Ann has asked me to write a bit about why I will be taking part in La Belle Epoque trip to Paris this September, given that I have been to Paris more times than I can count and that I took part in an earlier Classical Pursuits trip there in 2004.
I guess it comes down to the very different and much deeper sort of experience I find when travelling with Classical Pursuits. It really doesn’t matter how well I think I know a place. I took part in an Algonquin Round Table trip in my native New York and found myself travelling through time, if not space, to a little known but fascinating era. On the earlier They Came to Paris trip, I lost myself in the 20s and the ex-pat society of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Stein. We immersed ourselves in their words, their music, their haunts. I experienced Paris as I never had before or since.
To be more particular, here is why I am looking forward to a brand new experience of Paris this fall.
THEME – La Belle Epoque kind of rolls off the tongue. But I realize I don’t know a great deal about this “Beautiful Age” squeezed between the Franco-Prussian War (1871) to the start of World War 1 (1914), which witnessed an extraordinary blossoming in art, literature, poetry, and music and yet seems sin-soaked in absinthe and debauchery. I want to know more about what accounted for this unexpected burgeoning and what it was really like.
READINGS – I look forward to discussing several works by Nineteenth-Century masters of the short story, names like Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant and Gérard de Nerval. Not only will the literature be great, but I know from experience that our discussions will enrich my appreciation of the stories but also my understanding of La Belle Epoque. We will also be discussing David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. Providing an additional lens and focus on the era and the role of American artists and statesmen in it.
ITINERARY – I look forward to returning to the charming and wonderfully-located Hotel Trianon-Rive Gauche, situated between the Luxembourg Gardens and the Seine, easy walking distance to much. I like the mix of discussions, guided walks, museums and galleries, good meals, and unscheduled time to roam and savour. I really like the way Classical Pursuits develops itineraries with activities that are thematically linked.
LEADERS – I have had the good fortune of being led by both Lisa Pasold and Sean Forester and have nothing but high praise for both of them. Lisa Pasold was our extraordinary walking guide on the earlier trip to Paris.
A Canadian poet and novelist who splits her time between Paris and New Orleans, Lisa Pasold is one extraordinary walking guide, full of local literary knowledge and anecdotes plus the know-how to get us out of traffic and into quiet spots where she can be heard. She speaks clearly, slowly and loud enough.
Sean Forester is a classical painter and all-round Renaissance man who brings art to startling and vivid life by helping us see with the eyes of a painter. I have great memories from Venice, several years ago, where we spent the better part of a spell-binding afternoon in front a single Titian altar piece and in Florence in 2011, where Sean helped us see both known and new paintings and sculpture as never before.
FELLOW TRAVELLERS – I have been on seven Classical Pursuits trips and greatly enjoy the company of my fellow travellers every time, much of it over good food. I see some of the same people, who like me, have become regulars. I have made some wonderful life-long friends.
So, what are you waiting for? Whether you’ve never been to Paris or have been umpteen times, I guarantee a fun and fascinating trip. La Belle Epoque in Paris: The Birth of the Modern World, September 17 – 24, 2013 (7 nights)