Dance in a Castle…
“Dance in a castle? Nahhh…. not for me!”, you might say, “I don’t get invited to those kinds of parties.”
Now just hold on a minute… not so fast…
My guest blogger Mike Long from France starts like this and continues :
Children have an interesting relationship with public monuments and today’s post is inspired by a series of photos that my 11 year-old took while we were visiting Chenonceau Castle, in western France earlier this Spring.
(The first photo is above, you’ll see the rest below.)
The Eiffel Tower
I remember the first time I took my kids to Paris. They two oldest were six and four and there we were, standing beneath the Eiffel Tower, grand iron lady overlooking the Seine. When they heard that they could climb the steps to the first floor, they were all about it! (Surely something to do with “kids” and “climbing”).
We paid our 7€ per adult (3€ each for them) and up we went, gleefully & gaily. The adventure had begun & they were tireless, bouncing from one step to the next, exaggerated panting and “Phewfs!” to underscore their praiseworthy efforts.
We reached the first floor, ready to get our money’s worth, enjoy the view, snap some photos, contemplate the city… until we heard the first “Dad, can we go down now? I wanna go down.” (Were the stairs really THAT much fun?) I’m not sure if we even got a good 10 minute in up there. Our efforts to convince them that staying longer would be a good idea failed miserably (although I don’t remember any tears) and we were soon on our way back down.
Notre-Dame de Paris
From there we went to Notre Dame cathedral. We figured, since they’d seen Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” that looking for talking gargoyles would be enough to hold their interest as we walked through the 853 year old jewel of French Gothic architecture, marveling over the rose window and flying buttresses.
Nope. No dice.
Walking with the throngs of visitors, up the side aisles and around the ambulatory, was akin to a goldfish swimming ’round his bowl and all fish in a school swim at the same pace. For a child, that pace is officially defined as “for-e-ver!!!”
When we got out and found a small playground beside Notre Dame, however, time stopped. No less than twenty minutes passed before anyone under the age of 7 even thought about leaving. They were happy as clams in mud.
Twenty minutes, by the way, is the total combined time of our Eiffel-Tower-first-floor and Notre-Dame visits… on a playground… the likes of which we had plenty in Canada!
Fast-forward to 2016…
In the year or so since our arrival in France, we’ve seen a number of castles, especially since we are in Western France; castle-country. At one point I remember offering the kids a choice on one of our sightseeing days: a castle or something else. I don’t remember the second choice, but I do remember the response of our youngest, now eleven:
“You’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen ’em all; big rooms & big wooden beds… they all got ’em.”
That being said, said eleven year old did concede once that he actually liked visiting castles, when he was in the mood.
Phewf! I can keep indulging.
We adults enjoy monuments with all of their… “monumental-ness”; serious places of sullen gravity, demanding respect, inspiring awe, showcasing craftsmanship… where only hushed whispers are appropriate. Kids, however, are far less intimidated (which explains the panicked “shhhhh’ing” we parents find ourselves doing so often).
I’m sure if kids had their way, they’d…
- slide down the railing in the stairway of the Eiffel Tower,
- parcours up the entire nave of Notre-Dame without touching the floor
(necessitating, of course, that they climb chair over chair) and
- jump on every big wooden bed in every castle, to see how they compare to their own bed.
(* disclaimer * In no way does this mean I advocate any of the above. In fact, I lean more toward the ultra-paranoid parent that doesn’t want my kids to make a peep & risk annoying anyone else’s enjoyment.)
Is it possible that both kids and adults really do enjoy the same monuments, but differently?
Adults enjoy appreciating the size, workmanship and aesthetic of a given monument. That’s how we relate or interact with it; we exercise contemplation (and our good selfie stick arm).
Kids enjoy interacting with the monument… it’s another venue for play, which is why our dancer will have perfectly enjoyed her time at Chenonceau.
Neither method of interaction is inherently wrong (unless the rules say otherwise), rather each one is simply age-appropriate.
Now… here’s the advantage that we adults can have over kids: We can (if we choose to) do both; we can appreciate, intellectually, the monuments that we visit and we can also appreciate them playfully (within reason, of course – don’t get crazy on me!).
What better place than a castle ballroom or large gallery to take someone you love, pull them close and, if only for a few steps & swirls, dance them down to the other end of the room: slowly… or playfully; a step or a pirouette, gently… carefully. If you’re traveling alone, become the lone swan in swan lake… or just “air waltz”.
Attract just enough attention so that others know you are young at heart, but not so much attention that staff or security escort you straight to the dungeon!
Our little dancer had an umbrella in hand, à la Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. You don’t necessarily need props… but you do need a childlike heart; one that’s not too old to play.
I guarantee you, you’ll have one more heartwarming memory to take home and cherish. So go ahead. The next time you have a chance to do so….
Dance in a castle!
Mike Long is a Canadian pastor living in France and who blogs over at AIMLong.ca.
He loves God, his family, small backyard animals, travel and mobile photography.
He is grateful for the opportunity to guest-post for Maria here on Health from one Heart to Another
I love the way Mike is describing taking young children on sightseeing tours. Looking back on their childhood children who were allowed to be shown around at museums, churches and castles will regard it as a privilege later in life. Bringing enough to eat and drink is a must to help children to manage queues etc.