Saturday, 19 July 2014

Is that all there is to it?

(To quote the song recorded by Peggy Lee - which perhaps gives an indication of my age.)

Those were my thoughts - is that all etc - on first coming face to face with the Mona Lisa.

I had decided to try to stop smoking and had been saving up the money I was no longer spending on the weed.  After about six months I had enough put by so I took the Old Bat off for a romantic weekend in Paris.  Well, scrub the romantic - we were a bit long in the tooth for that - but we went to Paris.  It was the first time for the OB and I had been only once before, as a schoolboy staying in a hostel for one night on a school trip to Switzerland.  The OB and I did all the usual sights - the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomph, Sacre Couer, Notre Dame - and, of course, the Louvre.

After walking along several miles of corridors, we found ourselves at the back of a crowd of people, all craning to see over those in front of them.  By standing on tiptoe I just managed to catch a glimpse of a postage stamp fixed to the wall behind a thick pane of bullet-proof glass.  This, I was informed, was the world famous Mona Lisa of the enigmatic smile.  I really could not be bothered to wait until we were able to get close enough to confirm the fact, but I can at least say that I have seen the painting - even if I did think, "Is that all there is to it?"

All this came to mind yesterday evening as I was chatting to a man I met in the bar of a hotel in Brighton.  If that all sounds a bit Graham Greene, let me assure you that I had met the gentleman before - in the bar of a hotel in Detroit!  he and I are members of our respective Lions Clubs, we were in Detroit for the Lions international convention and we have kept in touch since then.  Joe is in England for a few days taking a tour round the country with his daughter and son-in-law and his granddaughter.  He had promised Emily that he would take her to Paris when she graduated and they are "doing" England en route.  I can't remember just when they arrived in London - it was just a few days ago - but they have been on the road pretty much ever since, visiting Stratford-on-Avon, Oxford, Broadway (a small town in the Cotswolds) and Bath.  They left Bath yesterday morning, saw Stonehenge, had 45 minutes to see Salisbury cathedral and arrived in Brighton at about 4.30.  They left Brighton again this morning at 8.30 to travel back to London and tomorrow they move on to Paris.

That's not the kind of holiday I would want, travelling all the time on a coach with a crowd of 40 or so others.  And just about all they see of England is through the window of the coach.  But it's their holiday and it's up to them how to spend it.  They will, after all, be able to see that they have seen Stonehenge etc etc.  But Peggy Lee's words come back to me!

Joe did list some of the things they want to see in Paris (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomph, Louvre, that place where all the artists are) and I did suggest to him that if they had time, especially if the day is sunny, they should try to see the Sainte Chapelle, one of the lesser-known highlights of Paris and where one can see possibly the most magnificent medieval stained glass anywhere in the world.

Stolen image


joeh said...

That is incredible.

Buck said...

I did suggest to him that if they had time, especially if the day is sunny, they should try to see the Sainte Chapelle...

A great suggestion. I first saw the Sainte Chapelle at the tender age of eight or nine on a school field trip (my Ol' Man was stationed in Paris for three years) and was awed, even at that tender age.

I still remember taking The Second Mrs. Pennington there on our first trip to Paris and the look on her face. "Priceless," as the ads say... on two counts.