Saturday, January 30, 2016

Literary Pilgrimage: Paris

Our Enchanted Spaces course took us from London to Paris on the Eurostar train that speeds at 180 mph under the English Channel, by far the quietest mode of transportation I have ever experienced. We checked into our very French hotel, the Hotel Claude Bernard on the Rue des Ecoles, in the Latin Quarter, just beneath the Pantheon.
Mine was the room at the second floor (the lowest set of windows with balconies), at the end of the hall, just before the corner. Here is the view from my balcony.
We didn't have the ambitious day trips we had enjoyed in London. Instead we caught glimpses of various authors and their texts as we roamed the streets of Paris.

In Montmartre, we stood in front of the hotel where H. A. Rey and his wife Margret lived as they were working on the manuscript that became Curious George, then called The Adventures of Fifi. When the Reys, as Jews, had to flee Paris on bicycle to escape the occupation by the Third Reich, they had Fifi with them in their bicycle baskets. And when their German accents attracted unwelcome attention - might they be German spies? - one glimpse of Fifi/George was enough to reassure.
 We saw the clock in the Musée D'Orsay, the railway station now turned stunning Impressionist art museum, which inspired the Caldecott-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret and the subsequent film, Hugo, by Martin Scorsese.
One afternoon we did a self-guided walking tour of the Parisian neighborhood of Belleville, the second highest point in the city after Montmartre, to enter into the magical world of the 1956 Albert Lamorisse film The Red Balloon.

I should have brought a red balloon with me that day, but I didn't want to embarrass my students.

But perhaps they wouldn't have been embarrassed. We spent much of our time tracing the progression of Madeline and her fellow little girls, who walked all over Paris. We tried to visit the locations where "They smiled at the good and frowned at the bad and sometimes they were very sad." It was at the Hotel des Invalides, seeing a wounded soldier limp by, that the "twelve little girls in two straight lines" were "very sad." When we visited there, my students obliged me by letting me pose them into two groups of twelve, with appropriately very sad faces.

And here I am, standing beneath the Eiffel Tower, Madeline cover in hand. Not very very sad, but very very happy.


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  2. I think the students had a lot of fun doing it!