Well, after a 24-hour day of flying, including five airports, four hours standing in six lines at Charles de Gaulle, a lovely dinner of lamb and couscous on the Air France flight on which I finally got placed, two hours of a baby screeching two rows behind me, and my first experience in a double-decker airplane (I was on the upper deck!), I’m back in Mississippi, just in time to catch my azaleas in full bloom and my bearded irises popping out.
But I’ll be thinking about my trip to France for a long time–I saw so much, so many places and buildings I never expected or hoped to see, it will take me a while to process it all.
Once again, I remembered why I believe in the preservation of our historic places. I’ve heard people, some even in positions of authority in historic preservation, say that maybe the best way to “preserve” history is to post pictures and drawings online because it’s just too hard to preserve the actual buildings. While I love our HABS resources online, I strongly disagree with the philosophy that “virtual” is just as good as “physical.” I have seen pictures of Roman structures; I have seen pictures of Romanesque and Gothic churches, medieval chateaus, and walled cities. None of that came close to actually walking into a Roman arena, seeing how it related to the city around it, experiencing the difference spacial feel of a Romanesque and a Gothic church, and seeing a fortified chateau up on a hill commanding the valley below it. History came alive from the physical remnants I experienced, in a way that it didn’t from the pictures online or in books.
Of course, Mississippi’s history is not the same as France’s. So what? It’s still our history, an important history, and it’s worth preserving for future generations, so that they can say, “Wow, I’ve seen pictures of Greek Revival churches (or cotton gins, or a twentieth century school, courthouse, etc.), but nothing compares to standing inside one.”
Well, just to give you a few more pictures of France before we get back to our normal schedule next week, I thought I’d show you a few of my favorite religious buildings from the trip–I saw so many it’s hard to choose, but here’s my attempt. I had always been told that Romanesque meant barrel vaults (like the Romans), while Gothic meant pointed arches, but this visit blew that out of the water, as I learned that many Romanesque churches have “broken barrel vaults” that look alot like the pointed arches of Gothic. Who knew?