I first made contact with Stella de Genova, painter and artist, about a year ago. She has kindly supported my short stories by posting them on her blog at Vision Through Words.
Today, it gives me great pleasure to return the compliment and feature her recent travel adventure through London and Paris – viva la white cane!
Sitting at my home computer in the Midwestern, American city that I was born and raised in, it feels a little surreal this morning to think about where I was for the last 12 days.
Nonetheless, the reality of it all is that I just got back from visiting family and touring London, England and to top it off, a 2-day jump over to Paris, France.
As a legally blind person, white cane in hand, along with my son who was my traveling companion and my brother who has lived in England for a few years, I’m just as amazed at the blurry, beautiful sights I saw as I am at how many “tubes” and trains and buses we maneuvered to get around.
A savvy traveler I am not and I would not suggest doing this alone to any other blind person but I feel some accomplishment about having been able to run through the streets and train stations of London and Paris.
We literally walked tens of thousands of steps and took in medieval castles and homes, art museums and cathedrals and must-see spots like the Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey in London; and the Eiffel Tower, Arc d’Triumph, Musee d’Orsay and Mont Martre in Paris.
We gazed upon the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Holbein, Bellini, van Eyck, Seurat, Cezanne and Van Gogh in the museums.
Sighted people go on vacations
and make sure they see the sights – and my family took me to all of the required tourist hot spots. But with my failing eyesight, I’ve found that there is much more to the travel experience than what we see and that is to be savored as well.
It’s true that what I saw was far from crystal clear and many times what I saw was mostly through descriptions but I used my other senses to enjoy my trip. My visual blurriness gave me the feeling of being part of an impressionist’s painting in Paris. And I thoroughly enjoyed listening to British accents and the French language that I’ve loved since high school.
The feel of centuries-old cobblestone streets under my feet and the smells of the native cuisine along with the plethora of international flavors and languages felt like all of the senses having a party.
And it always awes me to be in buildings or places that hold infinite stories of told and untold history. We don’t need our eyes at all to see the bustling ghosts of ancient times all around us.
I also appreciated that wherever we were, the understanding of the universal symbolism of the white cane was apparent and there was a general kindness and consideration communicated by all. In a way, even though my blindness can make for its share of inconvenience in life, it can also bring comfort to find that most people in this world are inherently kind.
There may be a point in my future when I will not be able to see the photos taken on my trip but all of my senses will help me to hold treasured memories well beyond the sense of sight.
photo by Harry Williamson
© 2013 Stella de Genova
Vision Through Words supporting an international community of blind and vision-impaired creatives
View my Travel story at Vision Through Words, A sea Monkey in Brittany