Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Little Joie de Vivre

I often wish I could bottle my children’s passion for living. When they are excited, every ounce of their bodies seems to shake with glee; when they are sad, you would think the whole world had crumbled at their feet. Perhaps as adults, we can’t get that excited because we simply can't get that depressed— we’re supposed to achieve some level of perspective, but the happy part doesn’t sound so bad.

In some ways, being a tourist is much like being a child; You see everything for the first time, find even the most mundane details interesting and dress for comfort, instead of style (at least to some degree).

I’ve lived in Paris twice now and been a “tourist” here many times in between, but having lived here first, I never really experienced the city as a tourist. I spent all my time trying to fit in— wanting to look, speak and act the role of a Parisian. I did it quite well, actually, but only recently did I realize I missed something.

So, in order to give real tourism a try, I bought a ticket and boarded the cheesy tourist boats that make their way up and down the Seine every day. I couldn’t think of anything more "touristy"- and they didn’t let me down.

As we made our way down the river (the guide giving his pathetically brief description of the world’s most treasured monuments), a funny thing started to happen. I noticed that after every description, the whole crowd started clicking their digital cameras. At first I scoffed at them. Wouldn’t it be so much better to buy a reprint of an image by a talented professional who wasn’t bobbing up and down the river as they clicked away? And then I realized that it wasn’t about having the best picture—or even a great picture. Instead, it was about being free to think everything was beautiful, new and interesting—and also about capturing the memory of that freedom. Shortly thereafter, I started clicking away. It felt very child-like. It felt good.

Now, whenever I see that look of excitement cross my children’s faces, I not only recognize it, but I understand it, too. In fact, I'm even a bit envious of it. Perhaps joie de vivre is a French thing or perhaps it is a gift of childhood; either way I truly hope I preserved a bit of it with the clicks of my camera. If not, perhaps a little red burgundy will inspire me.