My mind was constantly evaluating and judging what I was looking at while we were traveling in Paris. Because I’ve got a set of foreign eyes looking at the “everyday” happening around me, I could possibly be looking at the city through rose colored glasses – where even something as basic as early morning deliveries and street cleanings have a bit more beauty to them.
Or are the mundane and curious details of every day life I’m observing actually this much better (or worse) than my point of reference? I’m thinking of Amélie and the simple joy she found in cracking the crust on a crème brûlée. Is the crust that much better in Paris, or would any and every thing be better in Paris?
I recently came across an interesting article in the Economist that addresses my question:
“Foreignness is intrinsically stimulating. Like a good game of bridge, the condition of being foreign engages the mind constantly without ever tiring it. John Lechte, an Australian professor of social theory, characterises foreignness as “an escape from the boredom and banality of the everyday”. The mundane becomes “super-real”, and experienced “with an intensity evocative of the events of a true biography”.
An American child psychologist, Alison Gopnik, when reaching for an analogy to illuminate the world as experienced by a baby, compared it to Paris as experienced for the first time by an adult American: a pageant of novelty, colour, excitement.”
I wonder if in traveling only briefly to a new city or country location, will our fresh perspective on the mundane enable us to accurately capture the essence of the city? Or are we only seeing a “[popular] and unrealistic ‘postcard’ image of the city that fails to shed light” on the reality of the place.
I would like to think with previous travel experience and a healthy dose of research you could come up with a believable (and accurate) version of how many would perceive a place. But then again, the perception of place (its sights, sounds, smells, cultural and sociological intracacies) are such a personal experience.