Paris, 2004. Forty-two Indiana teenagers pile on to a boat that promises to show them the underside of some of the city's thirty-seven Seine-crossing bridges. It's a first time in a foreign country for most of these kids, so even if that first rush of adrenaline at seeing the Eiffel Tower on the horizon has given away to jet-lag, and the overcast skies have made this July afternoon chilly enough for a jacket, and the ominously dark clouds hanging overhead threaten rain with every heavy gust of wind, it can't dampen the excitement that's been building since driving away from Charles De Gaulle Airport earlier that day. I can get seasick on a swing set, but my heart still beats fast in anticipation for a boat ride through Europe's most notorious city.
The guide speaks only French, but does string enough English together to tell us that the "N" on the upcoming bridge stands for Napoleon. The rest of her words rush past like river water, but I don't know that any of us would be listening to her even if she were speaking our language. There's so much to see and we are so tired and the sights and the sounds and even the very air of this city feels unfamiliar. I'd spent two weeks in Japan the previous summer, so I think I thought it might all have felt a bit old-hat, but when the history of a city is unfolding in front of you, you take notice, whether you understand the language or not.
Here are things we saw: