SO I spent 7 years of my life learning French. During this time I received gifts from family members with the Eiffel Tower in various forms. Clothes, notebooks, necklaces which all showcased the glorified radio antenna. These gifts were wonderful and thoughtful, but in retrospect held no significant meaning for me. Until now. As I entered the city of love on a foggy Friday I saw the tower standing in the distance and I felt my eyes well with tears. A completely unnecessary and dramatic response that made me feel silly, but satisfied. The next 2 days were chalked full of touristy, bucket list items. I walked to Notre Dame, Quasimodo did not make an appearance, through the Louvre (Mona Lisa’s smirk is intriguing and also somewhat disappointing) although the other artwork in this immense maze of a museum was breathtaking. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t get to everything, I would have needed at least 3 more days, a tent and some snack to accomplish that. After the Louvre I walked past the ferris wheel, which rests at the end of the Champs-Élysées (the major street in Paris, with crazy shopping and beautiful monuments). I wound up at Moulin Rouge and a few pictures and exhausted feet later, I caught the metro back to our apartment. Dinner consisted of cheeseburgers and French fries, it was scrumptious, really though sitting outside and eating a Parisian-American meal felt great. After squeezing 9 people into a tiny apartment that semi comfortably would fit 5 people, we woke up on Saturday and caught a train to Versailles. However, we did not get very far before the conductor came on over the loud speaker and in quick tongued French rattled off a statement, opened the doors and shut off the lights. As we exited the metro into 45 degree, numbing wind weather, I read the posting at the station which in French explained that someone had been hit by a train and the metro was shut down until 10:30 am, it was 8:30 am. So we wandered into this Duldrum looking corporate outskirt of Paris and found a café where we small talked for 2 hours before finally making our way back to the metro station and arriving in Versailles half an hour later.
Versailles was massive and very intricate. From the floors to the ceilings not a spot of the walls was left untouched by decoration. The gardens were expansive and wonderful, probably more so in the warmer months, but I could see the flowers blooming in the near future and distant past. After leaving the Chateau we found a sweet spot for lunch, giving you a main course and then 3 smaller sides all placed in glass containers. Very French, very delicious. Catching the metro back to Paris was less stressful and we met up with our other friends and walked the Champs-Élysées. Arriving at the Arc de Triomphe, which after discovering how to reach it on its mysterious concrete island, we climbed to the top. Wow. The view and at sunset too, was amazing. I was taken a back by the sheer mass of the city and yet its perfect organization. From up high I was able to see the city in little pockets, with all the gears turning like the inner workings of a clock. So many lives were stirring and actions were happening that I could see, but not single out. It was wonderful. After viewing the Eiffel Tower from afar we ventured closer. Arriving just as it lit up for the first time in the evening. With my crepe in hand I smiled ear to ear. The tower twinkled and winked at me and all the lovebirds beneath it. After staring at the tower’s beauty for a while we wandered back to the metro and found our way to a French diner where I ordered a croque monsieur (grilled cheese with ham, French cuisine, however, it didn’t top my mom’s). On Sunday we rose with the sun again and wandered the old Jewish quarter, which was so quaint, I loved it and its falafel and baklava which are now definitely on my list of the top 5 best foods I’ve ever eaten. It was a day of food because after our falafel we ate macaroons and drank hot chocolate that was just that, melted chocolate, I mean really it tasted like a liquefied chocolate bar, it was amazing. We visited the exquisite opera house that reminded me of Versailles in some regards (my photos will demonstrate how). The ceiling was so beautiful, with artwork that was so different and much more ethereal than the rest of the structure’s theme. Lastly, we wandered past the Pompidou (modern art museum, that looks like a bunch of pipes on the exterior). All around that museum is the art district which is full of street art and funky shops. I loved it. Finally, it was time to return back to Italy. After (eventually) boarding the right train, we arrived at the airport and sat down on the plane that carried us back to the land of pasta.
Paris was an astonishingly powerful experience for me. My first trip, sort of solo, seeing a place that I have only dreamt about for a good majority of my life. After I got home, I called my parents to tell them all about how I felt there and what I saw. My dad led with this question: “why do you like Paris so much?”
It was a question that I could have easily answered with something like, “the monuments were so cool!” but instead I answered with a semi non-answer and shifted the conversation. Because in reality I have no idea why I loved it so much. It was a feeling I had when I saw those “cool” monuments and it was a feeling that I have been struggling to explain and identify. A feeling that I have experienced quite frequently since being abroad. I’ve already been asked quite a bit what my favorite experience has been or if I’ve done anything “awesome”, well all I can think to say is “I mean im in Italy haha…” this non-answer seems to get the general response of “oh yeah true!” Really though my answer is: everything I see is new, everything is exciting, it is hard to pinpoint one experience because I am blown away by all I see. I would have to say that little moments stand out to me only because of how I felt, that weird, happy feeling that I can’t describe to people. Maybe you’re reading this and know exactly what I’m talking about and maybe you’re reading this and are confused. I hope that you all get to have this feeling. It reminds me of a quote from Le Petit Prince, a French story fittingly, that I read in high school that is the title of this blog post.
Merci Paris for everything.
Now I’m off to Prague on Thursday!
Ciao for now!