Four Cities - first two of four

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

There are so many interesting places to visit in the world, and life is so short, one wonders how to choose. There are those who believe travel should begin and end in their native land, depriving themselves and families of the wonders of the rest of the world.

And there are those who travel only to faraway places on the assumption that they can always travel “locally” when their health or money runs out.

I bought a peach-colored cotton pullover many years ago that bears the very minimum itinerary of a would-be world traveler. It has faded over time and is hard to read, but I thought it appropriate for the Peachtree City 50th anniversary party. Whenever the slightest hint of travel was uttered, I reached up discreetly and straightened the wrinkles of the shirt so that my destinations could be read.

In random order, the first great city: London.

I’d heard an awful lot of speculation about the brisk offhand remarks made to tourists about England in general and London in particular. I looked for it when we traveled there, but could not find any snobbery at all. And they do speak English terribly well.

What intrigued us most was the enthusiasm with which tour guides presented their commentary as we sauntered the sidewalks or boarded the boats. It’s a job, sure, but they made you believe they were so excited to point out landmarks from antiquity and explain what happened to London Bridge. They show us where they were born and reared, and what a dark alley that little lane used to be. They solicit genuine admiration for their native city and the spectacular difference just a few decades made in cleaning away the soot.

Dave and I both love British mysteries and got a real kick out of standing across the street from number 9 Baker Street. Dr. Watson’s house has long been replaced, but with enough imagination one can see his housekeeper opening the front door to Sherlock Homes.

Next: Paris.

Imagine someone outlining the Statue of Liberty with flashing neon lights celebrating the current American Hero. The Eiffel Tower was welcomed with that much enthusiasm when plans for its erection in 1887-1889 for the 1889 World’s Fair. Naysayers decried that oversized phallic symbol and how hideous it would look jutting up from one of the most graceful cityscapes in the world. Permission to build came with promises that it would be torn down as soon as the exposition was over.

Today Parisians revere their ladder to the sky. Imagine Paris today without that monument. You can see the Eiffel from most places in Paris; it acts as a compass for bewildered visitors.

Nothing else seems to identify its city so well. Lady Liberty comes close, but she represents a nation.

Our favorite memory from Paris is the sight of a guided tour on then-popular Segways. The group ran from teens to some really older people, and I’m betting most had no prior experience. For the 15 minutes we stood and stared, no one fell over. Which is more than I could say.

I did a little research on the Eiffel Tower and found this odd vignette in a brochure for visitors: On December 6, 1889, the City of Paris Engineer Lion noted an amazing meteorological phenomenon which he published in the magazine “La Nature.”

“At that moment [9 a.m.], the sky was clear and the sun shining bright. All of a sudden, the observers noticed the tower was mirrored by a second inverted tower in the sky.

“This reversed image appeared very clearly. We could distinctly make out its tip, its top ball and all the bays of the top section of the tower; the second platform was visible, the mid-platform was less evident and its base dissolved into the misty sky.”

Two more world class cities, next week….

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