Monday, May 25, 2009

Travel Diary - May 24th and 25th

The day began early, and within minutes I had managed to "grind through all the gears" and was at full speed. Taking care of last-minute preparations and checking things off the "big list" was my sole focus.

Several hours later we arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport and experienced all of the joys associated with post 9-11 air travel.
My wife and I made a few important phone calls, the kids had a snack, and we boarded Air France flight 65 bound for Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

A few minutes later I heard one of my favorite sounds:
the sound of the airplane door being closed and latched.
It's a simple noise, really.
Nothing compared to the call of a soaring eagle or a symphony by Vivaldi.
The cabin door closing is a favorite of mine because it signals the end, the end of packing, planning, stressing and all the craziness that leads up to a big trip.
When that door closes, there's nothing more you can do to prepare.
You're forced to stop.
You've done all the work, the adventure lies ahead, but for the time being, your job is to simply relax and savor the anticipation.

As the big Boeing 777 sped down the runway, my daughters smiled that "rollercoaster smile" as only children can do.
We rose up over the coastline, I looked out the window and saw, of all places, Venice Beach and her remaining canals glistenning in the California sun.
I had to chuckle at the contrast between L.A.'s "Venice" and the one I would soon visit.
Venice has touched the world. Like an old film star who once was the "prettiest girl in the room", she has aged as all beauties do - with all the grace and trauma, allure and dysfunction one might expect.
But like many aging beauties, she has not withered with the years - she has reinvented herself; sometimes with great plans in mind, other times out of desperate need.
L.A.'s Venice has changed with age too, but certainly not in the same way.

In the air
I ate, watched a movie, practiced my rusty French on the poor undesserving flight attendants, and then I closed my eyes for the rest of the flight.

Our first day in Paris was part discovery, part recovery.
We checked into a hotel in the business district of La Defense and caught a train out to Versailles.
The weather was perfect - warm and sunny with an occasional breeze.

Everything in Paris is bigger than I imagined it.
Versailles was a perfect example of that fact.
The grounds of the grand landmark which began as a hunting lodge and was subsequently transformed into one of the world's greatest symbols of decadence and wealth, have a number of waterways.
One waterway has rowboats on it.
I couldn't take my eyes off that water, then I remembered that centuries ago, the King of France kept several gondolas there.
Like I said: "Venice has touched the world:.
After Versailles, we dragged ourselves back to the hotel and slept more deeply than we had in months.