d’Orsay can you say?

20120708-154542.jpgLast week we had the chance to visit the musée D’Orsay. I’ve been musing on one of our interactions with a French family ever since. A father with three children came up to us because we were obviously visitors and asked if he could speak with us for a minute. His kids appeared to be aged about ten to 17 or so. He asked,”Where are you from?” After we told him he said, “Would you tell my son why you are here? We live in Paris, but he doesn’t have any interest in what is right here.” He turned to his son and said,”See! These people came all the way from Seattle to be here, and you don’t even want to ride the metro a few stops to get here.”

The father was clearly trying to make a point, and I didn’t have enough time to really stop and think through a response that would address the father’s obvious frustration and convey a sense of respect for the teenager. He looked friendly enough but rather embarrassed by a father who is willing to walk up to complete strangers and talk about his lack of interest in his own culture.

After Emma and I chimed in with what it was we were enjoying about the d’Orsay in particular, we added what else we had seen and why we had enjoyed it. We mentioned that it is just different, too. Let’s face it, if you put the Space Needle next to the Eiffel Tower for a side by side comparison, the Paris landmark is going to kick Seattle’s ass. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle, but it is not Paris. It’s hard to beat the immenseness of the ancient city on any number of levels. Just think of the quick list just about anyone can make about Paris–Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Jardin de Luxembourg, Sacre Coeur, le Louvre. Also, there is l’Orangerie–home to Monet’s famous enormous Water Lillies. Last time I was here with my mom, the Orangerie was closed for renovations, and the time before that I was only 16 and had no clue. Which sort of brings me back to this poor young man who seemed utterly bored and not at all interested in the lesson his father wanted us to teach him. I felt bad for the teen, though. Here he was being displayed in front of complete strangers in his second language. I said something to the effect thaf we don’t always appreciate what is in our own back yard. After all, we were in France not Seattle.

It’s always easier to think of an appropriate response after an interaction, and I would have preferred it if I could have engaged the teen a bit more directly and found some common ground with him rather than ending up being someone jumping on his dad’s bandwagon of cultural pontification. I am guessing that the overall interaction only embarrassed the teen without making much headway with the father’s agenda.

20120708-155606.jpgHowever, this got me to thinking about my own back yard for a bit. I am not particularly home sick because I am still enjoying my trip, but I think it is a valuable exercise to think through the things that I can appreciate about my own place in the world.

I know I just sort of dissed the space Needle, but it is certainly one of the Seattle landmarks that I take visitors to see. We often go to the Locks–especially if the salmon are running. The Zoo, aquarium, the troll, SAM, Boeing, EMP, Seattle Center, and Gasworks Park are all on my offering list. We love Pike Place Market, and we don’t always wait for visitors to get down there. After living in Seattle for almost 23 years, I finally saw the “gum wall.” I don’t think this particularly stinky globular and hideous bit of art is that old, but I hadn’t been in that alley since the days when we went to see a friend who was a regular in Theater Sports. The last time I was there, I was focusing on the disturbed naked man being escorted away by the police. I don’t think I would have even noticed the gum had it been there at the time.

So folks, I would like you to share where you take your visitors–and why if you are so inclined. It’s not necessary to keep it Seattle bound–might as well enjoy the larger discussion of what is not to be missed wherever you live.



Filed under Parenting, Traveling

3 responses to “d’Orsay can you say?

  1. Margy

    We have an ever-growing list of really special restaurants in Seattle where we take visitors– Harvest Vine, Petra, the fantastic dim sum place in the International District. Also, the Woodland Park Zoo.

  2. Bill

    We like the sculpture park (part of SAM), ferry rides, walking around Green Lake, and Mt. Rainier.

  3. Paris is an awesome place, I’d love to go back. The art and history and culture are unbelievable. You really get the sense when you’re there that it’s one of the world’s capital cities. The thing about Paris, however, is that it’s really just a place of Man, as most cities are. Despite its lovely parks and gardens and boulevards, I never got a sense that was really connected to the natural world in any meaningful way.

    The longer I live in Seattle, the more I find myself noticing this sort of thing when I visit new cities. If I go to a new place and don’t see lots of mountains or oceans or jungles or rivers or lakes or fish or birds or…well, you get the idea, then I automatically wonder to myself “Why did anyone bother to put this place here? I guess someone’s last mule must have just dropped dead on this spot.”

    So, when I show people around Seattle I take them to many of the standard spots you already mentioned, but when I do I make a point of noting all the bits of scenery and nature along the way. “That’s Husky Stadium over there, and look at the heron in wetlands right by the highway.” “This is Pike Place Market and if we go over here on the end we can see the Olympics.” “Yeah, you can see everything from here at the top of the space needle, even the waterway over there that takes the freshwater from Lake Washington into Puget Sound.” …and so on. A quick back ‘n’ forth ferry trip to Bainbridge Island is perfect for this sort of thing and is near the very top of my sort list of things people should do when they visit Seattle.

    They should also stop of at any of Seattle’s wonderful microbreweries for a lovely pint. (Try doing that in Paris!)

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