My friend Molly Totoro writes about her Parisian adventures every week on French Friday, on her blog, MyCozyBookNook.blogspot.com. I asked Molly to bring a little European flair to my favorite subject, the American Midwest. This is her answer.
Paris of the Plains: Kansas City earned this nickname because the number of boulevards is second only to the City of Lights. I recently discovered, however, these two cities have more than roadways in common.
While I’ve lived in the Midwest close to twenty-five years, I’m not familiar with Kansas City. So, I chose to become a tourist in my own hometown.
My first stop is The Country Club Plaza, America’s first shopping mall that accommodated automobile traffic. The Plaza is Kansas City’s version of the Champs Elysees: wide thoroughfares, adorned with upscale shops, detailed architecture, and colorful pedestrians. Evenly spaced lampposts along the edge of the road, each decorated with large flower baskets filled with various shades of pink, red, purple and white begonias, are reminiscent of springtime in Paris.
Since it is close to noon, I opt for a light lunch at a local cafe, the Classic Cup. I sit on the back terrace, which offers a nice view of the street below. I take out my notebook and pen, and begin to observe the sights and sounds of the Plaza.
Across the terrace is one of Kansas City’s more than two hundred fountains. This particular low-lying fountain appears to be a bronze statue of a wild boar. A bit of research taught me this fountain is a replica of one found in Florence, and legend states that rubbing the nose brings good luck.
When the waitress brings my Nicoise salad, I fondly remember this same meal at Café Nemours, near the Louvre. The light pink salmon perfectly compliments the spring mix lettuce, and the grilled cauliflower, asparagus and tomatoes transform this light salad into a robust meal. A sprinkling of capers around the edges adds an authentic Parisian touch.
After paying the bill, I return to the street. I do not walk far before I notice the Spanish influence. Since Seville is our sister city, the colors of the Southwest are everywhere. Terra-cotta tiled rooftops deepen the cerulean sky. Sand-stoned stucco is beautifully decorated with tiled mosaics, using vivid russets, indigos and teals to create an abstract design. While today’s weather is sunny and clear, these Mediterranean colors brighten even the dreariest day.
While the architecture is admirable at any time, it is during the Christmas season that it truly shines. The Holiday Lights tradition began in 1925. Nearly sixty miles of colorful lights are used to outline every building.
As I continue to stroll the Plaza streets, I notice an ivory statue surrounded by vivd wild flowers in the middle of the median. I am instantly transported to the Tuileries Garden, its shaded pathway surrounded by marble masterpieces and colorful flower beds.
A few steps away I come upon Natasha’s, an authentic Parisian Patisserie. I allow myself a brief look inside, and cannot resist purchasing a macaroon or two. I hope to find a park bench nearby where I can sit and nibble.
My European adventure continues as I walk alongside Brush Creek. While a bit wider, cleaner, and void of houseboats, it is quite similar to the Seine. A few pedestrian bridges provide comfortable access across the water – the Right Bank and Left Bank of the Creek. There is even a bridge adorned by several padlocks in an apparent attempt to recreate the Locks of Love on the Pont d’Artiste in Paris.
I make my way down to the creek’s edge, sit on a wrought-iron bench, savor my macaroons, and watch the geese glide along the water’s current. It is a tranquil ending to a perfect afternoon.
I knew I lived in the center of the country, but I always thought it was the middle of nowhere. While I may not describe Kansas City as exotic, I learned there is great beauty to be found here.
The real joy of discovery consists not in seeing new lands, but in
having new eyes. ~ Marcel Proust