Paris: Where Balling Is Hard, and Leaving Is Harder
PARIS, France—I began this summer with two dreams.
Dream One was spending a summer in Paris, the city of Light, Love, and Inevitable Self Discovery Not To Mention Transmogrification Into A Substantially More Sophisticated Human Being. Like so many bright-eyed Americans before me, buoyed by four years of high school French and a love of all things aesthetic, I was easy pickings for Parisian Cupid’s bow and arrow. I bought my plane ticket and checked it twice, three times, ten times, just to make sure the confirmation email was real and not a cantankerous reply from my biology TF.
Dream Two was making the most of my first voyage to Europe, to drink in this storied landscape so lush and magical compared to my own. I made a list of countries – the classic Eurotrip additions of England, Spain, and Italy, plus the equally alluring Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg. I bought my Eurail pass and spent sleepless nights before my departure hungrily scanning my map, plotting itineraries and imagining destinations.
Finally, I arrived in Paris. I resolved not to jet off right away, in order to give us some well-deserved and long-awaited alone time. To get to know each other, to find out all the basics that you can’t get when your long distance relationship rests on a foundation of late night Wikipedia and Flickr searches. Favorite food, favorite color, favorite monuments were essential, sure—but I also wanted specific secrets, precious lover’s stones I could hold in my hand: favorite pastry, most savory salad, most flattering shade of green, best place to sit by the Seine. I spent hours wandering the city, tenderly assessing each arrondissement, finding the answers to the above when I least expected it (pain au chocolat, hot goat cheese salad, dark forest sea green with a splatter of teal like the awning of the grocery next door, Pont Neuf—the tip of the Île de la Cité). Month one passed without even the thought of venturing away from Paris.
Month two began when a travel bug bit me sharply on the ankle, where I would feel the itch each time I took a step. I spent a long hour in line at Gare Montparnasse and an even longer hour reserving trains for the next four weeks. I returned to my apartment, thick folder of tickets in hand, ready to soothe the wandering sting.
Then, the inevitable happened. Morning after morning, I would silence my alarm, sling my tote bag over my shoulder, and head triumphantly towards the train station. Then, I would catch a glimpse of Parisian sky peeking out from behind the morning haze, and think to myself, “You know, they say there’s nothing like seeing Nôtre Dame for the fifty-sixth time” or “Why am I suddenly craving a free massage from those inscrutably kind-hearted folks in front of the Sorbonne?” Tickets would tumble to the floor, and my feet would take me to the edges of Paris and back again, wearing down the travel-bite until the pang was muffled by the salve of rosy sunsets and savory crepes.
As it turns out, two dreams is one too many. Paris is a needy mistress, and let’s be honest, the feeling is shamelessly requited.