“It’s my last full day in Paris. I’ll have some time in the morning tomorrow before I have to get to the airport, but this is it. And I just don’t want to leave! Forever may not be long enough for me and Paris and 7 days certainly hasn’t been.
I’m sure I miss home on some level, but right now it’s really deep, deep down. That familiar feeling of knowing I could be ok on my own for the rest of my life creeps in in moments like this. I’m sure it isn’t true. But today, it feels a little bit true.
I’m back at the Eiffel Tower this morning. I wanted to see her in the daylight too! It’s funny, this whole area from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc du Triomphe felt so much farther apart on New Year’s Eve. Goes to show you what a difference proper footwear can make!!
The Eiffel Tower is absolutely magical (there’s that word again) in the daytime too! I could just sit and stare at her all day long, all over again! I opted not to go up her. The line is really long and I want to save some things for when I return one day (and I will return one day!)
Instead of going up the Eiffel Tower, I think I’m going to go up the Arc du Triomphe instead. After all, I’d rather see Eiffel in my bird’s eye view!
From the top of the Arc du Triomphe…WOW, what a view! Highly recommended! Of course, it was sunny before I went up, rainy when I got to the top and perfectly sunny when I got back down to the bottom. It was like a time machine…an entirely different day was waiting for me at the top.
The Arc is also a sight I’m glad I’m seeing in the light of day, with the blue skies flanking it and the sun shining brightly. I’m glad I came back for both Eiffel and the Arc in the daytime!
And now lunch.
A rather late lunch. I don’t know why I keep waiting till I’m faint with hunger to actually eat. I think I’m just so eager to soak it all in that eating occurs to me later than my stomach would prefer.
For lunch…Ravioli des Fromage…extra Fromage! And Vin Rouge (don’t forget my one rule!!)
I’ve been eating only 1 or 2 meals a day and I actually have enjoyed this practice. I don’t feel weighed down by heavy breads and cheeses as I’m touring the city and walking my ass off (LITERALLY.) If I need an extra snack here and there, pain du chocolat and macarons do the trick nicely! But saving real meals for nicer sit down places, where I can really delve into their menus and order food, wine and dessert has been delightful. And monetarily, it’s working for me too!
I stopped at Ladurée for macarons, macarons, more macarons and a freaking magical cheesecake. I’m taking them all to go and will save them for later.
Ok…I LOVE Montmarte Village!! So many little shops! This was a suggestion from a friend back home (thanks Shirley!) and boy does she know me well! This is my place! In fact, I daresay, this is actually my favorite place in all of Paris!
Bonus…I got to see the Moulin Rouge. And yes…I sang as I approached it! I couldn’t help myself!! I would have loved to take in a show at La Moulin, but I think I’ll add that to the growing list of ‘Next Time I’m Here.’
I spent hours just walking up and down these cobble stone streets tonight. And it’s settled! I’m coming back here tomorrow. My flight doesn’t leave till 4:30pm. I already asked and the hotel is able to hold my bags for me, leaving the morning wide open for more shopping and exploring. Plus Sacré-Coeur deserves to be seen in daylight just like Eiffel and Arc!! (Like they’re all people and those are their names. But that’s sort of how I feel about these monuments. Like they are living, breathing parts of Paris. With names and feelings and everything! Friends that soon I’ll have to leave behind.)
I really haven’t had the chance or taken the chance to do much shopping in Paris till today. I’ve been single-minded in my purpose and today in Montmarte I was actually able to think of people back home and get some treats for them. But I know there are more treasures to be found when I come back tomorrow!
And for now, I’m heading back to little room 105 to eat my desserts and survey all the treasures I’ve bought today.
2017 was challenging for me, to say the very least.
Not only did my Granny pass away at the ripe old age of 96 years old, after a long battle with illness, but a dear friend from church was murdered in cold blood…senselessly, carelessly, confusingly.
It’s something that I’ve spent the majority of the past few months wrestling with. And something that has caused many a night of sleeping on tear-soaked pillow cases.
One night in particular, I was beating myself up about my grief. “Why can’t I move on?” I asked my cousin Sterling. She gently told me that what was happening to me emotionally seemed to be what I needed most, even if it wasn’t what I wanted! She suggested I give myself until Paris and to not even think about being hard on myself about my grief for one single, solitary minute…no, longer than a minute, months and months of forgiveness, even!
