Paris is magic.
The gardens. The food. The cobbled streets. The tall, attractive men, who are everywhere. The bread. The cheese. The butter. The food. The bread. The Cheese. THE CHEESE.
Oh, the cheese.
I don’t know what they do to French cows. Play them classical music? deep-tissue massages? lavish them with compliments?
Whatever it is, IT’S WORKING.
I arrived Saturday evening and felt pretty good coming off the plane, and even heading to Vic’s I chattered ambitiously about walking up to the Sacre Coeur that evening. After an hour on the train/metro, we reached her apartment, and these:
which brought an abrupt end to my willingness to move around anywhere, at all, that night.
I will say it’s not always easy to feel secure living as a single girl in a foreign city, but those stairs are an automatic security system. It would be a dedicated thief who would break into the outer building, cross the courtyard to the inner door, climb 500,000 stairs of increasing steepness, navigate myriad hallways, and cut through two 2-inch deadbolts and a latch, and then climb down the winding stairs with his spoils. Should that thief exist, I should almost have to concede he’d earned whatever he took. Poor guy.
There is barely room in Vic’s apartment for both of us and my suitcases, but we made do (thanks to high ceilings and pretty darn good storage). The bathroom is about the size of a kennel, and the kitchen sink is three inches deep, but the futon bed was wide enough to share without kicking, and the two ivy-fringed windows face west (into some trendy-looking offices. I wanted to make signs introducing Victoria to them, but she wouldn’t let me 😦 ).
Thanks to jet lag I was asleep before midnight all but two of my nights there, which is pretty miraculous. Bonus: I generally awoke VERY ALERT around 6-7 am. Here is a thing about the lovely Vic: she is not, nor shall she e’er be, a morning person. Non-morning people tend to hate me, which is unfortunate, because I LOVE them. They are a never-ending source of entertainment. Cruel, cruel entertainment.
I caught my first sight of this lady Sunday morning on a blowzy pre-church walk all around the 6th arrondissement (which is French for administrative districts, or navigationally heinous):
I am assuming it’s a she, because it’s graceful and French.
Anyway. I could give you a day-by-day account, but I will instead give you a list of highlights:
Summitting the Eiffel Tower:
The ONE completely sunny day of the week (all the others were at least a bit overcast) happened to be our day at the top. It’s cliched, it’s touristy, it’s overrun with people–and it is utter, utter magic.
Angelina’s hot chocolate and La Duree macarons:
ALL of the food was noteworthy, but these were the most stupidly expensive/ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT expenditures of the trip. I cannot explain what the blood orange and ginger macaron did to me, but it is beautiful and perfect and I will cherish the memory always.
Shakespeare and Co. bookstore:
Upstairs is a piano and some nook-like reading rooms. I could live there. with cheeses and breads. and someone to play the piano, because I can’t and I wouldn’t want to waste it.
Finally, the crowning moment: Open mic night.
This took place Friday, my last night in Paris. Vic’s church (Hillsong Paris) hosts an open mic night once a month, and when she realized it and my visit would coincide, she offered to learn to play a song.
I’m learning to be game about these things, rather than have panic attacks about them.
So we did Adele’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Make you Feel My Love.” It is one of my Favorite Songs of All Time (do not ask me, ever, to compile that list. C’est impossible!). It was…surreal. I don’t know when I have ever had that much fun singing in public. The crowd was small, and warm, and ridiculously welcoming and receptive, and…I don’t know what else to say but that Vic and I blew the roof off the place. All the other singers (there were about five) were absurdly talented and affirming and adorable. The entire night was a gift. AND THEN. THEN. I got to sing (with the guy from Vic’s church who organizes the event, whose impossibly French name is Clement)–spontaneously, with zero practice, one of my other Favorite Songs of All Time, Duet Category, Parentheses Wistful: Brooke Fraser’s ‘Who Are We Fooling.’ (That is the most bizarrely punctuated sentence I have ever composed, possibly.)
You may not know this about me, but more than anything in the world, besides Jesus and Family and Best Ones, I love harmonizing. You guys–I love it more than I love cheese. If I had to choose one it wouldn’t even come close.
For once in my life, I am not exaggerating.
I could write forever about it but the point is: Getting to sing those songs, especially THAT song, was deeply special for me. Especially the harmonies, and we hit all of them exactly right. I am my own worst musical critic and I know.
Seriously, I encountered nothing (almost nothing) of the famed Parisian snobbery, with Vic by my side to coach my dismal French and follow all the social protocols that nobody tells you and which are so imperatively important (like: greet the shopkeeper as soon as you enter, wherever you go, and also say thank you and goodbye, and repeat it if they don’t hear. In French.). But I have to say…
When and how do French people poop?
All the eat is bread and cheese and despite the occasional addition of fruit I could NOT figure out where these people are getting any fiber. No wonder everyone thinks Parisians are crabby. They have been constipated FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIVES can you imagine the agony. Maybe it’s the coffee, but the coffee wasn’t that strong. Seriously, French people, HOW ARE YOU POOPING. I know your dogs are– I have been on your sidewalks.
Good luck with that, Paris.
ANYWAY. The whole vacation can be summed up in so many ways: surreal (I’m IN PARIS), hyperbolically exciting (First time in Europe!), and, mostly, relaxing. This is absolutely in its entirety due to a.) the goodness of God b.) Victoria, who acted as hostess and tour guide and navigator and linguistic buffer the whole week, while juggling grad school classes.
This girl is a champion.
Paris in the fall is incredibly lovely, especially walking in the seventh arrondisement, wandering past dead-leaf gardens through the atmospheres of every corner cafe, redolent with hot buttery goodness. The entire week is weighty with experiences that I am looking forward to remembering as long as I’m around. I could say so much more: the banana-nutella crepe, the chocolate crepe, the duck breast and goat-cheese crepe, the pumpkin soup, the farcis provencaux, the tall, handsome, well-dressed, beardy men apparently EVERYWHERE–but really I couldn’t say all of it, no matter how long I make this post.
Paris, je t’aime. And I’m grateful.