| pont alexandres iii |
It is ironic, of course, that a person with an authentic french name, from a small town with French roots, would have not a single drop of French blood in her. In fact, the little man at the phone store believed it "quite funny". So, as a faux french girl, the first 24 hours of my l'expérience française were spent traipsing and butchering through the great romance language of the world. All the while wary of the dangers of new apex predators: petite automobiles and foreign drivers.
You can imagine my initial discomfort with the frenzy that is Parisian life. My slow-moving hometown of Crozet is far from anything like Paris. There is one stop light and only a tiny cluster of small businesses. I live next to an alpaca farm, and I have to accommodate five to ten extra minutes on top of my daily commute for "tractor time". The local stores with their local folk are an immediately reassuring comfort zone. In Crozet, I get my coffee at the Mudhouse, and eat with my best friend at Fardowner's. I buy my groceries at Great Valu, and every soccer game victory, every graduation, every cheap date, is spent at the Dairy Queen. I know all the coffee shop girls, bartenders, bag boys, and the dipped cone gurus. The quirky, close nature of the Crozet community defines my identity as a crozetian. With a population of only four thousand, all faces are recognizable in Crozet, and every street familiar. Such is not the case in Paris.
Adaptive re use is the marriage between identity maintenance and the compromise of ever-changing cultural necessities. My time in Paris will be spent comparing adaptive re use projects in Paris to those in the United States. In a way, it is very fitting that I research adaptive re use as a stranger immersed into a community I am unaccustomed to. I have a fresh new pair of eyes to see the city's people, atmosphere, and environment in a way that locals do not.
Human nature internally persuades us to head in the direction of what is familiar. Whether it be language, daily routine, or architecture, what we identify with is crucial. A key initiative in a community should be to maintain a sense of that identity and culture, otherwise it can be lost forever. Sometimes, however, cultural shifts must occur to accommodate new, and necessary, change.
It was walking towards Les Invalides on Pont Alexandres III where I saw them, four beautiful golden statues set atop tall, obelisk-like towers. They framed my view of Les Invalides complex. Majestic. Looking up at the statues it was in this moment where it all clicked. My local pub had been replaced by a street brasserie. My groceries at Monoprix. Dipped cones were traded in for profiteroles. My Blue Ridge Mountain skyline was replaced with the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower. Although Paris is an expansive one, Paris is a home.
It is in this new home I have made for myself where I will spend the next thirty days. Although the space between Crozet and Paris is far, I am willing to embrace a new community, and discover the components of its authenticity that has captivated millions from around the world.