Murder is a heavy thing to deal with. Death is not something you get over in a day. Is there a time that can be devoted to “getting over it?” She thought NO and she is one of the smartest people I know, so I thought it best to agree with her. I let her clear-headedness and discernment guide me in a time when I could not rely on my own.
She also suggested that when I got to Paris, that I could try to do something symbolic, something that would release this emotion into the universe and let it go like a balloon on the back of the wind.
I resolved to take a ribbon to Pont Neuf (one of the many Love Bridges…not the original.) You may have heard about it and the locks that people flock there to lock onto the bridge in the name of LOVE.
Between the time of Wally’s murder and my trip to Paris, another thing happened. A secret emerged that really changed a lot of things for me. Something I can’t and won’t share. But what you need to know is that I was angry about it! Truly, deeply angry. An anger I don’t know that I’ve ever felt was constantly bubbling inside me, threatening to burn me up and leave nothing behind.
So, I made a vow to release this anger as well on the bridge and I offered the same to my family members who might be feeling sadness or anger of their own about this secret, about Wally’s murder, about the death of our Granny. All of these were big things to wrestle with and I wasn’t alone in needing a gesture to symbolize a new year.
What started as a small gesture turned into an emotional pilgrimage.
I wasn’t sure which day I would end up at the Love Bridge, so I kept my little ziploc baggie full of my family’s tokens, with me at all times. In case I happened upon it when I wasn’t expecting to be there, I wanted to be ready.
I wasn’t prepared for it when it happened. I stumbled upon the bridge somewhere between Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle on Day 3 of my adventure. How interesting it was to find the most touching moment between me and God and have it not be in either of the churches I’d stepped in that day, but rather outside on a bridge full of locks. God met me there.
As I tied each ribbon on, I let go of what I was holding onto.
I symbolically let go of what each family member who’d taken me up on my pilgrimage was holding on to.
And when I walked off that bridge after fulfilling my mission…I felt lighter, like a burden had been lifted. I felt lighter, like a darkness had receded. I felt lighter, like a candle had been lit. I felt lighter, like the souls of those I came to honor.
On this, the Eve of a New Year, as I prepared to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018 with open arms, I let it all go. I forgave the secrets that had hurt me personally. I accepted hard truths about the world that I had been either unwilling or unable to accept. I remembered that these emotions, these big mountains cannot be climbed or healed by big symbolic gestures alone. Rather, the practice of forgiveness is something to consider each and every single day. Some days harder, some days easier.
The journey I took travels forward with me as I walk off this bridge and into the future that awaits me. The ribbons I tie here for me and my family…they stay, but we walk forward…lighter, better, bolder, brighter!
I think it’s fitting that I chose the word “Bright” as my word for 2018, because with this weight lifted from my shoulders…forgiven, not forgotten, I sure do feel Bright!
“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!”
One year ago, almost to the day, I gave up weighing myself. It was as much a gift to my mind as it was to my body. Contrary to what you might think, the devil does not live in the details. He lives in the numbers! Especially when it comes to a woman’s weight.
And as vigilant as I try to be on a daily basis, when I was in Paris I said “Screw it!” This trip was about enjoyment and about celebration. Joy has no patience for calorie counting in a foreign country and a modern day fairytale of my own making.
So weights and scales and eating “right” was not on my radar at all. Imagine my surprise, when I weighed myself on a whim at my parent’s house, after returning from Paris and finding out I’d lost 5 pounds. How could this be? I ate foods that were heavy in cream and cheese. I ate a plentiful amount of bread every single day. And dessert? I had that after every single meal, not to mention a generous amount of wine to go with it.
The way I ate in France was not indicative of someone who had lost weight. Sure, I’d averaged about 20,000 steps a day in Paris and that had to account for some of it. But believe me when I say, I ATE while I was over there. I assumed it would all even out. I never thought it would leave me with a pleasant amount of lost weight.
But here’s the secret…bon appétit, in French, means “enjoy your meal.” And that’s just what the French people do. Other European countries like Spain and Italy subscribe to this notion of enjoyment as well! Food is not something to be scarfed down as we run from thing to thing, never stopping to savor. It is literally meant to be enjoyed to the fullest.
As I sat in a little cafe for dinner, my first night in Paris, I looked around and noticed people taking their time with their meals. Bills weren’t brought to rush people out. Waiters gave each table the space needed to truly savor the moments in between bites. And I absorbed this tempo immediately upon my arrival. I indulged in 3 course meals and stayed an extra 30, 40, 50 minutes sometimes. I read my book while I ate and I wrote in my journal. Every waiter knew at least 3 things about my life by the time my meal had ended and we parted ways better for having shared a little company.
