Sunday, January 6, 2008

I Love Paris... But Why?

posted by Aunty Cindy

Have you ever visited a place, and quite inexplicably you just loved it? I don't mean like Disney World, or the Indy 500, or even the county fair. Of course you LOVE those, but that's why you went there. I'm talking about an affinity for a place, usually a city, that's like a strong sense of connection.

A feeling of belonging.

A bond.

I've heard this phenomena referred to as "genetic memory." Something in ye olde DNA is sparked somehow. Now much as I like this theory, I can't quite buy it. At least not in my case, but I'll explain why in a moment.

The first time I ever got this feeling was in my late teens, and it was my very first visit to San Francisco. Chalk it up to youthful enthusiasm, but The City By The Bay remains one of my favorite places in the world. The only other American city I've felt so strongly attracted to was New York City. And I have yet to connect like this with any place in Asia. But Europe is that WHOLE NOTHER STORY...

The first time I went to Italy, I had about a dozen people tell me how much I was going to love Florence! In short, I didn't. However, the minute I walked out of the Termini train station in Rome...Badda Bing, Badda BOOM! Love at first sight! And every time I've set foot in Rome since, I've had the SAME FEELING! So much for that genetic memory theory, because as far as I know, I don't have one drop of Italian blood in me. And no other place in Italy has affected me that strongly.

So far, the only other city that has stirred this unconditional love-fest in me is Paris. This is doubly strange because not only am I not even a miniscule bit French, but I was prepared to NOT like the place. Let's face it, Parisiennes are not known for their friendly hospitality, and that first visit for me was a month after Princess Diana died there. My head was not in a 'good place' about The City of Light, but it didn't matter. Paris instantly stole my heart!

Now I'm about to see if that love is true. This time next week, your old Aunty will be jetting off to see London and Paris for a few days. I'll let you know if I still LOVE PARIS!

Have you ever felt that instant attraction to a city or place? Please TELL us all about it! Also, since Aunty hasn't been to London in over 20 years, pretend you are stowing away in my luggage. What do you recommend we not miss in good old London town?


Helen said...

Is he back in Australia

Have Fun

Aunty Cindy said...

I'm sure the GR is RELIEVED to be back in the warm sunny climate DownUnder!


Helen said...

He sure is AC it is very hot here at the moment the air con is on I have just got home from work and it is now time to relax.
Great blog AC I haven't had the priviledge of much travel I have been on a cruise and loved it but I haven't been anywhere else but one place I would love to go is London and the Scottish Highlands my maiden name comes from the Isle of Wight and there are apparently lots of Urry manors there so that is another place I would love to visit.
When my youngest daughter was 14 they had a school excursion to Europe and she went she visited Paris Italy and Switzerland she loved Rome and Italy said Switzerland was beautiful and loved Paris although she found the people very different but did love the city.
Have a wonderful time in London and Paris I would love to be there as well. Take lots of pictures and I can then see them on your website.
Thanks for the post loved it
Have Fun

Cheryl said...

Ooh, I can relate to that feeling. :) London’s my special place. I love everything about it, especially the history. My daughter lived there for a couple of years and it was no chore to visit her!

I’m with you, Aunty Cindy. Everyone told me I’d love Florence and I didn’t at all. I adore Paris and Rome, and Edinburgh and Venice are right up there too.

As for London, if you’re interested in historical sights, visit Dennis Severs house. Even if you’re not into history, it’s something to see. (My dh isn’t a history buff and he was fascinated).

Check out Time Out magazine before you go.
You can see what’s on at the museums, art galleries etc etc.

Have a fabulous time! If you need someone to carry your bags … :)

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Aunty, I know that feeling you speak of! I feel that way any time we hit Knoxville, TN. I am not from K-town and have no relatives there (well, a cousin, but he moved there in recent years). But that sense of "coming home" hits me there every time. Of course, it could just be that part of the Appalachians in general, since my mother's family (many branches) landed there well over 200 years ago. Except the Cherokee fingers of the family tree, who were no doubt there much, much longer.

As to Europe, I haven't been anywhere except Switzerland. It did not feel like coming home. But pictures of Bavaria make me feel homesick. I also have an inexplicable affinity for the remote parts of New England and parts of Canada. No idea why!

While I adore Chicago and New York, Denver and San Francisco (and Portland, too!), I felt no connection to any of them. Certainly none to Houston (ack! sorry, Houstonians) or any of the Caribbean spots I've been. Also adored Nova Scotia, but it didn't feel like home.

