.
Luckily, a library copy of Edward Rutherfurd’s new 800-page Paris: The Novel turned up just in time for the week off. What is vacation if not the chance to consume several hundred pages at a time without sacrificing a night’s sleep?
All of which resulted in clarity about future vacations. Rutherfurd’s latest saga accomplished what Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon, Diane Johnson’s Le Divorce, and numerous other excellent novels and accounts of life in Paris only tempted me to do. Post-Rutherfurd, I’ll finally confess my latent ambition to be Yet Another Paris Tourist.
Admittedly, moving Paris to the top of the wish list earns one zero points for originality. And those clichéd images of the Eiffel Tower, baguette-toting natives, the Belle Epoque lamp posts? Yes, they’re ultra-commercial. But those ubiquitous graphics powerfully evoke the spectrum of individual interests in Paris: history, architecture, cuisine, fashion, performing arts, graphic arts, religion, politics…
As with Sarum, New York, London, etc., Rutherfurd unfurls an ambitious tapestry of several centuries’ urban evolution. The threads, individual characters of varying classes, strive for the best possible existence as they currently discern it. But only you, the reader, can perceive the ultimate pattern, whole-cloth evidence that some ancestors’ dreams were not worth pursuing. Other forebears die convinced of having lost a struggle in which their descendants eventually triumph. Endurance is the key.
There’s nothing like a big-picture historical saga to bestow appreciation for the relative insignificance of one’s own obstacles or ambitions. These epics also portray the advance of progress founded on small but persistent increments of goodwill and creativity.
View Paris’ Roman ruins and churches, and you’re reminded that cultures succeed or not on both merit and adaptability. Hop on the Eiffel Tower’s elevator, and you’re conveyed aloft a structure originally designed for showstopper visual appeal and meant to last twenty years.
Over 100 years later, hordes of visitors are confidently making that ascent.
I wouldn’t hesitate, either. Until then, I’ll recommend Goodreads’ Books About Paris list. In October, watch for Charles Belfoure’s The Paris Architect. I’m reading the advance copy of this intriguing historical fiction/thriller set in German-occupied Paris–and already added it to the library’s order list.