The thing about Paris...
So more people have been asking about my trip to Paris... "How WAS it?" they ask.
I could answer like a normal person, show photos and say "We went to the Eiffel Tower at night and it was bitterly cold and raining, and we were next to a group of loud foreign men who smelled like garlic and salami for an hour and I was so nervous going up in the elevator that I could hardly look out" - which would be true.
I could tell you that I nicknamed this my "peepee around Paris tour" as I was pregnant and always looking for a bathroom, and tell you about how I waited for almost 30 minutes once outside at a public toilet. I could tell you about how I also considered it a stairclimber workout as I was always climbing steps!
But no, me being me, I have to get all deep and reflective and tell you about my soul's journey in Paris instead.
It's a funny thing. Going somewhere you've always dreamed of going, going to a place that's resonated with your soul for so long. You see, my secret is this. I was afraid. I was afraid I would SO fall in love with Paris that I would never want to leave. I was afraid that somehow it would resonate deep in my soul, with some knowledge of homecoming that I seem to always have been looking for (a topic for another day).
Have you ever known anyone who's fallen in love with a place or an adventure? The person who bought a coffee plantation in Hawaii and now eats mangoes from their own backyard. The person who moved to Savannah and opened a cupcake shop? The person who travelled around the world for a year? (Oh wait, that's a movie.) Anyway. There are those people out there who get bitten by some bug, carried away by a dream, or maybe just bold and rash enough to follow dreams the rest of us sit on.
And I was afraid I might be one of them. Not that I wanted to be. This is hardly a convenient time to have an inconvenient dream. So it was with some relief that I realized that Paris didn't feel like home.
There were so many things I loved about Paris.
The architecture, the way a shuttered window and balcony could be so elegant. Cobbled streets. Cafes with their woven chairs. Patisseries and boulangeries and fromageries and tea shops. Epic monuments steeped in history. The seemingly endless number of things to do. Gorgeous saturated colors - cobalt, emerald, teal, ruby, glossy black. The parks. Watching boats while walking along the Seine lined with golden-leafed trees. Versailles, where I wish I could go on a sunny fall day and spend the afternoon picnicking on the grounds and riding bikes.
But there were disappointments too.
I have long been told of the superiority of the French, not to mention the Parisians, when it comes to matters of style. And I will confess to being a little disappointed (although not exactly surprised), at how ordinary Parisian style was. With the exception of a few standouts, they looked just how I might expect urban dwellers to look here - jeans, boots, winter coat and scarf - this is the uniform. I don't know if the chic reputation of France has been diminished by modern culture, or if it's always been overhyped, but this is what I saw.
Like so many large cities, I often felt jostled, crowded, rushed. And while the metro eased the pain in my feet, it added to this feeling of being too closed in. After days of tourist activities, long lines, getting lost, not communicating well, feet aches, back aches, being sneezed on, and sneezing back, what I most wanted was home. My home.
There was something so amazing, about finally acting on a dream - a sense of fulfillment, of closure. And yet I walked away with something more, something else, a glimpse that maybe what I'm really longing for isn't something or some place outside of myself, but what I already have inside me. I don't need to be somewhere else to fully experience that, to bring it to life. Who I am, I carry that with me. The things I love about Paris, I carry with me. And I always have. Maybe the fulfillment of a dream is not as important as having it in the first place.
I hope to travel much more in my life, but this trip confirmed something I already suspected - I'm not one of those people who LIVES to travel. The little moments of my life make everyday enjoyable and precious to me - travel is just an exciting and rare punctuation to the everyday, and I'm okay with that.
The last day we were in Paris was utterly gorgeous. Sunny. Almost warm. We picked out some pastries from Stohrer's, the oldest patisserie in Paris that sits on Rue Montorgeuil and then we went for a walk along the Seine and found a spot to sit and have a luxuriant picnic. It was the best lemon tart ever.
Au revoir, Paris!