As Samwise Gamgee said after his long, strenuous adventure, “Well, I’m back.”
I’ll continue to post about Paris and my travels–you still haven’t heard about the unforeseen and slightly uncomfortable naked adventure in Marrakech. And I will most certainly travel again. My next location is in the works but I won’t announce it until everything is finalized. So stay tuned! Whatever I do, I know it’ll be an adventure, but for now, I miss my city. Despite all the difficulties and bureaucratic “issues,” everyone would benefit from visiting Paris at some point in their lives.
I stupidly watched The Devil Wears Prada last night. Pro tip: never watch a movie about a place you’re already missing. Just don’t do it. Who would have thought that an Anne Hathaway movie could make me so homesick? As notorious bitch Miranda described the kind of ruthlessness it took to survive in the fashion world, I could barely concentrate; their car passed by places I could see from my old apartment window–monuments I would run by nearly every morning, And then what really got me: Invalides, my faithful metro stop.
Needless to say, my mom will not be watching that movie with me for a very long time.
Honestly, leaving broke my heart.
And I suppose one of the problems with loving a city is that your love of the people gets all jumbled up together.
In March I wrote an article for you, or for him, but really, for all the lovers of Paris, entitled “We’ll Always Have Paris.” And it’s true, we’ll always have Paris. But I will also always have Paris. Your romance with the city will continue even if your romance with another fades. So experience the city and all it has to offer. Savor the romance as you might savor the wine and chocolate but be careful; don’t hold yourself back from having solo Parisian adventures.
A romantic relationship will be this lovely memory, one of the glittering jewels of your memory box that will grow brighter and brighter with age. Memories work much like wine in that sense. They become richer and deeper the older you get, the less you remember the painful moments and the more you recall that something, at some point, made you feel. And even if you forget the sound of his laugh or the shape of her eyes, just feeling something at all will mean everything in the end.
It might not have been a romantic love, except for those moments when a trick in the light played a trick on your heart, and you could barely look her in the eye. Or perhaps you fell in love the night you met. Then again, you may have spent your whole year in Paris searching for love, wondering why couples strolled by you. Every kiss? Yep, that was for you, sweetie. Everyone is secretly passive aggressive about their romantic strolls in Paris.
And yet now, at the end of it all, relationships are ending. People are saying goodbye, some of us promising to stay in touch, some of us letting it go, and some of us unsure of what it all even meant. How do you say goodbye to someone when you can’t even describe what he meant to you? Or if you can barely admit you cared about her? You just close your eyes and kiss and hope you don’t fall.
And then they’re gone.
We’ve focused our energy and thoughts on each other all year, but really, my relationship with Paris is the only one I know will last, even if only to remind me of the people who flitted in and out of my life.
The city has its flaws (long live the pollution) and living here is by no means a perfect, blissful jaunt through beautifully manicured French gardens every day, pain au chocolat in one hand, a lover’s hand in the other. Paris wears on you, drains you, brings out latent claustrophobic issues, and the very act of breathing is nightmarishly expensive.
And yet, when Anne Hathaway marched away from Meryl Streep in the movie’s climactic ending, I sat on my couch desperately wishing I could jump into the screen, not to fawn over my favorite actresses, but to take the quick fifteen minute walk back to my old apartment.
So here’s to you, Paris.
My writing soundtrack:
I miss drinking wine by the Seine. We’re carefree and waltzing, sharing bottles and stories, unaware of time’s passing.
I miss how even in Paris, even living in the touristy 7ème, the owner of my favorite boulangerie knew me by name. In fact, one day I didn’t have enough change with me for my typical order: une baguette aux céréales et un pain aux amandes (the almond chocolate pastries–no words can describe the heaven in your mouth). The baker waved it off, smiled, and told me to bring the money some other time.
A few months later (you’d think I’d have learned by now), I went to buy une feuilletté aux épinards et une croquette d’aubergines at another little restaurant named Apollon. Looked in my pockets for money–nothing. Whoops. In case you weren’t aware, I spent a significant portion of time being broke in this city. Again, the owners knew me well enough to simply wave, smile, and say I could bring it next time.
People generally don’t expect these kinds of trusting relationships in a city as dense as Paris, but when you live here, you discover your favorite boulangeries, your favorite flower shops, restaurants, and bars, and the Parisians welcome you more than their reputation would have you believe.
I miss the metro. Who misses a public transportation system? I had a couple of friends who were oddly obsessed with the metro of Paris. All year I would just…smile and nod. I thought they were insane. Your sweat mingling with everyone else in the near vicinity…making a conscious effort to avoid eye contact with the disturbing man in the corner…and yet somehow, here I am missing the metro.
I miss running by le Grand Palais nearly every morning.
I miss elbowing my way through crowds of random protests.
I miss unexpected excursions to new, bizarre museums.
Like this one:
Or this one:
Memories aren’t fluid. You’ll keep them with you throughout your life, and they can continue to affect your core years after the source of the memory, but a memory of a relationship isn’t a relationship. We’ll always have Paris in our thoughts, but we won’t always have Paris together, in the present moment. Most of the relationships with people will fade and dwindle with time, and that’s okay. But I’ll always have Paris. And my next-door neighbor will always have Paris. And his next-door neighbor will always have Paris.
Paris is a city for lovers. It will always be a city for lovers, whether you’re in love or not.
It’s a city for me to love. A place to pour my heart into.
A place for you to love without me.
A place with favorite spots and new hidden corners, a place to explore.
Of course I’ll come back. My relationship with Paris has only just begun and unlike the memories, wonderful as they are, I’ll always have Paris in the here and now.
I’ll come back because more than anything, I miss the atmosphere. Paris has become a cliched, idealized figment of people’s dreams, so absurdly perfect it could not possibly exist.
But it does.
It contains an unidentifiable quality beyond words or measure that keeps us begging to disappear into its lights and wonder for just one more night. Yes, you are never far from a famous work of art, or a piece of history engraved in stone. Yes, people will charm you with their music and their paintings. The food will satiate your appetite for days and days. Paris itself is a museum, but with the changing staircases of Harry Potter, so just when you think you’ve seen it all, the city will surprise you.
But beyond all of that, beyond what we can say, a certain feeling exists in the air. And it’s one you can only experience for yourself.
And in the meantime, Paris and I will grow old together, making each other laugh, cry, and smile until the end.