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“Left Brain, Right Bank, Right Brain, Left Bank”

While only 60.4% of the French turned out to cast their ballots yesterday, and politically right newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy was winning a landslide victory in Parliament (which could win him up to 470 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly), I was playing both tourist and tour guide on the “Left Bank.”

Visiting family presented the opportunity to rediscover the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris which was our first Paris “home-away-from-home” — having adopted a small hotel near Place de l’Odéon each time we visited the city prior to moving here. The district is certainly not uncharted as it is often a meeting point for many an event or business-related encounter. In fact, crossing to the Left Bank is a rather normal and regular affair and I’ve never fully understood the conventional view of the city as divided in halves, the “Right Bank” and the “Left Bank”…until yesterday.

The analogy came to mind that the Right Bank (“La Rive Droite”) is the “Left Brain” of Paris and the Left Bank (“La Rive Gauche”) is the “Right Brain.” Confusing, but consider the truth of it.

The two hemispheres of the brain control two different modes of thinking, much like the areas on each side of the Seine are considered to think and behave differently. The Left Brain is the logical, sequential, rational, analytical, objective side and a side which looks more at the parts than the whole. This could easily define the Right Bank, where places such as Place Vendôme, the Arc de Triomphe, the Elysée Palace, the Louvre, the Opéra, the Bourse and the fashionable shopping boulevards and streets such as the Champs-Elysées, rue de la Paix, rue de Rivoli, and avenue Montaigne, refer to a level of elegance and sophistication that some say is not found in its more “bohemian sister” to the south — the Left Bank.

On the other hand (or should I say, “brain?”), the Right Brain is more random, intuitive, holistic, synthesizing, subjective and a side which looks more at the whole than the parts. Just as the Left Brain defines the Right Bank, the Right Brain defines the Left Bank, considered to be the more romantic and artistic district, home to Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and of course, the center of learning and university life at La Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter.

We began our walking tour with the Luxembourg Gardens, which has always been a favorite place to stroll, relax in the sun or contemplate life’s most pressing issues, ever since those days at “Le Grand Hôtel des Balcons” on rue Casimir-Delavigne, just one block away from the entrance near the Palais du Luxembourg and the Fontaine de Medicis. The serene scene and feathery shade under the trees surrounding the fountain is the coolest spot on a hot summer’s day and it is here that I have had many a pleasurable romantic encounter.

Yesterday we were surprised to find a big plastic bag floating on the water until we realized it was actually a white fiberglass form of a nude woman’s torso. She had neither a right nor left brain, nor hand, nor foot, but clearly, some artistic soul had created her and some government official had subjectively allowed her to be reclining there for all of us to ponder with whatever side of our brains we choose.

And yesterday, too, both the Left Brain and the Right Brain of Paris chose the Political Right with a vote of 41.3% to support the leadership housed on the Right Bank, winning an overwhelming number of parliamentary seats of the National Assembly, which happens to be situated on the Left Bank.

Go figure.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. I hope to see many of you tomorrow afternoon at La Pierre du Marais between 3 and 5 p.m. for our monthly coffee gathering, “Parler Paris Après Midi.” For more information, visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html

P.P.S. Don’t forget to register now to attend the FREE presentation with Peter Zipper of Caye International Bank, “How to Successfully Master Offshore Banking,” Thursday, June 14, 2007, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information visit /frenchproperty/conference or sign up now by emailing:[email protected]

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