Paris stole my heart 17 years ago, and has kept hold of it ever since.
Arriving there on the back of an intense 5 1/2 week backpacking ‘adventure’ through Italy, I had such great expectations and was not disappointed. I’ve since returned to Paris twice, and each time I am even more swept away by its beauty. Paris is the first place in the world where I truly felt at home, where I felt beautiful, where I felt at peace. What follows is an excerpt from an old travel journal of mine as I try to capture my feelings and the beauty surrounding me.
On arrival in Paris my breath and my heart is stolen.
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Paris is beautiful, logical and friendly – the complete opposite of Italy. There is something magical about the place, with its abundance of grass, trees, benches to sit on, real food, friendly art vendors, people who smile, and couples who walk arm in arm in love. And the streets are clean with everyone seeming to respect all that is around them.
As I sit under the Eiffel Tower waiting for my friend I note that it is much smaller than expected, although still too tall for my liking (thus sitting under it and not venturing up). Sitting tall, one would think the tower would be an imposing figure, but it is perfectly complimented by the surrounding parkland. The only thing dampening the atmosphere are the gypsies. On nearing the tower a hoard of them had just been unleashed onto the naive tourists.
I love it here – I really do.
Karina says she has never seen me like this. So at home. So peaceful. So comfortable. So happy.
We have walked the streets, strolled along the River Seine from the Notre Dame cathedral, all the way down to the Eiffel Tower. We passed the Musee des Orsay, taking in the people and the streets. France has this sense of style about it. Not the over the top kind. Just classy, casual ‘I know who I am’. I like it.
Notre Dame was also smaller than expected. We had crept up on it from behind, crossing the River Seine and entering a park behind it. There was a lady peacefully reading a book and I could just picture myself doing it. It was a quaint little park, with benches, manicured green grass, lines of trees, and only a few tourists. From that point it appeared that we could not enter thus we did the photo thing and moved on to the entrance.
Notre Dame is a gothic cathedral, and I have a fascination with all things gothic – the grotesque images, curvatures, eccentricity and darkness of the style stirs something inside of me. On entering the cathedral, the main source of light is from candles. It is very dark and the walls and roof are aged and grimy. It is hauntingly beautiful. Something I will never forget. I am not religious, and I never pray, but I feel the urge to light a candle and say a prayer for my Grandad who had passed a few years back.
The greenery and lushness of the countryside keep my lids from closing.
Thoughts that I may never see this again were enough to battle the immensity of twenty hours without sleep, and almost a month of nights in strange places, surrounded by unusual people and being attacked by bed bugs in Italy.
I don’t want to sleep. I want to breathe it all in as there isn’t much time left, but the lure of sleep is beckoning me – dangling the carrot in front of my eyes, tempting me to enter into a blissful coma of unconsciousness.
The man diagonally across from me is in his mid 40’s. I would say he has a Sting-esque look about him. The eccentric lady directly across from me keeps signalling to her friend. I think she fancies him…
The clouds swirl like candy floss over the fields as the train passes beneath, forming seemingly perfect rectangles of green and brown. Crops of trees poke up here and there, and as we journey on it is comforting to see that they hold on to their rightful place on the countryside.
The eccentric lady describes the countryside as ‘magnifique’ as she feigns tears. It is truly ‘belle’. I am in love with the world and entranced by Paris and all it has to give. I am flawed by its beauty.
Grandad would be so happy for me. I had finally done what he had encouraged me to do. I had ventured outside of Australia and found my place…as well as my self in the process.