First Stop: The Tuileries Gardens

First on Dori’s Wish List– the Tuileries Gardens

Fortified by a Hobbit Second Breakfast, we set off for the Tuileries Gardens, on the other side of the Seine. We somehow figured out how to take the Metro, at that point is above ground, affording us a good view of the Eiffel Tower, which we planned to visit that night.

After only one stop, we got off and made our way above ground, where we crossed the street to the entrance of the gardens. We arrived just as the summer carnival food trucks were opening up. It took some doing, but after a few minutes Dori had obtained a bottle of cool water; we knew it was going to be a hot day.

You know it’s been hot in the U.S. this summer. The thermometer on our porch read 103 degrees Fahrenheit once or twice in July, further intensifying Dori’s anticipation of getting away from torrid Texas for a week in a cooler clime. As it happens, we arrived in France during an oppressive heat wave. Perhaps God was preparing us, for we never were really flattened by the high temperatures, which once or twice matched those we left back home.

The day was perfectly clear and pleasantly temperate, allowing us to walk at leisure among the formal gardens and their incredibly beautiful statues. Dori delighted in the mixture of flowers, bushes, and statuary, taking lots of photos to capture the brilliant combinations and contrasts.

As I began to recognize familiar sculptures, I assumed that they were copies. Getting closer, however, I realized that these were originals, for each had the date of its placement in the garden inscribed at the base. Walking from one to another, we were stunned by their elegance and antiquity. In the vernacular, this was the “real deal.”

While Dori was taking a photo of a Chinese woman, I sat on a bench near Julius Caesar, the great conqueror of Gaul. His likeness vividly recalled to me the year that I read his self-promoting Gallic Wars in high school under the tutelage of Mr. Murray, a high-strung Welshman who had lived in Spain for decades. I’ll always be grateful that he decided to pick on one of my classmates rather than on me. This poor boy regularly read “calvary” for “cavalry,” despite repeated verbal corrections and requirements that he write out the offending word first 100, then 500, and then 1,000 times. Finally, our exasperated instructor begged him to jump out the window (we were on a very high third floor), as we doubled over with laughter. The boy didn’t comply, but did have to write out “cavalry” 10,000 times as remedial discipline. (I suppose Mr. Murray would have been booted out for abuse in our day, but he provided us all with great entertainment.)

Anyway, the other thing that struck me about Julius Caesar, who looked incredibly impressive in stone, was that his many victories only gained for him a tragic death that precipitated yet another bloody Roman civil war, and that his flesh rotted away long ago. “Sic transit gloria mundi.”

Gazing at him, I recalled the even more imposing Arc de Triomphe, around which we had been driven in our taxi from the airport a few hours earlier. The structure overwhelms you with its immense size and beauty, but once again, I asked, “So, why are we honoring a man who plunged Europe into decades of wars that slaughtered countless people, whose ambition ruined France, and who then, despite almost regaining at Waterloo his capacity to wreak more havoc, ended his life on a lonely island in the Atlantic, stripped of all former glory?”

To employ the vernacular again, why do we build monuments to mass murderers?

“C’mon, Wright; lighten up! You think too much! That’s why you’re exhausted.”

Okay, I’ll try. Next time.