This is my last real day in Paris. Tomorrow I'll start backpacking across Europe for a month and a half on my grand adventure.
First, I'm flying to Porto, then going to Lisbon by train, and then catching a ride to Seville by car share. I'll be alone for the first week of my trip before meeting up with my boyfriend in the French Riviera. After a day or two, we'll join our friend for a tour of Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands before splitting off. Then it's Prague (for our anniversary!), Berlin, Paris, and Italy. Then the boyfriend leaves, and I join my cousin in Greece – Athens and Mykonos – for a weekend. We then meet up with my mom in Paris, and my mom and I spend a week touring Morocco before heading back to the States.
Yes. It's going to a whirlwind of an adventure – exhausting and beautiful all at once. My brand new hiking backpack is all packed and ready to go – packing containers, travel towel, the works.
Even though I'll return to Paris for about a week in May, it won't be the same. When I come back, it'll be as a tour guide and not as me living my daily life by myself and struggling moment to moment– fumbling around for the right words, trying to set up a bank account (just give up trust me), getting lost…
My life here hasn't been easy, but I love the experience for making me better. The struggle does get tiring after awhile though, and I'm ready to come home. I know that I have grown immensely as a person, so before I leave I want to reflect on all that I've learned and felt these past few months. Paris has been too rich and impactful of an experience not to deserve deep reflection, and I'm scared that I'll forget things after my tour of Europe.
Paris for me these past few weeks has been beautiful. Paris in the spring is a Paris that I can feel with all of my being. I feel sunshine on my skin and the chill of spring mornings. I see cherry blossoms and the monochromatic landscape before me come to life – people filling the streets and shaking off their winter blues. I hear the constant soundtrack of a city on the move grow louder as the sun shines brighter, and I roam the streets breathing in the faint smell of my new brown leather jacket. And I find it all so beautiful. It's bittersweet that I'm leaving now as Paris is opening up to me. Like my roommate said, Paris is finally charming us, and we're falling in love with it just as we're about to leave.
In Paris, I'm definitely a bit of a loner and hang out with the same 2-3 people every week. But that's the Parisian way, right? And I can say that solitude in the sunshine and solitude in my room shut up from the rain and cold are two very different experiences. These past few weeks have consisted of me crossing things off my Paris bucket list, and, because the weather has been amazing, I've thoroughly enjoyed walking and biking (finally!) all over the city. Biking through Paris, instead of alway going underground to take the metro, allows me to see the city in a new light – pun semi-intended. I get to get lost through cobblestone streets and find quaint boutiques and tons of patisseries. Somehow, I've managed to stumble upon almost every patisserie that my French cousin recommended me – all in the past two weeks.
Here are some things that I've gotten to do recently.
- Discovered the Grande Épicerie of Le Bon Marché. It's like a Whole Foods on steroids! Organic artisanal steroids of course… but steroids.
- Valently scavenged through the thrift shops in Le Marais.
- Finally tried Chipotle in France! It was as good if not better than in the States.
- Lay in the grass in a random park I found in the outskirts of Paris – listening to music as people picnicked and played soccer around me.
- Felt moved at a concert (JMSN's!). I told him my soul felt nourished after his performance.
- Experienced modern art at the Centre Pompidou, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and Palais de Tokyo.
- Went to the Monet Museum and almost cried. Monet has been one of my favorite artists since I was a little girl, and seeing his work in person was… wow.
- Bought a badass leather jacket and new Nike sneakers (finally after 6 years…)
- Saw Gustav Klimt's work at the Pinacothèque – another one of my favorites.
Most of my time has been spent wandering through museums, and that's something I wished I could have done sooner – especially modern art museums. Not to bash on the Louvre, but the atmosphere there is always crowded and stressful. It doesn't allow one to feel engage with the art – especially when the works are already subdued. At the end of the day, the Louvre is a historical archive that documents the past and doesn't directly comment on the present. And I think that is what draws me to modern art – art that also serves as commentary on society or the mind of the artist. Art that is difficult, sometimes provocative, and challenging to understand or accept.
I'm so glad that I've been exposed to that recently. My head has been filled with new artistic ideas and Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Which my the way, it a great book. I read it for the simple reason that it was an American classic, but I didn't realize how similar Kerouac would be to F. Scott Fitzgerald, a favorite of mine. Both write in a way that is poetic, visceral, and tinged with restlessness and disillusionment. I love that.
Leaving Paris, there are certain experiences that I'm going to miss. First and foremost, I'm going to miss speaking French. It has been exhausting and humbling, but I finally feel like I've grasped the language. It comes more naturally and smoothly now, and I don't have to try so hard. French is a very precise and visual language, and there are certain words and expressions that I'll miss hearing. For example, the word for something as mundane as dressing room is "cabine d'essayage" which literally translates to cabin of trying-on-ness. I think it's lovely. Also, I think every language we speak holds a piece of our identity, and I'm going to miss the parts of myself that I discovered and have gotten to know in French.
Other small moments that I'll miss include walking the familiar cul-de-sac of my apartment, hanging out with my musician friends as they make music, taking the metro tipsy at night and feeling on top of the world, reading Kerouac on a balcony of the street where famous artists and writers use to live and create, feeling tired and strong after my MMA class, seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle right on the hour… So many memories I know will hit me at random moments when I'm back home.
For me, my experience in Paris can be summarized by a French expression that a friend taught me yesterday.
It was grand.