I wish I could say this would continue in me forever! I know that it won’t. Because I do move from thing to thing with the frantic nature of an American dreamer. But…from now on, when I sit down to a true meal, I will truly strive to inject the French spirit of “bon appétit” into dinner time and breakfast and the occasional lunch (that happens to be the meal I most often rush through in order to get things done.)
I think that food eaten out of pure enjoyment and true contentment gets digested very differently than food consumed out of utter necessity or carelessness. I’m no scientist, I only know what my body tells me. And it told me quite a story when I returned home from Paris, down 5 pounds and feeling happier and lighter than I have in years.
Some things are meant to be felt with our hearts, to the tips of our fingers and our crafty, analytical little minds only manage to get in the way. Trust your body. Trust your instincts! And pick one meal this week and add an extra 30 minutes onto the time you spend with it. Eat out of pure joy and see if it makes a difference! Take a little France into your mealtimes…I brought some back just for you!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl surrounded by her bestest of friends is the happiest of people. UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. And I’m not talking about your run of the mill acquaintance here…I’m talking deep, unfailing friendship.
The kind of friends that tell you “Those shorts do not work with your ass.” They tell you “No, no, no the bangs look great with your face, you’re overthinking it.” They tell you “He is not worth your tears, girl. Save ’em for a better man!”
These are the friends that will stand the test of time. When other friends fade away…they will remain. I am blessed to have a handful of these “Forever Friends.” And last month I got to spend a weekend in Miami with two such gemstones. Check it out…
There were a lot of options going into Ladies Weekend 2017. Last year (Ladies Weekend 2016) we ended up in sunny Orlando, Florida. Home of the happiest place on Earth, Hogwarts and yours truly. And we had a blast, check it out. So…the bar was pretty high. We waffled between New Orleans, Las Vegas, Mexico and even Paris made an appearance as a viable option, given that flights were only $400 round trip when we were looking. But in the end we decided to hit up Cristina’s home town…Miami! Another sunny vacation…not too shabby.
I’ve mentioned this to you before, blog readers, but I am a summer girl!! 100%. All the way! The thought of spending a vacation anywhere where the temperature might drop below 75…no thank you! (Talk to me next year when we hit London for Ladies Weekend 2018.)
Cristina is the planner of the group. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love planning too, but we are very different sort of planners and this was her hometown, so the agenda was all hers with some input from Erin and I. But it’s best to visit a town with a local. You can see all the cool spots you might miss if you are doing the tourist thing. So Cristina hooked us up with a home cooked meal at her childhood home. (Dad makes a mean sangria!!)
We also hit Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and of course… SOUTH BEACH!! Erin’s mother-in-law got us a SICK deal on a casita (way better than a cabana) at The Diplomat and let me tell you something, we felt like Queens! We had a personal server and about 5 other employees that made the rounds to check on us throughout the day (Thanks Leo, Cassandra, Jeff, Josh and Danny!) We ordered drinks and fancy lunch and swam and laid in the sun. This is the best way to spend any day, I am convinced. And a day spent like this in the presence of beautiful friends…well that’s where the Paradise Found part comes in!!
Yeah…we did a bunch of other stuff. We went to Cristina’s home church on Sunday. We did little photo shoots for an upcoming blog project I have in the works. We made a pilgrimage to Instagram mecca, aka Wynwood Walls. We ate ALL THE FOOD!! We even tried to hit up South Beach’s night life, but the weekend proved too strong for our dance moves and we tuckered out at around 11:45pm and hit the hay instead of the dance floor. (Don’t even think of calling us old…the sun took it out of us! I blame the sun!)
All in all, there were so many things that made it a perfect weekend, but the thing that will stay with me is hanging with my squad for a full 3 days. We each live in a different state these days and quality time is hard to come by. We do our best with phone calls, Google Chat, texting, Snapchat (life saver), Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But who are we kidding…it’s never going to be enough. Our lives have us moving in circles far from the ones we moved in when we lived in New York together and tore the town upside down whenever possible.
Does our current reality diminish what was? Of course not. I think it just serves to make those shining moments of “togetherness time” shine a little bit brighter and causes us to hold onto the new moments we create a little big tighter.
See you in London next February, my beautiful friends!!