Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 17-19: Experiencing Paris

Eiffel Tower . . . like you didn't know what this was . . .
Arc de Triomphe

After visiting some of the most famous attractions on the earth, I’ve realized that I’m not really into sightseeing.  Now don’t get me wrong I loved visiting all of these amazingly places that you see in all of these pictures.  So what’s my problem?  It’s the difference between “sightseeing” and “sight experiencing.” 
Can you imagine walking into Pete Miller’s, one of the greatest steak houses in Chicago going up to a table and taking a picture of their signature bone-in T-bone steak and then leaving? 
Diana thinking in front of the thinker.
Rodin's GATES OF HELL!!!!!!

Then why would you go into a museum, take a thousand pictures and then rush off to another site.  Diana and I saw numerous tour groups clustering around paintings (with clear signs saying not to take pictures) boxing everyone out, taking a ridiculous amount of pictures and then moving on to the next painting. 
REALLY?!?  Is your picture of the Mona Lisa going to be any better than a postcard that you can buy in the lobby or see online? 
Yes there are some sites that are best experienced by taking pictures.  The Eiffel tower and the Arch de Trimophe are monuments.  These monuments are supposed to be looked and if you take pictures of them, they are big enough that it really doesn’t disturb people around you if you take a picture.
 Burghers of Calais . . . they're sad because they got caught
Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Art is a different story.  Sculptures and paintings are meant to be looked at and walked around to view different angles and perspectives.  If taking pictures helps you remember the experiences I can understand that.  In Rodin’s garden and with Winged Victory in the Lourve, the space is set up for you to do that but most of the time in the Lourve for example taking pictures really takes away from other people’s enjoyment of the art. 
We saw SO many people just walk up to a piece of art, take a picture and immediately leave. 

Kind of missing the point people. 
Gates of Versailles
fondling the bushes in the gardens of Versailles
"It's like a floral pattern threw-up all over the room."
My favorite experience and the clearest example of my point was our visit to Notre Dame. Most people come to Notre Dame, take pictures and climb up to the church and see the gargoyles. Instead Diana and I decided to experience Notre Dame the way it was meant to be: by attending a church service.

Even though I didn’t go to church growing up, I’ve attended a lot of church services whether it was singing in the Northwestern University Chapel Choir or visiting Diana’s family’s church. This Vespers service at the Notre Dame Cathedral was one of the most powerful church services I’ve ever experienced

The cantor’s voice, the organ, the Latin text, and the smell of the incense all made sense in this space. Even though I couldn’t understand most of the service, as it was all in Latin, it was incredibly moving. I even felt tears welling up during the Magnificat during the line: Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.

The Lourve
Winged Victory . . . not to be confused with "armed" victory . . . heehee
What made these sites famous was that there was some special meaning behind the experience people had with them. It’s when you seek out that experience that you understand the deep personal meaning that makes these places important to our humanity.

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