“Before coming to Paris, I was starting to feel, or rather have felt for a while, like I lost my adaptability, my spontaneity. Things are so routine at home for me most days. And sometimes often times, I’ve found myself stuck in my ways. And I greatly dislike that feeling. I also think…that’s not the real me!!
Life is what comes at you. And what you make of each moment. I’ve felt like I haven’t made very much of what I’ve been given. I’ve taken a lot for granted. Maybe I’ve rolled with the punches, but I’ve whined about being punched in the first place.
But along comes Paris and ‘Hello, old girl!’I got lost on my first day. I found myself wandering in circles around the Paris Opera House and all of a sudden where I was going didn’t matter, cause look where I was! And hey, I saw more of the city that way, then I did from knowing exactly where I was going and making it there in one piece. Sure my pinkie toes are still busted from New Year’s Eve, but along comes over the counter Paris Advil and we’re back in business.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I guess what I’m trying to say is, my will is stronger over here, in a place I’ve never been, in a country where I don’t speak the language, when I’m on my own and lost, than it is when I’m comfortable and settled and home. Over here adaptability is my middle name. Over here I am Nomad, I am Wanderer, I am giving directions to lost Canadian tourists.
Hello, familiar feeling of being capable as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks!! I am much more capable than I give myself credit for in my every day life.
But…this is the challenge. To bring this spirit home with me. I need to find this version of me in my own backyard. I need to keep all this in my mind’s eye and in my heart’s memory and recall it every single day. I need to draw on this strength of character. And I don’t have to wonder if it’s there…I KNOW IT IS!
I know that the every day life needs to be tended to. Bills need to be paid, routines upheld, commitments fulfilled. But, oh yeah…Life is a grand adventure. I was starting to forget that or maybe I even made it all the way to ‘forgot.’
At the same time that I know I have a life back home worth living…I also know that I could be happy living life on the run.”
Interjection: All this existential life searching happened while I waited in a 3 hour line to get into the Palace of Versailles. It was cold and rainy and the line was discouraging at first. But then I put my headphones in, listened to The Greatest Showman and started writing and all of a sudden I was walking through the doors of the Palace!
“WOW! Versailles is the epitome of French to me. Walking through these palatial hall, I can’t imagine anyone, even a King, living here. One could get lost simply trying to find the closet.
What I can imagine, are the kinds of royal parties that must have been held here and in the gardens outside.
This was worth every freezing cold minute I spent standing in line this morning. I would love to come back and see these gardens in the Spring (I’ve added that to my to do list for when I return, and I will return!)
I opted not to have the audio guides as I walked through the Palace today. I’m sure they are illuminating. I’m sure they add a lot to the history and understanding of this place. But I have enjoyed using my own imagination and thoughts as I’ve wandered through these rooms.
Another banner day! Will Paris ever cease to amaze me? Probably not!!
I ended my Versailles day with dinner AND dessert crepes. Can you have too many crepes…the answer is no! Trust me! And a side of Rosé Cider.
“Today, it is simply perfect outside. A little bit on the windy side, but the skies are blue and the sun is shining. It’s Louvre day.
I find the Louvre to be rather overwhelming. My cousin Sterling did recommend a book she let me borrow that has the whole contents mapped out and well explained. But I preferred to just wander my way through this time around. When I return one day, (and I absolutely will return one day!) I’ll bring that book and make a concerted effort to seek out all the art, artifacts, antiquities, etc. that most intrigue me and hunt them down. A Louvre scavenger hunt…that’s what I’ll do next time!
Part of feeling a little “Meh” at the sight of the Mona Lisa stems purely from my overwhelming reaction to Monet’s Waterlillies. In comparison, I just have to say…the Mona Lisa didn’t do it for me. It’s not her fault that Monet so completely stole my heart the previous day!! But the response of the crowd…and boy, do the crowds respond to her, that made it very interesting to watch. People fought their way to the front of the line…just to find out that yes…she really does live there.
