"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Adventures of Temple and Tintin

"Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles 
in a thundery typhoon!"- Captain Haddock

The voracious reader-traveller always runs out of books, no matter how well prepared. On our first trip to Paris (1983) my family and I found ourselves in that situation - no books and another 2 weeks abroad EEK! What to do? That's when we discovered Galignani's. During my first trip to the marvelous Galignani's I had my first adventure with Tintin...

My entire family are voracious readers. This holds true when we travel. Back in the day before E-readers and iPads, being a voracious reading traveler was a pain. We'd all pack several books in our checked bags but you can't believe how much heavier a carry-on bag is when loaded down with hardcover and paperback books, magazines and newspapers. And the amount of reading material was always doubled (usually tripled) when traveling over seas. For example, the roundtrip flight to anywhere in Europe totals a minimum of 20 hours!

But, as with any group, reading travelers have a distinct culture, a distinct ettiquette: if you finish a book on a plane and don't care to keep it, you leave it in the seat sleeve for whomever sits in your seat next. In nearly every hotel, either at the front desk or with the concierge, there's a large box or basket filled with books (99% of which are in English). The rule is that if you take a book you've got to leave a book. When you're desperate for something to read you'd be surprised with what you're willing to read.

Maybe you're thinking: "Temple you're in freaking Paris! Why would you be reading? Hello!" Let me tell you, it's wonderful to sit in a cafe and while away an afternoon reading - between bouts of people watching and sipping Cafe Creme; or stretching out on a bench along the Seine with a bottle of wine and a good book. Don't knock it until you try it ;-)

But the voracious reader-traveler always runs out of books, no matter how well prepared. On our first trip to Paris (1983) my family and I found ourselves in that situation - no books and another 2 weeks abroad. What to do? That's when we discovered Galignani's. During my first trip to the marvelous Galignani's I had my first adventure with Tintin…

Galignani's is a reading traveler's wet dream!

Parquet floors, tall ceilings, large tables filled to the brim, with two long and narrow aisles filled with readers. And the atmosphere is jovial if silent. It's as if Galignani's patrons are on a sort of pilgrimage, like we're in some sort of club. Over the past 20+ years, I can't tell you how many times I've seen the same people - sometimes 3 years between visits.

Floor to ceiling bookshelves, with rolling ladders. And books, books, BOOKS everywhere! Of course, all my sister and I were interested in was that there was an entire section dedicated to children's books, published in English. The section was so comprehensive, so filled with 'new' books that it took me awhile until I found what something that really got my interest: The Adventures of Tintin.

The Adventures of Tintin is a series of comic strips created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (1907-1983). He wrote under the nom de plume - Herge. The series first appeared in French in Le Petite Vingtieme (The Little 20th) a children's pullout section to the Belgian newspaper Le XXe Siecle (The 20th Century) - 10 January 1929.

Set during the early 20th century, the hero of this series is Tintin, a young Belgian reporter, and his faithful companion Snowy (a fox terrier dog). But he's no mere reporter. Tintin's swashbuckling adventures cover every genre near and dear to a kid's heart: fantasy, mystery, political thriller, and science fiction. With a good dose and perfect blend of slapstick humor, satire, and political/cultural commentary - of course all in a language a kid can understand and follow, and the expectation that kids know what's going on in the world. It was like Herge was saying to twelve-year-old me: "I know that just because you are young, does not mean you are dumb!"

Tintin is Lois Lane, Indiana Jones, and MacGyver all rolled up into one. He takes on Nazis, the Soviets and spies of all persuasions. Tintin hunts for buried treasure, solves mysteries and breaks up super secret government plots. And along the way he has amazing harrowing adventures in every corner of the world.

Of course as with any action hero, Tintin picks up some awesome and quirky sidekicks along the way: the grumpy hard drinking Captain Haddock, the quirky brainiack Professor Calculus, and bumbling but harmless Detectives Thomson and Thompson. But the smartest, most canny, and most faithful of all? Why Snowy of course!

Professor Calculus is in green, Captain Haddock in the blue shirt with the anchor, Thomson & Thompson in black holding canes. Tintin's in the funkadelic red pants, with his trusty companion Snowy at his side. (This pix is from my favorite Tintin adventure: The Castafiore Emerald).

Tintin, his cohorts, and his fantastical adventures - in large colorful cartoon panels - were the perfect traveling companion(s) for a 12 year old girl in Paris. And after we got home and in the years that followed, I could/would re-read my Adventures of Tintin relive his exciting experiences, travel the world at kids' speed and in kid language, and forever have a tangible piece of Paris that was uniquely all my own. My beloved collection of Tintin books also serves as a connection to my beloved sister - our special 'thang.

I purchased my last Tintin book at Galignani's in 1994. When I returned in 2000, Galignani's no longer carried them ;-( In the past 10 years, everytime I returned to Galignani's I looked - hoping that I'd find one - but no joy. During our last trip (October 2010) I packed up my precious collection in my carry-on for the kids to read on the plane trips there and back. I can't tell you how awesome it was to watch my son [Rory] read one of Tintin's adventures to my youngest [Never]. Never's eyes were as round and large as saucers. He couldn't wait to see how Tintin managed his way out of his latest adventure!

Since we returned, the kids have been pestering me for more Tintin adventures. I finally just went to  Amazon.com, where all 24 of Tintin's adventures available for purchase ($9 each). So, next paycheck I'm going to buy 5. And will do so every paycheck until my Adventures of Tintin collection is finally complete. Of course I'm not just doing it for the kids. I'm not ashamed to admit that I want to read them. They have as much appeal to me, now that I'm adult, as they did when I was a child. Maybe more so. There's an old world innocence and beauty to them that simply cannot be denied. So, whether you have children or not, whether you're traveling or not, buy one and see if you like it. Make sure you let me know what you think.

All of Tintin's Covers

In the hopes of whetting your appetite, I've listed the available titles below (not in order):

Flight 714
The Crab w/ the Golden Claws
The Castafiore Emerald
The Red Sea Sharks
Red Rackhams Treasure
The Black Island 
King Ottokar’s Sceptre 
The Secret of the Unicorn
 The Seven Crystal Balls 
Prisoners of the Sun 
The Land of Black Gold 
Destination Moon 
Explorers on the Moon
 The Calculus Affair
 Tintin in Tibet
 Cigars of the Pharaoh
 Tintin and the Picaros 
The Shooting Star
Tintin in America; 
The Blue Lotus
 Tintin in the Congo
Tintin and the Broken Ear
 Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.

Bonne Lecture! (Happy reading)

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


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