This past January, I finally got to do something that I’d been waiting to do for over ten years. Return to France. I spent six months studying in a small, southwestern city during college and fell in love with the culture, cuisine, and of course, comics. We had been planning on going back for a long time, but just hadn’t found the right time to go. So we booked our tickets, checked our passports, and away we went.
I was prepared to do some major European comic book shopping this time. I used the ALA Graphic Novel Round Table Facebook Page as a sounding board to get advice for what comics shops to visit and where to go for the most nerdy places to visit (the ALA GNRT FB page has a lot of international members, so be sure to check it out when planning your next vacation).
It is clear why so many people have been inspired by Paris. You can walk the city and visit the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie comparée, the Galley of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy and see bones that are million of years old From there, walk to the Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge, The Cluny Museum – National Museum of the Middle Ages to try and decode the hidden message of the 16th century tapestry Lady and the Unicorn. Then hop a train the to Centre Pompidou to take in an auditory installation and decadent displays of contemporary art. And all along the way you’ll see amazing street art, artists, buskers, and performers plying their trade.
So what was my haul? What made our suitcase 0.5 kgs away from being over the limit? At the end of the Catacombs tour, a small gift shop had a graphic novel I’d never heard called Catacombes: 1, Le Diable Vert by Jack Manini and Michel Chevereau following Jeanne Chiavarino, whose father disappeared into the Catacombs during World War II, and what horrors she must face in the tunnels herself. At Aaapoum Bapoum, a primarily vintage comic book shop that came highly recommended, we learned that the major two publishers, Marvel and DC, print four or five translated issues together. We picked up Miss Hulk, aka She-Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, and Batman. I really, really wanted to get some Smurfs, or Les Schtroumpfs in French for our nieces and nephews, but opted to bring back some Smurfs paraphernalia and order the English language version for reading at home.
It had been a long time since we took a dedicated vacation that wasn’t a family obligation and it revitalized a sense of adventure in me. Something that I feel I had lost sometime in my adulthood. Being somewhere where you struggle to speak the language, aren’t as comfortable with the culture, but shows you something new a different is exciting and scary and worth it. Go out of your comfort zone and read a comic you wouldn’t normally read.