I obviously need to travel more!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, I meant to say congrats on snagging the Golden Rooster! Make sure he wears sunscreen, as his tan has surely faded from his time in the rainy, blustery USA. Also, Aunty painted his toenails, so mind he doesn't soak off the polish in the tub or pool, will you?

Oh, and if you see any remnants of P226's glow sticks on him (though I think he must have soaked it off in the tub at Tawny's), please give him an extra scrub!

Gillian Layne said...

Helen, way to go! :)

When we lived in Nebraska, the way I felt about the open rolling plains was enough to make me believe I'd lived there before.

I hope you have the BEST time on your trip, and I second the request for lots of pictures!

Caren Crane said...

Gillian, Aunty is lucky she doesn't live on the east coast or I would be squirreled away in her luggage every time she takes off! Believe me, as much as Aunty travels, my family wouldn't recognize me on my return. Ah, but I would have stamps in my passport, digital photos and loads of great memories! (Especially traveling with Aunty Cindy, who is sure to be a fascinating travel companion! *g*)

Joan said...

Wow, Helen! Just how bad is the poor GR's jet lag LOL. Keep him warm!

AC, I can definately identify with this experience.

In 2002 I decided I was going to visit Ireland, the land of my heritage. I mean with a Grandmother who's maiden name was Murphy and evidence from my brother's initial genealogy research pointing to a Mary O'Brien from Co. Cork has a distant matriarch, how could I not?

So, I cashed in a CD, gave a trip to my goddaughter for her high school graduation (and her college and her wedding and the next 10 bdays LOL) Packed along her mother (my BFF) for good measure and flew off to Eire.

On arrival in Shannon the weather was dreary. Drizzle and chilly and generally miserable. I was driving (which all ready had my stomach twisted in knots)out of the airport thinking "Oh, my God. I spent this money to come HERE?"

Well, I no sooner hit the highway then it hit me in the gut. A visceral, spiritual KNOWING that I had come home. The connection was almost physical in its intensity.

All I could do was marvel at the feelings I was having.

They intensified over the course of our 13 day trip too. I hiked into the Killarney National Forest and quite literally felt I could sit in the midst of that magical place and ...literally become one with the heart of Ireland.

These feelings awoke an ache inside of me to the point that I seriously considered packing up and moving there. The only thing that kept from that was knowing my brother wouldn't fly 6 hours to visit me :-)

I went back 3 more times and each time I would get off the plane and sigh with relief.

I haven't been in 2 years now and am feeling the pull so strong I may leave today. Ok, probably not as I need to do laundry but this year...somehow....I will go back.

Suzanne Welsh said...

ah, so envious that you get to go on another trip! Alas, I have never been out of the states. sigh. Yes, I know it is a sad, sad, sad state.

As for the genetic DNA thing. I can't say it's a coming home thing. But everytime I head for the Blue Ridge part of Eastern Tenn. I KNOW I'm coming home. My parents, grandparents, relatives a few dozen generations back all lived there (inculding those two ladies from the Cherokee tribe). Since majority of my ancestors originally came over from Scotland and Wales to this area, I have a sneaking suspiscion that should I get the opportunity to go to either country I'd have that immediate connection.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Well, I am not a traveler, not even in the states. I have left WV three times in my life and the only place I came close to feeling anything was TN. I have a longing to see Ireland, Scotland, England but have no idea if there would be any homecoming feelings if I ever got there. The way Joan describes Ireland makes we want to go there, right now, so if you decide to ditch the laundry Joan just give me a call and I will go with you :-)

Gillian Layne said...

Joan, you gave me chills. In a good way, but definitely chills.

doglady said...

Congrats, Helen! The GR is no dummy! It is, after all, summer in Oz! Lucky, lucky Aunty C!! Paris and London, the perfect duo! The Tower of London has always been a favorite of mine, not just for the Crown Jewels, but for the museum of armor and just the heaviness of history in the air there. Would love to stroll down the streets of Mayfair and take a turn in Hyde Park. The British Museum and the National Art Gallery were some of my old haunts as well. Any of the old book shops would be a must. However, I would need a separate plane to bring back my purchases! I have always felt very much at home in England - London especially. Then again I traveled from Kelsale in Suffolk to London once a week by train from the age of 9 to 12 to take my piano lessons at the London College of Music. Those were different times, but I felt very sophisticated for being able to travel alone. I would have to say that my most visceral reaction to a place was when I was in college and returned to the UK on a choir tour. I loved revisiting London, all of England and adored Scotland, but when we crossed into Wales I felt as if this great bell rang thru me. My father's family came to America from Wales in 1902. My great grandmother spoke Welsh in her home in PA. We did a concert in a church in Towyn and when they found out I was a Bolton/Hughes descendant they had the congregation sing a hymn in Welsh. I cannot tell you how magical that experience was. Another sort of mysticism was present when I arrived in Salzburg to study at the Mozarteum. Walking those streets where he walked was amazing. I think my vagabond Air Force brat upbringing has made it easier for places to speak to me. New Orleans is another place where I am completely at home! The music, the food, the atmosphere and that laid back Southern charm are all part of my fondest memories of my DH. We spent a lot of good times in New Orleans with his Cajun best friend and that friend's family.

doglady said...

