Struck by Lightning - Coup de Foudre

     Although the English language is ripe with opportunities for word play and dual meanings, it is certainly not the only language where one word or phrase can have two meanings.  It happens in a lot of languages and the French are pro's at it.  As a matter of fact, we have a name for that kind of dual meaning. It's called double entendre and is actuially a French term for which the lteral translation is double meaning.  That brings me back to the title of this week's blog post.  Coup de Foudre,  which means struck by lighting in French. It also has a figurative meaning.  It's the common term for love at first sight.  A more frequently heard term is Coup de Coeur.  People often mistake it to mean love at first sight, but it's more of a temporary passion or a sudden desire for something.  You can say coup de coeur when you love a new restaurant or a pair of shoes that you absolutely must have.  That's not the same as love at first sight.  Believe me, for many of us, that is the only way we can explain how we feel about Paris; it's love at first sight.
     I have been to many countries and have thoroughly traveled Europe.  There are cities and villages, countrysides and coastlines, mountains and islands which I can honestly say that I still love to visit.  I will go again and again to see some of those places because they are special enough to merit repeated visits.  As with most places, nothing stays the same forever, so it's nice to revisit them and enjoy the tried-but-true as well as the new and chic.
     You've read in some of my previous posts about how much we are like the French in certain ways.  That can be comforting at times.  On the other hand, the differences are the reasons we travel anywhere.  For an American, coming from one of the original 13 colonies, it's still amazing to stay in an apartment that is almost 400 hundred years old, furnished with lovingly worn antiques, or sometimes ultra-modern decor that would seem more at home in Manhattan.  Even a 400 year old apartment seems young when you consider that it overlooks a 700 year old church or an old Dutch barge that transported goods from Holland to Paris for a couple of centuries before it was replaced with a modern steel barge and was converted to a floating home on the Seine.  Time takes on a new meaning in Europe.
     I love to walk through gardens which were once reserved for royalty, to see ancient statues, monuments and fountains dedicated to kings or the citizens who revolted against them.  Sometimes the city will sponsor artists to exhibit their art throughout a park or scattered around the gardens of a museum.  Frankly, Paris itself is a living museum.  Everywhere you go and everywhere you look there are reminders that Parisians put tremendous value on beautiful surroundings.  
     As a kid, before ever visiting France, I had read their history and seen photos of the famous sites and priceless art.  For me, Paris was a passion and heart-struck desire (coup de coeur).  It wasn't until that first trip on the train from Cologne, Germany to France, so many years ago, that things changed.  I didn't begin in Paris.  I visited friends in the center and south of France before boarding the train again and traveling to Paris.  I walked out of the station, into the city and must have looked like a kid in a candy store.  I walked towards the center of the city with an occasional glimpse of the Eiffel Tower as a beacon, and I remember seeing the elaborate monuments and the beautiful buildings along the way.  When I reached the Place de la Concorde and saw the huge Egyptian obelisk, I knew exactly where I was.  The Tuilleries garden was on my left, the Champs Elysees to my right. It matched the maps I had seen in books for so many years.  I looked up the avenue and could see the Arc de Triomphe.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and that special light that artists love about France was in its full glory.  I knew it when I walked out of the train station, but if any doubt were left, that moment at the Place de la Concorde sealed the deal.  J'ai eu le coup de foudre pour Paris  -  I fell in love with Paris at first sight.  Struck by lightning, Mimi


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