While in Paris a few weeks ago, I received a post from the blog Telling HerStories: The Broad View by Sheila Bender titled "A Strategy for Travel Writing". In her post, Bender wrote about a technique her daughter used while describing her experiences during a trip. Bender wrote "[My daughter's] Facebook posts took a form that made me think of William Stafford’s poem, “Things I Learned Last Week,” and the way I use that poem’s writing strategy to help people find the specifics in their experience." Using a similar idea, Bender's daughter wrote several posts starting "Today I learned..."
This particular blog came at a fortuitous time for me, giving me an idea on how to structure writing about my own recent travels. So here is my first What I Learned:
Paris' Marais neighborhood lies on the Right Bank not too far from Notre Dame. It is one of the few parts of the city that was not completely demolished and rebuilt during the nineteenth century. That means that many of its streets still wind around keeping their medieval flavor.
The area has long been a Jewish quarter and more recently has added a lively gay community. And as in most of the large European cities I've visited, graffiti graces many buildings and alleyways of the Marais. This is one of my favorite parts of Paris, and I've stayed there for my last few visits.
During my most recent visit, as I walked down Rue Vielle du Temple, the street near the apartment my family had rented, I noticed a large cartoon-like bird painted on the side of one of the stores. At first, I didn't pay much attention. After all, the painting was surrounded by the more usual graffiti - and beautiful Parisian architecture. After a few days, I finally realized that I kept seeing similar birds in various locations so I started looking for them. Each colorful picture contained a logo: Birdy Kids.
Of course I was curious, so like most somewhat tech-savvy people, I turned to Google. I couldn't find too much information online about Birdy Kids and most of it is written in French. However, I did find the Birdy Kids website. With the aid of Google Translate, I read their manifesto: "Welcome to the Birdy Kids. Founded in 2010 Birdy Kids consists of three young artists gathered around a common project: Street Art playful and colorful for everyone."
When I tried to dig deeper to find out more by reading an article about the "Birdy Crew", Google Translate failed to translate so I resorted to reading the article using my extremely limited French gained from two years of City College classes. From this article I learned that the three members are Guillaume, Gautier and A.E.M. Two of them are native Parisians and one hails from Lyon, France. They are now based in Lyon but travel to many European cities to paint their street art. From what I can tell, I was extremely fortunate to see their creations in Paris since some of their work went up just before I got there.
I also found Birdy Kids on YouTube. In the video below, you can see them at work on some of their creations.
I'm not sure why I was so fascinated by these birds. Perhaps it is their childlike quality and bright colors. Perhaps I just enjoyed the surprise of finding them as I walked the streets of Paris. I'm sure there are many who turn up their noses at Birdy Kids' art, saying is is just more graffiti defacing buildings. However, I disagree. I love these birds because they made me smile.
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