Forgot to mention one other place I felt instantly at home after my first visit - The Banditas Lair, of course!

Kirsten said...

Doglady, you are so sweet! We love you too!

I feel very connected to North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, though I only spent time there while I was in college, and haven't managed to get back since. I don't know how much of that came from a genetic memory, and how much from the incredible people I hiked with. I think the place you are at emotionally has a huge impact on your connection with the physical world around you.

My husband and I both fell in love with Portland as soon as we moved out here, but not in some sort of spiritual, metaphysical way. We just love the city, love the people, and love the scenery. Can't imagine living anywhere else.

AC, you are really an inspiration with all your traveling! You should add a page to your website to post a globe with arrows for all of the places you've visited!

terrio said...

Doglady - I envy your life. Wow. That's all so amazing.

So AC is not on the east coast? I wanna go!! I've yet to get to Europe but I want to go so badly I can taste it. My grandmother came over from England in 1929 and I would love to head over and find her relatives.

I think one of the reasons I've kept moving in my adult life is because I haven't found that one place that speaks to me. I did love my time living in Nashville and I end up in Knoxville about 16 times a year but only because that's where my ex and I meet to exchange my daughter. Not the most positive reason in the world.

I live on the coast in Virginia now and this is my first time living near the ocean. I don't think this is the last place I'll live but I've settled in and I love it so I'm here for a good while.

Someday soon I will get to the UK and Italy and I can't imagine never making it to Paris. But for some reason, I really want to visit Venice. I imagine no matter where I visit in Europe, the history and architecture are going to sweep me off my feet.

p226 said...

Deserts. I've always felt like that in deserts. Particularly the Mojave. I hate them. They're hot, dry, and deadly. But I also feel at home in them. There's something about the windswept solitude that just calls to me. It feels like "home."

Joan said...

hrdwrkdmom, grab your passport!

I wish.

I spent a lot of time on that first trip trying to talk myself out of the feeling. You're a writer...a ROMANCE've got an imagination and it's working overtime. You've bought into the hype..

But no matter how or what I tried to use to convince myself, my soul said no, it's real.

I had innumerable people ask me if I was home visiting family, said I had the "look" of the Irish (now THAT might be Irish tourism :-) but I fell easily into the rhythmn of things...the language etc. My BFF and her daughter mostly said "Huh?" when we'd talk to somebody.

Must be why I have the "scone" gene LOL

jo robertson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Campbell said...

AC, lucky you with such a great trip coming up! I wanna be your suitcase! Helen, huge congrats on the GR. Feed him some Tim Tams and he'll never leave us again.

Hey, so glad to see other people were disappointed with Florence. I sure was! But Rome? A whole nother story! What an amazing city. It was alive whereas to me, Florence felt dead. I've had that feeling of coming home on the west coast of Scotland. Now the weird thing is, part of my father's family did come from there so perhaps there is something in genetic memory. But having said that, it's so beautiful, a lot of people go absolutely ape about the Argyll Highlands and Isles so I could just be a sucker for magnificent scenery. Somewhere else I just love is Venice - I think because there are no cars and not driving, at last I feel like I'm on a level playing field ;-) Oh, and it's beautiful too!

AC, in London, definitely call in at the British Library. It's like Nirvana for writers. They've got the last few pages of Jane Eyre and parts of Persuasion and all these other things that just make you feel you're tapping into your roots as a writer. It's right next door to Kings Cross Station so it's easy to get to and it's free!

Helen said...

The Gr is a bit tired from jet lag but I have put sunscreen on him given him some tim tams and he is looking good it is going to be very hot an humid here today so rest and relaxation is just what he needs to get him ready for another trip to who knows where soon.
Have Fun

Aunty Cindy said...

Cheryl, THANX A BUNCH for the links and recommendations! Venice was one of the 3 places I told my DH I MUST SEE before I die (an early version of Jo-Mama's bucket list). I did love it, esp. the NO CARS as Foanna mentions and the architecture and history were just amazing, but it STILL didn't have the same UMPH for me as Rome.

