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Musings on Parisian style, part deux - Curt Yeomans

In the end, it always comes back to Paris.

I was all ready to wrap up this lengthy review of my European travels by the end of November, but you know how it is. I kissed that Blarney Stone in Ireland, and now I can't stop.

I was thinking about all of the gems we have in the Metropolitan Atlanta community that are sometimes ignored by us local yokels. That means museums, archives, et cetera.

That brought me back to Paris. Much like my "Postcards from ..." photograph series ended back in Paris, this series of travelogues has also come back to the City of Lights.

You see, there is a much broader problem here in America. It's not limited to Clayton or Henry counties. It extends to Atlanta, to New York, and to many other places across this country.

We're too quick to go for the new, and far too eager to ignore and push out the old.

Too often, there is a rush to cut down forests, or old establishments that tell a piece of the community's history, just to build another new Wal-Mart with a built-in McDonald's, and a Starbucks out front -- and a bunch of condos next door.

We also tend to turn on the blinders and ignore what we don't like. We end up showing no interest in learning history, and seeing all of its many faces as a result.

In some cases, like New York City in the mid-20th Century, we're all too eager to tear down the old in favor of some less-than-grand model of the future (Tearing down the majestic Penn Station to build the architectural monstrosity known as Madison Square Garden?).

But, then again, Paris is not quite like that.

Many of us have the perspective of seeing France from a distance, and sometimes, paint it as being too glittery, and too liberal. We think Paris is nothing more than Parisians smoking cigarettes in cafes, while letting out a "huh-huh-huh" before heading to a fashion show.

It's different once you've been there, though. When you are there, in person, your view of the city is dramatically widened beyond the Champs-Elysees and the Eiffel Tower. You get to see all of the history that remains a key element in the city's fabric.

This is a city that, at its core, recycles the old for some new purpose. There are several former royal palaces still in use (as either museums or government buildings) in, and around, Paris.

The Musee d'Orsay, which houses a collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, was originally a railway station. The Louvre was a fortress before it was a world famous museum. The Grand Palais was built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900, and is now home to several small museums, in addition to being a home to many of the House of Chanel's fashion shows.

Additionally, the Pantheon was originally slated to be a church before it's fate was changed to become a monument to the leaders of the French Revolution.

And, if you look at the city's core, you don't see any sky scrapers. They are on the outskirts of town. This allows the Eiffel Tour to have its dramatic dominance over the central Paris skyline.

And history? This is the same city that has hundreds of popular museums, ranging from the Louvre, to the Musee Carnavalet (which chronicles the city's history), to the Museum of the Eroticism of Paris (No, I did not go there!). This is a city that celebrates what it is, and where it came from.

I could go on, and on, with examples, but I think you get my point.

We could really learn a thing or two from the Parisians. We might learn to take a better appreciation of what we've got, and where we, as a community, came from.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.