NOTE: The Author would like to gently point out that his observations are his and his alone, and they are not meant to be some sort of factual record on what Paris is. This is simply a collection of observations on what he experienced for 8 days in Paris during the summer of 2011. It is meant to be an honest account of his feelings and experiences, but should not be taken as complete truth to what Paris and France are. How could it? That's ridiculous. With that... PREVIOUSLY: PART 1: TOUCHING DOWN PART 2: MEETING THE LIZARD KING PART 3: MY NEMESIS, THE METRO
I don't think I've ever just sat and watched the sun rise. I suppose it's possible, but I don't remember. I know I've been awake while the sun was rising, too often for my own good. But to actually sit and watch it welcome the day? Not that I can recall.
But so it is, today, my second full day in France, that I decide to do just that. We went to bed fairly early last night, on account of our defeat at the hands of the previous day. Sleep didn't come easy, and after several hours of tossing my body around in some sort of odd human washing machine experiment, I decide to get up.
I'm alone as I make my way down to the man-made lake just to the east of our villa. There isn't much to it in the form of bells and whistles. A small wooden bridge here. A plot of sand there. A collection of ducks and swans float about. For the casual eye, it's fairly pedestrian. But on this morning, this day; it will become much more than that.
I take my seat on the visitor's bench and watch as the blue sky starts to ripple with activity. Thunder rumbles lightly in the background, a long and drawn out exhaling of turmoil taking place above. I wonder if it'll rain. I'd like it to, as moving to Los Angeles has taken from me that great treasure from the Midwest that I hold so dear: the thunderstorm.
I take in my thoughts for a while, recounting the path of my life and how utterly impossible it is to predict just how it'll all play out. I'm content.
The sky starts to get lighter, from a midnight blue to a what can only be described as a dark periwinkle. Watching this transformation is akin to seeing a brilliant painter continuously add water to a pool of paint. It gets lighter and lighter, until finally revealing itself to be something entirely different.
Then it happens. The slight hissing sound that surrounds you is unmistakable. Ever so slightly, it has begun to rain. Not enough for me to take cover, and yet not so light that I don't feel its precipitation. The lake becomes a virtual light show, popping with circles in a ballet of indiscernible pattern. It's soft enough that I can honestly say I've never seen a body of water from this angle. Strangely, it reminds me of a computer graphic. You can't follow where and when the blips will happen, only that they will.
It's a beautiful moment, and one that I don't take for granted.
It's so peaceful that I don't even think twice about whether or not I should dash off to my room and return with my camera in hopes of preserving the moment further. I opt to stay, for a moment like this can't be captured on camera. It's the right decision, for all the right reasons.
Because just as quickly as it came, it goes. Like a visitor just passing through town, we shake hands and depart in opposite directions. The sky gets lighter, and sunlight cracks through the canvas of sky.
I walk back to my room prepared for our second day in Paris, which in many ways is our first. We're rested and with full strength.
Because of that, a decision is made early on that today really will be a full-on 'tourist day'. We plan on hitting many of the largest and most popular attractions, all while trying to get a slice of Parisian culture somewhere in between. We also decide on purchasing one of those forty-stop double-decker bus passes you seen in popular cities like Hollywood.
You may think this is cheesy. Or lame.
You would be wrong.
Paris has an infinite amount of museums, cultural landmarks, and places of interest that it's impossible to see them all in a month, let alone a week. Combine that with trying to navigate the metro system of trains and it becomes obvious that these buses are the way to go. You get on and off at will, all while taking in the city from an open-air view. You also get to listen to an audio guide in your own language explain just what is what.
The bottom line is, they're wonderful if you really do want to hit a lot of tourist sites quickly.
In fact, the only negative I could say is that they obviously don't lend themselves to a deeper meaning of Paris and Parisians. Yes, you see the city, but you don't necessarily feel the city. In order to really get a sense of any city, you'd have to live there for at least a few months. It's impossible otherwise. And is there anything more pretentious than the girl or guy who claims to know the heartbeat of a city after only visiting for a few weeks? As I made clear early on, this blog is meant strictly as a recollection of the events that occurred for seven days while in Paris, not as an accord of the actual city. That would be ridiculous.
It comes down to this: we have a week so we're definitely seeing the tourist attractions.
The bus stays. And without question, the bus rules.
The first thing we do is head to Champs-Elysees. The Champs-Elysees has often been described as the most breathtaking avenue in the world, and it's hard to argue that point. It felt like a hybrid of Rodeo Drive and the driveway to something deeply historical that you couldn't quite put your figure on. Have you ever been lost in a city and found yourself on a street you don't know, only that you knew something major must be on it? It's kind of like that, only with more trees.
At the forefront of the Champs-Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in the world. But before getting to that, we need to eat. So we do what anyone with a raging stomach and lack of patience will do- we plunked down at the closest cafe with no concern about what they did and didn't serve.
I bring this up because by doing so, we opened ourselves up to the journey. We didn't look at the menu, we just sat. We just said "five breakfasts" in French and the waiter went about fulfilling our order. We literally had no idea what we would be getting, and that became the mantra for the week. We laughed like you only seem do on vacation, all while awaiting our meal.
Two fried eggs. One piece of seemingly undercooked bacon. Some greens. A croissant. Coffee. And orange juice.
We all had the exact same plate in front of us. And we all had the exact same reaction upon taking our first bites- this was the greatest fried egg ever created in the history of the world. No joke. I have no idea what was in those fried eggs, but no ingredient could make me not eat that egg again. To be clear, I don't like eggs. And I certainly don't like fried eggs. At all.
But this breakfast might have been the single most satisfying breakfast of my entire life. We literally talked about it all week, and it almost won out at our annual awards ceremony for best meal of the trip. It was that good my friends.
The day was starting out vastly different from the opener, and I couldn't be happier.
Another important factor in day 2 for me was my choice of attire. According to SUZ, dressing down was looked down upon. The first day I had worn a tie and sweater, with nice jeans. I was concerned this was going to be a poor selection of clothes, as she had stated that jeans were not acceptable. But after that first day, I saw hundreds of Parisians in jeans, and nary a man in a suit or tie for that matter. Knowing the second day was going to be filled with bus stops and marathon visits, I opted for my casual attire. The geek in the black hat returned, and I felt much better about the day.
The Arc de Triomphe was more spectacular than I had imagined it would be. The bright palette is striking, and climbing to the top was well worth the wait. The panoramic views of Paris were undeniable in their splendor, and we couldn't imagine a more amazing view. (NOTE: We would be wrong again, as although this view was spectacular, it wasn't nearly as incredible as one we'd see later in the day...)
We hopped back on the bus, and this is where the romance of Paris took over me in modern-day fashion.
While riding on the bus, The Angel and I took a deep breath as we prepared for what was to be a 10 minute trip. We popped the audio into our ears and casually listened to the English narrator explain various monuments. The wind cooled our humid bodies and a sense of solace waved over us. A moment later, the whimsical French accordion lingered out from our headphones. It was the type of music Americans tend to associate with the French. Cliche to be sure, but all too inviting in the moment.
And somehow, in that moment... with the cheese of the music... the blur of the cafe-lined streets below us... surrounded by tourists and lime green speaker wires... I only thought of how much I was in love with The Angel. It was a moment I'll never forget. No, it wasn't the romantic postcards of France in the 40's. Instead, it was like being in a quirky movie, perhaps something by Wes Andersen, where the ludicrous of the moment doesn't take away from the reality.
I was in love. And I was in Paris with her.
We stayed on the bus for 45 minutes...