We went over two days before we boarded the boat. Our hotel was located near the Rodin museum. His Thinker is probably my most favorest, but I love also the Burghers of Calais, the Man with the Broken Nez, and his Gates of Hell doors. But the first highlight of the cruise happened at the ticket counter to get into Rodin’s digs. I put two short lines of French on the stern looking fifty-year old lady behind the counter, then said, “Sorry, but I ran out of French.” Her face lit up, and she thanked me, profusely almost, for making the effort. Whoa! We’re not in the France I thought I knew, Toto. We lived in Belgium during the early nineties, and the French, especially the Parisian variety, turned their noses up at anyone who couldn’t speak their language beautifully, properly, and rapidly. Moi, je suis desole. I spoke, and still speak, it poorly, improperly, and tres lentement. I can’t express what a delightful charge that woman’s reaction to my French put into my day.
After we left the museum, we started walking toward the Eiffel Tower. A fellow, slender, five-ten, maybe, mid forties probably, stopped us somewhere in the vicinity of Les Invalides. He belonged to the Paris Chamber of Commerce, and he wondered if we’d mind taking a survey about the kinds of places we liked to visit not only in Paris but in the countryside as well. As he was talking about what he wanted, I wondered how he knew we were tourists. I mean, aside from the Cardinal’s baseball cap, the USA Rocks tee shirt, the Bermuda shorts, the white tennis shoes and black socks, how could he tell? At any rate I did ask him about how Parisians felt about tourists butchering their beautiful language. He said most people these days appreciate tourists making an effort. Wow. For so many years, I had categorized the French as snooty. We hadn’t walked more than a block to find confirmation of what happened in the museum. I was happy to pay the price of the trip just to find out I was wrong about sixty million French people.
A last thing about the Rodin museum. They display a number of his studies for particular finished works. I have always enjoyed seeing those as well. It reminds me of the writing process: roughing out the form, the editing, getting readers’ perspectives, polishing into the final product.
For a long time, I have been fond of that Rodin guy, and his statue that says, "Minds need muscle development, too," to me. Now, after the visit, I sixty million other French people to be fond of too.