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A profession of my love for Paris

A profession of my love for Paris

I spent the weekend in Paris. It still seems surreal…I’m in a comical state of shock about it.

I’ve dreamed of going to Paris ever since I began learning French in middle school. And finally, over the weekend, I lived that dream, and it ended entirely too quickly. It was absolutely magical in the most unexpected way…in the sense that it was magical in literally every way.

I went with 7 friends from the Rome Center, including one friend from my French class freshman year of college, Melissa. It was wonderful to discover Paris for the first time together! We left early Friday morning and I read a Paris travel guide while listening to my favorite French tunes during the 2 hour flight.

When we arrived, we went straight to the apartment we rented through AirBnB. Embarrassingly, there were issues communicating with the janitor about getting the key — and then separate issues getting the key to work — but finally a kind resident named Guillaume who spoke a little bit of English helped us assuage the janitor and find a working key to the flat.  It was a flat in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, a dingy artist’s apartment that had a ladder leading to a tiny loft with two mattresses laid out on the floor and rugs covering up disconcerting stains on the carpet. We settled in and set out to find the Eiffel Tower. On the way, we stopped at a cafe and I ordered an obligatory croque madame, which was obviously delectable. The French waiters laughed at us, as was to be expected.


We traveled on, turned a corner, and there it was: the Eiffel Tower. I rattled off facts I’d learned from Rick Steves’ audio tour iPhone app as we stood beneath the massive arches that curved into the tower’s legs. We first went up an elevator to the second floor, which was surprisingly extremely high above the city, and then transferred to another one that took us to the top. I stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Looking out over Paris. (This is still sinking in.) Any of my friends can confirm that the biggest, most dazed smile remained plastered across my face the whole time. That is, except for the times I got a little teary-eyed. I’m an emotional person. We could see Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Seine River, Sacre Coeur, the Arc de Triomphe… all that I’ve been reading about for years, finally laid out in front of me. From above, Paris looks like a dollhouse. The buildings, white and pristine, and some a complementary grey, are delicately decorated but not overly grandiose. The sun was setting and the Eiffel Tower’s long shadow folded itself over a multitude of buildings. I’m terrified of heights but forgot about my fear when I looked out over the magnificent city of lights. It’s no wonder so many of the greatest writers found their inspiration in Paris…Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein. Ah, mon coeur.


So after going to the Eiffel Tower, and taking some fantastically crazy Ellen-style selfies with it (“Elfies”), we walked along the Champs Elysees, a mile-long street filled to the brim with luxury in all forms. Lamborghini’s, fashionable people, the highest-end stores. The Arc de Triomphe crowned the end of the street with a yellowish glow, the flashes of cameras twinkling from the top, where tourists stood. We savored macaroons of various colorful flavors at Laduree and then had dinner — sandwiches, escargot and wine, for most of us — to end the physically exhausting (and, for me, emotionally exhausting) day.


The next morning we went to a Boulangerie down the street and got baguettes for breakfast. We skipped all the lines for the Louvre and got in for free because we’re studying in Europe. Basically, we were VIP status. We saw many wonderful works of art, including a couple of Monet pieces, but I have to say I most adored seeing Napoleon’s tiny bed and artifacts from his palace. Outside, we took pictures with the pyramid, walked through the Tuileries garden, and held pigeons. A few of my friends wanted to go to Chipotle, a commodity to us since there are none in Rome. But obsessed with immersing myself in anything and everything Parisian while I had the chance, I opted instead to go get crepes. Bri and I ordered a crepe salee (ham, cheese, and egg) and a Nutella Banana crepe to split between the two of us. Yes, they were divine. No, I’m not the same person as I was before. It was so French. Sitting in a cafe, eating crepes, chatting about life and people-watching. Paris, take me back!

