19 September 2012

esso: les parapluies de cherbourg

I am in Quebec City at the Hotel Le St-Paul on rue St-Paul. So many things about writing that sentence make me happy:
  • getting to use a "le"
  • hyphenating St-Paul
  • saying "rue"
  • trying to remember how to make the circumflex {you know, the accent that looks like a roof} over the "o" in "hotel" {I was clearly not successful}
I am somewhere where they speak French, and I am happy—no, more than happy. In French when you want to say, "I am happy," you can say, "Je suis contente." Contente. Content. That's what I am, here in this place that reminds me of France and what it feels like to be there.

Even this hotel, Le St-Paul {Le! Hyphen!}, looks like it was transplanted from Europe: barely a lobby, twisting staircase, and oh, my room.

My room has an exposed brick wall, no closet {but it does have an armoire}, huge windows, and a radiator. The bed takes up a good portion of the room, and if I purposely forget that it was just a couple hours in a plane to get here, I can trick myself into believing that this is France, I'm far from home, and I get to reconnect with that French part of me.

Isn't it amazing how simply being somewhere else—away from the known and the normal—can feel so alive? I realize, looking back at that sentence, that it's a rather obvious, silly sort of thing to say. I've essentially just said: Isn't it cool how, when you go somewhere else, it feels different?

But do you know what I mean? As soon as we step away from the day-to-day cares of the place where we pay the mortgage or the rent—as soon as we get away from the place where you have to go the grocery store and then put the groceries away and then figure out what sort of meals to make with all that food—as soon as we leave, there's a little more room to breathe.

And to think, and in my case, to write. Even though I'm here on business {I'll be spending most of my day at sessions for the American Thyroid Association Annual Meeting. If you have any questions about your thyroid, now is a good time to ask me}, the mere fact that I can run down a cobblestone street in the early morning and have a glass of wine with dinner in a tucked-away restaurant gets my heart and mind twitching with words to write.

Even this room makes me writerly. Not a word, I know, but in a room like this, in a place that feels like France, I can do whatever the heck I want.

I read a review of this hotel on TripAdvisor from someone who was clearly very displeased and not inspired by their room. They complained that the paint around the windows was chipping and that their view was of an Esso gas station. How banal! How ugly! To be forced to look at a place where people have to go to make sure they can get somewhere else! The symbolism of it all!

I see chipping paint and think: How full of character!

And I see the Esso station out my room here {I think I have the same room as the dissatisfied person on TripAdvisor} and think: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.

That's a musical I watched in my film musicals senior seminar class at Truman. {How good it is to be an English major: my capstone project involved musicals with friends and then dissecting them, in the way that only 22-year-olds can do.} Every word—from hello to yes to important speeches—is sung, and it's in French.

It's quirky and beautiful in that way that movies shot in technicolor are: intense colors, deeper tones, and you think watching it that you've stepped into Oz and that nothing in our world could look so rich.

The last scene of the movie takes place in an Esso station in Cherbourg, and a gas station never looked so enticing and romantic. You see it and long to be part of the scene, of Genevieve and Guy's lives, of a world where you believe youthful idealism and passion will always reign.

Just see for yourself in the clip below {unless you want to watch the whole movie and not be spoiled by this from-the-end clip}.

Watching this, you may want to come hang out with a view of an Esso station, too, but I suggest you find your own Esso station: this one in Quebec is currently taken by me.

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