the power of the circus

Monday, January 21, 2013

when i was 20, i spent ten days in the french alps. it was a trip i'll never forget, and it's a huge part of the reason i want to take the girls there some day.

i flew into paris and did the normal tourist things for the first few days: the louvre, versailles, the eiffel tower, notre dame cathedral, the seine, picasso's place, the was truly amazing. for those few days we spent in paris, i survived on bread, cheese, and pears. and mcdonalds. i hadn't yet unearthed my inner oenophile, and my inner foodie was still an untapped resource.

and then my adventure began. i hopped on a train from paris to lyon, boarded another train from lyon to chambery, and from there i was driven into the french alps to the magical village of valloire.

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it was july, and since valloire is best known for its ski slopes, i got a true peek into the slow, refined pace of the people who live there year-round.

this quintessential french village had a boulangerie, a boucherie, and a patisserie; but all i really needed was the meadow full of wildflowers right behind our condo and the little pizzeria in the bottom of our building. that's where i found my love of stone-fired pizza margherita and freshly made crepes dotted with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

that restaurant, combined with the patisserie, where i could artfully ask for "deux pommes" while giving the international sign for two with my right hand while pointing at the apple pasteries with my left hand made up for lost time (and calories) in paris.

the reason i'm telling you all of this is because the girls went to the circus yesterday with their dad. they had a blast. cee loved the trapeze artists, and jay loved the tigers and elephants. and i was stunned by the innovation of the circus when they both informed me that they saw someone fly out of a canyon. i couldn't for the life of me figure out how they replicated a canyon, and as it turns out, they were actually mesmerized with someone who flew out of the cannon.

i'm amazed that one word, circus, can stir up memories of an entire trip.
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when i was in valloire, a circus came through town in honor of bastille day. the french circus was seriously amazing, and not necessarily in a good way. i walked by the whole set up one morning on my way to the boulangerie and made my way through the menagerie of animals as they lay in waiting in their cages (which were glorified train cars). i specifically remember feeling really sorry for the giraffe and thinking the tiger's cage was a little too clumsy.

i bought my ticket that morning, and when i arrived at the show, i was surprised and humbled when several french children wanted to trade me: my bleacher tickets for their floor tickets. i felt like it was too good to be true, so i kindly declined their offer.

every since then, i've followed my gut when situations like this present themselves to me because apparently there aren't really rules or laws or regulations for circuses in france, and ring-side seats are actually the cheap seats.

what unfolded during the course of the circus was pretty much chaos. there were elephants. there were alligators. and there were tigers. and there were no protective barriers between the audience and the animals. let's just say things got dicey a couple of times, and the targets of the diciness were sitting in the plastic lawn chairs. the plastic lawn chairs were holding the french children who tried to trade tickets with me. fortunately, everyone lived to tell the tale.

when my time in valloire was up, i headed back to paris (via the same series of trains). my hotel was about a block off of the champs, and my arrival coincided with the end of the tour de france...before lance armstrong was a household name, before the doping allegations, and before oprah had her own network.

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i simply walked out of my hotel to grab a coffee and into a sea of spectators. there were hundreds (but it seemed like thousands) of bikers riding around the arc. it was one of the most incredible things i've ever experienced, and it was a feeling that i'm not sure could ever be replicated for me again.

either way, i do love all things french because of that trip.

i seriously do want to take the girls to france one day because it's a beautiful culture to embrace, it's a chance to see that americans don't necessarily have all the answers, it's an opporunity to see how our cultures meld into one another, and most of all, it's a glimpse into the charming life of another world, safety regulations or not.

until next time,



The Amazing Trips said...

You wrote this so well.... I felt like I was there, too. I'd so love to do a trip to Europe with my children. My husband and I just watched a great movie, "The Way" (Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen) which made us want to travel abroad even more. We think that maybe when they're 10 or so, they (and us) will get the most out of it. If we see the circus while we're therer, we'll make sure to get tickets in the high seats. Yikes!!

it's just me... said...

I hope you do get to take your family to Europe one day... definitely opt for the high seats. :) Thanks for reading!!

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