Between what we learn about France back home in school and what we see about it in movies and other outlets of popular culture, we all come to have certain expectations for what it is actually like. And especially with regard to certain things – like how we imagine the Eiffel Tower would look in person… or the Mona Lisa. These expectations and imaginings are further conditioned by the the people in our lives who have seen these things in person and have told us about them.
With this background, now a list of things that I have seen in the past couple of days and how they differed (or not) from my previous expectations:
1. The Mona Lisa
What I imagined from what I learned in school (WIIFWILIS): It’s a pretty darn big painting.
What people who have seen it have told me (WPWHSIHTM): It’s much smaller than I thought.
What I actually thought upon seeing it in living color (WIATUSIILC): Wow, I expected something smaller than that!
2. Notre Dame Cathedral
WIIFWILIS: It’s huge and impressive.
WPWHSIHTM: It’s huge and impressive.
WIATUSIILC: It’s huge and impressive.
3. The Arch of Triumph (l’Arc de Triomphe)
WIIFWILIS: It’s big but not too big. (This impression has been further conditioned by seeing other triumphal arches [London, Rome] that are not too huge.)
WPWHSIHTM: Can’t recall any reports on this one.
WIATUSIILC: It’s really, really big, and very impressive.
4. The Eiffel Tower
WIIFWILIS: It’s big but not too big. For example, whenever I heard about how it had a restaurant in it (and, more recently, Eiffel’s office at the top of it), I thought, “But how can they have all that plus enough room for observation decks, etc.?”.
WPWHSIHTM: Not sure I’ve gotten any reports on this one either.
WIATUSIILC: It’s enormous, dominating the skyline. The first time I saw it (today) was from the Sacre Coeur Basilica, on a large hill overlooking the city some distance away, so it was obvious how much it towered above everything else. Then later in the day I walked down and saw it up-close. It’s huge, and all that stuff in it totally fits.