The entrance to the Louvre, surrounding by many fountains.

The entrance to the Louvre, surrounding by many fountains.

The other night, I was watching the classic Doctor Who serial City of Death (one of these days I will have to write an article on Classic Who from a writer’s perspective, because it deserves one), and I found myself freaking out because the serial takes place mainly in Paris, about thirty-five years before I myself was there. (Fun fact: City of Death was the first Doctor Who serial to be filmed abroad, filming between April and May of 1979. So yeah, 35 years before I would visit the city itself).

It was delightful for me to see all those sights in the actual episode, because I’d been to those places and I remembered what it was like to be there. I found myself reliving riding the Metro after a long day, trying to navigate my way back out onto the street after taking a twenty-minute train ride, because those stations can sometimes be little mazes in themselves. Or walking along the river Seine during a leisurely stroll and then sitting in a café near the Champs Elyesees and having a crepe and Orangina (I miss that brand of soda, by the way. It’s so hard to find here in the States).

The Eiffel Tower at night.

The Eiffel Tower at night.

The serial also had scenes set at the Eiffel Tower and in the Louvre. Both those places hold a lot of memories for me. For the Eiffel Tower, it was one of the very first places I visited when I was in Paris. My friend Ramsey Hardin and I decided we go on a late-night jaunt to see the Eiffel Tower at night, and we ended up somehow climbing all the way to the second level (not the top, because that was closed that late at night). It was an amazing view. From every angle you could see Paris at night, a lovely city of lights and mystery. There are hardly any skyscrapers in Paris, mostly due to the French’s distaste for them, so we had a clear view of the city at night. The tower itself starts having a light show with flashing bulbs bright enough to give people seizures about every hour or so, and that was fun to watch. While there we also had the opportunity to talk to a family from the States who were there for a special birthday celebration (the mother’s) and a group from a technical school in Texas that were there for their own study-abroad trip. If the Tower hadn’t had to close, I’m sure we would’ve spent another hour or two there talking to people and enjoying the views.

Ramsey and I at the Eiffel Tower.

Ramsey and I at the Eiffel Tower.

The Louvre has an altogether different feeling. There is more nudity depicted in that museum than in the world’s biggest strip club, and yet there’s just as much religious iconography and scenes to rival the Vatican. And through it all is an air of strange reverence, as if everyone is aware that they are in a temple as holy as any shrine. Even as people take photos of the Mona Lisa or Madonna on the Rocks or paintings so big they take up an entire wall or ones small enough to fit on a cramped bookshelf, there’s a subdued air, as if people are paying their respects to the products of old history and culture. It’s very strange, and you can only really get a sense of it by actually going to the museum itself.

My most artistic selfie.

My most artistic selfie.

But compared to Notre Dame, the Louvre might be a funhouse. I went there after the Louvre, and it’s a very amazing place. From the moment you arrive, you are struck by the very detail of the building. The entrances have so many figures carved into them that you could spend an hour just looking at them and guessing who they are. And once inside, it is very dark and quiet, with people looking around or praying. You can’t help but feel a strange holiness to the place, a sense of godliness no matter what your religious beliefs (or lack of them) are. I even met a couple of OSU alumni there (we’re everywhere!) and they agreed with me on that. I might’v spent more time there if I didn’t have to be back to the hotel by a certain time to meet up for dinner.

See any hunchbacks behind me?

See any hunchbacks behind me?

What does all this rambling have to do with anything? Well, I guess it’s the power of memory. Although sometimes very fallible, the power of memory can transport you through time and space, landing you in a totally different age and location. Just watching that Doctor Who serial was enough to bring me all the way back to France and those five or six lovely, idyllic days of study and learning and wonder and fun, faster than even the TARDIS, even. And I was so happy to return too, because it’s an experience I’ll never be able to relive again, and the memories and photos are what keep the memories alive.

And I hope they stay alive for a long, long time.

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Comments
  1. Ah yes, Paris! What else did you see in the Louvre? Did you get into the ancient world section at all?

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