Throughout my Paris adventures…you’ll see plenty of photos taken by someone else. More on that later. But a quick note…some people get it right (pictured below) and some people don’t know what they’re doing. Hedge your bets and ask lots of different people. If you keep trying, eventually you’ll get one you like!
Look…I’m not shy about taking selfies! Especially when I’m by myself. Yep…I want a picture of myself in this magical place. And yep…I can probably do it better than a stranger passing by. So, yep…I’m taking selfies!!
I got a little Pain du Chocolat before leaving the museum and in line I met a charming man from Turkey who was an artist and was immediately drawn to me because of my bright hair. We chatted over our tea and Pain. He drew me a picture on his business card and requested that we stay in touch.
Next stop: Notre Dame. I walked over there and as I did, the skies continued to open and the day grew brighter and more picturesque!!
I had a mind to attend morning mass at Notre Dame today, since it’s Sunday, but I’m glad I skipped it. Catholicism really is not for me and listening to just a sliver of their afternoon service left me with the sense that sleeping in was the right choice for me today!
The Cathedral is as breathtaking as one could imagine. Outside it towers above you, tall and majestic. The inside is equally as gorgeous. Though I wondered to myself ‘how do people attend church in places like this?’
It feels too grand and monumental compared to my church at home. It seems too much of a landmark to be able to actually worship here. But perhaps that is putting a constraint on God that does not exist. He is as present here in this massive behemoth as he is in the most intimate chapels. So perhaps it’s merely me that can’t seem to connect to His spirit here. That’s not God’s fault at all!
While I was here, I added an extra stop on my pilgrimage (which you will hear more about in the next post.) I lit a candle for my Gran, who just passed away in August. And I lit one for Wally, my dear friend who was taken away, just months ago. I lit one for me and I lit one for the people dearest to both of them. And it was very powerful!
I stopped for some lunch right next to Notre Dame. I had my first glass of New Year’s Eve champagne!!
My waiter is quite the charmer and wanted to take a picture with me. I’m not sure if the maitre’d meant to take a selfie or just didn’t know how the camera worked, but this is the souvenir I went home with that day:
On my way to Saint Chapelle, I stumbled upon Pont Neuf…aka: one of the many (now that it’s so popular) Love Bridges…aka: the purpose of my emotional pilgrimage. Luckily, I thought to put my family’s ribbons in my purse this morning, just in case. I had no idea when I was going to find it, but here it is.
My pilgrimage was completed on New Year’s Eve. How perfect is that. But more on that later!!
Next stop: Saint Chapelle, a recommendation from my cousin, Sterling and her husband, Wesley. They preferred it to Notre Dame. And I have to say I agree, as far as the interior is concerned. There was a significant amount of construction happening around the exterior and the pure majesty of Notre Dame’s exterior is truly hard to beat.
But Saint Chapelle sure gave it the college try!
But the interior makes think of a line from the song ‘Maria’ in West Side Story: ‘…say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying.’
That is the best way I can accurately describe the differences in the 2 churches. Just blocks from one another. One is big and bold and makes you think of bright, loud music. The other is a whisper when you step inside. It’s intimate and close and I could just imagine…when you find God inside Saint Chapelle, He’s sitting on a bench. He looks up…sees you and He nods, beckoning you to come over and join Him. You tiptoe, as not to upset the quiet you find there. You take a seat and He speaks so softly and…’it’s almost like praying.’
After Saint Chapelle, I trekked it back to my little room at Libertel Gare du Nord Suede…Room 105 for a nap and a costume change. It was New Year’s Eve after all. And I had a date with a Tower…
Today was rather exhausting and I took a longer nap than planned, something that is becoming a habit over here. I rallied pretty quickly and changed clothes. It was finally time to break out my pretty, flowery dress and pointy-toed shoes. I don’t have that much walking planned for tonight, so they should serve me well. (I’ll do a whole blog about my Paris wardrobe…don’t worry!)
