In one fell swoop, every quote and song and starry-eyed exposition on Paris suddenly made sense. I was standing on Pont Neuf and could see the Seine sprawled out beneath me. Majestic buildings rose on either side and everything was a palette of pastels, from the cloudy sky to the peoples' attire, like flocks of grey and blue birds flying through various shades of pearl. Purple prose? Maybe, but there can be no other type in such a place.
It is impossible not to write when one goes to Paris. Where Scotland demanded wild, swooping poetry that strikes the heart with a passion and savage love, Paris begs for smoothly scrawled verses and petite histoires, for elegant turns of phrase with just the right hint of wit.
I wasn't expecting to love the place; en fait, I didn't even think I'd like it that much. I loved to read about Paris and stories set there, but never once did it make the top of my list...or even the top five. I thought I might as well see it whilst in France, but even as I boarded the bus, I wasn't overwhelmed. It wasn't until that moment on the Pont that everything flipped around and I fell headfirst in love.
I think the reason I never grew too excited about the city is the fact that it feels impossible to put into words the exact feeling one gets, standing dans la rue; the energy is palpable, the history even more so, and yet in an entirely different way than the energy Rome and those gorgeous Italian cities gave off. One wrong turn yielded fascinating nooks and crannies, new little stores full of odd brick-a-brack and curiosities. A walk in the park was like entering a painted world, full of so buzzing lives and a gently-falling earthen rainbow of leaves.
La Tour d'Eiffel was another surprise; I truly expected to feel, well, whelmed. Not over, not under, just plain whelmed. Yet upon seeing it peeking above trees between buildings, I was flooded with this sense of childlike wonder and giddily began to rush around the side for a proper view until I found myself sprawled out on the grass gazing up at it and wondering how the hell I'd managed to find myself here after all in this glorious place.
There were so many other little wonders here and there—it would take pages to describe each one. My favorites might be the random churches and cathedrals sprawled here and there in the city. I found myself turning into a bit of a snob, thinking the Notre-Dame really couldn't compare to this other I'd found on so-and-so street, not on the inside. I ate pain au chocolat and sandwiches sat right next to the Seine beneath a weeping willow as swans swam up to nibble at the algae growing along the sides.
I strolled the bouquinettes, little stalls selling gorgeous vintage posters and art and the most glorious books. I saw couples everywhere and felt no bitterness, just a warm kernel of hope and love in my own heart for them; I truly wish each of them the happiest of lives together. Maybe I was a little sad or lonely, but just a little. Montmartre banished any such thoughts from my head as I walked the steps of Amèlie Poulain, from the staircases leading to Sacre-Coeur to her darling café.
Without question, however, the most beautiful and wondrous part of Paris was Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. This was the idea of an independent bookstore incarnate, with endless nooks and crannies, tiny treasures and quotes, old dark wood and a lovely history of being frequented by the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Eliot, and others. I was able to explore it and the Latin Quarter with a friend from Instagram, Lucie, and had the most wonderful, magical time. I only hope I can capture a hint of that feeling when/if I can open my own place.
My final thoughts come from my last trip of the day to the Louvre. I am in love with the work of Renoir, and there certainly weren't enough of his hung there (but it's okay because I saw some others at the National Gallery in D.C.). I think I'm a little annoyed over the fact that my body would have been considered the pinnacle of female beauty had I been living any time before the last hundred or so years, but then I remember that I like being literate and having good hygiene. People go nuts over the Mona Lisa and bump others out of the way to grab a little crappy picture on their phones; then again, I guess I'm a hypocrite because I kept snapping photos of whatever paintings captured my full interest. In my defense, I want to research them later.
Paris is a magic city. I spent too little time in it and yet the perfect amount of time. I want to return one day and take my big sister, or maybe take a couples' trip with her and my brother-in-law and whoever my husband might be, if he ever shows up.
I love Paris, I love France, and I think I'm fully immersed now. C'est tout.