Foanna, I think you hit it spot on about Florence feeling dead. Somewhere along about the second day, I realized there were NO TREES, no bushes, not even any grass. This is definitely a mark of a medieval walled city as I discovered very soon. However, I did NOT experience this same desolate feeling in neighboring Siena, which I loved. Have you been there, Foanna? No cars in the old part of town either, except delivery trucks.


flchen1 said...

Congrats, Helen! Sounds like the GR's enjoying the change of scene :)

What a neat post! I don't remember any such "click" moments, but I can imagine it, and would like to do some more traveling to see whether some of these long read-about places do feel like "home" to me.

Have a wonderful trip!

Aunty Cindy said...

AWWW, Caren! We would have a BLAST if we traveled together! I still say we need to get together for a Bandita Cruise, and ALL our Bandita Buddies are invited, of course.

I agree with you that Switzerland was beautiful, but no connection here either. Bavaria was better, esp. Rottenberg (another walled city), though the German autobahn scared the HOLY H*LL outta me! When we crossed into the Netherlands, I almost kissed the speed limit sign! :-)

Doglady, I LOVED Salzburg too! I almost felt like I could hear the child Mozart laughing around every cobbled alleyway. And you are sooo right about the air in The Tower of London feeling heavy with history. When I was there in the 80s, our Beefeater guide talked about Anne Boleyn and all the hairs on my arms stood straight up! SERIOUSLY EERIE feelings there, but I LOVED IT!


MsHellion said...

I felt that way about BOSTON. Boy, did I love that town--and I wasn't there long. I also loved LA when I went, esp Hollywood--I'm not sure if it was a genetic thing. I think I just like celebrity. Not that I met a single one. *LOL*

LONDON has always been my town, regardless that I've never been there. I have the feeling I'd feel this way about any town in Scotland too. *LOL*

Aunty Cindy said...

Suz and Dianna, we definitely gotta GET YOU BOTH OUT MORE! :-) And p226, my son shares your feelings for the desert. He moved close to Death Valley a few years ago for that very reason.

Joanie, we've talked about your "Irish Connection" before and all I can say is HOW VERY KEWL! You would think since I am Irish on both sides of my family tree that I would have had the same experience, but I really didn't. Oh I LOVE the auld sod, make no mistake there, and I did feel very much at home on the bustling streets of Dublin. Or maybe that was because of the pubs... But some cities in Ireland I did NOT connect with AT ALL, most notably Galway and Limerick. Surprisingly, I felt most at home on the nearly deserted streets of Belfast on the Sunday afternoon we spent there.

Terrio, my DH's grandmother came from County Fermanagh Northern Ireland in 1912 and we had an incredibly easy time finding his "Irish relations". I'm betting that when you get to England you'll have no trouble either. And, as Doglady discovered, the folks are so excited to find they have American "cousins!" I just know you will LOVE IT!

Please keep the London suggestions coming! Especially the FREE stuff, since the exchange rate is so terrible. BIG MWAH for the British Library info, Foanna!


Aunty Cindy said...

Kirsten, I used to have a world map hung in my office with red arrows pointing to all the places I'd been. And on another wall, I put up post cards of my favorite places. When I worked in the 16 story office building, people I didn't know used to stick their heads in my office just to look at them. Luckily my office mate was very understanding. :-)

Gillian and Helen, I'll probably post pictures on my personal blog, or if we have any calendar openings, here in the Lair.

Ms Hellion, I really enjoyed Boston too! Again, it's the rich history thing! And Doglady, Nawlins was one of my favorite places too. It always felt more European to me than any other city in the US. I haven't been back since Katrina. Just thinking about it makes me wanna cry!

Oh and I just thought of another US city that I LOVE to visit: Key West. WHAT A KICK that place is! Definitely worth the long looong drive to get there.


Joan said...

You know, AC I've often wondered if I would feel any connection in Rome...especially given my intense interest in it. Though there's not a spec of Italian in me blood.

Anna Campbell said...

AC, perhaps you're right about the greenery in Florence being a problem but then, as you say, Siena still manages to be pretty magical. I just felt Florence was pickled in formaldehye around about 1560. It was like a theme park rather than a living city to me.

More London suggestions:

Osterley Park
Ham House
Kew Gardens
Sir John Soane Museum (free)
Leighton House (seriously worth a visit - amazing Arabian Nights reception hall that I swear will take your breath away)
Syon Park
Wallace Collection
Richoux (restaurant/tea rooms on Piccadilly still with its 1910 Art Nouveau decor)
Spencer House (only open on Sundays for guided tours but the Rothschilds have restored a Regency mansion to the original glittering glory. Amazing!)