I have a date with a tall, sparkly tower named Eiffel and she will not be kept waiting.
I MEAN….anything I was dreaming of absolutely pales in comparison to how she shines! I’m so glad I saved her for tonight…on New Year’s Eve.
She and I will start the night off right. I’m trying to remember if I felt this way about Times Square when I first saw it, or the Statue of Liberty. I think I felt really close to this when I saw Niagara Falls for the first time. I am small and the world is so big. These wonders have been here long before I came around and will remain long after I’m gone. Generations have stood here and had their breath taken away…just like me right now.
Legacy is something that I have thought a lot about this year. What we bring into this world…what we leave behind. Do we leave it just as we found it? Or do we make our mark and change what we see for the better? The Eiffel Tower has me thinking more and more about Legacy. What is mine? I did not anticipate these to be the thoughts running through my head. But here they are, just the same.
Every hour, on the hour, she sparkles like a diamond. I stayed for 2 hours and watched her sparkly night show twice.
At the base of her, there was a little market with such things as mulled wine (Vin Chaud) and pretzels. Crepes and hot chocolate. Seeing as I had big plans to eat a fancy dinner somewhere later, I opted just for the hot wine.
I found a perch to drink my wine and watch my Tower (for tonight, she shines just for me!) I considered staying for a 3rd sparkly showing, that would make 3 hours of Eiffel Tower gazing, but leave it to some sleazy man to come and try to borrow a piece of my perfect night. I let him talk to me for a little while. He spoke no English and seemed harmless enough. I was surrounded by people and in no real danger. But he just kept talking and weaseling and when he Skyped a friend of his to show off the “Très Jolie American” he’d found…and when that friend texted him ‘She sleep white you?’ I was officially done. He showed me the text and I LAUGHED IN HIS FACE, to be quite honest with you!
Allow me the briefest moment to rant…This brassy, assy Frenchman merely called me beautiful. Is that all it takes these days? It’s the most basic thing you can do for a women, call her beautiful! Women are beautiful…this is simple fact! You don’t get props or sex for having eyes. AMIRIGHT?!!
Side Note: It has taken me years to feel like I deserved more than a sloppy compliment from a stranger or anyone else for that matter. And there’s no turning back now!!
Moving on…These shoes were a mistake for New Year’s Eve. While the soles of my feet are holding up just fine, it’s the pinky toes that are suffering the worst of it. This is what happens when you don’t plan for all contingencies. Such as, going off schedule and deciding to take in the New Year’s Eve shindig at the Champs Elysées. That was not part of my plan! In fact, it definitely was not originally on my master list, I just added it moments before diverging from my well thought out and perfectly formed original plan…which included the Eiffel Tower, a fancy dinner and then my warm, comfy bed.
As I wait for the big show to start (the posters said it began at 21h, only 30 minutes to go) I can’t help but laugh. Because in the 8 and a half years I lived in New York City, I never once stepped foot in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Wouldn’t be caught dead there, is more accurate. But I guess…when in Rome Paris.
As I wait for the big show to start (it did not start at 21h like the posters said it would) I am reminded why I never had an interest in Times Square, or any other event with 8 billion people in attendance, on New Year’s Eve.
As I wait for the big show to start (apparently it does not start at 21h 30 either…time is coming and going so slowly now) I have a very short Asian woman tucked in at my arm pit…and though I try moving around to dislodge her, she will not be deterred. There is a swarthy Frenchman right in front of my vaping with what smells like cotton candy.
I’m never eating cotton candy again!
As I wait for the big show to start (it has to be soon…right? It has to be soon! RIGHT??!!) I can’t help but be thankful that my toes are frozen, because that is helping with the pain. These shoes were a perfectly fine choice for what I originally planned. But as we all know now…I did not follow the plan. I went off script…off book…off the map. And now I am close to no longer owning pinkie toes. Though, it is the least useful of the toes…so I do suppose it could be much, much worse!
