Ok. Let’s talk about Paris already.
Undoubtedly one of my favourite destinations so honestly I don’t know where to start.
Last year, spring break, as an act of utter frustration on needing a break from stifling coursework, I made a snap decision of flying to Paris for a week-long vacation.
My friends, a whopping group of twenty, had already decided to go for a trip to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin and back to England via Paris. Their tickets were booked, hotel reservations had been made and their passports and visas stood shining on the nightstands. And I, pretending to be a good little student, had politely declined myself from their plans, because I wanted to “work on my dissertation”, whatever that meant to me then. But their words “via Paris” rang in my ears as I walked home from University.
It was Friday evening and it took a sudden bout of inspiration at 2 o’clock in the morning. Another couple of hours of contemplation (not really…more like 1 hour) and I had an air-ticket and student-hostel reservations in my hand. 24 hours later I took off, camera in hand, not a single inkling of the French language, a pair of good leather boots, an emptied out bank account and a stick of red lipstick. Trust me. When you’re scared shit and about to do something you’ve never done before, red lipstick always helps.
I knew absolutely no one in the city, hadn’t spent a single penny on a single guide book and there was this moment of panic even when I wondered if Paris had buses or subways. At the airport, I walked into WHSmith for a bottle of water and my eyes fell on Clotilde Dusoulier’s book Edible Adventures in Paris. I had already read reviews about it and didn’t think twice about grabbing it. I knew that I would at least eat well in Paris, if not anything else.
Panic gripped me even more as I sat on my seat rolling my R’s trying to pronounce ahr-ron-dee-see-mo. I realized that I didn’t know how to get to my hostel. What tube stop would it be? Do they even call it ‘the tube’? Thanks to a very kind English gentleman sitting next to me, I learnt a little about Paris’ public transport and how to say ‘bonjour’ by making the ‘j’ sound like a rustling silk sheet. He gave me tips on ordering coffee and croissants as I sat wondering whether I would have to survive on those for the next 7 days, and also advised me, wisely, against pick-pockets.
The week that followed will always make me return to the city of lights. I gasped at the erotic signboards as I walked down Blanche and was even more surprised when an impeccably dressed French gentleman, with a very pointy mustache winked and licked his lips at me. That was probably the only time I didn’t have any choice words to throw at him…mostly because I didn’t know any in French. In retrospect, I should have probably asked that gentleman on the plane to give me a lesson in French expletives.
But you know how we build up our expectations about a certain trip or vacation or a movie or a book and ultimately end up slightly disappointed because it does not turn out to be as good as we anticipated. Paris does not fall in that category. She delivers more than you expect. A hundred times more charming and magical than you imagined. Or at least, than what I imagined. Paris, maybe I’m in love with you.
I have rambled on more than I intended. I finally gathered up the energy and courage to re-arrange and organize the files and folders on my laptop (yes, it needs courage), and as the ‘Paris’ folder stared up at me I knew I wanted to share a few of these with you!