I’m back now from Paris. Yesterday’s trip was a bit of an adventure…although, adventure implies some sense of thrill, so maybe a more appropriate word is “process”. We made it from De Gaulle to Newark on time, yet were greeted with a cancelled flight to Burlington. Due to weather across the country we weren’t offered another plane until late that evening. So the group reached an agreement to rent a car and drive home, tacking on another 6 hours of travel time to our trip. A few bathroom stops and a stop by a cop later we were back at the airport. I was the one stopped for speeding. Fortunately I found and opportunity to describe our situation and was let off by the cop.
Anyway, it’s always nice to be home, but it was a bit sad leaving Paris because I had such a great time. I know I’ll return again some day..Seeing my friend Phil was really the highlight of my stay there. I spent two days with Phil and his friends and one day with my mom. I did the tourist things: Saw the Siene, Notre Dame, the Louvre and the bridge covered with locks binding the “love” between romantic partners. I walked the bridge later with Phil and he suggested there should be lights indicating whether the relationship (symbolized by the lock) is still alive. We both guessed maybe 20-30 percent of the relationships remained, no more. After all, the locks are most likely put on there by new couples caught up in the romance of Paris or just doing that thing everyone does. Near the bridge were “lock peddlers” hustling locks for money. I imagine they do reasonably well, considering that the bridge was empty of locks 3 years ago, and now it’s beyond full.
Besides the bridge of love, as I’ll call it, Notre Dame blew me away. I’m not a christian nor do I feel any strong connection to the religion, but I felt a power in that church. I guess all the years of worship, deep belief and respect brought into that space by visitors and clergy accumulates in a strong healing energy. I felt, sitting there, that it wasn’t only us humans in the room, but that angels lingered as well. It’s a really moving environment with an enormously high ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows. I thought of taking pictures inside but decided not to because it’s a violation of the rules. The rules, to most, didn’t seem to apply…everyone was snapping photos, selfies, posing, what have you. I decided it felt disrespectful in that type of space to break the rule so I kept my camera off. Sitting there, however, in the wooden seat, listening to organ music was such a calming point of rest for me during my trip.
I also found peace visiting the Paris cafes. There I often ordered cappuccinos or cafe’s with maybe a side of a pastry or bread treat. I went to cafes by myself, with my mom and with Phil and his friends. In Paris, cafe’s are a huge part of socializing just like Seoul. It’s not necessarily cheap but all the coffee I had was great. I enjoy that aspect of Paris living..it’s sophisticated and classy. I can feel the up-tightness a bit too but I appreciate the sophistication of the city.
My favorite experience of the whole trip. however, was eating dinner with Phil and his friend Julius in his apartment. We met early in the night and went shopping at a nearby grocery store for bread, pate, wine, cheese and ingredients for the zucchini risotto. Then arriving back, I chopped vegetables while drinking a beer with Julius while Phil started cooking our meal. Julius and I talked for a while about all sorts of things, over olives, baguette and cheese. I could feel my ignorance about European culture the more we talked. Both Phil and Julius grew up in Munich, Germany and moved around the same time 2 years ago, Phil to Paris and Julius to London. They taught me that the 6th is Saint Nicholas day, a day to celebrate his life and fill up the stockings. I also learned that the common christmas tree is a fur, the lesser variety being a spruce. This should be common sense for me as an american, but honestly I’m not a detail focused person. I’d like to change that a bit. Well…we ate, talked, joked, watched some you tube videos and shared two bottles of wine.
Outside we could see the light from one window in an apartment across from Phil’s. Everything else was black. I hadn’t thought about this before, but Phil told me all about Paris’ housing shortage. According to him, there’s a housing problem in Paris due to people like Woody Allen buying apartments there then only showing up for a week each year. Basically, wealthy people buy these apartments in “romantic” Paris and make it a special visit each year. The problem is, they’re wasting space that could be used by people who live in the city full time, or at least for a much larger portion of the year than 1 week. Besides this and partly because of this, prices are pretty high in Paris, and rooms are small. Phil’s apartment was tiny..granted, I still loved it. The shower is in the kitchen and the only other room is a small room for a bed. This space was big, however, compared to one of Phil’s friends who’s living in a small room with a curtain dividing her space from her roommates. As glorious a city as Paris may appear to people outside, it does not sound like the easiest city to live in.
Well, I ended my night with Phil and Julius finding my way home drunkenly to the hotel on the Paris metro. I said my goodbyes and now I’m settled back in Vermont. I enjoyed Paris so much that I’d like to return whenever I next have a chance, to see Phil again and experience more of the city.