I must confess I was more than a little nervous dining in the Eiffel Tower last weekend. The moon was full. It was a clear night. Our visit was sandwiched between bomb threats.
Mrs. Blackhawk advised last week not to worry – “What a way to go!” She had a point. My children would have been orphaned but we would have gone out in style.
Overthinking is one of my many faults, but I chose to ignore myself and booked the ticket. Which was cancelled, not once, but twice due to striking air traffic controllers, forcing me to purchase a business class ticket to Frankfurt on another airline at the last minute.
“We have to stop meeting like this,” I told Mr. Understanding in the lobby of the airport.
“Do you want the good news or the bad news?” he replied.
“Well, we are going to miss the Bateaux Mouche.”
“And the good news?”
“We got seats on a train that arrives in Paris tonight. As opposed to tomorrow.”
“Hmmmm … pretty much sounds all bad to me.”
“Oh, and we have to stand for the first two hours. But I figure we’ll just go to the bar car.”
After schnitzel and cider for lunch at the restaurant Adolph Wagner, we boarded the train to Paris, sitting down in two empty seats we rode the whole way. Whenever I am in Germany, I can only think about the battles fought during the course of history. Having just finished Tatiana de Rosnay’s book, Sarah’s Key, I could think only of the French families making the opposite journey as mine on the way to the concentration camps a roughly seventy years ago. For us overthinkers, it is a somber ride. It is too easy to envision tanks rolling over the verdant countryside.
Why Paris? Maria the Dentist invited us to come celebrate her husband Fernando’s fiftieth birthday. Having survived the Sambadrome in Rio together, Paris seemed tame by comparison.
“Think with your heart!” she wrote persuasively, as I weighed leaving my children for a weekend to samba in Paris. As I said, I have been accused of overthinking an issue.
Paris brims with history, all of it pretty well preserved. The museums are chock-a-block full of artwork. Their monuments are pristine. My mother says that in 1954, when she visited as a teenager, Paris was dark and dirty, the buildings caked in soot and grime. With the advent of the power washer, however, the accumulated layers of filth have been blown off, the dirt of the ages scattering upon the four winds. But Paris is preserved, in large part, due to France’s early surrender in WW2. The Luftwaffe was just revving up.
Madrid, likewise, is well preserved because the Spaniards were duking it out amongst themselves during WW2 and made sure not to destroy all their good stuff. Elsewhere in Europe, Mussolini cut a deal with Hitler and spared all of Italy’s treasures.
In America, however, we are a young country. Our monuments are not that old. Anything that can be destroyed can be rebuilt, replaced. We have nice stuff but, let’s face it, not as nice as the Europeans. Even our White House has already been rebuilt two times. From a historic perspective, there is not that much to lose.
Having finally arrived in Paris, I stared up into the gigantic, fantastic structure that is the Tower, after a fabulous meal with dear friends last Saturday night, and wondered how long it will actually endure. Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens and Solomon’s Temple were permanently destroyed, signaling the end of their historical times. If bombed, would the Eiffel Tower be rebuilt? If not, would that signal the beginning of the end for Europe?
It is just so much more than a tower. Woe to the man who brings it down.
Having said all that, Mr. Understanding and I had a fabulous weekend. I am glad I didn’t think too much.