Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. — Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Paris — The month-long stay has come to a close. That last bottle of Red Wine has been drunk and placed in my building’s recycling bin. Sheets and towels have been laundered in a washing machine (that is also a dryer) with directions in French, so fingers crossed there.
Literary Paris, meaning those wonderful books set in Paris, have nothing to do with contemporary Paris. The magic of Paris that you discovered in great books still exists, but you will not find it where you hope to find it. Nor will the hundreds of other people with your same idea and/or itinerary.
As in Life, it’s all about the Journey and not about the Destination.
I journeyed to Paris, planned my Life so that I could spend a month there and really see/feel/live some life there. Thumbs up. Am so glad I did it and am so grateful for the friends with whom I shared the experience: Walking everywhere. Stopping for Drinks anywhere. Finding that fantastic bowl of fish ball soup on a rainy day. Praying in Notre Dame. Praying in Saint Roch. Praying in Saint Sulpice.
I did a lot of praying. In Notre Dame, I gave thanks for my family. In Saint Roch, I gave thanks for friends who are no longer on the planet. In Saint Sulpice, I gave thanks for Creativity, for good books and stories that spark my own imagination.
At the Musee Louvre, I had a big Realization. I mean, really big. Here it is:
I am not really that into Religious-themed Art.
You’ve seen one gorgeous masterpiece Madonna & Child, you’ve seen them all.
Is that sacrilegious? Possibly. At the Louvre, there are hundreds. I was unmoved. Just not for me. I prefer Sculpture, Greek and Roman mythology. And, there were just too many people crowding around every piece of Art, angling for that Selfie (and getting in the way of my own, darn them!).
I may not be a Louvre Person.
Or, I think I would prefer to tour the Louvre at night after closing, preferably when there is a murder investigation ongoing a la The Da Vinci Code. When you exit The Louvre, you pass La Pyramide Inversee, which plays an important role in Brown’s thriller, which is very much religious-themed. Tourists crowd around this imposing sculpture and snap selfies (as one does).
So perhaps, I prefer Books to Portraits! Sorry, Michelangelo & Co.
Here are a few things I would do differently:
- Go in the dead of Winter and stay two months or longer. May was great, but there were just too many Tourists and too many lines for every effing landmark. Also, the last few days were getting kinda toasty! Paris has a lot of cars, and the pollution was getting to me, as well. I can see myself in Paris, wearing my Winter Coat, sitting at a café drinking something warm and surrounded by friends.
- You cannot see everything you want to see in a finite amount of time, so don’t try to see everything, and save a few things for next time. (Looking at you, Les Catacombs.)
- Get a Credit Card That Does Not Charge Foreign Transaction Fees, each time you make a purchase. This requires Advance Thought & Action.
- Find a neighborhood that prides itself on being quiet! The Oldest China Town in the Marais is not where you want to stay if you like to read in bed or on the couch or indoors. Early morning food deliveries and late night restaurant patrons are noisy.
- Get out of Paris more often. I have friends who live in the South. If I stayed longer, I would hop a train and visit.
- Bring an adapter that works in France (not England).
- Leave my cool cuticle kit corkscrew at home. It got confiscated by TSA in Dallas on my return flight (having passed inspection in LA and in Paris!). I miss it even though I never used it.
- Bring or rent a bike helmet and use the city ride share bikes to get around and to explore. (Did I mention that I have blisters on my feet from walking everywhere?!)
Exit: Stage Right.
On my last morning, I sat at Le Celtic, my favorite sidewalk café, enjoying one final Petit Dejeuner, watching the locals head to work when I noticed a very tall man standing in front of the café clearly trying to decide whether or not he should eat there.
You should eat here. It’s good.
Warily, he takes my advice. Turns out he is an American. His name is Bernard, and he is seated next to me thanks to Florian, the server, who knows to group the Americans together and away from everyone else. It’s our voices. We speak too loudly for the French. No, we do. We really do. Americans need to learn to keep it down a bit more.
Bernard has just arrived in Paris that morning. Jet-lagged and discombobulated, he is just beginning his adventure as I, relaxed and satiated, am ending mine.
It’s like a closing farewell scene from The Hobbit or The Fellowship of The Ring but without all that talk about saving The Shire, tankards of ale, or nasty hobbits. I am Gandalf.
I give Bernard all my best Paris tips (which were given to me by my friend, Claudette). His next stop that very day is Roland-Garros, so we have a robust discussion about Tennis, who will win, which court to watch, etc. The time flies by and before you know it, I stand to bid him farewell. I pay Florian and thank him (in French) for his many kindnesses.
Pay it forward, Bernard! I tell him as I take my leave, meaning do the same for someone else on his last day of his Parisian adventure.
A month earlier, I could barely converse with a corrupt Portuguese taxi driver or correctly enter a door code to get in my own building, and now, here I am telling this blissfully ignorant American how best to enjoy Paris starting with what to eat for breakfast and the fastest way to Roland-Garros via Le Metro.
C’est la vie! That’s Life for ya.
N E X T U P:
Is It Time To Pull Up Stakes and Move to France?