All this stuff is pretty easy to get to, AC. Hope you make some of it!

jo robertson said...

Yikes! Back to Australian county for the GR. Congrats, Helen!

AC, loved your post. I'm so jealous of your trip that I likely WILL stow away in your luggage. I've never been to Paris, boo hoo. But I have been to Scotland and I fell in love with the people and the landscape. It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen.

I know what you mean about places and stirring memories. My husband (who's Scottish) said he felt like he was returning to a home where he'd never been.

jo robertson said...

P226, I've been to the Sahara and it is IMPRESSIVE. Beautiful in a scary sort of way.

doglady said...

Yes, AC, Salzburg definitely makes you think you will run into Wolfie at any moment! Strolling down Getreidegasse is like stepping back through time. Oh and the pastry shops! MMMM I have not been back to the Big Easy since Katrina although I have kept in close contact with my friends down there. The city is coming back, but slowly. And yes, it does have a very European feel to it!

Cassondra said...


Actually, Scotland as a whole.

When I was in grad school I spent a summer in the UK studying the gardens (yes, grad school was for horticulture and landscape design believe it or not--I've walked all over England, Scotland and Wales).

I remember it distinctly. I was on a train headed for Scotland for the first time that summer. I didn't know we were approaching Scotland actually. I just got this strange feeling, and looked up, and plastered myself against the window of the train and stared out at the country around me. The sky was peach. Yes, peach. I've never seen the sky that color in the middle of the day anywhere else. It was incredibly beautiful. The hills were almost completely bare. In some ways it was a barren place, but yet it was green and something called to me. I felt this pull. I felt "you belong here. This is where you came from, and this is where you'll return."

I know, it sounds all metaphysical and paranormal and maybe it is. But I spent every waking minute of my free time there during that summer (the other students jetted off to the European continent). If I had a free day, I was on the train for Edinburgh.

The funny thing is, that my father had the most unusual blue eyes. Only he and his brothers and a couple of his nephews had eyes like that. People would comment on how beautiful those eyes were. The pale blue color and just...I don't know...they were just unusual, beautiful eyes. I'd never seen them anywhere else.

Well, in Edinburgh, everywhere I looked...walking down the street....on the buskers playing pipes by the train station...there were those eyes. The Murray eyes. They were everywhere.

Made me a believer in ancestral memory for certain.

Aunty Cindy said...

THANX A BUNCH, Foanna! I'm cutting and pasting so I can print out your list! I will try to get to as many as I can in the 4 days we will have there.

Joanie, I wouldn't be a BIT surprised if you DID have the same reaction to Rome as I do. And the gelati is absolutely TO DIE FOR! Right up there with the pastries in Salzburg, Doglady. :-)

Jo-Mama, I can TOTALLY see your DH in a kilt playing the pipes. He'd cut quite a dashing figure, very much the brawn Scot.

Cassondra, I'm ready to cue the Twilight Zone music after your story about the Murray eyes. Strangely enough, one of my DH's cousins in No. Ireland looks almost EXACTLY like my youngest brother! ACK! Maybe we are actually related somewhere along the line.

Thanx sooo much to everyone for sharing your Sunday afternoon with us here in the Lair! And if you have any more suggestions or interesting stories about places you've visited, PLEASE SHARE!


Amy Andrews said...

Hey Aunty Cindy - soooo jelaous of your trip next week. You're gonna have a ball. Hope the weather's not too atrocious.

Venice. There's just something about Venice. I've only been once about 15 years ago now but I have a yearning inside me that defies explanation whenever I think about that beautiful canaled city.

In fact there's just something about Italy. As far as I know there's no genetic link to Italy but its a country I know I'll return to again and again. Sorry but I loved Florence - Duomo to die for. I loved Rome - Colloseum still gives me the chills. Threw a coin in the Trevi and yes, I did return. The Amalfi coast - amazingly breathtakingly special. Forget Naples - shudder!!!

But still Venice calls to me. If I die before returning there I'm gonna be one p'd off ghost.

Now London - Next to Venice it's my fav place. And yes I've been to Paris and its wonderful but London is...I don't know. I feel like I'm at the center of the universe in London. I'm so excited we're taking the kids there in a couple of years so they'll get to experience it too.

Great London suggestions by everyone. For me it's Hyde Park - free too!!! Go to Harrods, to the incredible food halls, buy some lunch from the amazing selection they have, get on the tube (love the underground) and get off at Hyde Park and sit and eat on the banks of the Serpentine and just absorb.

Sob - I wanna come too.