We’ve met before, but this time was different.
Last time was all museums and bouef bourguignon and museums and crêpes (but not Nutella–at 13, I hadn’t acquired a taste for it yet) and churches and baguettes and museums. This time I didn’t have the pressure to visit all the attractions, to learn the history and the art. This time was about living Paris, not seeing it.
Paris, my ten days here were filled with moments I’ll never forget, but they aren’t the ones I can easily describe to others when they ask about my trip. How can I describe the magic of randomly bumping into a college friend at the Eiffel Tower? How can I explain my newfound love of picnics? How can I illustrate the instant bond I felt with the people I met along the way–both the ones from within your city limits and those from far beyond?
It wasn’t all good, of course. You and I both know nothing truly can be perfect, even in the City of Lights. Some of these unfavorable moments were comical, like finding the same rose vendor two days in a row in two different parts of the city and being startled by a guy coming up behind me when he really just wanted to read the subway map. Some were all too real and all too scary: finding a massive cockroach in the apartment, passing by Notre Dame just a few hours before the attack nearby, hearing air raid sirens one afternoon and panicking about what might come next.
But my mind doesn’t go to those moments when asked about our moments together. Instead, I immediately think of the twenty French people who semi-successfully sang me Happy Birthday in English, blowing out the candles in my plum tart (how Parisian), and staying up until way after the sun rose. I think of sleepy mornings with Veronica, cheap bottles of wine drunk under the Eiffel Tower as it glittered, ambles through Montmartre just to take pictures, and the Chicken Dance being played on the accordion. I tell people about my “American” moments in Paris: visiting Disneyland and comparing it to Anaheim, learning how to properly give la bise (a kiss on each cheek), and gathering new U.S.-based friends on a rooftop bar with a stunning view of the skyline.
I didn’t love you last time, Paris, and I honestly didn’t love you this time either. But I’m glad I got to return, to explore your neighborhoods as if they were my own instead of just sticking to the beaten path of Renaissance art and coq au vin. Perhaps we’ll see each other again someday; perhaps someday soon.