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Next, we went to La Cure Gourmande, a chocolate shop near the opera house, where they gave us samples and I conversed with the employees in French. And then we went to Galleria Lafayette, a grandiose shopping center with seven floors and clothes that were slightly hundreds of dollars out of my price range. We had a fun time perusing the French fashion– and I even found something lovely for under 30 euros! We went up to the roof and looked out over the city, with a view of the opera house, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. I really could never get used to that view. From inside, in a glorified food court, we watched the Eiffel Tower’s light show. Each of us gasped when it began — the tower sparkled, covered in thousands of shimmering lights. Even watching through a window, it was magical. For dinner, we ate at the apartment. Derrick and Advait made pasta and grilled cheese (made with Gruyere), that we paired with wine. While they cooked, we studied for our theology midterm exam, like the responsible students we are. It felt so right, being there with a great group of friends, chatting and eating dinner together in our Parisian flat. It was like a heartwarming scene from an indie movie. We went out later to Rue Mouffetard, which was recommended to us by several people for its nightlife. There, despite the rain, we found a crowded bar where everyone was drinking the same Belgian beer and we learned a bit about France’s gay culture, to put it simply. A little ways down the street, we danced in a club where the basement was a series of caves and they played extremely outdated American music. “Play that Funky Music” and “Boogie Wonderland” were big hits among the strangely mixed crowd of people. At the end of the rue, we found a chic lounge-bar, where we talked for a while and tried not to fall asleep in the assorted comfortable couches and chairs.

The next morning, I bought a cream-colored beret and we visited Notre Dame. Naturally, as cultured college students, we took more Elfies with it and Nick impersonated the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I was really excited by the flying buttresses, which I remember giggling about in French class many years ago. Honestly, though, the church was gorgeous. It stands out among all the other buildings not only because it’s massive and on and island, but because it’s bravely dark and gothic. Inside, next to a statue of St. Theresa and Joan of Arc, I felt moved to pray for the first time in a long time.


Then we ate more crepes. On the other side of the river, we went to Shakespeare and Company, a quaint little bookstore. Upstairs, in the attic, I eavesdropped on an English-language writing class, taking notes on their prompts and tips. I felt like I had found a place where I could belong in Paris; I imagined myself living there, attending that workshop…the future felt possible. Ironically, right after having that profoundly inspiring moment, I bought a book of Sylvia Plath’s poems that were written in the three years leading up to her death. C’est la vie.

The group split up for the last few hours of the day; we were all trying to squeeze in the last things we wanted to see and accomplish. A few of us went to the Musee D’Orsay, which was once a train station but was converted to a museum. This makes the interior of the museum fascinating in and of itself. We saw Van Gogh’s second Starry Night, as well as his self-portrait. I saw a Picasso painting (and laughed at loud at his comical style — not sure if that was the intended effect, but it is what it is), and lots of impressionist paintings including works of Renoir and Monet. I stood mesmerized, looking at Monet’s water lillies, letting the flecks of color envelop me in the serenity that Monet himself must have been feeling. I felt truly present. Often, my mind is a thousand different places apart from where I actually am. But not at that moment. I was completely there, in Paris, standing in front of one of the most famous paintings in the world.

Next, four of us split off to make a mad dash to Montemarte, wanting to squeeze it in before meeting everyone else back at the apartment. We didn’t know if we would make it in time, but after dozens of flights of stairs and a lot of power-walking, we finally made it to Sacre Coeur. From the top of Montemarte, we took in a last breathtaking view of the city. A man was playing guitar and singing “Hey There Delilah” in broken English with a thick French accent. The immense domes of Sacre Coeur, just as I’d heard, billowed into the sky like clouds. That moment was the peak of the trip. Making it to Sacre Coeur under a time crunch and physical strain was a microcosm of my lifelong dream of visiting Paris, in a way. Because nothing incredible — nothing worth working for — has ever been easy.


To make the end of our trip perfect, though, we had to make it to Moulin Rouge. I used my mad French skills to ask for and receive directions, we ran past a plaza filled with artists and down a hill, and finally we turned onto the Grand Boulevard that had an astounding number of risque cabarets. We saw the Moulin Rouge’s appropriately red windmill from a distance. In front of the building, Kelly, Bri and I donned our rouge lipstick and posed happily as Advait took our picture. I had one final delicious crepe (the most delicious of any I’d had over the weekend) from a nearby crepe stand, and we made it back to the apartment to meet everyone at exactly 5 p.m. The perfect ending.

The only thing I’m truly bummed about is that I didn’t get a chance to lean over in a restaurant and say to a Parisian, with a smirk, “Bon Apetit,” as Rick Steves highly recommended. Oh well…next time.

Paris, you can bet your baguettes that I will return! Tu me manques et je t’adore!






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