As I wait for the big show to…….IT’S STARTING!!!!!!!!!!!
Sometimes we do things because we feel obligated, we think we should be doing one thing when all we want is another thing altogether. There was no one around for me to disappoint. If I hadn’t gone to the Champs Elysées and had settled for my beloved sparkly tower to end the night, no one would have known the difference. But sometimes the person we are worried most about disappointing is ourselves. There was a younger, more outgoing (if you can imagine), bolder, more fascinating, more personable, more energetic me once. And perhaps it’s my younger, 20 something-self I was trying to keep up with.
Yes…it was the first and the last time I will ever do a big city shindig on New Year’s Eve. But I’m glad I did it, after all. It’s Paris. It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s the Champs Elysées and the Arc du Triomphe. It’s days after my 35th birthday. It simply had to happen! And, if I’m continuing to be honest with myself (and why stop now) that 20 year old really knew how to coordinate a night!”
“I woke up way too late today. Jet lag hit me harder than I was hoping. I slept till almost 10am and the whole morning was wasted. However…I feel very well rested, so maybe it was for the best.
Paris weather is a lot like Florida’s. It can’t decide if it wants to rain or shine. Right now…it’s landed somewhere between the two.
I stopped by the Louvre this morning, on my way to pick up my Paris Museum Pass and got some exterior pictures. How funny to be able to say “I stopped by the Louvre this morning.” Like that’s something so casually done by little old me. I found myself to be completely enchanted with the whole landscape of the grounds at the Louvre. I know the pyramids were traditionally frowned upon as not reflective of the architecture usually found in Paris, and while that’s probably true…they are truly magnificent to behold. As I saw them from afar, my heart started to race and the closer I got the more I knew that Paris was exactly where I belonged!!
My cousin Sterling and her husband, Wes, got me my pass for Christmas! Instead of a 4-day pass, I got 2 2-day passes. Because of the way New Year’s Day falls in the middle of my trip, I didn’t have 4 consecutive days to work with and I didn’t want to lose a whole day! It was a little more than just a 4-day, but I think it will end up being worth it!!
While searching the city for my Paris Museum Pass, (I purchased one online and had to pick it up…somewhere) I found myself a tad lost. Luckily, there were plenty of times where I’d let myself get “lost” in New York City when I lived there. The thing about big cities, for me, is they are surprisingly easy to navigate. So even getting “lost” doesn’t really mean being lost. Not when you have a map in your hand.
In the midst of my morning wandering, I found a little cafe where I could get my bearings and sit a while. From the moment I walked through the door, this gorgeous French cat made eyes with me and found in me a kindred friend. I sat down at a table by the window which was invitation enough for her (I’m assuming it was a girl cat, she was so pretty) to come join me. She hopped up on the chair next to me and kept me company as I looked at my map and reoriented myself for my day’s adventure.
She reminded me a little of my cat at home, Tom Hanks, and she kept me company at a moment when I most needed a friendly face! I’ve named her “Fille Française Hanks” which translates to French Girl Hanks! Here she is…
I have to make a confession to make. Before the Louvre and before finding the cafe where Fille Française Hanks lives, I stopped in at a Starbucks. I was in desperate need of caffeine and was walking in circles, when lo and behold…there was Starbucks like a shining beacon of just what I needed! So I went ahead and did it and you know what…I couldn’t even feel bad about it if I wanted to because it was just what I needed, right when I need it! And one should never feel bad about tiny, personal miracles!
I’m starting the day’s adventures off at Musêe D’Orsay. It’s the museum I’ve been most excited to visit. It has my beloved Impressionists.
