France Sketchbook: Jardin des Plantes

After the claustrophobic chaos of the Notre Dame towers, (which included thousands of people careening through the sanctuary with video cameras at arm’s length, dozens of giant tour buses, and several bizarre silver minivans that picked up and dropped off Asian tourists so rapidly that it seemed like kidnappings were taking place,) I went to the Jardin des Plantes. I’m a country person, and used to work at a zoo, so the smells of warm alfalfa and manure were very relaxing. Away from the tourist hubbub, I discovered things that are similar in all countries: such as, how all children explode in riotous laughter when a monkey displays his ass. There’s something about being among animals that makes language barriers and culture shock disappear… either because you don’t need to know the language to enjoy it, or because you transfer your own culture shock onto the animal, who also doesn’t speak French, and also wonders why humans dress and babble and eat things on sticks and ride subways.

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