We first met the lovely Kari Geltemeyer when she stayed in Haven in Paris’ Livingstone flat and have been hooked on her witty writing and great photography ever since. Here are some musings and images from her latest trip to Paris this May… -Geneviève
Hi. My name is Kari, and I am a tourist. A lot of people don’t like to admit this, or feel guilty about it, and those people refer to themselves as “travelers.” That’s fine; we become what we wish to be, etc. But I’ve decided to embrace the “tourist” label wholeheartedly, unabashedly, with gusto—mostly because it takes too much energy not to.
According to Merriam-Webster, a tourist is “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture” (no mention of fanny packs). I enjoy the culture, yes, but I go to Paris for the pleasure. I waited 40 years before I saw this city and now I love it the way I first loved New York, cinematically, as a hopelessly romantic construct no reality can touch.
Must be something in the air. I stumble around, staring up at the rooftops—those rooftops!—and the nonverbal part of my brain just takes over, the part that processes beauty and joy and awe, the part that wouldn’t be able to translate the emotion into language even if I spoke the language. (I do not. I flail and I fumble and I manage, but I deeply, fundamentally do not.)
Where’s the language that would explain what I’m seeing when I cross over the Pont Louis Philippe in the morning, when the day is new and the light shines on the streets just like that, or when I sit on the Quai de Bourbon at sunset and watch the sky fall away while the city rises?
What words could tell you, “This is the calm I feel in the garden at the Musée Rodin,” or “This is the way my heart beats every time Notre Dame comes into view”? There are none. A fool in love can’t say how or why, only “More, please.”
And it’s because of this—the simple inexpressible translation of pleasure—that I don’t have the time to pretend I’m anything other than a tourist. Struggling to conceal it made me timid, and timidity is the one thing you can’t afford when you travel. Really, it’s just an enormous waste of time.
That’s not to say that as a tourist I mock the locals or spend all my time at McDonald’s and the Gap. I behave the same way I would as a guest in anyone’s home: I do my best to understand the culture, I say please and thank you, and I keep my feet off the furniture.
But as a tourist I carry my enormous camera everywhere and photograph everything. I take the train out to Giverny to see Monet’s gardens on a Sunday.
I eat croissants for breakfast at sidewalk cafés. I pack a bottle of wine and a baguette and picnic on the Seine at sunset. I sit for hours in the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Tuileries and sign up for a river cruise I’ve taken once before, and at the end of my trip I ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, just for the view. Just for the pleasure.
- Kari’s website, blog and flickr account
- Kari’s appeared twice on the HiP Paris blog before, here and here.
- HiP friend Linda Donahue from Parisien Salon reports on her first experiences of Paris here and here.