I finally made it to D’Orsay, with my Starbucks tea in hand! My many trips to Disney World have well prepared me for waiting in seemingly terminable long lines. And the line at D’Orsay was at least an hour and a half wait if not more. But I had Spotify to keep me company. And with the right music playing, lines just don’t seem that long. I wish others could appreciate and try this little trick. I heard lots of complaining about the line happening in this line before I turned my volume up and tuned the negativity out. If everyone had a soundtrack playing as they waited, maybe they’d feel like they were in their own little musical. That’s how I feel! My biggest struggle right now, in this moment, is not breaking out into song! I’ve been listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack all day and it is putting me in the very best mood!!!
The entirety of D’Orsay was just as breathtaking as I imagined it to be…more so, even!”
Interjection: What follows is a noting of a lot of (not all, I chose a handful because the list ended up being more intensive than I anticipated, but I love art THAT much) the paintings that caught my eye in Musée D’Orsay. Here are some:
La Rue Montorgueil by Monet
Chemin montant dans le hautes herbes by Renoir
Régates à Argenteuil by Monet
One thing I discovered about myself is that I have no time for portraits. They are just not for me. I’d much rather get lost in an impressionist’s landscape or a gorgeously painted vase of flowers than some 17th century face. To each her own, and for me…the portraits were skipped over really quickly!
Vase de piroines sur piédouche by Manet
Le Bassin aux nymphéas, harmonic verte by Monet
There was a special Degas exhibit happening at the museum while I was there. Despite my dislike of most portraits, there’s something in the faces Degas draws that captures tue beauty and I find myself drawn to.
La Repasseuse by Degas
Degas’ dance sculptures are simply breathtaking. The way he captures the body in motion!!!
I like his blue dressed dancers the most.
I couldn’t leave without seeing the Van Gogh exhibit!
La Nuit Etoilée by Van Gogh
I could go on and on about the different pieces of art that captured my attention. There were quite a few. I knew I loved impressionism, I always have. But I was surprised to discover an interest in the Neo-Impressionists as well, like Henri-Edmond Cross and Maximilien Luce and Théo van Rysselberghe, to name a few. As well as finding a particular interest in the works of Toulouse-Lautrec.
After leaving D’Orsay, (I had to finally tear myself away) I headed to L’Orangerie where I heard there are more Monets waiting for me.
I walked into the museum with no idea what was waiting for me behind door number one. But I managed to capture the look on my face as I walked into the room and beheld the majestic site of Monet’s Waterlillies in all their glory…
And yeah….that thing I said about Monet’s Le Bassin stealing my heart from Monet’s Waterlillies…I was WAY OFF!!! I didn’t know what I was talking about. Having only ever seen Monet’s Waterlillies in pictures I just couldn’t imagine what breath-taking magic awaited me here.
The paintings cover entire walls. There’s a whole series of them and they wrap around you from room to room.
Waterlillies are most definitely my favorite paintings of Monet’s if not of all Impressionists…EVER!
Wow, wow, wow. I think I could sit in one of these rooms, just staring at these paintings for hours and hours. Probably long past closing time and one of those nice security guards would have to come remind me that I don’t in fact live in Monet’s painting.
How hard would it be to get one to take home and put on my wall? They probably frown on trying that!
With my hair painted these colors right now, with these greens and teals and blues, I feel as if I belong in a Monet painting myself. I feel just exactly like one of his Waterlillies!
So many thoughts went through my head as I beheld the magnificence of Waterlillies. It dwarfed all other exhibits in L’Orangerie. They had a whole exhibit on Dadaism which was fascinating. But Waterlillies capped this day off so well for me that I felt quite content rushing through the rest of the works available to see.
After tearing myself away from Waterlillies, I hit the gift shop and bought an obscenely long postcard of Waterlillies. Then, it was time for dinner.
AND wine and dessert!! Don’t forget about my Paris rule…always wine and dessert!!!
My first meal of the day, in fact. Walking around the city today, I definitely found myself too purpose minded to eat. I’ve been running on that one Starbucks, I had this morning, all day long. This is a rare occurrence for me.
