Spending Christmas in Paris is not a bad idea. It could be an even better idea if a million others didn’t think so too. Anyway, it wasn’t the holiday per se that had us in the City of Light for five days at the end of December. We were there specifically to view a temporary exhibition in the city’s newest great museum. The Fondation Louis Vuitton, designed by Frank Gehry, opened in 2014 in the north sector of the Bois de Boulogne. For those of you who know the Bois, it sits grandly next to the Jardin d’Acclimation, the playground for children. The exterior of the museum resembles other Gehry designs— great, winged, aysymetrical shapes.
As the song goes, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and you don’t . . . “ Well, we did anyhow. It’s not that we didn’t know better than to travel in France (the world’s most visited country) during the months of July and August, it’s just that the month of July is when our literary society meets annually, and this year it met in France. I won’t say much about this year’s conference except that the venue was a holiday camp lacking air-conditioning and that that the weather was exceptionally hot. Post-conference, Kay and I spent ten days in southwest France, and they are the subjects of this missive.
At this time of year, Lower Normandy, especially the part near the coast from the Cotentin Peninsula to Le Havre is full of people. I’m continually amazed and, yes, often dismayed at how greatly industrial tourism has penetrated and altered so many parts of the world. Time was when, other than the French themselves, most tourists in France came from Britain and America. Britain is still well represented, especially in the region I’m writing about, since Normandy is very much Britain’s near abroad. Americans, however, are scarcer then they once were, and this is too bad for a reason I’ll come to below.
A month ago in the French city of Bourges, Kay and I stood in front of a nativity scene in the town’s great, medieval cathedral. There were the figures of Mary, Joseph, the Magi, the shepherds, etc. What was missing on those days before Christmas was the figure of the baby Jesus. Of course, we celebrate the birth of Christ on the 25th of December, so, according to the French, it would be irrational for him to appear before then.
From the Turks we meet, Kay and I often get the question, “Why did you come to Turkey?” This is a simple question with a complex answer, only part of which concerns affordability. It’s still cheaper to live here than in many other places we might have settled, yet it’s not as cheap as it was only a few short months ago. Not only is the dollar worth less, but the cost of living keeps rising as well. Turkey’s inflation rate is in the high single digits. Of course, New York is no bargain either; it never was. Still, we’re amazed on our infrequent trips back to that city at how much prices have gone up. Then there is travel in Western Europe’s Euro Zone, which these days tends to make all Americans, except the exceptionally well-heeled, feel the pinch.
9/11/81 NYC – Frankfurt. Went to Capitol Airlines to get standby numbers. Bought travelers checks. Went to JFK at 6 p.m. Took flight to Frankfurt instead of Brussels. Slept most of time on the plane. Met Christa, an interpreter from Munich.