David Bowie flew down to greet my plane at CDG Paris. He sang a song about terminals and on-going construction and the CDG-Val train. Then he flew away with some kind of maniacal laugh, freeing the way for me to see the Labyrinth ahead.
I flew from Portland, to Iceland, to Paris. It took fourteen hours. When I arrived, disheveled and tired and jetlagged, I made my way through the maze to the babe. My patient boyfriend, who had arrived hours before me.
Putting our feet in the fountains.
We took the RER and the metro to our first air bnb, hosted by a girl named Clara. I never saw her so I made the assumption she was off making Soufflé. It was a spacious one bedroom with wood floors and a view directly to Les Invalides, where Napoleons little tomb rests. We went to musee d’Orsay and then I came home, took a bath, watched that episode of Doctor Who, cried a little.
The first week I walked blisters into my feet so large that I had to pop them with the end of my calligraphy nib. New blisters formed on top. I had to walk on the sides of my feet which then bruised. The water in Paris is so hard that my hair brush wouldn’t go through and I had to quickly throw it up wet in a bun to maintain any pride.
Then my skin freckled. My blisters turned into rocks. My messy bun became chic. I don’t know how it happened, but I acclimated. I didn’t care about wearing makeup or if I’d already worn that shirt the day before. I think my feet might have hurt from the walking but the pain was dulled by the sights.
A few souvenirs.
Bread so fresh that it’s morally required for you to bite into it the moment you buy it. A cold coca cola on a day so blisteringly hot you feel that your pores are leaking little bits of your soul. Men and women speak quickly on steps, looking into their phones, and I wonder if they’re numb to the fact that they’re sitting on the steps of the Louvre. If they look up as they pass the Eiffel Tower. Do they ever go see Monet just because they can? (We’ve decided we’re getting museum passes for Portland, because we should be able to see Monet whenever we want, too.)
The coffee is atrocious but we order cafe cremes and we drink them for the entirety of our 18 day visit. Sometimes they taste smooth and creamy with a deep, rich espresso. Sometimes they taste like water with a bit of grounds. We knock them back and dash to our next adventure. The gardens of Versailles. Beer at the corner cafe. A whole bottle of wine from the market. Fresh straw hats at Giverny and Monets Garden. Driving into the depths of nowhere in the Loire Valley. Pressing my hands in the sand at Omaha Beach.
I have just a few goals for this trip: don’t document everything, just enjoy it. Don’t feel pressured to do everything, because you never will. We spend three hours in a park just sitting there with our luggage, reading books we bought at Shakespeare and Co. It’s sunny outside and my legs burn in a peculiar way. We get to see the park move past us in a montage of Parisian mid-week spirit. We do all the tourist stuff in great fashion, stopping in the trinket store to buy a little eiffel tower, a snow globe.
Our second air bnb is so small that we lose the floor as soon as our luggage rolls in. The bed is a couch that eats 90% of the room. In the Loire Valley, we stay with a sweet couple who speaks no English. They eagerly offer us biere and we sit on their patio while their cat Jojo (Georges) serenades us. In the morning they prepare us breakfast. Breads, fresh jams, pastries, coffee, juice, tea. There is no sound in the Loire Valley but silence, and the distant shattering of the stars.
Paris by night.
When we have to leave, we know it will feel good to be home. It’s like we’ve written all of our feelings in a notebook and hid it under our bed. Paris while be there when we come looking for it again, with all those same feelings just right there, whenever we want them.