As I was walking by the windows of Galeries Lafayette, after dinner, I heard the familiar sounds of the song “This is Me” from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman. The soundtrack of my trip to Paris. The soundtrack of my heart right now! I’ve been listening to it so much and humming it as I walk along, I just thought my mind was playing tricks on me. But as I turned around I was faced with these beautiful window displays the Galeries Lafayette had of costumes and props from the movie.
Right there…waiting just for me. It cemented the lyrics as my anthem for 2018!!
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me Look out ’cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me.”
You know what I’ve discovered…I don’t feel at all alone over here. Not just because this is a big city, full of people to see and interact with minute by minute. But also because I know so many people back home are watching for updates about my trip. That has added a level of fun that I didn’t expect to have. I mean, I love sharing my every day life with my online communities and interacting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But this trip…it certainly takes it to another level. Like they’re all here with me every minute.
I LOVE that feeling. It makes traveling by myself the farthest thing from lonely.
PS, I remembered to say Bon soir to my waiter tonight instead of idiotically muttering ‘Bonjour, Adios, Goodbye…Au Revoir.’ Good grief!! I’m trying…that’s something!”
But I’ll bet you’re wondering what I got up to when I finally made it over there.
Before I even left for Paris, I created a very tentative list of things I wanted to do, along with a vague outline of when I might cross each thing off my list. Traveling with a strict schedule is just not how I do things. I wanted to leave a lot of space to change my mind, add new things to the list and choose days I thought would be best for each item.
Here’s the Master List:
I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at about 1:30pm on Friday afternoon, December 29th. I opted to rely on wifi in places and turn my phone on airport mode to avoid roaming charges while in Paris. This meant that simple tools like my GPS and the internet were not available to me, except when I was in my hotel or at a cafe that had wifi. It also meant that I had to rely on my scrappy travel skills (of which I have many!)
An excerpt from my travel journal upon arriving in Paris after finding my way to my hotel:
“Finding my bearings in Paris makes me feel like it’s my first time in New York City all over again. There’s a feeling that I truly have no clue where I’m going or what I’m doing. I don’t speak this language and maybe I’ve been out of the big city game for too long.
But, there’s also the absolute knowledge and confidence that I am capable of mastering this. Flying solo can be a little scary initially, but also exciting and energizing! I’d forgotten that feeling. It’s not something I feel very often in Winter Park, Florida.
On the plane, I sat next to Max, a very kind, young guy, probably a bit younger than me in age if not in spirit. He gave me some recommendations and we shared laughs throughout the flight. I was reminded that there are new friends waiting around every corner, if you’re open enough to look for them. Brave enough to talk to them.”
Interjection: This was the start of a flood of writing that began the moment I landed in Paris and has not stopped since I’ve returned home! And I was certainly grateful to be reintroduced to the writer in me, all over again!
“My hotel, Libertel Gare du Nord Suede on Boulevard Magenta in the 10th Arrondissement, is so charming and tiny. It’s the absolute perfect size for me and my solo adventures! It’s cozy and has the right number of hangars for the Paris wardrobe I brought with me. More than just coincidence, I think!
I laid down to take a quick 30 minute cat nap, here on Day 1 of my adventure, and woke up an hour and a half later than anticipated. Apparently my body had other plans. Once I finally woke up, I felt rested and ready to walk and see and EAT. Above all…EAT!!
Interjection: I just sat down to my first dinner in Paris and I’m implementing a new rule…wine and dessert will be ordered at every meal! No exceptions!
My neighborhood is charming! I think I’ll be using that word a lot in Paris. There’s a lot to see. Plenty of hustle and bustle and I find it surprisingly easy to navigate, given the language barrier. As I took the opportunity to get the lay of the land in my Arrondissement, I passed my hotel 3 separate times without meaning to. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding my way around. It really does feel somehow like I’m back in New York, but maybe all big cities have this energy and I’ve just forgotten what it felt like.
Also…I feel like I’ve found a familiar part of myself, long forgotten and abandoned.