Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pieces of My Journey

The more time I spend in France, the more determined I become to spend more time in France. I keep telling myself, "When I have time, I'm going to learn French," but I think I need to admit that I'll never have time. What I'm going to have to do is MAKE time.

Have you heard of, or seen pictures of, the tapestries of the woman and the unicorn? They're in Paris at the Musée National du Moyen Âge, a.k.a. the Cluny Museum. A wise friend suggested I visit them in my little bit of free time, so I did, and... how can I describe it? The museum is small, full of tapestries and sculptures, weapons, all sorts of neat stuff from the Middle Ages -- and one magical room that contains all six of the tapestries in the Lady and the Unicorn series. The room is darkish (to preserve the colors of the thread) and cavernous and peaceful, and you just sit there, looking at them. I got to spend a restful few minutes there before running off to catch a city bus to catch a train... but I could have stayed there for an hour, and I will go back. (If you follow the links to tapestries and the Lady and the Unicorn, you'll get to [an unlinkable] page that shows pictures and talks about them more.)

My hotel in Épinal could be the picture in the dictionary next to the word "eclectic." It's a renovated Tudor mansion, basically, and I understand that each room is decorated in a particular style. Mine is red and gold and if I knew more about architecture and design I could probably name a period for you. (Yesteryear? Days of yore? [A little reference for the Friends fans among you.]) Another American author in the hotel tells me that his room is full of teddy bears. (?) Anyway. The hippopotami on the left greeted me in the lobby, which made me happy indeed.

So, Imaginales is a French fantasy/SF conference featuring 120 authors, artists, and illustrators, mostly French. Today I had my first experience of simultaneous translation. I sat at a presentation table with one French moderator, one French author, three native-English-speaking authors (including me), and three interpreters. Whenever French was being spoken by the French moderator or the French author, all three interpreters were also speaking English, so there was this constant hum of languages happening all at once. Maybe I'm easily amused, but I really enjoyed being a part of it. The conference room where the panels take place is as difficult to describe as the hotel.... It's a magic mirror room. Circular, mirrors on lots of surfaces, velvety walls and ceilings, lots of deep reds, blues, and golds, and lovely golden lighting. When I walk into it, I am immediately calm.

On these work trips, there's always a lot going on and I feel pulled in a lot of directions at once. Nonetheless, I am gradually falling in love with France.